Carolyn S. Barnes
[SL: The following is the Introduction to an inspired new book, RETURN TO EASE. In this elegantly simple and thoroughly beautiful how-to guide subtitled “Gently Reconnect with Your Body’s Natural Mobility & Joy,” readers are empowered to consider and engage their own innate ability for self-healing. I’m in the process of writing a review of RETURN TO EASE, so stay tuned for more on this subject.]
You Hold in Your Hands Possibility & Potential
If you allow it, this book can provide an opening; a new way of looking at yourself, your body, and how you connect with your life. Are you ready to connect with your body, your mind, and your spirit in new ways that support a healthy and joyful you?
With this book I am offering you a starting place—simple, quick, easy, and pleasurable techniques that can set you on your way to experiencing joy and ease again in your body. There is certainly much more information available to you than offered in this book, but my goal is to introduce you to a new way of being, not to overwhelm you. Think of this book as a starter kit, and I will share with you at the end of the book resources that can take you further on your journey towards optimal health and well-being, if that is where you want to go.
Let’s begin right now with where you are. The equipment we will use is minimal and the techniques are simple. You can start today; all you need to do is show up. This book will be your guide for an expedition into a territory that most people have almost forgotten, a territory and landscape created by your cells and your being. This is an expedition of unlearning many concepts that we have unconsciously accepted about discomfort and pain in our bodies and remembering our true state of ease and luminosity. I would like to present another way to look at your amazing and most magnificent body.
Where We Are
The majority of Western society is currently entrenched in a medical paradigm that is not based on health and wellness, but on illness. This paradigm is not in alignment with our bodies, our minds or our spirits. People seeking medical help typically are treated as isolated components versus a whole, unique, complex, interwoven being. You may be one who is eager to discover ways to recover wholeness and vitality, and I am here to meet you wherever you are on this journey, whether it is at the beginning, somewhere in the middle, or further along your path.
Too often, pain in the body is normalized and accepted as a process of life and of aging. Or perhaps we entirely ignore signals of discomfort because we don’t know how to make the pain go away, and we are not clear where to turn for help. Maybe on some level we’re scared that the signals from our bodies might be indicative of serious problems, so we look away, not ready to address possible scary scenarios that might turn out to be real.
It’s time to come out of hiding. I urge you to have the courage to rethink pain and confront it head on. Create space for the discomfort as a place for opportunity and learning. Open the closet door and look at all the monsters you imagine are hiding in the darkness. Turn on the light and shine it directly on your fears. Many times the monsters are just dust bunnies that our imagination and fears have pumped up, making them bigger than what they really are.
Pain in the body is not normal. It is a warning signal from your body that it is out of balance in some manner, and the imbalance needs to be investigated. As you progress through this book, please do not aggressively push through a technique if you feel non-therapeutic pain. We are not looking to have you force your body to do something that feels injurious and painful; your muscles will tighten up in order to protect your body from harm. That is counter-productive to the positive changes we are looking to create. You will learn to differentiate between pain that feels productive and therapeutic (that “hurts so good” feeling), and pain that feels injurious (a hurting feeling without the feeling of also being productive). We are looking to reconnect with the joy, flexibility, strength, and mobility that is your body’s natural state.
Sometimes we think our body’s natural state of being is that of always being in discomfort—please do not accept pain as something that is a natural course of life! Oftentimes we even accept pain as being the common path of bodies that are aging. Pain and discomfort are not an expected result of aging—old age is not a disease! How often do you hear people attribute an ache to “old age” and simply give in to all their symptoms? The aging process is not something which we are doomed to endure with uncomfortable, limited range of motion and stiffness. Many times stiffness and decrease of mobility as we age are due to lack of motion and an increase of restrictions in the soft tissue around our joints. Our natural state of being is that of ease, flexibility, and joy … right up until the day we take our last breath.
The Hidden Message in Our Bodies
For most of us, our bodies are desperately trying to get our attention. The signals at first are subtle, but these are often ignored in our quest to get things done and create a life of busyness, multi-tasking, and importance. When we don’t listen to these subtle signals, the body must create a more urgent call to get our attention and this translates as discomfort and pain.
Let’s face it—pain is unpleasant, whether its source be emotional or physical. Most of us recognize that physical traumas create a disruption in our physical bodies and usually create an emotional upset as well. Not as many people are aware that emotional and psychological traumas, at the time of trauma, create measurable disturbances in the physiological balance of our bodies. When ignored and pushed aside, trauma—both physical and emotional—becomes trapped in our bodies. For the purposes of this book, we will define trauma as experienced fear and pain, regardless of its source. Peter Levine, in his book WAKING THE TIGER: HEALING TRAUMA, succinctly states, “Trauma is trauma, no matter what caused it.”
Trapped trauma in our bodies begins to impede the natural functioning of our cells. Without a release, the trauma becomes energetically lodged in our bodies, often traveling through the soft tissue. The restrictions of trapped trauma tighten us, creating inflammation and lack of ease. Certain movements that used to be effortless can become uncomfortable. We begin to avoid the activities that once gave us balance and joy. A daily walk or exercise can become pushed aside, and we start to forget how powerful and crucial moving is to our bodies.
Our bodies are by design created for movement—not excessive sitting and passive activities. The muscles pump the vessels of our immune system; movement keeps our joints lubricated, like the oil in our cars lubricates the parts and keeps them working optimally. Lack of movement creates restrictions—emotionally and physically—and begins a downward spiral of losing some of our natural ability of movement and ease.
Symptoms of pain can seem mysterious and appear to have no direct association with a remembered trauma. Pain can creep upon us, slowly, until one day we realize that we hurt. People are often mystified because they cannot remember a single event that triggered their pain. Sometimes there is clearly a defining trauma, like an accident or an operation. Many times, however, this is not the case, and people feel confused and stuck.
As time goes on, and as our discomfort continues without resolution, we may start to dissociate from our bodies. We think that this strategy of hiding our heads in the sand will help us somehow; if we ignore or try not to feel the pain or fear, it might eventually go away. But, for the most part, this process of avoidance, at best, just doesn’t work. At worst, it creates a feeling of distrust within ourselves. Instead of connecting as a unified being—a team—we may look upon our bodies as adversaries and burdens. Before we know it, we may even direct anger and resentment towards our bodies. Meanwhile, our bodies are simply trying to heal and maintain balance, desperate to wake us up to our physical and emotional needs through the messages of pain.
What Do We Need?
You and your body need each other. You cannot physically be on this planet without your body. Just think about that for a moment … I see many people give more care and consideration to their cars than their own precious bodies. I believe, oftentimes, this neglect is due to lack of knowledge and fear. And that makes sense because we haven’t been taught to trust or listen to our bodies. We have been taught to put our trust in being busy and productive, ignoring the messages our bodies send us, especially if these messages compete with our need to get more done in less time.
Because of what we’ve been taught, or not taught, we are not really sure how to help ourselves without drugs or massive amounts of medical treatments that don’t seem to yield lasting, permanent results. Chasing after symptoms, we feel something is off. We intuitively know that we should be able to care for ourselves in a way that is comfortable and even pleasurable, but we haven’t been given the training or tools to do so—until now.
This is your call to action. Move into the pain instead of avoiding it. Experience it. Go through it. Give yourself permission to feel. Allow yourself to let go. You are safe in this space that I am creating for you. I want to put you in touch with your inner knowing and wisdom. I want to help you stop compartmentalizing your being and heal. My greatest passion in life is to see people recover their connection to their bodies. Their inner luminosity will begin to shine forth again; a sparkle will twinkle behind their eyes as they return to ease.
Using Your Right Mind
In this book, we will use our brains in two ways to assist our healing: visualization and feeling. Very simply, the brain is divided into two lateral hemispheres that each exhibits different patterns of processing information for us: the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. The left side of our brains controls our thinking processes; our rational, logical, linear ways of viewing and analyzing our experiences. Language occurs on the left side, as well as our concept of time. Our perception of our bodies as separate and unique from others occurs on this side, and we feel our bodies as solid.
The right side is our artistic, creative region, and this is where non-linear processing occurs. Instead of language, our right side processes information in pictures and collages. It is our feeling and sensing side. Not processing time, the right side processes all information as in the now. Here is where we are expansive and flow with all that is; our bodies feel fluid, and we experience oneness with all of life. The left side is where our non-stop internal chatter and judgments originate; the right side is where we experience peace, joy, and bliss.
The two hemispheres work together to provide us with a seamless perception of our reality; we do not consciously recognize which side of our brain is being utilized when we are processing information. It is an automatic function in a normal, healthy brain. However, much of our current, modern lifestyle utilizes more of our left hemisphere than the right. Work, school, our focus on time and lack of time, getting things done, analytical skills, to-do lists, worrying about the future and worrying about the past are all perceptions that are processed in the left side of our brains.
There is a wonderful autobiography written by Jill Bolte Taylor, entitled MY STROKE OF INSIGHT: A BRAIN SCIENTIST’S PERSONAL JOURNEY. Jill shares her stunning story of a stroke that impeded the functioning of the left hemisphere of her brain. It took eight years of determination and tenacity to regain the functioning of her brain’s left side.
She shares her life as lived with only the right side of her brain processing her daily experiences:
To the right mind, no time exists other than the present moment, and each moment is vibrant with sensation. Life or death occurs in the present moment. The experience of joy happens in the present moment. Our perception and experience of connection with something that is greater than ourselves occurs in the present moment. To our right mind, the moment of now is timeless and abundant.
Both sides are equally important to our ability to function and thrive on this planet. We are not looking to favor one hemisphere over another. Our left brain is critical in its function of diligently reminding us of the details of our life:
Through the use of brain chatter, your left brain repeats over and over again the details of your life so you can remember them. It is the home of your ego center, which provides you with an internal awareness of what your name is, what your credentials are, and where you live. Without these cells performing their job, you would forget who you are and lose track of your life and your identity.
Since a majority of the dealings in our life typically utilize more of our left brain, how do we access the right side and start to tap into healing and feelings of well-being?
We have a bridge between the two hemispheres called the corpus callosum. The corpus callosum is a thick layer of cells that carries information back and forth between the two lateral hemispheres. Our goal is to consciously experience a place of possibilities where healing can happen. We are looking to leave the judgments about what is or isn’t possible (left brain), along with all the incessant internal chattering (left brain), and cross the bridge to our right hemisphere, reconnecting with our luminosity (right brain).
Crossing the Bridge
One method of crossing the bridge of the corpus callosum is by tuning into your emotions and feelings. Throughout the book I will ask you what you are feeling during a technique, what you may be sensing. We are not looking for logical, analytical thoughts (left brain) but emotions (right brain) like happy, sad, delighted, scared, relieved, etc. There are no wrong or right experiences as to what you may be feeling; just give yourself permission to let go and feel what rises to the surface, knowing that you are safe and can stop at any time.
Nature, beauty, and art can facilitate our travels to the right hemisphere. Since this part of our brain processes using visual images, art opens the gate of the bridge for us. The beautiful photography placed throughout the book will give you opportunities to let go of the left brain chatter and let yourself feel. Allow yourself to linger and soak up the healing that is available to us in nature and the wondrous beauty of these photographs.
John F. Barnes, PT has inspired and trained thousands of myofascial release therapists and written several books on healing. He is, himself, a master healer. John frequently utilizes a metaphor of turning a dial inside ourselves to change from one channel to another to help us find, and cross, that bridge between the hemispheres, reaching the place of release and remembrance of who we truly are. He calls the place of logic and reason (left brain) “Channel 5” and the place of our luminosity and essence (right brain) “Channel 3.” John is always encouraging us to switch the internal dial and tune in to “Channel 3.”
One summer, I was working with John at his Malvern, Pennsylvania, clinic for a week with three other visiting therapists at a Skill Enhancement Seminar. One of the therapists asked John why children and animals typically respond so quickly to myofascial release treatments. John commented that is because young children and animals haven’t been taught anything to the contrary; they are usually in the limitless space of the right brain—the place of fantasies, dreaming, and possibilities. Our egos, limitations, and judgments are housed in our left brain, a place where children don’t naturally linger. John continued to say that children and animals don’t know that they can’t heal, and so they heal.
During our time of self-care, let’s aim to set aside the limitations imposed upon us by our left brain and strive to open to the child-like experience of the beauty, freedom, and joy within each of us. It’s still there if we peel away the hardened layers and really look underneath, rediscovering softness. Contrary to popular belief, being “tough and hard” doesn’t make us stronger, it just keeps us, well, tough and hard. Softness keeps us pliable, flexible, and able to withstand the storms that come our way. There is strength and resilience in our ease and vulnerability.
How Do We Release Restrictions?
There are multiple ways to release your restrictions. Over the many years of my practice, I have observed the techniques that people have happily employed and joyfully returned to each day. I have selected the ones that are simple and effective and put them together for our use in this book. Play and have fun exploring. Observe what works for you and your body.
The most important concept in relation to healing is seeing yourself as an integrated, whole being, not isolated components. Because of this, I have not presented the techniques in categories to address specific aches and discomfort you may be feeling in your body. Let go and trust your ability to select a technique that is appropriate for you in the moment. All you need to do is dedicate a small amount of time each day to release your restrictions, and you will again begin to experience a flow and ease with your body and your life. Trust that working on your hips will help your shoulder. Working on your shoulders will help your jaw. Working on your feet will release your low back. Know that any work on releasing one part of your body has the potential to travel and release other parts. The fascial system literally connects your feet to your head and everything in between.
The fascia is a three-dimensional, spider-web-like connective tissue. It is made up of collagen and elastin fibers, with a gelatinous ground substance matrix. Fascia wraps around all your muscles, bones, organs, and each individual cell (of which we have over a trillion). A fascial restriction can have a tensile strength of up to 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. That means that fascial restrictions can pull bones out of alignment, impede the functioning of your organs and cells, and sometimes severely restrict the movement and ease of your body. Some anatomists believe that the fascia is more responsible for the movement of our bodies than our muscles.
What Does a Release Feel Like?
A release may be experienced in several ways. Sometimes people report a sensation of the restricted area melting, like butter, or lengthening, like taffy being pulled. Others may experience a pleasant warmth that spreads and travels. You may feel tingling, like circuits are opening. Perhaps it may even feel that your entire body has lengthened. Some people feel lighter and have a sense of coming back into their bodies. Maybe a release to you may feel like an internal spark has reignited.
Frequently, emotions are connected to a restriction. It is very common for people to experience emotions when releasing tight and restricted areas. Do not feel surprised if you suddenly feel like crying, yelling, moving, laughing or shaking; this is your body’s way of releasing and discharging trapped emotional energy. Give yourself permission to let go and feel; healing occurs when we can let go. Know that you are safe in this moment. Allow yourself to let go of that which no longer serves the higher vision you hold of yourself.
How to Start?
I would suggest you start by looking through the photos in this book and see what catches your attention. Make a daily self-care commitment to yourself and your cells. Each day take 5-10 minutes to spend with your body and explore the different techniques in the book. Everyone can find 5-10 minutes each day. Once you start, you will probably want to spend even a little longer doing a couple of techniques in a session. People report back to me that they feel their bodies crave this practice; they actually look forward to and anticipate their self-care time. Patiently, and with self-compassion, listen. What is your body asking for on a particular day?
Another approach would be to sit quietly, with your eyes closed, while holding the book between your hands. Silently ask the question, “What do I need in this moment?” With your eyes still closed, open the book and see what presents itself to you. Alternately, you could hold the book, close your eyes, and silently ask for help with releasing a particular pain. For example, maybe your shoulder has been bothering you. You might silently ask, “Show me how to relieve my shoulder pain.” With curiosity and an open heart, see what page you open to in the book.
Play and have fun exploring. Observe what works for you and your body. Let me know how your own creativity expands and any new ways you discover to utilize these techniques. Together we create a community, and it is by sharing that all of us benefit and grow. We all take turns being the teacher and the student, learning from each other.
How Will I Know I’m Making Progress?
John Barnes will tell people that “healing is not an event; it is a zig-zag journey.” There can be that one, big “ah-ha!” moment and a symptom suddenly leaves us. Usually, though, our discomfort and unease have been traveling with us awhile, and it can take some time for them to release. As you practice and incorporate these techniques into your daily life, be observant for moments of ease where there were none before. You may find yourself going about your daily life and suddenly notice, “Oh, that used to hurt when I did that, and now it doesn’t hurt any more.” Or, “That person used to continually get under my skin, and now I don’t react to them.” Any glimpse of forward movement inspires hope that we are moving in the right direction, and that we are creating positive changes for ourselves and our cells.
This “zig-zag” journey of healing can mean that as one area releases, you may feel like there are new areas and sensation of discomfort that pop up. Returning to ease can be like peeling an onion; layer-by-layer we release restrictions and trauma. As the superficial layers are released, the deeper stuff that was buried now has an opportunity to be seen and freed.
You are cultivating a new awareness and connection with your body—your whole body—not just isolated components. Sometimes we direct our attention solely to the body parts that are sending the loudest messages of discomfort and dis-ease. Other areas may be restricted as well, but we may not be aware of those because their messages are more subdued. We tend to pay attention to the loudest messages. As these quiet down, we are able to hear other messages that have probably been there all along, but in the background. We just weren’t paying attention; but now, with our new awareness, we can hear and feel the communication of our bodies.
Reconnecting with All of You
Exploring and releasing areas of restriction in your physical body leads you inward. We discussed earlier how both emotional and physical pain get trapped in the body. Physical self-care cannot help but release emotional trauma. The beauty of this is that we don’t necessarily have to go through the experience of re-traumatizing ourselves by “labeling” and understanding the trauma. The energetic release that occurs will heal us on many, many different levels and layers.
These techniques are simple, yet powerful. They will open you to a new relationship with your cells; one that includes joy, health, courage, pleasure, freedom, trust, and ease.
Your newly remembered way of being will ripple out from you and touch everything and everyone with whom you come in contact. As you experience an increase of self-compassion, you will notice that you are kinder and more tolerant of others. Your joy will radiate out from you. You will begin to connect to a state of inner peace and well-being with your breath, going out in nature, using the foam roller, gentle movement and stretching, the little Super Pinky Ball, the inspirational quotes, and gazing at one of the spectacular nature photographs. The only person in our lives we can change is our own self. But, by changing ourselves—our cells—and creating ease within, we cannot help but create more peace and ease in the lives of those around us.
I truly believe with all my heart that life is supposed to be a joyful, wondrous, amazing experience for each of us. Sure, sadness and tragedy are also a part of the journey, but we have the power to choose whether to linger and wallow, or to experience and release the pain, come back again to the present moment, pull ourselves up, engage fully in our cells and rise again. A simple walk across the corpus callosum will take us to a place of inner peace and well-being, helping us to cope again and move out of the fog.
I have strived to make this book as beautiful as possible. My intent is that it will be a mirror for you; that the beauty of the book will reflect back your inner beauty and all the magnificence that is you. Please join me on a journey that has the potential to empower you, open you in unlimited ways, and return you to ease.
Copyright © Carolyn S. Barnes. All Rights Reserved.
Carolyn S. Barnes, LMT has been in the business of empowering people for over fifteen years. She has a private practice that specializes in the JohnBarnes’MyofascialRelease Approach® and therapeutic massage. Her passion is sharing her knowledge with others so that they, too, may experience joy and ease again in their bodies and their lives. Please visit Carolyn at www.return2ease.com.