I am using Substack for my writing now. My latest project is Block Island Life and it is random writings about things during the every day which bring joy or delight. We've all got so much going on, life can be full on, and sometimes we may forget that amidst it all there is beauty and joy and delight. These little vignettes of mine are reminders for us all. I would be pleased if you'd join me. It's free to subscribe and every time I post it delivers straight to your inbox. Simple.
In late 2022 I took a RISD class entitled Journal and Narrative. It was a six week course with different aspects each week but running throughout the course was an ongoing journal project. My intention was to journal and chronicle my day to day life being back in my family of origin caring for my aging mother after my father passed away. What follows is excerpts from my final project in the course.
It’s the little things. The reflection of light on the dark windows as the sun rises. It’s the perfect balance of rocks, one on top of the other, lending strength and support to create a sculpture. It’s the hour gained when the clocks turn back even though we lose light so much earlier. It’s the painting of the sink to change from white to blue. It’s the repeated question, again and then again, of something you just answered. It’s the little things that add weight and substance to our lives and add to, perhaps, significant changes over time, changes you didn’t envision and therefore didn’t see coming.
It’s cycles and changes and sometimes shocks that keep you moving forward without knowing how you got from one place to the other. It’s being both present, shit needs to get done, but also nostalgic for the past and wondering what the future will look like. It is multidimensionality at its core. This life is not linear. It is moving and dynamic and the more I want to press pause - I need a moment to breathe/rest/consider - the less I am able to grasp; hold onto time, make sense of the here and now.
My mother. My mother, what can I say? She is both here and not. Her memory is lucid and jumbled. I have been seeking a diagnosis for her because I feel I’d be better able to cope, manage, live if I had a tangible diagnosis. That seems farcical, though. What does a diagnosis matter if it doesn’t come with instructions, with a plan? I still need to clean up the mess. I still need to keep her safe. I still need to find a balance in my life that doesn’t destroy me. Or her. Or my marriage.
I’ll admit it. I’m a catastrophisor. You know, that person who takes a small, seemingly innocuous thing, and ramps up the significance to catastrophic proportions. It’s the person who, at the first little bit of turbulence, has the whole plane crashing flash through their mind and is whole bodily convinced they are about to die in a fiery heap of metal.
For me, though, I catastrophise most specifically about my health. It’s a weird and uncomfortable practice and I know I am not the only person in the world who does this. (Right? There are more of us, aren’t there?) While there may be many people who catastrohise, it feels all consuming when it is happening to me. And like anything that has a large degree of irrationality behind it, it is hard to reason with someone in the throws of believing the worst case scenario is imminent or just around the corner. Along with the catastrophising is a high level of anxiety. This is something new I am coming to terms with. Anxiety and catastrophising go hand in hand. I have always been someone who dismisses my anxiety. So much so that I would disagree with anyone who suggests I might be anxious or have anxiety. How dare they? In reality, though, I wouldn’t be catastrophising if I wasn’t anxious. You can be anxious without being a catastrophisor but I’m pretty sure catastrophising comes from a certain level or degree of anxiety.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been a health catastrophisor but I think it began a few years ago when I started thinking about each day and how it could be my last because there are no guarantees and shit happens and life can change in the blink of an eye.
I am all too aware the tenuousness of life and I keep that in my mind because I feel like it makes me appreciate everything more, while also reminding me that a lot of stuff just doesn’t matter. The clutter and drama clear away faster. I’m less inclined to care about gossip and more interested to get straight into what matters. I want to make and build connections on solid foundations. I don’t want to put my precious time or energy into smoke and mirrors.
We live in a world inundated with choice. Walk down any grocery store aisle and this point is clearly in evidence. There’s a whole aisle dedicated to breakfast cereals. And another to beverages. And another to snack food options. When looking for a breakfast cereal that is right for you, for example, how do you choose among the dozens on offer? (Not that I’m comparing Bowen to breakfast cereals.) Are you swayed by the packaging? Or content? Perhaps by price? Do words like ‘whole grain’, ‘low sugar’, ‘nutritious’ or ‘delicious’ have you grabbing for one product over another? Are you a consumer based on ingredients and nutritional panels? Or do you choose the one that makes your body feel the best?
Finding the right healing modality for your body can be a bit like choosing the right cereal. There’s a lot to consider and many different choices available today. It can be, in a word, overwhelming.
I have tried a lot of different therapies over the years and I believe they all have a place as healing techniques. But one definitely makes my body feel better, especially in the longer term, than others. And that therapy? Bowen.
Here are my top 5 reasons why Bowen should be the go-to therapy of choice:
©️Susan Marte 2017
Myth #6 - Bowen therapy is all you need!
I think most Bowen practitioners have had this happen: A client comes in for, say, a lower back issue. They are seeing shifts and results with Bowen. They tell their doctor (or another health professional) about said shifts and results, and their doctor (or other health professional) suggests they stop going for Bowen. And although it defies all logic, said client calls to cancel their next appointment. This is frustrating for a number of reasons but my Top 2 are: you have probably lost a client. A client, mind you, who was responding favourable to Bowen; and Bowen therapy is being undermined by health professionals who have no idea about Bowen and how beneficial it can be. Who knows? Maybe they think it’s that thing with magnets (please refer to Myth #1 if you want more info on that) and they can’t be bothered to learn more.
I have experienced this myself on a few occasions. It leaves me frustrated, a bit angry, and somewhat sad. Bowen therapy works and it brings relief to so many people who have had no relief from conventional therapies or medicine. It also frustrates and angers me that the medical profession seems to take our freedom of choice, our dignity and our power when it comes to our own health and well-being. One of the things I love about Bowen is the client is very involved in the healing process and Bowen has only the best interest of the client in mind. It doesn’t take your power away. It actually enhances it.
So while I get frustrated when people who are getting results with Bowen are told they should stop coming, I also get frustrated when practitioners think Bowen (or their particular healing modality) is the only therapy a client ever needs. That’s not empowering a client; that’s disempowering them.
I have studied a number of different healing techniques where the teacher preaches their particular technique is THE ONLY thing anyone needs. Really? How is that in any way realistic? To me, it’s like saying that all you need to eat are bananas because they are packed full of nutrients and come in a handy wrapper and then getting mad when someone wants to eat an orange. Or an apple. It’s not logical, right?
I do believe Bowen is the most wholistic therapy a body can experience and I do believe any body can be helped with Bowen. But I don’t believe Bowen is the be all and end all of therapies. That puts a lot of pressure on the technique. Let alone the practitioner and client.
Here’s the thing, though. If I, as a practitioner, say Bowen is the only therapy that can help a client, then I am not serving that client. Bowen can’t help everything all the time. Nothing can. A body wants what a body wants. And sometimes that’s massage. Or acupuncture. Or Bowen. Or pizza. There are so many variables at play that the blanket statement ‘Bowen is all you need’ is incorrect.
I write from personal experience. Over the last five years or so (since I began training in Bowen) my walking gait has deteriorated to the point where walking is awkward and stressful (but thankfully not painful). I have tried many things - from reiki to masochistic masseurs to orthopaedic surgeons and most things in between - to find help and relief. Most of the modalities I’ve tried have helped a bit but never for long and never fully. This includes Bowen. Bowen therapy alone is never going to ‘fix’ my issue. Never. Ever. Ever. But it can help my body to integrate and readjust to the work I need to do to get my leg functioning properly again. This is the dynamic beauty of Bowen - it is a fantastic stand alone therapy but it also dove-tails wholistically with other modalities. I don't mean in the same day or in the same session, but as part of a client’s treatment plan. Bowen can help the body to integrate any other therapy it’s having.
I know Bowen works. It is so simple, yet profound, in its delivery and results. It helps all the supporting systems of the body, as well as mental and emotional components. It’s gentle and effective. And while I think it should be on the top of the list of go-to therapies, I’m okay if people choose something else. I just prefer it to be because they know what their body needs at the time and not because another health professional has convinced them otherwise.
On the Coffs Coast and wanting an appointment? Contact me on 0426 241 435.
Myth #5 - Will the real Bowen technique please stand up?
In honour of Tom Bowen’s 100th birthday on 18 April, today’s blog takes a look at Tom Bowen’s legacy.
Bowen therapy is named after Tom Bowen, the man who ‘created’ the technique. While Mr Bowen never taught anyone what he did, he did allow a handful of men to watch him in his clinic for a number of years as he treated hundreds of clients. Mr Bowen seems to have taken aspects from a number of different modalities but overall he was self taught in his healing technique now known worldwide as Bowen.
All of the men who shadowed Mr Bowen in his clinic took away their own interpretation of his work. They translated what they saw into their own language. That’s what we do, as humans. Ask six people to describe the same scene and you’ll get six different answers. Is one description more right than another? One perspective more valid? My answer would be no. We all interpret our own reality.
It’s not surprising that it’s no different with Bowen. Each of those men have their own interpretation of Tom Bowen’s technique. We need to start working with that and seeing it as a positive for this amazing healing modality.
The Bowen world is divided. There are strong factions within the community. This school believes that; and that one believes this. One school believes they are the real Bowen technique while another school believes they are more in tune with how Bowen worked. And here’s another man claiming his technique is more true to Bowen and on it goes. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? For me, it’s more: Who cares? Certainly our clients don’t care. They just want to feel better. And that’s what we should be focusing on. How to support and grow this technique for the health and benefit of our clients.
Politics are generally divisive and that’s no good for anyone. Especially the client. If a practitioner is worried that they are doing Bowen wrong or aren’t being true to their original teacher or teachings then ultimately it’s the client who suffers. Let’s agree to disagree on who thinks they are the only ones teaching the real Bowen therapy and get on with helping humanity, shall we?
I am Bowtech trained which is, admittedly, quite prescriptive in its teachings. The beauty of this is that anyone can be taught the basics of this amazing technique. The simplest of moves can result in the most profound results and this can be achieved by a body worker as easily as a car mechanic, accountant or astronaut. Bowtech teaching brought Bowen to the world in an easily teachable and repeatable form. Bowen therapy would unlikely be a known technique throughout the world today if not for Bowtech teachers teaching Ossie Rentsch’s interpretation of Tom Bowen’s work.
Those who teach Bowen therapy offer their own interpretations of how Tom worked. They argue that Bowtech is far from how the man worked. And I believe that is most likely true. But how do you teach a technique that was created by a man who didn’t know how to explain what he did? Tom Bowen wasn’t a teacher. He was a healer. The world is just lucky that Mr Bowen allowed those few men to watch him so they could further his technique and results. It has been said that Tom was very gifted at reading bodies. He worked intuitively to shift unhelpful patterns in clients. He worked quickly and efficiently. It would also appear he worked without ego. Just saying.
The thing is, though, who cares whose interpretation of Bowen therapy is the ‘right’ one? All the infighting takes away from the focus of sharing Bowen with the world.
I don’t think we are honouring the man by denigrating those teachers of Bowtech. While I am proud to be Bowtech trained, I am also grateful to other names in the field who bring their own interpretation to the game. I love the different perspectives they bring to the Bowen table. They encourage thinking outside the prescriptive teachings of Bowtech. They share their interpretations and like anything - it’s up to us, as practitioners, to take on what resonates, question what confronts us and look to provide each and every client with the best Bowen therapy for their condition and situation.
I don’t think Tom Bowen had prescriptive sets of moves he used. I think he assessed the body and applied the least amount of moves needed to get the best job done. One of the things everyone in the Bowen community agrees on is the ability of Bowen to heal profoundly and wholistically. This is what we need to keep as our focus - making a consolidated effort to work together to continue sharing Tom Bowen’s legacy with the world. We believe in what we do because we see results time after time. We see the quality of life in those we treat increase as their pain and dysfunction decrease. What a gift! Thank you, Tom Bowen. And Happy Birthday.
More about me and what I offer at www.balancingacttherapies.com Appointments available on the Coffs Coast. Give me a ring on 0426 241 435. Thanks for listening. I’m off now to bake Mr Bowen a cake…
Myth #4 - Rule of three (sessions)
Recently I saw a post on Facebook from a woman asking for recommendations for doctors in her area. She said she was looking for a doctor who would listen to her. The woman had multiple issues, both chronic and acute. She had limited mobility and what sounded like autoimmune issues, as well. When I read the post, there were already about 40 comments. When I see posts like this, or from people looking for relief from symptoms conventional medicine hasn’t, or isn’t, helping, I want to chime in about Bowen therapy. But I never do. What I do though sometimes is read down through the comments because I am interested in hearing about what people are recommending.
Almost all the comments in this post feed were helpful. The woman who posted the question was active in participation, wanting to find out more about why someone liked a particular doctor, or where they were located etc. Then came a comment recommending a particular doctor because they listened to what you presented with and they were a conventional doctor but also a naturopath and homeopath. The response? “I don’t believe in naturopathy or homeopathy.”
I was dumbfounded. This woman is suffering from multi-system issues, wants a GP who will listen to her, is being let down by conventional medicine and she doesn’t believe in complementary therapies? She doesn’t believe in an alternative which will assess her wholistically?
She wants to be fixed. And she wants someone else to fix her.
So, what does this have to do with the Rule of Three (sessions)? Well, often people are after a quick fix. If you’ve read my blog on Myth #2 - Bowen will fix anything! - you will know that often there is no quick fix. And you will also know that Bowen doesn’t ‘fix’ anything. Bowen helps the body to ‘fix’ itself.
Bowen can take a longer time [then, for example, other healing modalities] to integrate in your body because it is working with the body at a pace it can handle. It helps unblock systems gently and effectively. If a symptom has taken years to present itself into the issue you take to a Bowen session, is it a bit unfair to expect the body to completely rid itself of the issue after one treatment? I’m not saying it can’t be done. It’s just putting a lot of pressure on your body and on a technique which is designed to unravel patterns down to the issue. And get rid of them permanently. Isn’t that worth taking the time to do?
Bowen helps the body help itself. We are whole beings. This is the beauty of Bowen. It’s going to help you on all levels - physical, mental and emotional - because the moves go where they need to go. Bowen can be targeted to an area or issue, but it doesn’t mean that’s the only place you will feel a benefit.
Think of aspirin. You’ve got pain in your body and you take over the counter pain relief for it. You don’t have to tell the aspirin where to go. Its job is to find the pain receptor and dull it. It breaks the pain connection for you so you feel better. Your body allows the aspirin, and its effects, to go to the area it is most needed. It’s the same with the Bowen move.
Many clients ask how many sessions they will need to come for. We are taught that a good answer is three. I understand this answer but I don’t like the answer. What I don’t like is putting a limit on it. What I really want to tell people is - it will take as long as it takes. Have patience. Have trust. Take part in your own healing journey and I am here to help.
I find it frustrating, the clients who come only once. Mostly because I never get to find out how they went but also because I feel like they haven’t given Bowen a chance. This is where the three session recommendation comes in. To me, if by three sessions you are not seeing a benefit, then maybe you need to look at another option. Three sessions will give you an idea of what the technique can offer. It’s not for everyone. No modality is. Three sessions isn’t asking a lot, though. You have been living with your symptoms and issues. Ultimately, how you go about healing is up to you. We all need help at times with the healing journey. I believe Bowen therapy is some of the best help you can ask for.
Trust the technique. Trust your body. Both are infinitely wise in their ability to heal.
Help me help you. Book your appointment today on 0426241435. More about who I am and what I offer at www.balancingacttherapies.com
Myth #3 - So, what's the deal with the two minute waits?
More so than any other ‘myth’ surrounding Tom Bowen and Bowen therapy, I think the topic of the two minute wait causes more discussion, among practitioners and clients alike, than any other aspect of the man and the technique credited to him.
Just today on one of the closed Bowen groups on Facebook there was yet another post on the waits - Are they necessary? Do you observe them? Why does one school teach mandatory two minute waits in between nearly every move? The debate can run hot between practitioners and those teaching Bowen content.
Then there is the client’s perception of the two minute wait - Why do you leave the room? What do you do when you leave the room? And my personal favourite - Tom was a smoker and he needed cigarette breaks.
It all remains, in a way, conjecture because the man isn’t around to ask. And the men who were in his clinic, watching him and learning his methods? Even they aren’t on the same page about it. What most practitioners do agree on, though, is that the waits between moves allow the body to process the inputs it has received.
Here’s my take on the waits. They are necessary but not prescriptive.
First of all, I am a big proponent of putting in waits between sets of moves. This isn’t because it gives me a chance to check email, or cook lunch, or nip outside for a fag drag. Nope. I’m a fan of waits because it’s what is best for the body.
Let me explain. Who out there has a computer? And who out there can get impatient with said computer? Who gets frustrated when you give the computer an input and that little ‘I’m thinking’ dial comes up indicating that it would be best to WAIT before trying to input another command? What happens when you don’t listen to the little ‘I’m thinking’ dial? The screen locks or freezes and the whole computer needs to be rebooted. And what happens when you wait for the computer to finish its thinking before adding another input? The computer works more smoothly and efficiently. Yes?
Well, my friends, guess what? Our body is a sophisticated computer. Too many inputs without enough time to process means computer jam. Wouldn’t it be better just to give the body a few moves it can process and then step away for a few minutes to allow the moves to go where they need to go and do what they need to do? Yes. I think it would.
Why two minutes? I don’t think this is a random amount of time. I read somewhere (and damned if I can find the reference now) that it takes ~ 90 seconds for an impulse on the fascia to move along the nervous system to the brain and then for the brain to relay the impulse to where it needs to go in the body to facilitate a healing effect. Pretty cool, eh?
Why leave the room during the waits? To allow the body the time and space to do what it needs to do without my energy distracting it. A bit of privacy for the healing to occur, if you please.
Are the two minute waits mandatory? I believe not. They are necessary but as your skills increase, so too does your awareness of tension in the body. Sometimes I leave waits after two moves; sometimes 10. It’s how the body is responding that informs the session. Also, sometimes the wait is two minutes but sometimes longer. It all depends on the client. And each client is different.
I love Bowen therapy and what it can offer a client. It can be easy to get caught up in the myth debate but personally I would rather spend my time working on my skills and listening to each client’s body as it presents with symptoms.
Our lives are busy. We multitask our way through the day. We forget what it’s like to shift from fight/flight to rest and digest. How beautiful that we have this therapy available to us that helps the body to remember to slow down and take a deep breath. The waits in between moves help facilitate this. In this busy day and age do we really have to rush through our healing treatments as well?
More about what I do and what I offer at www.balancingacttherapies.com
I am available for appointments on the Coffs Coast.
Myth #2 - Bowen will fix anything!
In my training*, we were told from Day 1 that we, the practitioner, don’t ‘fix’ anything. It’s the body which ‘fixes’ itself. Bowen moves just help facilitate the process. (Go, Bowen!)
So when a client asks me, “Can you fix this?” my answer is no. I don’t fix anything. I facilitate. I do Bowen moves on specific areas which then allows the body to tap into its own innate healing wisdom to start correcting patterns to lead to a change which hopefully leads to the body feeling better.
(You can see why it would be so much easier to say, “Sure! Bowen will fix it!” if this is the kind of response you need to give every time someone asked you if Bowen can fix something. But I digress…)
There is so much that Bowen does. I thought that understanding how it does what it does, might be helpful. So, I’m taking this opportunity to talk more about how a Bowen move works in the body.
Bowen isn’t manipulative. It works with the body to heal itself. The Bowen move is usually performed across fibre and often only needs to be firm enough to stimulate, or engage, the fascia (connective tissue) just under the skin. That move sends an electrical impulse to the brain and the brain relays that signal to where the body needs it. It’s kind of cool and amazing. Our bodies are pretty sophisticated and can do wondrous and miraculous things given the chance. Bowen helps give the body that chance. It helps the body to remember a state of health and well-being.
Bowen moves can be targeted to specific areas but ultimately the brain will send the stimulus of those moves to where the body needs them first. Because we are whole beings and one thing affects many things, we can present with symptoms that may not be directly related to the underlying issues. Our symptoms are usually layered. What is actually presenting may be streets away from the actual cause. Bowen unravels the mystery of the symptoms. As an example, our neck might not come right from the chronic pain and stiffness until the imbalance in our pelvis is addressed. Our bodies are smart. They know that once our pelvic alignment is better, work around our neck will be easier to sustain. Makes sense, right? So I’m not fixing you; your body is fixing you!
As a practitioner, I listen to what a client tells me and I formulate the beginning of my treatment plan from that information. But sometimes, often actually, the body will also be giving clues which help inform the treatment. By working with the wisdom of the body the moves help facilitate change at an issue level. That’s the beauty of Bowen - it can help alleviate the symptoms at the same time it is working at eliminating the underlying cause.
When someone is asking you to ‘fix’ them, it’s because they are in pain and they want help getting out of that state. While Bowen may not ‘fix’ all that ails them, it certainly will go a long way towards helping them to heal and feel better. Because of Bowen’s unique ability to facilitate healing at a whole body level, I do believe there isn’t any issue Bowen can’t help. Fixing implies something is broken. We are whole beings so unless it’s a bone that is broken, our symptoms are often the manifestation of an unbalanced body. Bowen is amazing at helping the body to balance itself.
So while I won’t say ‘Bowen will fix everything!’, I do believe Bowen can help heal the body on a number of levels from a myriad of issues. Bowen helps to give the body the chance to heal - on the physical, mental and emotional levels. Every body truly is better with Bowen.
Bowen therapy is the most wholistic treatment available. If you’re on the Coffs Coast and would like an appointment, please contact me on 0426 241 435 or visit www.balancingacttherapies.com to find out more about me and what I offer.
* In the spirit of full disclosure: I am Bowtech trained. Why this even needs to be mentioned will be a future myth to de-bunk.
Myth # 1 - That's the thing with magnets, right?
I work in a multi-disciplinary wellness centre that is heavy on massage therapists and light on “weird, esoteric” modalities like Bowen therapy.
People know what massage is. They generally know what acupuncture is and chiropractic and osteopathy, and even reiki. But Bowen? Not so much. When people ask me what Bowen therapy is, I find I spend time explaining what it’s not. It’s not like a lot of things, it turns out.
You know when you are trying to figure some life things out (work, relationships, where to live etc) and people ask you, ‘Well, what (job, partner, address) do you want?’ and it’s easier to come up with what you DON’T want than it is to actually drill down to what you do want? Well, that’s the same with explaining Bowen therapy. And just like listing all the things you don’t want isn’t helpful, it’s the same with ticking off all the things Bowen therapy isn’t. It still doesn’t answer the question of what Bowen therapy IS.
It can be hard to convince people to try Bowen therapy because they want to know what it’s like. The thing is, though, it isn’t like anything. It’s its own healing modality, just like acupuncture isn’t ‘like’ anything else; it’s just acupuncture.
This means there are a lot of misconceptions about Bowen therapy. My favourite is that it has something to do with magnets. When a person walked into the wellness centre wanting to see a practitioner to help with her back problems, the receptionist recommended Bowen. It took a lot of convincing this person to have a Bowen treatment because for some reason they heard from someone who heard from someone that their friend had Bowen and the practitioner used magnets on them. And they didn’t like that.
So let me set the record straight: if ever a Bowen therapist uses magnets on you, you are not having Bowen therapy.
I can talk for ages on what Bowen therapy isn’t but instead I will focus on what Bowen therapy is: Bowen therapy is a soft-tissue healing modality which helps the body to heal itself. Bowen moves help to shift the body from the sympathetic (fight/flight/freeze) to the parasympathetic (rest/digest) nervous system. Because the Bowen moves work with the body’s innate ability to heal, deep levels of healing can often be felt on the physical, mental and emotional levels. Bowen is non-manipulative so instead of the practitioner imposing moves on a system which may not be able to handle it, the practitioner instead facilitates change by applying small moves where the body needs input.
It’s simple. It’s wholistic. And it’s certainly not magnets! It’s also not particularly weird or esoteric but that will be a myth to debunk at a later date.
For now, just know that Bowen therapy is probably the safest, most gentle and wholistic treatment you will ever come across. It will most likely also be one of the most effective therapies your body can experience. It works equally well on chronic and acute conditions and there are few contraindications.
Interested in a session (without magnets) or want more information about what Bowen is? Contact Susan on 0426241435. Bookings essential but same day appointments often available.