TRE taught me how to utilise my body’s innate capacity to literally move itself towards health and harmony.
Allowing the body’s automatic movements
Have you ever experienced your body moving all on its own? Twisting, turning or shaking? Or perhaps stretching and contracting or letting go without having to do anything apart from simply allowing it?
Perhaps while meditating, have you noticed subtle vibrations building towards a visible sway or tremor? Maybe at the gym or during yoga or Pilates your muscles began to shake during a set or posture? Perhaps your body moved during a healing or spiritual experience? Or, like many, have you experienced your hands shaking before public speaking or a full-body tremble after shock or trauma?
In Western culture, we tend to suppress and inhibit these autonomic movements as symptoms of weakness, fatigue, anxiety, or lack of control. We are often mistaking resilience as the ability to inhibit them, rather than the ability to contain them when required. And then fully allow them afterwards.
Letting go and being moved
I first consciously experienced this natural phenomenon during a 10-day Vipassana retreat. As I sank into a detached observational space, my body slowly began to twist, turn, and sway. For a few days I followed the teacher in front of me. He told me to sit still and control it – which also has its own value. But I eventually followed the teacher within me, who told me to simply observe and allow.
Amazing and wonderful things began to happen. My arms began to spiral in primal patterns to extremes I had never imagined possible. Then they reversed and stretched me in the opposite direction, a little further each time. Soon my whole body was twisting and spiralling through a graceful free-form I could hardly dream of, let alone deliberately do.
In just a few days, I went from being unable to raise my arms above my shoulders due to chronic pain to feeling seemingly weightless and doing one-handed push-ups in a handstand position (with my feet on a wall for balance). Most of what I had been taught about stretching and strengthening during four years of physiotherapy was blown apart in less than 48 paradigm-shattering hours.
The more I let go, the less I moved and the more I was moved. Soon I was experiencing the natural pulsation of my physical organism. Not just in the reciprocal rhythms of my heart and breath, but in my body through space as well. I was contracting and expanding, twisting, turning to and fro as my body unwound further and further with each new movement. While not discounting the undoubtable benefits of consciously directed movement practices, I was experiencing something inherently different as I was moved from within. I was connecting with an impulse deeper, older, and wiser than my conscious ego ever was or ever will be.
Movement in spiritual communities
At that stage, I had no idea cultures such as Quakers, St Vincent Shakers, Native Americans, and both Christian and Indian mystics (to name just a few) had been deliberately accessing this reorganisational impulse for health and well-being for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I was yet to learn that one of the oldest cultures on earth, the Kalahari Bushmen, prided themselves as the ‘Keepers of the Shake’ and carried this ‘oldest medicine on earth’ as a key part of their cultural identity.
When it comes to freedom of movement however, few come close to the ancient Samurai warriors with their graceful beauty yet seemingly super-human strength. What I had never known was, in addition to their relentless physical training, one of their key practices to achieving these magical ‘flow states’ was ‘seiki jutsu’ (roughly translated as ‘universal life force yoga’). Seiki jutsu was a process in which they let go of all preconceived movement forms and meditated into a state that allowed their bodies to ‘be moved, trembled and shaken’ each and every day.
Trauma Release Exercises
A few years after my initial Vipassana experience, I was fortunate to be introduced to TRE, one of the most recent (and simple) techniques to invoke this evolutionary impulse. It uses basic postures and movement, therefore not requiring mind-altering substances, conscious effort, hours of meditation, specific rituals, or religious beliefs to awaken it.
My regular practice of TRE (initially named Trauma Release Exercises for its use in trauma recovery in war zones and the Third World) soon helped to create a depth of release and ongoing reorganisation. Well beyond anything I could have ever consciously achieved. Best of all, I could use this technique as simply as lying in bed. I could use it to restore my body to health and vitality each and every day. Just like the ancient Samurai!
What’s common to all these different practices, regardless of their origins, is that they all deliberately access and utilise the human body’s innate capacity to literally move itself towards health and harmony. It doesn’t really matter what we call it or how we explain it. As long as the story makes enough sense for our ego to let go and allow it.
Back to wholeness
So the next time your body begins to twist and turn or move on its own, explore it. Whether that’s rocking and swaying during meditation, jerks and jolts during a treatment, or a full-bellied laugh or an uninhibited cry, follow it. If you start to shake and tremble after shock or trauma, let go and surrender. Your body already knows how to move you back to wholeness.
Richmond Heath empowers people and practitioners to maximise their health and well-being using TRE. He runs TRE workshops and professional training Australia wide. firstname.lastname@example.org – www.treaustralia.com.au.
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