Robert Hall, Stanislav Grof and Richard Strozzi-Heckler—all associates of the vipassana community—work directly with the body and/or breath as a path of insight and means of healing. We asked them to talk about their motivation and methods, and what the wisdom of the body and breath have to teach us.
When I first saw Randolph Stone work, I was astounded. I had been working only with body structure and form; but he was working energetically, through the body, and I could see that something miraculous was happening to all the people he was touching. He taught me by having me stand on one side of the person we were working on while he stood on the other. He would fix me with his ice blue light-filled eyes and take my hands and place them on the patient’s body. Guiding my hands to certain places, he would look at me piercingly, and say “Do you feel that? Now do you feel that?” Then he would start to chant and praise God—he was a religious ecstatic—and I would start to feel the energy, the bioenergy, and I would get ecstatic with him.
After training with Randolph Stone, I began to see that I was now working with process, not form. I was working with what enlivened the body rather than the body itself. That changed the whole outlook of my work, which became an integration of gestalt therapy and body work.
In the Lomi school, I see the body as our curriculum. It’s what we study. Many people try to study the body by observing it in a detached way, from an “outside” perspective. But we try to learn by directly experiencing the body’s truth, following the movement of sensations that arise and pass away continuously through the body, the movement of energetic patterns. By experiencing these patterns, we learn very directly about ourselves and about all of life. We learn the noble truth of suffering, and even the truth of no-self. We become enlightened through the body.
The key is in the sensations. As I see it, bodily sensations are the physical manifestation of the life energy itself, a continuous process of unfolding that takes place within each of us. Call it spirit, God, love, the unknown, or the guest—it has many names. By experiencing those sensations, we learn that all is process, there is nothing fixed or solid here, and that, in fact, there is no lasting, fixed, individual self. Those truths become self-evident when you work with the body.
I spent a long time in my own meditation practice observing sensations as a detached observer, from a removed position. Finally I began to realize that the sensations and the one who was observing them were actually the same thing, the same phenomenon.
When that began to happen, the sensations almost became holy to me, because they represented the manifestation on earth of something that is unspeakable and divine.
I had a real severe cancer scare recently, so I’ve been working a lot with fear and the knowledge of my own mortality. The biopsies turned out to be benign, but not until there was a long period of doubt. It was during that waiting period that I developed intense concentration on the sensations of fear and was able to turn them into rapture. This is possible with any kind of emotion. It’s a matter of opening without judgment, without any kind of agenda, to the sensations which we call emotions that move through the body, without putting a concept on them, without saying, “This is fear, this is sadness, this is grief.” All sensations are just an expression of the life force, even pain and contraction. It’s all one energy, and when I was able to stay with that truth, the fear disappeared. The energy and the observer became one. The body had taught me everything I needed to know.