Being bad

Today our flagship trainees – those in the 500-hr KMI Structural Integration program – will be doing their first actual bodywork session within the program – practicing a lower body session on each other, preparatory to having an outside clinical model for the same session later this week.  These sessions combine several skill sets – the ability to visually assess posture and movement with some accuracy, turning that assessment into a coherent strategy for the session, and managing the time to deliver a digestible session within the time allotted.
Hiding within that last phrase are the psychosocial skills to keep the client engaged and coming with you, and the observational and empathy skills to stay with their energy levels as they arc through sympathetic stimulation and then the parasympathetic pendulum swing that marks resolution and relaxation.  And ending a session successfully – with the client having a ‘win’ and being inspired to keep going with you – is a stumbling point for many.
This is frequently a fraught time for the students.  On the one hand, everyone’s eager to finally get their hands in and get started, after the largely intellectual exercise of learning fascial anatomy and the disparate nature of all the ‘techniques’ that now need to be incorporated like individual notes into a piece of music.
Students are understandably nerved up, frequently run over time, and often don’t do very well.  Everyone, of course, wants to be good from the gitgo, if not perfect.  So my message for them is simple: dare to be bad.  Two aphorisms apply here:  “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly at first” is one of them.  This is an art, an art whose depths I am still plumbing after nearly 40 years.  It is definitely a worthwhile art, an art too rare on this planet, certainly in this culture.  So just as you cannot do a fabulous sculpture or canvas right out of the starting blocks, you cannot expect to do bodywork – sculpture in a medium that gets up and walks away – brilliantly in your first term.
The second aphorism is: “Good judgment comes from experience.  Experience comes from bad judgment.”  As much as one learns in class, and learns from example, the most anchored learning comes from mistakes recognized.  So, make some.  By being bold, and seeing where the boldness works and doesn’t work, learning proceeds rapidly – maybe a bit at the expense of your classmates and early clients, but, hey, that’s why they call it a ‘practice’.
-Tom