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“…the roses had the look of flowers that are looked at.”

The above line from “Burnt Norton” by T.S. Eliot is all the more haunting in its full surrounding lines. In part:
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at

Often when I look at someone who has presented themselves for a session with me, and see tracks of ways the one has presented themselves, and how that music has played out in their structure, I am left kind of stunned by the richness of that self.

When I first began working, I asked people to let me see them from the back first, as it was easier to get the images without their regard. Now, I still like to have people start to tell their story while they are facing away from me. Some of the next lines of the Eliot poem say:
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present

That one end, now before me, must be reconciled with what is possible for change toward what the client wants, which is always better structure, better posture, less pain, and better function. What must be reconciled is whether I can imagine that happening. When I can’t, I have to call down the past from them.

Has anything ever worked to help you feel better? It is not that I need to know what it was, it is that if something helped, there is hope.

I am calling down the “unheard music hidden in the shrubbery” of poor hurting
structure. How much health is present? How much character is present?

And then: How much regard has the client for that unseen eyebeam of the “shoulds” of “common knowledge” and culture? Do they get their main information from popular magazines? Are they all about mechanical information? Will the music of all or any of that, which is there,
more surely be revealed, get in the way of our work?

Will the client be open to learning a new vision, one in which the “looked at”
roses can be allowed to flower with new and better music and one’s own

I no longer take before and after pictures of my clients. For one thing, most are not crazy about having their picture taken in their underwear, and for another,
seeing people all free and then all posing before the camera got onerous to me.
If you want to see pictures, though, then Google images has a ton of them:

In closing, MIGHT be fun for you to do a little riff on an old Humphrey Bogart line, WHO’S LOOKING AT YOU, KID?

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. Wow, Linda! What beautiful lines from T.S. Eliot and what great thoughts from you. I have had a theme brewing in my mind somewhat along these same lines, though not from a rolfing perspective of course. May I reference your blog post in my own? (if I ever get it written!) Thanks for the great post!

  2. Linda, I once had a profound session with a dear friend/client. As we finished, there was a long silence and when he opened his eyes, he said, “James, you Rolf like a poet…!” – one of the sweetest things anyone has ever said of my work. I only hope to live up to the implications of his comment as I think good Rolfing has a lot in common with the process of writing good poetry. I am not always able to work from that place, but when by grace I find myself there, it feels like my work is parsimonious, challenging and done with elegance and style.
    So I loved the way you bring T.S. Eliot into your post and the way his words contain more mystery and questions than answers; the way they speak of journeys longing to be taken more than destinations. I also love where you go with the rest of your post. Once I was trying to write down some ideas along similar lines, and before I knew it, the words came out in a poetic form:

    If when you first came in
    I asked you to tell me your story,
    you know, what brings you here…

    What would you tell me?

    Would you tell me the same story
    you have been telling yourself
    for as long as you can remember?

    Would you give me a list
    of all your accomplishments
    the places you have been
    the people you have met?

    Would you tell me
    what you have been through
    how good or bad
    your parents were…

    Would you bring to the table all of yourself
    your wishes, lies and dreams
    where you’ve been
    the places you want to go
    before you die…?

    If I was really good
    I would just watch
    to see how your face tightens
    how you set your jaw
    how your gaze goes blank
    your eyes going off in the distance
    or down to the floor
    how they light up
    or grow dim
    how your ears perk up
    “Do you really want to know?”
    or close down
    my lips moving
    but no sound coming out

    But I’m not that good
    and often my hands
    are better listeners
    than my ears
    see more clearly than
    my eyes
    are more patient
    than my mind

    What if I asked instead
    “Where are you going
    that made you to decide
    to stop here…?”

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