Archive for December, 2011

“Marriage as a tie, family as a duty, fatherland as a value in itself, morality as authority, religion as an obligation deriving from eternity. The rigidity of the human musculature could not be more accurately described!”                                                                                       – Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism

The purpose of therapy, whether it be massage, acupuncture, or any other variation, is to restore health to the client. But what constitutes health, and how does our relationship to the outside world affect us internally? These are the questions that were raised by a handful of revolutionary psychoanalysts in the latter half of the last century. For Wilhelm Reich, the Austrian-born contemporary of Freud, Nazi Germany’s decline into fascism was the over-arching influence of his work as a psychotherapist. For Roberto Freire, a Brazilian doctor and psychiatrist, the violent 20-year dictatorship of Brazil, during which Freire was part of the counter-insurgency, was his overwhelming context out of which sparked his revolutionary ideas about the body and the therapeutic task.

The western world seems to be making the necessary shift to wholism, seeing health as a multiplicity of factors including body, mind, and spirit. Yet crucial to the idea of holistic health is an understanding of how society, politics, and our everyday relationships also affect our well-being. Humans are born with a natural drive to pursue pleasurable situations and activities, and with the intrinsic knowledge of how to achieve this instinctive goal. Freire called this idea spontaneous self-regulation. Yet as we grow up, various factors become roadblocks in our attempts to live according to our desires. We live in what Freire called a “hetero-regulated society” in which certain norms and standards regulate our actions. We learn this at an early age from our parents, and later from our teachers, bosses, and authoritarian officials. Being a species that naturally adapts to our external situations, we often play the game strictly as a means of survival. We learn and internalize the various life-lessons that we are taught, from not farting at the dinner table, to not voicing our opinions too loudly in school. We quickly learn that if we live according to our desires it will get us in trouble with the authority figures in our lives. In popular psychology this survival mechanism is called the Reality Principle, which is the natural antithesis of the Pleasure Principle. In a strangely sick and mysteriously misguided way, mainstream therapy has become focused on the Reality Principle. The goal is to help clients assimilate into the reality of everyday life, to cope with the various external struggles that somehow seem inevitable to modern people. Massage therapy is no exception. In my experience, the main complaint of the overwhelming majority of clients is stress. Massage is too often sought out as a quick fix, allowing the client to find relaxation amidst the outpouring of stressors and oppressions that plague daily life.

What sets apart the revolutionary ideas of Reich and Freire, among others, is that they strive to take into consideration the political and social implications of health and well-being. Wilhelm Reich was the first not only to talk about this elephant in the room, which in his case was Nazi Fascism, but he was also the first to talk about the body as the mechanism of mental well-being. The muscles are key to understanding this. Muscles have two basic functions- expansion and contraction. Through a bit of awareness, it will become obvious to anyone that contraction creates an unpleasant feeling (a sudden gasp of breath), and that expansion creates a feeling of pleasure (a sigh of relief). Reich showed that the restrictions placed on us by society cause the contraction of our musculature. Over time, if we accept the Reality Principle as our reality, our muscles will become chronically contracted. This contraction is the roadblock that I spoke of before. It disables the free expression of the individual and what before was a choice in the interest of survival is now an unconscious process happening within the body. What binds these muscles is the energy that is being withheld from expression. Suppose you really, really want to tell your boss how you feel, but you know that it would cost you your job. So instead you clench your jaw, “bite your tongue,” and “hold it in.” These are bodily expressions. The energy that you are “holding in” is what is causing the contraction of your jaw muscles, and most likely in this situation, your abdominal muscles as well. What follows then is that releasing this tension, by means of massage therapy, can often release this bound up energy and produce the sensations and feeling associated with their constriction. Much work has been done to identify which muscle contractions are associated with which feelings.*

Massage has the opportunity to be revolutionary. It allows us to release and process the constrictions literally placed on us by society. Holistic therapy is political. We exist in a social context, and that context invariably affects our health and well-being. The therapeutic process allows us to break through our hindrances and scream loudly for our freedom. As Reich, Freire, and others have shown, we must create a culture of unhindered expression if we want to live in a truly healthy society!

*See The Language of the Body by Alexander Lowen

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DIY Health: Music As Medicine

Posted: December 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Yesterday I was confronted with the uncomfortable task of talking to a family member about a touchy subject. Before the conversation I serendipitously picked up my ukulele and began to strum.  For some unexplainable reason my anxiety lessened in a very noticeable and immediate way. Today, amidst the awkward tension of the family Christmas celebration, my cousin sang a song as her gift to us all. The soft beauty of her voice gave us all an unanticipated feeling of calm. What is it about music that has the power to alter our moods?

I just came across an article on this very thing. The article highlights fascinating research about how music can boost immune levels, decrease anxiety and enhance memory, among other things.  We all seem to know intuitively that music is a worthy medicine. We often choose our music based on how we want it to affect our mood, or as a means of helping us fall asleep… or wake up! Dance music can increase our brain function and productivity, which is why I tend to blast a good 90’s dance mix before I attempt to clean my room.

Dancing is another therapeutic ally. I briefly lived in West Virginia, where I was once told by a close friend of mine that every time he was depressed as a teenager his mother would make him go contra dancing. “Works every time,” he told me.  The aerobic exercise and energetic release of dancing is a sure way to beat depression and sickness. When we dance we are in autonomous control of our movements, listening only to the request of our flailing bodies as they shift us effortlessly into different shapes and angles. This not only releases stored up energy that would otherwise be converted into anxiety, but it also gently massages and loosens our muscles.  So next time you need to “loosen up,”  pump up the tunes and hit the dance floor. And if you live in Gainesville, call me first!

Check out the article on the therapeutic effects of music here.

Imagine a beautiful mountainous community that exists soley to discover the meaning(s) of life and the varying degrees of human potential. A community made up of a shifting collective of scholars who explore the connections between mind, body, spirit, and social change. An academic community that has made major contributions to psychology, religion, and ecology for the last 50 years. What I speak of exists. Big Sur, California is the home of the Esalen Institute, a non-profit organization founded in 1962 with the intended goal of “exploring work in the humanities and sciences in order to fully realize human potentialities.”

I first heard of Esalen because of their connection with the California School of Integral Studies.  Esalen was instrumental in founding a masters degree program in somatic psychology at the school. Though through a bit of internet browsing I have come to discover the broad and rich history of Esalen, a history which extends far beyond pioneering work in body psychology to include groundbreaking spiritual and ecological work, as well as so much more.

Some notable scholars that have contributed to Esalen’s work at some capacity are religious thinkers such as Paul Tilich and Matthew Fox, psychologists such as Alexander Lowen and Fritz Perls, and body-workers such as Ida Rolf.

Though I am unsure about the extend to which ideas flowing from Esalen’s corridors can be considered “radical” in the political sense, I am convinced of the project’s ability to break apart the foundations of our thinking, setting up the interpersonal groundwork for radical social change.

You can discover the work of Esalen on their website, or at the online  Esalen Center for Theory and Research.

 

 

 

The Alt Health newsletter is published periodically by and for the Gainesville community. With resources specific to our town about herbal medicine, massage therapy, and other alternative treatments for mind and body. Alt Health exists to highlight affordable, alternative, and community-oriented health care options in our town, as well as to educate the community about alternative ways of viewing health and health care. 

Issue #2:

Contributors wanted!

Theme: Affordable and Accesible Healthcare

Article ideas: local options for low-income folks, home remedies and DIY treatments, preventative care- (foods, herbs, lifestyle, etc), stress-related illness, info about affordable local health events, the politics of healthcare, or whatever you can think of…

Each contributor also needs to send a short blurb about themselves, including info about their practice, that will be included as a small “advertisement.”

Also send information about local alternative health-related events that you are aware of.

Send me your topic ideas by Monday, Dec. 19th

Articles and money due by Dec. 31st.

Publishing date: January 6th, 2012 (if the world hasn’t ended)

 

Send info to busyrusty@gmail.com

Healthy Transitions

Posted: December 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

There is a least one family doctor who understands the confusing transitions that adolescents are forced to make during puberty. Adolescence is a process of assimilating into your assigned gender, and for some kids, this is an impossible task. This story shows the bravery of one family and one doctor as they embark on a journey to discover the true identity of Nicole. Health issues of transgender folks are often forgotten. This is a very inspiring tale…

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2011/12/11/led-child-who-simply-knew/SsH1U9Pn9JKArTiumZdxaL/story.html

Description: Originally published in Profane Existence issue 52/53. Introduction to holistic thought and life-ways and their relevance and application to the anarcho-punk movement.

Smashing States of Mind on Inner Battle Fields

Hippie, wu-wu, crystal worshipper, new-ager, wing-nut, health nut; for most of my life these damning labels shaped my attitude towards the holistic movement. It wasn’t until recently that I became passionate about many things I was so intent on laughing off in the past. My declining mental and physical health brought me to the brink of collapse a few years ago and drove me to develop a deeper understanding of health and wellness.

I’d been treating my whole being like most people treat their cars: it’s a vehicle of your will, it’s not sacred. You don’t know much about it, what it’s made of, or how it works, and you only wish you did when it breaks down. Most people take their body and mind ‘in’ somewhere to “get fixed”. When money doesn’t allow, you have to do-it-yourself.

I had the good fortune of happening upon a radio program while at work called the Aware Show. The hosts interview cutting edge researchers, authors, healers, masters, and gurus of all types. Of course at first I xenophobically sneered at some of the far-out subject matter. I, like the Tibetan temple destroying communist Chinese, had fallen prey many years ago to the Marxian fear and disdain of all that was other-worldly.

While am quite certain that all organized religions are tools of enslavement, I’m no longer as quick to assume that the totality of the cosmos can be confidently explained by pure scientific rationality. No, I didn’t have an epiphany or Vision, but as I laid suffering in fetal position on lunch breaks or drove endlessly in the delivery van my heart and mind opened up to the content of this show.

The topics ranging from metaphysics to quantum physics, cellular biology to eco-psychology equipped me with powerful modern and ancient tools to restructure my physical and mental state, and thus my destiny. I feel that as would-be warriors, it’s essential that we anarcho-punks develop a deeper and healthier connection to ourselves, each other, the Earth, and the cosmos by utilizing all the tools in the 3 million year old tool box of human cultural experience. This means integrating modes of thought, practice, art, science, diet, healing, etc. that we have either overlooked or not taken seriously enough to make as popular in our scenes as d-beats and rare records. Now’s the time, while the Information Age lasts, to really sample the world’s cultural database and get excited about an experimental existence. For some of us, creative experimentalism may be the last hope. For some, healing and empowerment is a life or death situation in which anti-biotics, Prozac, and mind-numbing partying offer little true medicinal effect. Consciousness I’ve learned is an ideal path to growth and healing, unconsciousness keeps us stagnant and ill.

Let me introduce the concept of holism. In the strictest sense it’s the theory that the parts of any whole cannot exist and cannot be understood except in their relation to the whole. The significance of this ancient axiom’s emergence in modern society is great because it subverts the dominant paradigm in shattering ways. It has re-introduced the sacred wisdom that every traditional culture and wild life-form honors daily: interconnectedness is the underlying truth determining the health and balance of all within a unified field of being.

While ego creates the illusion of separateness as we go about our neurotic modern lives like lone rain drops, the old ways kept us rolling through time in the waves of an oceanic state. While the drop is isolated and alone, when re-connected with the ocean it becomes whole again, complete, free, equal, and boundless.

Modern western civilization has been built on the concepts of “reductionism” and what’s called the “mechanistic world-view.” Sixteenth century English philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon set out to “torture nature for her secrets.” Around the same time French scientist, Rene Descartes was an early vivisector who while cutting open live animals described their screams as analogous to the grinding of gears in a machine.

The sterile exploitative world-view of these men, and countless others before and after, laid the philosophical foundation of the modern techno-industrial death culture. Empire, while having destroyed and enslaved continents for thousands of years, had never known the vile power that would be unleashed as the Earth was declared dead under a single god. As Empire’s masters moved from the church to the laboratory the world would be forever broken apart piece by piece, only to be resurrected into the searing, cutting, and caging technologies of dominion.

As spirits, goddesses, and shaman were killed with the assimilation and enslavement of autonomous tribes worldwide, we’ve lost much of the magic, mysticism, and healing arts and sciences of the ancestors. The circular interconnected world was violently subsumed by logic and the myth of ascending progress from savagery to barbarism to civilization. It was once called “The Great Chain of Being” atop which stood the civilized European Man, at the bottom lay animals and the earth. The feminine was no longer of any grandeur, and all people of color were godless heathens.

God, so it was thought, had crafted this Earthy laboratory to test his male children’s will to ascend to his might. He hid his powers of love inside the atom, to be split open with more grace than the lower primates splitting nutshells with rocks.

The Never-ending Story, Fern Gully, The Dark Crystal, and Princess Mononoke all fantasize this process of eco-spiricide telling the same story: there is more to reality than meets the eye, the essence of the universe is chaotic and enchanting, peaceful, loving, and egalitarian. There is more magic and meaning than one god and a story of humanity’s Earthen exile can account for.

Whether my curiosity for transcendence applies to the nature of mind, matter, or spirit, I’m now open to explore and use my own scientific methods to distill fact from fiction. I feel that it would benefit all victims of spiritual disembodiment to seek truth in the spirit of total rejection of the Western monotheistic monopoly of thought, experience, and imagination.

I used to be totally cynical about spirit, oneness, interconnected consciousness, the continuum between mind and matter, Gaian intelligence, etc.; though I think I’ve had it backwards all along. The natural backlash against Christian dogma is to throw the baby out with the holy water. Our gut reaction to the trauma of perverse spiritual abuse is to completely cast any form or conception of it out of our lives for good. But let us not forget, it was our peaceful tribal ancestors’ pagan myths and spirits who were stolen and transmogrified under the blade and the flame. All throughout the world the sacred became the scarred. The stories that enlightened and empowered were re-written in blood and ash. Old characters were corrupted in new stories that made slavery on Earth seem bearable with the slight hope of eternal afterlife. Of course how good a slave you are determines where that eternity will be endured.

In my experience in anarchist and punk circles, we’re highly intellectually developed, but we leave much to be desired in less rational realms. Our backlash against the unknown has done the work of the rulers for them. The witch trials have changed venues to our own minds. Our own denial of transpersonal energy and intelligence has locked us in the cold, hard, meaningless, nihilistic prison of reality. What fun is that? If for no other reason than to just want to believe that a more playful and infinite universe awaits behind our eyes, why not learn about and practice a few things.

Whether you eat mushrooms, meditate, stretch, fast, vision quest, dance, trance, drum, ohm, mosh, head-bang, whatever, try taking Tyler Durden’s advice and “just let go” once in a while. No one can tell me that raising the claw during a wicked black metal riff doesn’t channel powers of inter-dimensional sorcery. Simple occasional awareness of the fact that we only perceive a billionth of reality with our untrained 5 senses might just be all it takes for doors to swing open. Perhaps they’ll lead to “super-scientific” as opposed to “super-natural” pathways of healing, insight, power, strength, wisdom, grace, love and peace.

Life is a trip, life itself is psychedelic, drugs are optional. Altered states can be more real than reality and some would argue and prove that higher plains of empowerment can be reached through “the closed eye experience.” Consider Shaolin monks walking on coals, breaking boards, and bending bars.

I used to be into all this stuff when I was kid. I was a martial arts freak with an associated affinity for Buddhism. No one could have told me that breaking stuff with invisible life-force energy wasn’t the coolest idea in the world (until I got into punk and puberty from whence coolness took on a whole new character). But seriously, stopping bleeding though focused breathing! And what about Mr. Miyagi?! The scene took away my self-discipline, the “porcelain god” replaced the punching-bag, and my once agile and flexible body and mind began to atrophy in a toxic blood stream.

Unfortunately the followers of Christ and the vices of punk aren’t the only enemies of our holistic liberation. I think of Garth Algar mocking Wayne, “You’ll never afford it, LIVE IN THE NOW.” And the SNL caricature Stuart Smalley’s self-affirmation talk, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gonnit, people like me.” More recent and less cynical is the “Dharma and Greg” show. These light pop-culture jabs at holism shape our attitudes towards it. And our closer-to-home counter-cultural fore-bearers aren’t much less ridiculous.

The laughable lack of strategic resistance on the part of the “Dead Head” movement has justifiably made us skeptical towards the offerings of their neo-tribe. My trusted second hand knowledge tells me that at its best at the Rainbow Gathering and at its worst at Dead shows, the hippie culture has cultivated some invaluable memes. It has spawned an archaic revival of communalism, free love, love of nature, and (sometimes respectable) use of sacred transpersonal intoxicants among other things. But gathering intelligence from beyond the tie-died curtain is more difficult than simply bridging the generation gap. There’s often a wall of elitism and condescension that we stand behind, unknowingly cutting ourselves off from many streams of thought, bodies of knowledge, and fields of research. Some such endeavors when found beyond the VW and school bus contingents are actually not flaky at all and worthy of serious attention on our part. Noted contributors Judy and Stu Albert, Timothy Leary, and Terence Mckenna exemplify both rock-solid and ethereal anarchisms that are a joy to rediscover.

I could take this in a million directions but I hope I’ve established in this scroll of zealotry the urgent need for us to re-think and re-feel our orientation to reality. One of my most highly respected friends and fellow experimentalists said to me once during the height of my clinical rationalism, “You know, the system has the monopoly of power over the physical plain, so doesn’t that mean the only way we can destroy it is to master what lies beyond?”

Somewhere between Yoda and Yoga I think we may find some astonishing wellsprings of power and peace that should be precious to those who believe in the spirit of total resistance.

The aptly titled eco-feminist anthology “Re-weaving the world” illustrates the concept of holism as a call to action. We must re-weave the world faster than it is being violently unraveled. To do this we must harvest fibers that lie beyond our knowledge and sometimes perception. The clarity, strength, and resolve that such a project will entail will come from holistic approaches to our health, our diet, our thought-scape, our land-base, our communities, and all our relations.

As eco and health conscious anarcho-punks we stock our energy efficient freezers with vegan Tofutti Cuties from the local co-op or corp-op. We love mock meat brands, Braggs aminos, Dr. Bronners soap, and many other now mainstream fruits of the commercialized holistic movement. But what about the fruits of holism that manifest more as practices than products?

The sophistication of holistic lifeways is lost on most anarcho-punks. When was the last time you saw a Myspace bulletin about chakra balancing or vermiculture? Thanks to some of my heroes such as Mike Antipathy, Sasha Scatter, Jeremy Clark, Oi Polloi, Ayahuasca, and Submission Hold, not all is lost for our subculture. But much more awaits to be gained.

I’d like to continue this column as a digest of my inquiries into these colorful inner and outer realms of thought and practice. My hope is to establish a trend of interest in and integration of a vast array of beneficial holistic memes.

Break on through!