I have been involved in a great secret love affair for fifteen years! I am very much in love with Non-Directed Body Movement, or just “Standing around”.
Non-Directed Body Movement (NDMB) began with an Osteopathic doctor and Rolfer, Marvin Solit, who in the late sixties decided to give up all of his medical equipment.
“I’m through with it; it’s no longer relevant. What I’m interested in now is self-determination, not treatment; examining how the doctor-patient relationship is connected to what goes on; getting behind and underneath roles, and giving up control”
I first discovered this practice one night in college in Missoula, Montana. Aside from climbing rock and mountains, I was attempting to live a life which would overflow into the next On the Road. We were having a great time pushing ourselves in the outdoors and bars and streets of that beautiful rugged irreverently reverent Montana energy, and being really full of ourselves! But aside from my romantic eagerness to live a worthy life I was somehow plagued by pain in my body, and one night everything just seemed to seize up on me. In a yoga class I was attending at the University, I heard about a practice of just standing around to heal. It was going to be demonstrated that evening at the local Buddhist center.
Twenty-five people or so walked into an open hardwood floored room that evening. The woman leading it said something about just standing there and letting our bodies unwind. Bound tissues would naturally unwind if given the chance. Not trying to do it “right” but letting the body lead the way. Not correcting the body if it starts to do something strange, and really not creating anything from an idea. The movement must come from the body, not from a good idea or even a creative impulse. Somehow this made sense to me.
I stood there and immediately my body started moving. I was terrified. My neck twisted and turned for maybe fifteen minutes. I later realized this was from the chord being wrapped around my neck at birth! But at the moment it was very painful and mostly scary. I felt as if my body was going to explode. Standing there, out of control, the hour just flew by.
I talked to the person who led the night and found out she was a Rolfer. Her name is Marilyn Beech, and she is still a good friend and mentor. I went through the Rolfing Series with her and that started a process, planted a seed, which I am still exploring today. But that night was just the beginning of my wild love affair with NDBM.
While living in Seattle and then Whidbey Island, my body was still in a lot of pain. I was like a pressure cooker, about to blow a gasket. An acupuncturist and Sangha member who I knew told me that I needed to do internal energy work. I intuitively knew this was true, and so for several reasons I went to live with who I thought was the greatest energy master on the planet, Shodo Harada Roshi. Off to Japan, ancient clothes, lots of brown rice, and a great opportunity to do what I had always wanted, training.
In between Zazen meditation and physical labor, I found time to explore NDBM in the little spare time at the monastery. I would run back after lunch, lean against the wall for a quick snooze, and then go stand in the garden. And in the evenings after the final ceremonies, I would go out to stand by the beautiful koi pond where generations of monks and nuns had done Yaza, or night sitting. It was there that a huge internal world opened up to me, and where I fell in love with a great process.
For a while this was a dangerous ugly process, like learning to breath underwater. I would do the standing and open up and then go to the kitchen for a rice ball and kind of freak out from all of the energy. I was an out of control energetic problem. But I felt that this process was my only way to find peace in body and mind, and so I would continue.
At first, I had two styles of practice. First was my zazen meditation, trying to sit properly and have good posture. This was incredibly difficult at first for me. My second style of practice was the standing around, and was completely informal! There were no rules! Just stand there. No technique. It does not matter what you think or don’t think. Just standing there without an expectation is the whole practice. The only rule is to not have an intention! These practices were a great balance for me at the time.
Just to have an hour to see what would happen if I let go of control. Each time it was something new, and if I tried to plan how my body would open up it always backfired. In fact, instead of the movement coming from my brain, the movement began to come from receiving. Receiving from my body, receiving from the trees, receiving from the air around me. It was as if my awareness would fold inside out, or that I was just melting into the environment. If I really got into it, if I really let go into this process, the healing energy would pour through me. This grew and grew, and each time it had to be new or it would not be at all. In fact, the only way to really have the energy be there is to have no idea how it is happening.
But then something strange started to happen. The more I found the energy flowing through me in the NDBM, I also found my zazen really take off energetically. And in fact, the distinction began to dissolve. I started to see that a really good organic zazen posture was really trying to happen if I let go into this great energy. And the more I gave into this great energy, I slowly fell in love more and more with this process. No longer was I fighting against reality, but I began more and more to be nourished by it, guided. As the process deepened, my entire everyday way of being shifted on a cellular level.
Now I am just doing it all the time sitting, standing, walking. In my work with clients, the standing work is with me all along, as I pause for a moment and receive guidance from the situation. At times, it is the client and me in the room, and at other times, all there is is the guidance from the standing. My work is a medium to explore this process with others, and it is the secret language that I am speaking with the tissue.
For a newcomer, it is especially nice to start with a group with this practice. There is a certain focus that a group can help facilitate. I have heard of long time illnesses go away in this standing, like eczema. I have also heard of people remembering past lives. But I have to stress that it is okay if nothing happens at first. The important thing is to be truly honest standing there, and slowly things will rise to the surface, perhaps having waited years for the opportunity. I am writing this post because maybe one or two people out there will try this practice and possibly have the temperament (possibly desperation!) to make it his/her own and run with it! Maybe there is some sensitive person out there who is waiting, like I was, to hear that this is possible.
Some words and thoughts that have come through the standing, and I think might be helpful to others:
- What is trying to happen?
- What is real?
- It’s okay to lose control
- What is holding me up?
- Fall in love with this process
- What is guiding me?
- Say yes
- Get out of the way
- melt into
- no technique
- no idea
- What am I relaxing into?
- Give up
- No technique
- What is it?
- Jump off the cliff
- what is natural?
- How can I let go?
- Kufu (creative spontaneous problem solving)
- Don’t do anything
- Don’t create anything
- Give up
- remove the barrier between inside and outside
- fall in love with reality
- float on the wings of the dharma
I am greatly indebted to Marilyn Beech for introducing me to the standing work and to Marvin Solit for having the big mind to break out of the form. The reason I am doing SOMA Neuromuscular Integration® is Marvin. For more information about Marvin Solit and his work, and some very interesting articles, please go to:
I am also so thankful to Shodo Harada Roshi for allowing me the space to explore reality in my own way. I loved life in the monastery. He is never far from my consciousness.
I am very happy to hear any comments!