When NASA set off in the early 1960s to put a man on the moon, there was a lot of discussion about what kinds of skills and qualifications the astronauts would need. Obviously, they had to be smart, brave and physically fit. But the most important characteristic turned out to be one that no one had really thought much about – the ability to tolerate uncertainty. Because almost everything they would ultimately need to do had literally never been done before.
Practicing Structural Integration, it turns out, requires that same quality. And that can be pretty challenging.
I remember my original SI instructor, Peter Melchior – one of the first two teachers Dr. Rolf appointed to carry on her work – telling us on the first day of class that if we were not prepared to deal with the uncertainty and non-linearity of this work, then we would not be able to do it.
And I was totally confused by that statement. Because up until that moment, I had thought that Structural Integration was a linear process. And that if I could just learn to follow Dr. Rolf’s step-by-step recipe, I could do the work.
Now, I admit I’m not the most linear thinker, and following recipes is hard for me. But I was willing to try, even though secretly I was hoping that I could follow my intuition, ‘kind of’ do the recipe, and get the same outcomes as if I had followed Dr. Rolf’s step-by-step process.
And boy, was I wrong!
It has taken me many years to truly understand what Dr. Rolf and Peter were trying to tell me about this work. That working with fascia isn’t like working with muscles. That fascia and fascial envelopes don’t have clearly defined origins and insertions. And where and what you think you are working on is often not where and what you are actually working on.
That your work is having an effect upon the entire body via the whole body fascial matrix. And that you are not just changing your client’s body, you are changing the way they breathe, move, express and defend themselves.
That Structural Integration is not about ‘fixing’ isolated parts of the body, but about working with the whole person. About learning to see trauma in the entire body, and seeing your clients’ best efforts to adapt to what life has thrown at them. And about seeing their successes and failures in that.
When I interview potential students, I ask them to be honest about this process and about what their intentions are. And about their ability to work as much from their heart and intuition as from their head and a recipe.
I ask them to be honest about their ability to trust and be comfortable in a process that is uncertain and ever-changing. And about their ability to be comfortable in the chaos and confusion that typically accompany the process of growth and change – in both themselves and in their clients.
Finally, I ask about a potential student’s ability to be comfortable with the reality that change is not a finite thing but an ongoing process. That it is not something you ‘get through.’ Delving into Structural Integration training is an ongoing exploration that will change them, too. And that what they think about this work will also change as they change.