This Week's Favorite Thing: Cosmic Habituation

I’m going to endeavor to post whatever thing or things really fascinated me in a given week on Fridays.

This week, it was a Radiolab Short: I listen to this excellent podcast while I do my workouts.  In this 16-minute short, a scientist describes a phenomenon called the decline effect: in essence, the phenomenon in science whereby the at-first dramatic results of a scientific study become less and less dramatic, gradually, over time as the experiment is repeated, even under the same rigorous conditions.

The scientist concludes with a radical hypothesis he is extremely reluctant to even make: that the act of observing reality may in itself change it.

Enjoy it here!

This Week’s Favorite Thing: Cosmic Habituation

I’m going to endeavor to post whatever thing or things really fascinated me in a given week on Fridays.

This week, it was a Radiolab Short: I listen to this excellent podcast while I do my workouts.  In this 16-minute short, a scientist describes a phenomenon called the decline effect: in essence, the phenomenon in science whereby the at-first dramatic results of a scientific study become less and less dramatic, gradually, over time as the experiment is repeated, even under the same rigorous conditions.

The scientist concludes with a radical hypothesis he is extremely reluctant to even make: that the act of observing reality may in itself change it.

Enjoy it here!

Everything waits to be noticed

We’re almost to the end of our series on the GROUND of RSM.  So far I’ve covered Gentleness, Respect, Openness, and Understanding.  The ‘N’ stands for Noticing, and like all the others, is a foundational aspect of our work in Rubenfeld Synergy Method.

Noticing is about more than simple observation, although that is the beginning of it.  Noticing is part of the quality of attention a Synergist strives to provide to her client, and it involves not just seeing, hearing or sensing something, but being able to point it out with sensitivity and care, such that the Synergist and client can explore it together.

As I said in my post on understanding, many clients are coming to therapy in order to feel seen and be heard.  In Synergy, you could say they want to feel seen, heard, touched, and moved, as we also offer physical contact.  It is no accident that those last two words have obvious double meanings.  With this work, we are equipped with more tools for noticing – more ways of engaging with a client and learning about who they are.

Noticing offers a client several things.  For one, a Synergist may notice something going on with a client that helps that client make a key connection.  I might say, “I notice as you’re talking about your daughter, your shoulder really tightens up.  Do you notice that?”  These kinds of connections are especially key for work in Synergy, as they show us where a client is being incongruent: where his words aren’t matching up with what his body is telling us.  One of Ilana’s classic stories involves an older divorcee talking about how much she desperately misses her husband and how sad she is all the time, but Ilana notices that the woman’s neck and shoulders are loose, warm and free.  When she points it out, she gets to the truth of the situation: the woman is really happy – and sexually fulfilled – for the first time in her life, but feels like she’s supposed to feel miserable!  Helping clients notice what they are really feeling and experiencing, versus what they believe they’re meant to be feeling, can be extraordinarily freeing, and lead to positive change.

Second, noticing is something a Synergist helps a client do for themselves, as much as possible.  A common question in a session is, “As I have my hands here at your feet, what do you notice?”  The answer may be almost anything, including “Nothing.”  But even that “nothing” is information about how the client experiences her own body.  Are you someone who is out of touch with her own sensations?  How does that affect how you experience emotion?  How you move in the world?  I’ve heard countless observations: “My feet are cold.”  “This foot wants to dance.”  “My feet are for running away.”  “My feet feel stuck in the mud.”  All of these noticings can be gateways into an exploration that can become a theme for an entire session – and the client begins to realize that noticing the subtle things is a valuable source of information.

Finally, and perhaps most important, noticing is a way the Synergist can tell a client something about themselves that they may not know, or believe.  A powerful session I witnessed during the training involved Joe Weldon (yet again; can you tell he’s kind of my hero?) telling one of my classmates, “You know what I know about you?  You really need time.”  And it became a theme for the whole session, and a theme that continued for her through the rest of the training.  It became very clear that time was key for her, that her speed of processing physical and emotional input was perhaps slower than average, or slower than she’d been told is okay.  And in that session, Joe gave her all the time in the world – moving very slowly from place to place on her body, giving her a lot of time to respond, and ultimately, making her feel like he really, really saw her: something core to her being that she hadn’t even fully realized herself.

Even with a newer client – someone the Synergist hasn’t gotten to know well – you can begin to observe things about them which, when brought together and presented as a noticing, can be a gift to that client.  “What I notice about you is when you talk about feelings that sound important, you tend to dismiss them afterward.”  “What I know about you is that when you come into my office, you always have a smile and a kind word, even when you’re having a hard day.”  The other day, a loved one told me, “I’ve never heard you be mean to anyone.”  It was a great gift: something that I was unsure about, that I worry about more than I realized, and that he was able to encapsulate and give to me in a way that we often cannot for ourselves.

What we can notice for a client, what we can help them notice, can bring so much healing, as that client begins to feel seen, heard – noticed – and accepted.

…And what is "energy" anyway?

Last week, I posted a question as to whether Rubenfeld Synergy Method is energy work.  Ultimately, I think it is not, though sometimes what some call “energy” enters into it.  The problem, I posited, is that what energy workers call “energy” is not something that can be proven to exist, or quantified by science.  Therefore, I find it a lot more useful to talk about RSM’s basis in the body, engagement with emotion and metaphor, and use of trance to healing purposes.

However, I do want to talk a bit about energy here, for a number of reasons.  One, I find the word “energy” and the concepts that some have agreed to attach to it useful when discussing certain phenomena for which I have no other useful vocabulary.  Two, many people who engage with this work are also conversant in energy work, and it is helpful to have a shared vocabulary when working with people.  But most importantly, I wonder if the idea of “energy” isn’t just another concept that seems too fruity for modern science, but will eventually catch up.

That is to say: is the idea of “energy” akin to, say, the idea of the subconscious back in Freud’s day?  These days, most people accept that the subconscious is a thing, though we still have no way of measuring or quantifying it.  For that matter, though we are learning more and more, we still have vast gaps in understanding about things like the mind, thoughts, imagination, dreams, and countless other phenomena that we can observe to exist.

There are people who are trying to prove – with mixed success at best – the existence of energy – chi, life force, mana, prana, whatever you call it.  And I am happy that such scientific explorations are taking place.  However, I wonder if it’s entirely useful, or necessary.

It seems to me that the true usefulness of energy, as a concept, is as a vocabulary for speaking about sensations that are difficult to qualify in other ways.  We may someday understand whether these types of sensations are caused by electrical impulses, magnetism, chemical processes, or some combination.  We may even understand why some people seem more sensitive to subtle sensations than others.  But until then, it seems clear that for some people, tapping into the vocabulary and techniques we have available for experiencing energy, suspending disbelief, and working with the metaphor is just as helpful as knowing exactly why it works.

Certain types of skeptics will scoff that medicine is not useful unless it has proven effectiveness, tested with double-blind longitudinal studies, and so on.  Many even seem frightened by the concept of studying complementary therapies in this way, which makes me wonder what exactly they would lose if such things turned out to be true.  However, it isn’t particularly useful to talk about talk therapy as if it were science, any more than it’s meaningful to try and derive statistically significant results from exposure to great literature.  At this point most people accept that people sometimes act on unconscious impulses, or from deeply ingrained behaviors that they’re not conscious of.  We accept that humans are not completely – or even mostly! – creatures of logic and reason.

During RSM sessions, clients often experience sensations and feelings they aren’t accustomed to.  A client may experience the sensation of energy moving through her body – waves, shivers, tingles, spirals, spreading warmth.  When a muscle releases, a client may feel what was a kind of “stuck energy” moving out of it.  Emotion itself is a kind of energy: our teachers called it “energy in motion.”  We are all familiar with the tightness and warmth in the chest that comes with anger and embarrassment.  Or the feeling of tears threatening to overwhelm us.  Or the joy that can seem to fill our bodies with light.  If we’re lucky, we know what it feels like to have our hearts opened by love, and the actual physical sensation of being pierced, as it were, by Cupid’s arrow.

As a practitioner, I also receive sensations in my hands at times, things that are hard to describe as simply bodily sensations.  Some clients’ feet feel bubbly or tingly to me, like there is nervousness or fear of which the client is often unaware.  Sometimes I will begin to experience an emotion the client is experiencing – anxiety, or sadness, or anger – and that will be my first clue that the client is experiencing it.  How does such a thing get communicated?  It’s poorly understood.  But talking about energy is a useful way of quantifying these sensations.

While I often experience there being life force in the world – an energy that permeates everything, vibrating at different frequencies (it should be recalled, after all, that matter and energy are one and the same) – I am aware that some other people don’t, and that science has yet to prove its existence.  But if we can talk about the energy of a room or an interaction, or say that someone has a “nervous energy” or that someone else “sucks all the energy out of the room,” then we need to be able to talk about other phenomena that share that character.  Until science catches up – and I’m not saying it will (see above about the subconscious), I’m happy to use poetry.

Even after that, I might keep using poetryIt’s the language I’m most comfortable in.  Your mileage may vary.

…And what is “energy” anyway?

Last week, I posted a question as to whether Rubenfeld Synergy Method is energy work.  Ultimately, I think it is not, though sometimes what some call “energy” enters into it.  The problem, I posited, is that what energy workers call “energy” is not something that can be proven to exist, or quantified by science.  Therefore, I find it a lot more useful to talk about RSM’s basis in the body, engagement with emotion and metaphor, and use of trance to healing purposes.

However, I do want to talk a bit about energy here, for a number of reasons.  One, I find the word “energy” and the concepts that some have agreed to attach to it useful when discussing certain phenomena for which I have no other useful vocabulary.  Two, many people who engage with this work are also conversant in energy work, and it is helpful to have a shared vocabulary when working with people.  But most importantly, I wonder if the idea of “energy” isn’t just another concept that seems too fruity for modern science, but will eventually catch up.

That is to say: is the idea of “energy” akin to, say, the idea of the subconscious back in Freud’s day?  These days, most people accept that the subconscious is a thing, though we still have no way of measuring or quantifying it.  For that matter, though we are learning more and more, we still have vast gaps in understanding about things like the mind, thoughts, imagination, dreams, and countless other phenomena that we can observe to exist.

There are people who are trying to prove – with mixed success at best – the existence of energy – chi, life force, mana, prana, whatever you call it.  And I am happy that such scientific explorations are taking place.  However, I wonder if it’s entirely useful, or necessary.

It seems to me that the true usefulness of energy, as a concept, is as a vocabulary for speaking about sensations that are difficult to qualify in other ways.  We may someday understand whether these types of sensations are caused by electrical impulses, magnetism, chemical processes, or some combination.  We may even understand why some people seem more sensitive to subtle sensations than others.  But until then, it seems clear that for some people, tapping into the vocabulary and techniques we have available for experiencing energy, suspending disbelief, and working with the metaphor is just as helpful as knowing exactly why it works.

Certain types of skeptics will scoff that medicine is not useful unless it has proven effectiveness, tested with double-blind longitudinal studies, and so on.  Many even seem frightened by the concept of studying complementary therapies in this way, which makes me wonder what exactly they would lose if such things turned out to be true.  However, it isn’t particularly useful to talk about talk therapy as if it were science, any more than it’s meaningful to try and derive statistically significant results from exposure to great literature.  At this point most people accept that people sometimes act on unconscious impulses, or from deeply ingrained behaviors that they’re not conscious of.  We accept that humans are not completely – or even mostly! – creatures of logic and reason.

During RSM sessions, clients often experience sensations and feelings they aren’t accustomed to.  A client may experience the sensation of energy moving through her body – waves, shivers, tingles, spirals, spreading warmth.  When a muscle releases, a client may feel what was a kind of “stuck energy” moving out of it.  Emotion itself is a kind of energy: our teachers called it “energy in motion.”  We are all familiar with the tightness and warmth in the chest that comes with anger and embarrassment.  Or the feeling of tears threatening to overwhelm us.  Or the joy that can seem to fill our bodies with light.  If we’re lucky, we know what it feels like to have our hearts opened by love, and the actual physical sensation of being pierced, as it were, by Cupid’s arrow.

As a practitioner, I also receive sensations in my hands at times, things that are hard to describe as simply bodily sensations.  Some clients’ feet feel bubbly or tingly to me, like there is nervousness or fear of which the client is often unaware.  Sometimes I will begin to experience an emotion the client is experiencing – anxiety, or sadness, or anger – and that will be my first clue that the client is experiencing it.  How does such a thing get communicated?  It’s poorly understood.  But talking about energy is a useful way of quantifying these sensations.

While I often experience there being life force in the world – an energy that permeates everything, vibrating at different frequencies (it should be recalled, after all, that matter and energy are one and the same) – I am aware that some other people don’t, and that science has yet to prove its existence.  But if we can talk about the energy of a room or an interaction, or say that someone has a “nervous energy” or that someone else “sucks all the energy out of the room,” then we need to be able to talk about other phenomena that share that character.  Until science catches up – and I’m not saying it will (see above about the subconscious), I’m happy to use poetry.

Even after that, I might keep using poetryIt’s the language I’m most comfortable in.  Your mileage may vary.

Understanding: getting literal with it

Happy almost-Thanksgiving, everyone here in the States!  As we ease into the holidays, I want to return to the GROUND series, especially since we all need a bit of extra grounding during this time.  Today, then, we bring it to U.  🙂

The ‘U’ in GROUND is for ‘Understanding,’ something that all therapists strive for in one way or another.  We seek to know our clients, or at least to get a sense of where they’re coming from, how and why they make the decisions that they do, what their emotional life is like. Clients are often on a quest for understanding themselves: they want to understand their pasts so they can avoid repeating them; they want to understand their responses so they can make them less damaging; they want to understand what they want so they can stop wasting energy on things they don’t.  There are countless other examples, but understanding is probably one of the top things a person goes to therapy for.

Besides self-understanding, though, clients often want to be understood – felt – gotten – by their therapists.  Many clients feel that they were never properly seen, or heard; they want desperately for someone to recognize and accept them.  Others are looking for understanding in the sense of sympathy or empathy; they want someone to feel for them, and be on their side.

As with any therapist, it is part of the Synergist’s job to bring understanding to his clients: deep listening, empathic response, personal curiosity, and alliance with the client’s growth and health.  The Synergist brings another piece to understanding, though, through the body, and this is where things get a bit punny.

As part of the “ground” of RSM, Understanding becomes the most literal of the six words: we are helping our clients under-stand, to get a solid footing and a stable base so they may carry things, move freely, reach out, and grasp whatever it is they are wanting out of life.  In Rubenfeld Synergy, the metaphors of the body become literal translations of our life experiences.  If a client cannot feel her own feet on the ground, it is very difficult for her to stand steadily.  If she cannot stand solidly, it’s going to be hard for her to hold anything heavy, to lift anything, to walk or run with confidence.  Bringing it to the mental: a client who cannot feel her feet may often be told she has her “head in the clouds,” or that she’s a “scatterbrain.”  Some very smart people also think of themselves as “a brain in a jar,” someone without a body at all; it is no accident that the popular conception of a nerd or geek is someone with poor physical coordination.  Emotionally, trauma survivors often dissociate – mentally and emotionally “leave” their bodies – in order to escape danger and feel safe.  Some clients have told me that their feet are only there so that they can run away.

In all of these cases, under-standing becomes extremely difficult: if you can’t feel your feet, don’t want to be in your body, or would always rather be running than standing still, it is difficult to under-stand or to support anything: a heavy box, a friend in need, a difficult concept, or a difficult emotional experience.  A person without understanding speaks of knowledge as being positionally elsewhere, where they can’t reach it: “over my head,” “out of my depth.”

It is part of the Synergist’s work, then, to help clients find their feet on the ground.  Until the client can find his own under-standing, the Synergist brings her own: making contact with a client’s feet from a grounded place, and communicating that rootedness to the client.  Bringing awareness and attention to the feet.  Discovering the somatic qualities of the feet – light or heavy?  Tight or loose?  Fragile or solid?  Bringing out the stories that are contained there – how does this person make contact with the world?  And gradually, helping the client to know where they stand – and therefore, where they’re coming from, where it’s possible for them to move to, and how they might go about it.

Is Rubenfeld Synergy "energy work"?

This work that I do tends to attract the interest of, and yet fall just outside of, two major groups of practices.  One, and the one that I tend to try and cultivate more, is the psychology/therapy side of things.  I think of RSM as a kind of body psychotherapy, in fact, and group it as a therapeutic technique which, while body-centered, is focused on the health of the whole person.  I don’t see RSM primarily as “bodywork,” like massage, Alexander technique, yoga therapy, or other things that don’t tend to deal overtly with the emotional content of sessions.  But neither do I tend to bundle it in with the other major set of practices and interests that tend to be attracted to this work: energy work, like Reiki, cranial sacral, zero balancing, and other practices that have a somewhat more esoteric, New Age bent.

Often, people who are interested in energy work will approach me, curious about this energy work.  While I think many kinds of energy work are valuable and effective, I like to be clear that RSM isn’t actually energy work – at least, not overtly.  While a couple of the 18 principles of RSM address the idea of energy directly, I feel like it’s important to differentiate RSM from modalities that chiefly address the body’s energy field.

First, it’s important to note that for some people, energy simply can’t be sensed, or they don’t understand it in that way.  And for people who do have a powerful relationship with energy, Reiki and other straight-up energy work modalities will probably be more comfortable and effective for them.

Second, RSM tends to work in a realm that can feel quite opposite to much energy work, and even much bodywork.  Namely: RSM sessions ask the client to stay in their bodies, in the present moment, and often to answer questions.  I have noticed that Reiki and other energy sessions tend to promote a “floaty” feeling and a sense of reaching out to something larger than oneself, an experience that is mainly spiritual and outside the body.  Even massage, which is an incredibly embodied experience, sometimes even to the point of being painful, is something that can allow the client to “zone out” and experience the sensation without much reflection.  (It is worth noting that while one almost always feels better after a massage or chiropractic session, one often finds oneself going back again and again, as the habits that led you there in the first place haven’t been changed.)

But I believe the most important difference, and the one I want to highlight here, is that RSM is about engaging the client with his or her own bodymind, rather than about the practitioner removing energetic blocks or adjusting chi or any of those things that some people simply don’t engage with, as they remain esoteric and unproven.  Everyone has a body, and everyone’s body has a story to tell.  The practitioner’s role, in RSM, is to teach the client how to listen, and to help the client learn his or her own story.

A client may experience the sensation of energy moving through her body – waves, shivers, tingles, spirals, spreading warmth – I’ve encountered any number of somatic sensations that could be described as energy.  As a practitioner, I also receive sensations in my hands at times, things that are hard to describe as simply bodily sensations.  Talking about energy is a useful way of quantifying these sensations.  But others might call it emotion, or muscle tension, or nerves firing.  But what you call it is secondary to the information that it is conveying.  Energy workers work explicitly with the energy itself; RSM practitioners work with what it is saying.

Example: Joyce feels tired and run down.  She goes to have a Reiki session.  During the session, she feels warmth, tingling, and the sensation of well-being flowing into her body.  She relaxes as the session takes place, bathing in the attention of the practitioner and the image of white light healing her.  Afterwards, she feels better, but doesn’t really know why.  Next month, she’s tired and run down again.

The same hypothetical Joyce goes for an RSM session.  During that session, she feels some of the same nurturing sensations she felt in the Reiki session.  But in addition, she discovers that her shoulders are held tightly into her body, even when she doesn’t feel particularly stressed.  She experiments with conversing with them, finding out why they are holding so tightly.  Perhaps she finds that she felt safer being invisible in school, where she was bullied, and so curled in around herself; her shoulders retained the habit even though it is no longer useful and is now in fact harmful.  Or she has a memory of her father pushing her away, when she grabbed him by the arm, trying to stop him from leaving when she was twelve.  Maybe she even finds something simple and somatic: she’s been working at a computer desk for ten years, and her habitual body position is causing her pain and stress.  On the table, she might learn some strategies for holding her body differently, and, while in the suggestive state of the healing trance, create some triggers for reminding herself to be conscious of her body during her day-to-day life.

The point is, while for some people, talk of energy is useful, for others, it can put them off and make them feel you’re talking about something that isn’t “real” and therefore doesn’t affect them.  Addressing the physical body directly, and recognizing the ways it echoes and internalizes our thoughts and emotions, is what this work is truly about.  The spiritual aspect of RSM is important, but it relies on differing ideas of spirituality that can vary from client to client, and energy work unfortunately tends to fall under ideas of spirituality rather than ideas of science at present.  Thus, I tend to shy away from calling RSM “energy work,” though in some respects it is.  Primarily, though, RSM is bodymind work: talk and touch combined, counseling that takes the body as its chief resource for information, support, and healing.

 

Is Rubenfeld Synergy “energy work”?

This work that I do tends to attract the interest of, and yet fall just outside of, two major groups of practices.  One, and the one that I tend to try and cultivate more, is the psychology/therapy side of things.  I think of RSM as a kind of body psychotherapy, in fact, and group it as a therapeutic technique which, while body-centered, is focused on the health of the whole person.  I don’t see RSM primarily as “bodywork,” like massage, Alexander technique, yoga therapy, or other things that don’t tend to deal overtly with the emotional content of sessions.  But neither do I tend to bundle it in with the other major set of practices and interests that tend to be attracted to this work: energy work, like Reiki, cranial sacral, zero balancing, and other practices that have a somewhat more esoteric, New Age bent.

Often, people who are interested in energy work will approach me, curious about this energy work.  While I think many kinds of energy work are valuable and effective, I like to be clear that RSM isn’t actually energy work – at least, not overtly.  While a couple of the 18 principles of RSM address the idea of energy directly, I feel like it’s important to differentiate RSM from modalities that chiefly address the body’s energy field.

First, it’s important to note that for some people, energy simply can’t be sensed, or they don’t understand it in that way.  And for people who do have a powerful relationship with energy, Reiki and other straight-up energy work modalities will probably be more comfortable and effective for them.

Second, RSM tends to work in a realm that can feel quite opposite to much energy work, and even much bodywork.  Namely: RSM sessions ask the client to stay in their bodies, in the present moment, and often to answer questions.  I have noticed that Reiki and other energy sessions tend to promote a “floaty” feeling and a sense of reaching out to something larger than oneself, an experience that is mainly spiritual and outside the body.  Even massage, which is an incredibly embodied experience, sometimes even to the point of being painful, is something that can allow the client to “zone out” and experience the sensation without much reflection.  (It is worth noting that while one almost always feels better after a massage or chiropractic session, one often finds oneself going back again and again, as the habits that led you there in the first place haven’t been changed.)

But I believe the most important difference, and the one I want to highlight here, is that RSM is about engaging the client with his or her own bodymind, rather than about the practitioner removing energetic blocks or adjusting chi or any of those things that some people simply don’t engage with, as they remain esoteric and unproven.  Everyone has a body, and everyone’s body has a story to tell.  The practitioner’s role, in RSM, is to teach the client how to listen, and to help the client learn his or her own story.

A client may experience the sensation of energy moving through her body – waves, shivers, tingles, spirals, spreading warmth – I’ve encountered any number of somatic sensations that could be described as energy.  As a practitioner, I also receive sensations in my hands at times, things that are hard to describe as simply bodily sensations.  Talking about energy is a useful way of quantifying these sensations.  But others might call it emotion, or muscle tension, or nerves firing.  But what you call it is secondary to the information that it is conveying.  Energy workers work explicitly with the energy itself; RSM practitioners work with what it is saying.

Example: Joyce feels tired and run down.  She goes to have a Reiki session.  During the session, she feels warmth, tingling, and the sensation of well-being flowing into her body.  She relaxes as the session takes place, bathing in the attention of the practitioner and the image of white light healing her.  Afterwards, she feels better, but doesn’t really know why.  Next month, she’s tired and run down again.

The same hypothetical Joyce goes for an RSM session.  During that session, she feels some of the same nurturing sensations she felt in the Reiki session.  But in addition, she discovers that her shoulders are held tightly into her body, even when she doesn’t feel particularly stressed.  She experiments with conversing with them, finding out why they are holding so tightly.  Perhaps she finds that she felt safer being invisible in school, where she was bullied, and so curled in around herself; her shoulders retained the habit even though it is no longer useful and is now in fact harmful.  Or she has a memory of her father pushing her away, when she grabbed him by the arm, trying to stop him from leaving when she was twelve.  Maybe she even finds something simple and somatic: she’s been working at a computer desk for ten years, and her habitual body position is causing her pain and stress.  On the table, she might learn some strategies for holding her body differently, and, while in the suggestive state of the healing trance, create some triggers for reminding herself to be conscious of her body during her day-to-day life.

The point is, while for some people, talk of energy is useful, for others, it can put them off and make them feel you’re talking about something that isn’t “real” and therefore doesn’t affect them.  Addressing the physical body directly, and recognizing the ways it echoes and internalizes our thoughts and emotions, is what this work is truly about.  The spiritual aspect of RSM is important, but it relies on differing ideas of spirituality that can vary from client to client, and energy work unfortunately tends to fall under ideas of spirituality rather than ideas of science at present.  Thus, I tend to shy away from calling RSM “energy work,” though in some respects it is.  Primarily, though, RSM is bodymind work: talk and touch combined, counseling that takes the body as its chief resource for information, support, and healing.

 

GROUND series will return next week

Hi everyone.  I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo this month, and it’s taking a lot out of me, creatively speaking.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s short for National Novel Writing Month, which is every year in November.  During that month, the challenge is to write 50,000 words – a novel-length work.  When you break it down, it’s only 1,666 words a day – about six double-spaced pages.  But if you miss a day or get behind, it gets ugly quickly.

I’m recognizing this week that I’m low-energy and moody, and that’s when I know that it’s time to be gentle with myself.  At the same time, I also know it’s a time to change things up.  It’s easy for me, when I’m feeling unmotivated and sad, to let myself twiddle on the Internet for hours to no real result.  I stare out the window at this gorgeous fall day in Boston: it’s noon, but the sun is so low that the shadows of spindly trees stretch across the yard.  The sun is a golden knife, the trees flame.  And even as I write these words I feel better: better than I felt five minutes ago when I was obsessively scrolling through the sale items at Sierra Trading Post.

I know that if I try to wrap my mind around the next concept in the GROUND series now, I’ll be sitting here for another two hours.  Meanwhile, I have plans to go to the gym; meanwhile, I’m 4,700 words behind in the novel.

Today, the thing to do is get up from the kitchen table, go to the gym, shower, and then take a change of scenery – into a cafe where I can’t access the Internet without paying for it, to hammer on this book again.  So that by nightfall, I can feel that I did something with this day.

 

Cellular memory: a literal example

Cellular memory, or body memory, is something Rubenfeld Synergists talk about quite a bit, though the idea is currently generally regarded as a pseudoscience.

However, a 2008 article in the journal Nature reveals that slime molds – organisms like amoebas which are unicellular, but have multiple nuclei – actually have remarkable memory and recall of their own.  These creatures seem to learn and change their behavior based on an established pattern of stimuli.

When the amoeba Physarum polycephalum is subjected to a series of shocks at regular intervals, it learns the pattern and changes its behaviour in anticipation of the next one to come1, according to a team of researchers in Japan. Remarkably, this memory stays in the slime mould for hours, even when the shocks themselves stop. A single renewed shock after a ‘silent’ period will leave the mould expecting another to follow in the rhythm it learned previously. Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University in Sapporo and his colleagues say that their findings ‘hint at the cellular origins of primitive intelligence’.

This remarkable finding about an organism that has no nervous system implies interesting things about the capacity of a single cell to learn and remember, and may have implications for how more complex organisms – like us – store their experiences and respond to them even long after the stimulus that caused the original response is gone – i.e., trauma.

We’re still at the very beginning of even trying to understand how memory works, but it’s fascinating to see the clues that tiny organisms might hold.