Discovering The Line with Will Johnson (LBP 051)

Will Johnson is the founder of the Institute for Embodiment Training and the author of several books including The Posture of Meditation and Balance in Body, Balance in Mind. In today’s conversation we dove into what Dr. Rolf’s original concept of “The Line” was, and discuss its implications for both finding delicious support in our bodies and also for its ability to evoke our evolutionary potential.

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Conversation highlights

  • What is “The Line” and how did Dr Rolf define it? It's more like a koan than a thing...
  • The evolutionary implications in Dr. Rolf's teachings and intentions which have to a large degree gone by the wayside since her passing. Rolfing was not just to feel better, but was a practice that would liberate a different quality of consciousness.
  • The idea was that playing with upright balance in this way would liberate evolutionary energies that would manifest as a growth in consciousness.
  • When we get in touch with how we are withholding emotional expression this work [Rolfing] is more akin to something like meditation or spirtiual pactices. Dr Rolf would at times implore and beseech students not to view this work as a form of glorified physiotherapy.
  • The parallels between Buddhist teachings and Rolfing felt remarkable. From the earliest moments of Buddhism there was an understanding that if we can bring the upright spine to a condition of ever greater alignment that will allow the practices to begin.
  • The whole thing about creating the upright in sitting posture is it allows you to let go and relax. Relaxation is nothing more complicated that to surrender the weight of body in gravity. If your body is out of alignment, what happens when you let go is you topple over.
  • The Buddhist dharma is to let go. We have to be able to relax and you cannot relax and let go through a body that is not playing with balance.
  • Dr. Rolf's answer to a student question about how a Rolfed [aligned] body breaths, "In a truly balanced and integrated body as we breath in and out breath cause subtle motion to occur at every single joint in the body." It is a condition of really profound upright balancing where things are so relaxed that as you breath in and out breath can move through the body like a wave moves through water.
  • We talk about alignment in many realms and it’s this imagined perfect locked-in position. in reality, it is an exquisite unfolding of finding movement and ability for things to flow through. For relaxation to continue the entire body has to be subtly moving like an amoeba. If this is not occurring you are going into holding and freezing and relaxation goes out the window.
  • The majority of people somehow have gotten this crazy notion that stillness of mind depends on a still and frozen body. That frozen quality just locks people. Buddhist dharma has painted itself into a corner of frozen stillness which ironically also fuels the unbidden thoughts.
  • Yoda “there is no balance, there is just balancing”. Balance is not a condition to attain and then maintain.
  • Letting go is tricky business. We both stop ourselves from allowing these spontaneous flows, and we also come across people who are “acting out”. It’s about finding that place in the middle.
  • There are traditions where people are moving or rocking constantly like Sufi or the Jewish tradition of davening. The magic is in the allowance of these as spontaneous motions. 
  • Is there an anatomical structure that describes The Line? No- we're each different and it's about the play with balance, or the integrating force as we play with balance.
  • Relaxation is nothing more or less complicated that the willingness to surrender to gravity.
  • In most practices the body is viewed as an obstacle. I think that notion is crazy. We’re here, we’re incarnated, the body is literally going to be our vehicle.

Resources

The Institute for Embodiment Training

The Posture of Meditation

Balance of Body, Balance of Mind

Retreats with Will Johnson

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