I have been involved in a great secret love affair for 20 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 Structural 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!
Wow, what a beautiful description of your profound and ongoing experience with NDBM! I started working with Marvin in 1968 and have been doing NDBM ever since, and the depth of this work never ceases to amaze me. Man has explored the deeps of the oceans and out into space, but the last really unexplored territory is our own bodies! FND (Holistic Living Center) has had a series of centers over the years, and now we are located at 93 Belmont St. in Cambridge where the “work” still goes on. I hope you can come and visit us sometime and drag Marilyn with you! Alan Fincke
Wow, Alan- Thanks for commenting! I really appreciate it! I am so glad you liked it. I would love to come out and visit you all sometime! Yes, I’ll bring Marilyn, too! I am deeply respectful of what you all are doing. Thanks again.
This is Matt Adlai-Gail, Marvin’s son, and original experiment in NDBM. Thanks for your eloquent and sincere posting. It means a lot to me. I really like the list of helpful thoughts. Keep it up!
Wow! Getting these amazing responses is very inspiring! Thank you! It makes putting myself out there really worth it. Thanks, Matt! I really appreciate your thoughts.
This is the first time I’ve had the joy of reading about just standing in such beautiful language. I’ve been experimenting for years with the idea of offering the body its own time and space to heal, explore, teach and commune.Greatly helped by doing Kum Nye forty years ago in San Francisco and by a healer long since dead who taught to a) prepare a theme for the body/mind, b) check that it’s willing to do this c) let go and let what happens happen, d) thank the body.
Your gift to me is to remind me of how very simple it can be and, yes, very beautiful.
Wonderful! Thanks for sharing, Natalie!
Ok Corey, got it!!
Barry Hughes here.
I hung out with Marvin 1965 to 1980something.
Your presentation here is a treasure.
Marilyn gave me your link.
(still hanging out with Marvin)
Hi Barry! Cool! Marilyn just mentioned you. Nice to meet you! Thanks
Hi Corey Not sure if this is private or public. Or if there is such a thing as private. On a historical note, I went to a Rolfer here in Santa Rosa, where I’ve lived for a year, and on her enrollment form she asked had I been Rolfed before, and I said “Yes, in 1965 by Dr Marvin Solit.” When I got to the appointment with her, she said “I know who Dr. Solit is.” That was a surprise, to say the least. She said that she knew Marilyn Beech, who used to send reports to the Rolfing newsletter about her work with Marvin and had written a book about it. I asked if she was still in contact with Marilyn and she said she just knew Marilyn was living in Washington. Marilyn had arrived about the time I was departing and I knew of her but we had not really met.
I then emailed Marilyn and ordered her book from Amazon, which the local Rolfer had mentioned. I think I may have known of its existence at one time but never read it. She responded favorably to my suggestion that we become email friends. I read the book and was blown away by it. And we’ve been in touch with each other since. Reading the book got me standing around, which coincided with efforts I’ve been making over recent years to be able to stand. I’d been sitting around and lying around for the past 25 years or so, and lost the capacity for walking unaided, as well as having acquired a strong resistance to anything that required standing up. I’ll summarize with the phrase “hip pain” as a partial explanation for how I came to let myself go, so to speak, plus I had a sitting around job, facilitating weekly groups for family violence clients, a job I retired from a year ago, in Orange County, California.
It’s been a wonderful experience, being able to have a dialogue with Marilyn on all topics Marvin. As well as the accelerated progress I’ve made toward regaining physical mobility and re-immersing myself in what I had thought of as my version of Marvin’s work.
I’m in touch with Alan and Anya and visit them and other old friends from the “Mill” days, when I’m in Massachusetts, where three of my children live, but the pandemic has kept me from those trips for almost two years now. I live near my daughter now, who is in Oakland.
Marilyn had mentioned you when we first began to talk. I was heartened to hear about your work and interested to connect further.
Best wishes Barry
(Can I get your email address, or is this it?)
Hi Barry! Wonderful to hear your history with this work. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
and my business website is: