My 30’s: exploring wholeness
During my last years in Fusion I was mostly in the National Office. This meant dealing lots with computers and paper and not much with people. This led me to the next stage of my interest in health: my physical body. During this time I also began training in Transactional Analysis. I didn’t finish the training as I moved cities to get married and do other things. I still think Transactional is one of the best psychotherapies – and certainly the most accessible. The commitment of Transactional Analysis to using simple everyday words is commendable. Also, as a group, Transactional Analysts are the best practitioners of psychotherapy that I know. The best self-therapy book I know is Born to Win by two Transactional Analysts, Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward. It is quite cheap and readily available. It doesn’t have the theoretical depth or social awareness of Gestalt Therapy but it is much easier to read.
While working in National Office I started getting interested in physical skills. I found, for instance, that programs on TV about craftspeople were fascinating. This led to me eventually enrolling in a massage class and investigating a system of self-development called Shintaido, and, for a little while getting interested in aerobics. (My interest in aerobics was very short lived – there seemed to be nothing in it for me – just moving my body with no involvement of thoughts, emotions or my spirit.) The massage course was Swedish Massage at an after hours evening college in a local school. I got intrigued by the fact that after a massage my emotions were different. Likewise when aerobically fit it was easier to handle the frustrations of the day. This led me to formulate a question: if aerobics helps us be patient what exercise would help us develop compassion? Shintaido, with its emphasis on the heart rather than the lower belly was one answer to this. I didn’t persist with Shintaido – I found the Japanese emphasis on hierarchy unattractive. I’m a fairly resolute individualist. Though co-operation and collaboration are what we usually find most satisfying this is on the basis of respect for individuality. Otherwise it is deadening instead of enlivening.
I pursued my interest in massage by studying various different kinds. I was fortunate to find a good course run by Francois Novi (I don’t know where he is now) which gave a simple routine that could be used on any part of the body and which emphasised moving from the lower belly – whatever stroke we were using. This led me to study part of a course in Zen Shiatsu. This remains my favourite kind of massage – it is delightful to both give and receive. (I think it could also be a great way to teach the location of the channels for acupuncture – it follows the course of the channels and you also develop a good feel for the different qualities associated with the different channels.)
I left Fusion to get married, work with another christian group and develop my own massage practise. This involved moving from Sydney to Brisbane (about 1000kms away). All of these reasons for moving didn’t work out. I left my marriage after 8 years, the christian group fell apart. I ran some successful retreats but when I wanted to make enough money to repay my work I priced myself out of my market.
In Brisbane I studied Deep Tissue massage. I didn’t pursue this – it inflicts pain and I think this is buying into our culture’s hostility to our body. During this time I also studied acupuncture – once with my friend Geoff Wilson, where I learnt acupuncture, and once at a college where I gained a not terribly useful qualification. (This was partly due to industry politics – on which I have strong feeling and much to say, but this isn’t the place.)
I became a qualified presenter of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I have found this to be easily the most useful tool to give an idea of our overall approach to life. I first discovered it because I am very sceptical of psychological quizzes. I saw a simplified version of it in a book and thought I’d do it for fun, and to see how inaccurate it was. I did the quiz and read the description given based on my answers. I was simply stunned with the accuracy. The understandings of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are well and truly part of me. They are one of the frameworks I refer to in order to understand any conflict I may have. It can be confusing at first – there are quite a few different concepts – but once you get a feel for it then your understanding of others can be hugely increased. The best introduction I know is Kiersey and Bates’ Please Understand Me (the first edition – the second edition isn’t nearly so good in my opinion).
During these years I made my first serious attempt to write something worthwhile and original – on a christian, physical spirituality. The first result was a booklet. I realised after I’d written it that this had really been a way of clearing my head; and I went on to write a book about it – it is currently waiting on photos to illustrate it. It examines the physical emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of the experience of our bodies from the feet to our legs to our waist then chest, neck and head. It is called The Christian Body. I sent it off to get an opinion on its suitability for publication. The comment was that it was neither fish nor fowl and so fell between two stools. This is no doubt true – and also it’s only merit in my view.
Needless to say this innovative and important work on filling a major gap in evangelical christianity – a faith based on the incarnation which pays no attention to our physicality – was met with overwhelming silence and indifference. It wasn’t that people thought it was wrong – it was just so far off the map that it didn’t register.
Coming up: Part Three: my 40’s