It has now been 45 days since we cut short our work-trip to Spain and returned from Barcelona in a whirlwind of cancelled flights, hotels and courses. I had travelled to Barcelona to give private sessions and teach the next module of The Connection Laboratory, a 5-day course about how our nervous systems work and how it helps or hinders our ability to connect with ourselves and others based on the lived experience of safety or threat. The course is based on Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory and offers plenty of neuro-physiological education, connection practise, reflection and inquiry space.
After this module of the course we were due to fly the next morning to Madrid to continue offering private sessions, another instalment of The Connection Laboratory and the next module in the MyoFascial Deep Tissue Training, being offered through Spazio (a Spanish based School of Californian Massage, twinned with my own school Oasis in Argentina.
The same day I started receiving WhatsApp messages from clients in Madrid warning that Madrid was about to be quarantined due to the covid-19 threat. We went to bed that night unsure what to do. Cancel the courses, flights and hotel and go home? Or fly to Madrid and continue with our commitments and run the risk 1) of catching the virus or 2) of getting stuck in the quarantine in Madrid. At the time, we were still not so aware of the potential threat of the virus, and it was the fear of getting stuck in quarantine that finally swayed our decision and we cancelled everything and bought tickets back to London the next day. Two days later Madrid went into complete quarantine and remains that way today.
We arrived home and I felt frustrated by what I saw as a failed trip. We hadn’t been able to work. We had lost money on some of the reservations that were non-refundable. I felt deflated. Even so, it was a relief that we were back home given that the virus seemed to be appearing more and more in the news and the gravity of the situation was beginning to take hold… where better to be than at home?
As we were following what was happening in Spain through news, clients, and students, a few days after returning we decided to start self-isolating, long before it became a government enforced measure in the UK.
And then we started getting ill.
I started by getting fever… then insomnia… then a complete lack of energy…then a tight chest… then a dry cough… and my partner was in a similar state, although she didn’t have fever, she had a complete loss of taste and smell. Over the course of two weeks, we backed and forth in terms of who felt worse and then another week of just recovering from the sheer feeling of exhaustion. It was three weeks from the first symptoms until we felt well enough to start working out again each morning. I guess we were lucky and my heart goes out to those who have family members who were not so lucky. A dear student of mine from Madrid lost her mother to the virus and the family has been unable to go ahead with the funeral while the lockdown continues. You are in my heart.
As I started to recover my health, I began turning my attention to work. I started connecting with the team in Oasis (I am the owner and director of this massage school in Argentina) to help plan how to get through this crisis and how to continue offering the training courses to our students. How do we offer massage training when we cannot meet in person? when we cannot touch each other? And come to think of it: how can I give massage therapy or trauma therapy if we cannot meet in person? How can I teach courses?
I found myself, like so many other people, faced with the challenge of not being able to offer the services I offer and that make up 100% of my income. I could see myself standing in front of the unknown; standing in front of the void… I could feel my nervous system entering into hyper-arousal at times, wanting to resolve and find solutions somehow as fast as possible; and crashing into hypo-arousal collapse-state at times, trying to avoid the situation. Yet, through these times of uncertainty, new possibilities began to bud in my mind… possibilities of change, possibilities of transformation… new paths, new options.
In mythology, it is when we are faced with the abyss of the unknown, and even the possibility of destruction, that we feel the call to adventure that brings forth true transformation. The inevitable necessity to step out of our comfort zone to tackle the unknown challenge that has appeared. This is the call to adventure of the hero’s journey, as discussed extensively by, amongst others, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and Jordan Peterson, and used time and time again in all good hero movies and many Disney movies too.
It has now been four weeks since I began to think about new ways to work. Since that time, new ways of working have been springing forth, and more importantly, new creative ideas for projects have started coming together.
In Oasis we started offering our courses online. We are limited by a lack of physical practise which we will look how to recover once the lockdown ends, yet this has invited us to strengthen other areas of knowledge. We are now offering online theory courses including Gestalt and Californian Massage; Polyvagal Theory and Californian Massage; Bio-Pyscho-Neuro Anatomy, with over one hundred students involved in these weekly classes. It is a huge testament to our team that we have transitioned the school in just two weeks to an online school.
I have been teaching the importance of polivagal theory within Californian massage, and it’s importance in understanding how the body regulates and how it discharges sympathetic stress from the body and helps activate the different branches of the parasympathetic nervous system. This has been an amazing process to start enunciating more than ever the importance and theory behind the pillars of Californian Massage. Although in the regular classes I often bring these ideas in, there is never enough time to truly go the depths that I would like to, since we place importance on the lived experience rather than the theory. This crisis, has opened the door to be able to go to new depths and start to fuse the theory tightly to the practise.
NB: In another moment I will write more about the polyvagal theory and its relationship with trauma work and Californian Massage.
“Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.“Peter Levine
One of the things that I have most been surprised by is the possibility of creating social connection via online platforms. I have been using Zoom since the crisis began and my biggest concern was not being able to create real intimacy whilst teaching. Yet much to my surprise I have discovered that these spaces can be warm and intimate spaces for learning.
It was realizing this that made me decide to try doing one to one trauma therapy online. I had done the occasional session with clients from Argentina and Spain which has always worked well, however, the idea of taking all of my sessions online seemed like a big step.
I’ve now been working online for three weeks with both clients from before and some new clients who are making the most of this new found free time to begin processes of healing past traumas. The online work has a few huge advantages which I hadn’t previously contemplated. First of all, I am able to work with people from all around the world and each of us can be in the comfort of our own home. It also removes the stresses of travel and the time that is required to get to the session.
Of course the most important thing has been the recognition that none of the depth and power of the sessions has been lost by being online. I have been amazed to see that we can create enough social connection and intimacy via video calls to do this level of trauma healing.
“True healing occurs when the mind finds rest in the heart.“Ramana Maharshi
With the crisis far from being over, and huge uncertainty remaining about when social distancing measures may begin to change (let alone considering being able to fly to Spain and Argentina to teach) I have fully settled into this new format of online healing work.
New Online trainings for Oasis in Argentina. Tick.
Online Sessions for my clients in England, Spain and Argentina. Tick.
New Online Trainings for Somatic Wisdom and Connection. On the Way.
One of the many silver linings of this crisis is the time and space to consider which aspects of my life could be shifted towards something of more personal value and greater value to society. It is with this in mind that I am beginning the creation of the content for the bodywork school that I will open in London once the lockdown is over. Watch this space for more information.
If you’d like to know more about anything that I am currently offering, please contact me.
For those people thinking about beginning a therapeutic process I offer a free 30-minute online interview to help you decide if this is the right work for you right now.
Stay Safe. Stay Well.