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10:58 am
Mon February 10, 2014

Mind-Body Connection, Pt. 1: To Begin Again

We begin again, constantly.~ Robert Fripp

Pain is a powerful motivation.

The pain I am experiencing is causing me to re-evaluate many things. Pain areas, specifically my back, are causing me some alarm. Each movement, even remotely involving bending forward, or a wrong twist at the hips, is carefully considered because any wrong turn could send electric-like shocks through my back that cause subsequent immobility.

Back issues, specifically those debilitating lower back lightning bolts, were first experienced my freshman year of college. Bending over to reach some socks, my lower back froze up and to the floor I went. Try as I did, the floor was where I stayed until those muscles relaxed. Young and invincible, how could this happen?

As if that weren't enough, a new malady has arisen in the past year.

Now there is mysterious shaking of my right arm as it relates to guitar playing. Simply plucking a string with finger or plectrum now produces an tremulous wobble.  The guitar has been a part of my life, both professional and personal, for over four decades. How can I overcome this devastating new obstacle before it becomes debilitating?

Luckily, I'm a pragmatic optimist living in a time when help is easily available. First was to seek pain relief without pills. Pills are not a cure, nor do they explain cause. They only dull mind, body and connection to life itself.

Traci Levine, LMT
Credit Jim Lange

Enter massage therapy.

" It's a cleansing process. It really is. And if you can let go of being self-conscious, it can be a very freeing and emotional relieving space and time for that person."

Traci Levine is a Licensed Massage Therapist who works at The Folded Leaf, a place where yoga, massage and other wondrous mind-body activities abound.

My first massage was revelatory. I had no idea how much tension had come to "rest" in my back. The release of this tension and pain was a bit beyond description. For example, Traci worked on my Teres Major and Minor - muscles more-or-less near your shoulder blade. As she worked out the knots of tension, it felt like my muscles were on fire-not quite pain, but not really pleasure either.

When she first started, I wasn't wholly convinced that this was going to be beneficial, let alone a lofty "transformative." Somewhere, I let go and let her hands guide me where she wanted me to go. I lost track of time, place and person.

The after-effect was immediate and powerful: my muscles did not exist, bones felt like air, and it was difficult to re-inhabit my own body. I.e., walking was awkward. "Drink plenty of water, " was her admonition. My muscles had been in a state of tension for so long that the release was substantial and real as I was sore for about three days.

It turns out, like most disciplines or professions, there's a lot more involved than anyone might think. I interviewed Ms. Levine in January of 2014.

Traci Levine interview.

Then, the proverbial apple fell upon my head: with aging taken into the equation, what if I was the cause of my own problems?

This is a mind-body issue. I am operating on old habits, automatic behavior, not at all mindful of my own body. I do virtually no bodily maintenance (stretching, exercise) and am, in effect, absent. If we have no attention or focus in our lives, then things just happen to us. We effect no change. We are absent.

What? How could we not know our own bodies?

It turns out we know very little about ourselves; including our minds.

Next: Alexander Technique.