Monthly Archives: June 2012


Healthcare today gives a lot of emphasis on efficiency, technology and expert knowledge.   After over twenty years of practice I have to say that the most effective tool I bring to my professional practice is the quality of my attention.   Those other qualities are important, but when I am poised to listen, the potential for a positive change opens up more than any of those other things have to offer.

Listening is a life practice. And I think there is no end to it’s possibilities.  The first time I remember listening completely was with my husband.  It was twenty-eight years ago and I can still remember the moment, sitting in a hotel room on a Marriage Encounter weekend, practicing the active listening they were teaching us.  I was aware of  physically feeling his emotions and finally understood what it was like for him.  That moment was the starting point of some big changes in our relationship.  Years later, we were going  through a rough time in the relationship.  We healed hurts and rebuilt trust by simply sitting across from each other for long periods at the end of the day.  We gave each other complete attention, to the point of noticing our breath.

In my professional life, listening is the word used in visceral manipulation to describe the process of finding the primary restriction in the body.  This type of listening is awesome because it makes my treatments more effective.  And it provides me with a practice that teaches me about myself, and helps me develop mental stability and physical relaxation throughout my day.  Interestingly, when I am too enmeshed in the other person’s field, I cannot find the primary restriction well.  When I am too concerned about my schedule and what is next, I can’t find the primary restrictions well.  When I am aware of my own body as separate from the other person and I keep my mind on the moment, I can better find what is happening in their body as far as where the tension lies.

Listening is a basic principle of embodied awareness.  Listening is something we do with our body and mind.  We can listen to ourselves and our bodies, as well as listening to others.

You can start practicing this principle immediately.  Try it in your relationships and relatings through the day.  Position yourself to hear what someone is saying to you and attempt to repeat it back to them, when appropriate to make sure you heard them correctly.  Provide affirmations, rather than judgments (I didn’t say this was easy).  Simply attempt to understand what they are trying to say.  Then let me know your experience!

There is a lot to be said about listening, so I will share some links that offer more reflection on the topic:  These are a couple of great books about listening as a spiritual practice.   This is a poster for kids on Whole Body Listening

Full Body Presence, Suzanne Scurlock-Durana.  A book for with a therapists bent on exercises to practice presence, which is listening!

Working in the Barrier

One of the most effective principles of fascial release is “working in the barrier”.  Now if you are not a therapist, hang with me, because this principle actually has a wide application outside of body work.

In the context of fascial release, the barrier is the layer of fascia that has a restriction.  By restriction I mean an area that is shortened or that layers of tissue are not gliding easily on each other. Fascia is made up of fibers of elastin and collagen.  As the name implies, elastin is elastic.  Collagen is tougher.  To find the barrier the therapist goes into the stretch of elastin fibers, to the strands of collagen and wait for a response. When I want to effect a change in the length of these collagen fibers in the tissues I need to apply the appropriate amount of stretch for an adequate length of time.  If I apply no stretch, a change will not occur.  If I try to force the tissues to a place I think it “should” be, there are elements in the tissues that will respond by contracting and preventing a change.  So, to get the best response I want to go just to the beginning of a sense of stretch of collagen.  If I wait there a change will begin to occur.  The tissue will do it as they are able.  This is a key: when you wait at the barrier long enough, it starts to melt and it doesn’t need to be forced.  What unfolds can be like a flower blossoming, a beautiful dance.

Expanding the definition of “the barrier”.

Working in ‘the barrier’ can happen in many aspects of life.  Where are barriers in life?  They are at the limits of consciousness (what I am aware of), relationships, knowledge, skill, and emotions, as well as my physical being.

How do you engage the sticky places in your life?  Shrinking away or pushing hard?  Numbing out with distracting activities, or over achievement?  It really is an art to find the spaces that stretch us yet create an easy and joyful dance of life.

I have an autoimmune disorder, and part of what triggered it was pushing myself past my limits.  Moving in the rhythm of life, recognizing when the barriers are thicker and it’s time to go slower, or when it is looser and I can expand, has been an art form to learn.

When exercising, be aware of working in the barrier.  The challenge is to work to the limit but not past it, to engage your edges of capacity in strength, flexibility or endurance in a way that feels enlivening.  Signs of pushing too hard include lasting pain, and increased stiffness or swelling.  In my work as a physical therapist I often find pushing past the limits is a common cause of dysfunction.  I had begun to believe in these limitations.  Then my son showed me what is possible when we work effectively in the barrier physically.  He wanted to complete an Ironman with in a two year period, having never even participated in a triathlon or run a marathon.  I was worried when he said he wanted to do this, all my experience said it was a bad idea.  Then I saw a video about Team Hoyt, a father and his disabled son who did Ironman competitions, and I decided to be more supportive of my son’s choice. (visit these sites for more information: and

Over that period I learned a lot by watching my son prepare for his race.  I learned that we can do almost anything if we pace ourselves, and properly fuel our body.  He challenged his barriers, but made sure he had good food and nutrition while he trained and raced.  He made sure to self-treat after workouts. He followed a recommended training program but recognized when his body needed more rest, and modified his program.  He competed in his first Ironman at the age of 30, and completed his first marathon in that same race.  Now this isn’t the recommended approach for most people, but he did illustrate what can happen when we work in our barriers effectively.

Age, health status, current level of fitness, and body awareness are factors to consider when beginning to engage a physical barrier.

I like questions as a way to get started:

  • What does it look like when I am not challenging myself physically?
  • What does it look like when I am forcing myself physically?
  • What does it look like when I am challenging myself in a healthy way physically?
  • What is holding me back from expanding my physical capacity?

You can get started on your own, but if you have physical limitations you may want to work with a physical therapist to get started.

So how does this relate to CenesTherpeutics? Engaging the physical barrier is an opportunity to expand consciousness.  Today, I introduced two ways we engage that barrier, through body work and through physical exercise.  The goal is to effectively engage the barrier.  That would be in a way that brings about a positive change.  How are you doing with that?  I would like to hear