Allowing for Space

Nearly everyone in the west is familiar with the classical notion of the 5 elements. From philosophy, from movies, from current spiritual beliefs and practices, the concept is so ingrained that we grow up with a knowledge of them, even though they really do not fit into our current scientific world view. The notion of all matter being composed of air, fire, earth and water, or at least the notion that matter is composed of analogous substances is conceivable, but what about the fifth element? Sometimes translated as Spirit, and later with a desire to relate it to the science of the times it was translated as Ether, a supposed base substance that permeates all matter. It it interesting to note that the five element classification of matter is also found in ancient India, and through Buddhism, worked its way into ancient China. The Indian Five Great Elements, the Pancha Maha Bhuta, are the same as our Greek elements, thus suggesting a common origin. All with the slight exception of one, the 5th element which we usually refer to as spirit.

Both Spirit and Ether are inaccurate translations for the fifth element in Indian cosmology. The fifth element, Akash, is more accurately translated as “Space”. It is difficult to think of space as a building block of matter, as a substance, but one must try to wrap their head around it if they are to strive towards an understanding of what these concepts are expressing.  Air would seem like the most subtle and less tangible of the elements, but space is finer than that, and yet it is still described as material substance. Just as there must be space between words and syllables for a sentence to make sense, or space between notes to make a melody, so too does space create form and sequence. In Rofling as well as in related disciplines like Osteopathy and Cranial Sacral Therapy, this is an important notion.

Development depends on having the space to grow. Without this growth development is interfered with. In Rolfing we give the client's body and nervous system input by working with muscle and connective tissue, but the real changes happen when they go out into their ordinary life and allow their body, their organism, to explore and experiment. In this way, the nervous system learns. Unlike other form of bodywork, this does not degenerate because what the body has learned cannot be taken away by time and phenomena. When the process of exploring has been put into motion, in addition to addressing restrictions and compensation patterns, this continues long after the work with the Rolfer is done. In truth, the work is not done. When and individual has gone through a Rolfing series, the process of exploring and learning will continue for quite some time after the Rolfing sessions have ceased. In fact, continuing with ongoing input from the Rolfer can conflict with this process.  At some point the client and the Rolfer need to decide that they are good where they have arrived, and now the client needs room to breath. It is said that a person will be in better shape, more integrated a year after they are done with a Rolfing series, than they are a day after they are done. We all need space, we all need room to breath. It is said that Osteopaths focus on the health of the patient, not the disease. Just as Eastern medicine seeks to restore an individual’s innate sense of balance and health, rather than increase or gain health. In the same way does the Rolfer seek to touch the innate wisdom and balance within the client, not to create anything new but to help stimulate the body’s own sense of health and well being. 

John WilsonComment