Listen to the full interview - #45 The Power of Mindful Touch
Eddie - The theme this week is The Power of Mindful Touch. Perhaps you could give us an idea of what we might be talking about this evening.
Robin - Thanks for asking Eddie. I suppose over my lifetime, really since I was a child, I’ve been really interested in touch and present touch and I’ve spent most of my life I would say dedicated to that exploration. I spent many years at the Esalen Institute practicing and learning different types of bodywork and massage as well and I’m looking forward to talking about my experiences over all these years.
Eddie - We’re looking forward to hearing about it. Now Esalen is out in California, did you grow up in the area?
Robin - No I did not actually. I grew up in the Mid West in the Omaha, Nebraska.
Eddie - Oh wow.
Robin - Yep, the cornhuskers.
Eddie - That’s really the heartland isn’t it?
Robin - It is the heartland. I grew up there I went to the University of Nebraska
Eddie - What did you study there?
Robin - I studied advertising and photography.
Eddie - Ok, did you ever take your hand at it professionally?
Robin - No, at one point my mother and my brother had moved to California while I was in college. And so I went to visit them and once I went to California, I thought I’m not going back to California. This is it! I was hooked
Eddie- When did you start getting interested in dancing? Because I know you have done that, so when did that happen?
Robin - That happened at a really young age. When I was four I went and saw the Nutcracker and that was it, I was hooked. So I think we had to wait a year for some reason to sign me up for dance classes, but I started when I was five. And, I was very passionate and thought I was going to be a ballerina, professionally, for many years. Until I became a teenager and I realized it was going to ruin my social life, being a ballet dancer.
Eddie - Very inconvenient, It’s like being a pianist. Wait a minute, you mean I gotta practice how many hours a day? And, there are boys out there.
Robin - (Laughs) Something like that. But I always loved dance. I studied more traditional dance for many years, ballet and tap and point.
Eddie- Any jazz dance?
Robin - Oh, yeah, all that stuff. Then when I got into college I got exposed to different styles. African dance and that kind of stuff and then when I arrived at Esalen there was a whole other thing going on that I got exposed to.
Eddie- So how did that happen? DId you go to California with the intention of going to Esalen?
First of all, explain what Esalen is.
Robin - Yes, that might be good. Because a lot of people are not familiar with Esalen, especially on the east coast I’ve noticed. Esalen has been around for over 50 years and it's really considered the home of the Human Potential movement. A couple of men: Micheal Murphy and Dick Price, started the Esalen Institute in the early 60’s. It’s been the center of a lot of human potential and growth movements, a lot of teachers, philosophers, psychiatrists, psychologists, have been there teaching...body workers.
Eddie - and its located?
Robin - It’s located in Big Sur California.
Eddie - Gee, that’s unfortunate. Who would want to go there?
Robin - I know. It’s pretty spectacular. I was just there a couple of weeks ago teaching actually. Everytime I go, I’m never..I’m always in the awe of the scenery and beauty. Even though I’ve spent so much time there , I’m just always amazed.
Eddie - So did you decide to go there just to take some classes, or did you already think you wanted to be training?
Robin - It didn’t quite happen that way. I was young. I was in my early 20s and, as I said, my mom and brother had moved out to Oakland California, so they were living out there. Then in 1991, I think, there was a big earthquake and in 1992 there was a fire in Oakland. They called it a firestorm- it actually burnt thousands of homes. And the home that we were renting and living in at the time was one of those. So it was an interesting time, because we were all instantly displaced from the home we were living in. So at the time, we all sort of had to make a decision and in one way we took it as a very freeing moment because we just didn’t have any stuff anymore. We were free to do whatever. My mom had always wanted to go to Esalen, and I think she had been there once. She decided to go back and they have something called a work study program where you go for a month and you work in a department and you learn either Gestalt therapy or massage or something. So she decided to do that and my brother and I decided to go to BC to organic farming school. So we went to BC and she went down to Esalen and a year later when our organic farming school was done she was still at Esalen so we decided to go visit her there. So that's how we ended up there, my brother and I went together. And this was in the early 90s - around 92, 93
Eddie- And you were there for how long?
Robin - I ended up staying for 16 years
Eddie- Yeah, wow. Did you have any Idea when you went there that something like that would grab a hold of you?
Robin - No, I had no idea. I didn't even know where I was going.
Eddie - So what was it? How did it keep you there for 16? That’s a big commitment
Robin - It is a big commitment. Well, like I said I was young, so I had very few commitments...and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I had gone to college for something I wasn’t that interested in, I’d gone to organic farming school, I wasn’t quite sure how that was going to apply to my life, but it was fun. And, now I was at this place called Esalen, and really what got me initially was that I got massage. And so I guess this is really how I started on the path. It was my second or third massage that I had gotten professionally. And it was so transformational and so powerful that it intrigued me.
Eddie - How was it transformational?
Robin - You know I think that I suddenly gained this sense of awareness about my body and myself. I mean I had been a dancer, so I had a lot of holding in my body that i wasn’t even aware of just from dancing
Eddie - What does that mean? You have a lot of holding..
Robin - What does that mean? Well I don’t know if you have every tried to do ballet, Eddie. But...
Eddie - No, that was frowned at on the farm. I was a farm boy, you know.
Robin - There’s a lot of turning out and tucking in and and sucking it all in
Eddie - No, I wasn’t into that
Robin - (Laughs) No, No. So as a dancer there was a lot of holding and I had to hold my body in a certain way, a lot of tightening of muscles, turning out the feet, sucking in the gut, sucking in the tush you know all that stuff. I was just sort of walking around like that for years...not aware
Eddie - You mentioned when you were little that you liked touch. You liked to explore that touch. So how did that come into play, your earlier years. Did that kind of come back to the surface
Robin - Yeah, it did. Well, when I was little, my dad was in the Air Force and we had this old cot, like an army cot. I would often give my family massages when I was little. At some point I remember my mom dating someone who was a massage therapist. So, in our family we would massage each other and so that was very comfortable place.
Eddie - So obviously you grew up in a very supportive environment for all of this
Robin - Yeah, I would say, yeah.
Eddie - I think I met your parents, didn’t I? Over at the India Garden. Was that your parents?
Robin - I don’t remember, maybe my mom.
Eddie- That was your mom, yeah.
Robin - My mom.
Eddie- Yeah I came over and said hello and you introduced me.
Robin - Yeah, quite possibly.
Eddie- Wow, okay. So you decided to train as a massage therapist. What does that entail?
Robin - Well at Esalen it entails….they do these intensives, one month intensive, which is about 150 hours. We spent all day, every day learning massage and massaging each other. It was amazing in this incredible setting. If you haven’t been to Esalen, I should just describe a little bit. It’s very remote, it’s on this scenic highway 1. There’s nothing else in sight and it’s built into the side of the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There are natural hot springs there that come right out of the mountain. The massages are all done in the bath house in the side of the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It's pretty spectacular. There is no music. The ocean is the music….the seagulls. The natural sounds...Yeah, it’s really spectacular.
Eddie- So, there are lot of different styles of massage. By the way, my daughter happens to be a massage therapist.
Robin - Oh, fantastic
Eddie - She lives down in Fayetteville and so she does a lot of army wives down there and officers and so on. But, what distinguished Esalen massage from other types?
Robin - Well that’s a great question. I get asked all the time and I’m always searching for the perfect answer. I’ll see what I can come up with this time (laughs). There are a few things that make Esalen massage really unique. One is that it develops not only out of, the people who developed it lived at Esalen and they were students of a lot of the great bodyworkers. If you’re familiar with Ida Rolf who developed Rolfing, and Moshi Feldenchrist and Randolph Stone. These people were teaching at Esalen. And so these were there students, and there were also students of Fritz Perls who developed Gestalt Therapy. Esalen massage was initially intended to be a mindfulness practice not so much a style of massage, it just developed into that over the years. They were more exploring quite honestly in those early 60s. They were students of awareness practices that were exploring different ways of touch. Esalen massage grew out of that. If you went today and got an Esalen massage what you might notice is its slow pace, very much like the ocean waves, and these long integrative strokes, and there’s not a set routine to Esalen massage, which makes it slightly different. It’s like a conversation. We do something and then we listen to the response. We do something else and listen to the response. There’s a lot of back and forth. It’s a deep listening practice.
Eddie - When you say listen to the response, you’re not saying that the client is going ‘Oh that was really good there’. It’s a different kind of listening isn’t it?
Robin - They might say that but more likely they’re taking a deep breath or they’re softening their shoulders or their body temperature is slightly changing, or their heart rate’s changing, those sorts of deep listenings.
Margaret - One thing I noticed about the Esalen massage I received was the quality of mindfulness was so apparent and that slowness was very soothing, and it felt like energy work was also involved.
Robin - Yes absolutely, I’ve been doing a lot of teaching lately, and when I work with students I always emphasize the quality of touch and their presence over everything.
Margaret - That’s what I enjoyed with my experience, the person, I don’t know if should say her name, she was fantastic, her presence was so apparent and beautiful.
Robin - And I’d say that’s really the biggest emphasis. It was really interesting when I went and taught at Esalen last week, most the students were beginners, they had never done massage before, and just in five days it’s amazing how good these students are, and not just because they are learning a lot of fabulous techniques, but because we are really encouraging them to be present and go slow and be mindful of each and everything they do.
Eddie - How important is it that someone who decides to do this practice has some type of meditation practice or does yoga or tai chi or some type of mindfulness practice?
Robin - Well I have to say I think it’s really important. I teach certification trainings here in Asheville, the same trainings you would get at Esalen, and that’s a really big part of the training is that we spend time everyday doing a mindfulness practice. And we really introduce the students to lots of different mindfulness practices, because I think everyone needs to find their own thing that they resonate with. Whether it’s sitting meditation, or yoga or tai chi or dance...
Eddie - And you’re also a yoga instructor at 500 hour level, trauma sensitive yoga therapist right?
Robin - Yes
Eddie - So how does that come into your work? I mean I know you’re more teaching but how has that helped you as a teacher, as an instructor?
Robin - Well I’ve been teaching yoga for a long time, in fact i think I started teaching yoga before I started teaching massage. It’s a great skill to be able to offer my students. Having even more training recently with the yoga therapy training has made me even more sensitive to all sorts of different types of people and being able to really offer something to all the students, not just the very flexible yogis.
Eddie - So I know that right now your focus is on teaching rather than giving massages, but let’s just imagine you’ve got an appointment at 10 in the morning, you know you’re gonna see a client. What would you do to prepare for that appointment ?
Robin - Well aside from just the usual preparing the table. I try to get to my sessions early. I have my own practices in the morning that I do on a regular basis. I’m really big into self care and I try to really emphasize that with my students and encourage my students and staff to do self care. I definitely don’t run in at the last minute frantically, but if I do, if I’m dropping off my kids at school and that’s what happens, then I take a few minutes to really center and ground myself, take a few deep breaths and be get present, yeah show up.
Margaret - And self care, you mentioned, that’s so important because when we are receiving a massage that’s what we are looking for as the receiver so it makes sense that the massage therapist also would be practicing.
Robin - I hope so, yeah, I hope so
Eddie - You can’t give what you yourself cannot receive.
Robin - That’s what I found. In fact I got a facial today!
Eddie - Good for you! So when did you start doing massages, how long ago?
Robin - Professionally I started 24 years ago
Eddie - What’s the most important thing you’ve learned over those 24 years about giving a massage? I presume these are things you pass on to your students when you’re doing your training.
Robin - Well I think one of the big things I really like to emphasize is that when giving a massage you should enjoy what you’re doing. So I always tell my students, enjoy what you’re doing and don’t do anything that hurts. Unfortunately a lot of massage therapists these days, I work at a massage school here in Asheville as well, and so I get to work with people in massage school, and a lot of them get the idea that they have to do things that hurt their own body for the benefit of the client and I’m not a fan of that at all. I say if it hurts you don’t do it, you won’t last long if you do. I have colleagues who have been doing massage now for over 50 years who have never gotten hurt because I think they take that philosophy as well.
Eddie - So we are going to take a musical break in a few minutes, but I would like you to let our listeners know about Still Point Wellness because that is where they can go to get massages, so talk about where it is and when you started the business, and how you and Corey got it going, stuff like that
Robin - Yes thanks for asking, it’s actually great story. Still Point Wellness is our spa downtown here in Asheville it’s on 81-B Central Avenue, and we actually had a friend who created the business who at the time was more of an acquaintance, and he called us up on the phone and he said “hey I’ve built this business for you guys I want you to have it”, and we were like what?! He said “what colors do you want the walls?” We were like, what are you talking about, who does that! We thought he was joking, we were on vacation, we come home, he’s like “ok so your spa is waiting for you” we were like “are you kidding?”, and so we go over there and sure enough this beautiful space had been painted and ready to go, and there were no clients because he wasn’t a massage therapist himself. He put a salt water floatation (a sensory deprivation tank) and beautiful big salt-water fish tank, and sure enough he was ready for us to move in and start our practice there.
Eddie - This was how long ago?
Robin - This was four years ago
Eddie - Did you have an idea at that time that ‘yeah we want to start a business’ or did it completely blindside you?
Robin - No we were not thinking about that at all. We were doing bodywork and my husband was doing therapy out of our home, he was working with at risk teens for another program, so we had no intentions of starting our own spa in that way. It really came out of the blue, it was a surprise to us.
Margaret - And how did this acquaintance of yours know that you would even have an interest?
Robin - That’s a good question! He got a massage from me so I guess he just figured why wouldn’t I want a spa since I gave him a massage (laughs).
Margaret - That's incredible
Robin - It was a crazy story and so we said ‘ok listen, we need to see if we can do anything with this, hire us, and we’ll see what happens, and in two years if it’s happening then we’ll buy the business from you’. So that’s what happened!
Eddie - At least you studied advertising in your undergrad
Robin - I don’t know if it’s doing me any good though! That was a long time ago.
Margaret - It’s growing though at Still Point Wellness.
Robin - It is, it’s growing yes.
Margaret - The popularity is growing?
Robin - Yes, I’m just really proud to say that we’ve really done very well and we continue to grow. Our whole staff I’ve trained, they all do Esalen massage so I feel like we have a really amazing staff.
Eddie - What’s the website?
Robin - It is stillpointwell.com
Eddie - And talk about the, both Margaret and I have not only received massages over there. I got mine from Corey. Was that a birthday present or something?
Eddie - That was a really nice surprise. As Margaret was saying earlier she had a massage, but we’ve also been in the tank
Robin - Yes
Eddie - Talk about that
Robin - We have a salt water flotation tank, sensory deprivation. It’s the top of the line tank. The man who created the spa, who bought the tank, went for the best of the best. We were lucky in that regard too. It’s an amazing tank. You step in about 12 inches of salt water. You lay back in the water and because there’s so much salt you float effortlessly and when you close the door it’s completely dark and quiet. We recommend people start with 90 minutes in the tank and just like any meditation practice once you get going you don’t need as much time so some people opt for 60 minute sessions after that because once they come back and do it a few times they can just drop right into a deep state of relaxation. It’s very powerful.
Eddie - I remember when I got in there, I’ve had a meditation practice for a long time so I’m kind of used to being with my, as I say in the playground of my mind but I got in there and I lay back and I thought well this is nice, but I’ve got 90 minutes, and the next thing I know I’m gone, I’m so relaxed
Robin - Yeah we hear that a lot. That’s a pretty common response. A lot of people think 90 minutes is going to be a long time
Eddie - Yeah, they’re like ‘what am I gonna do’?
Robin - Yeah they think ‘what am I going to do for all that time’? And then next thing they know they hear the knock on the door and the time is up.
Eddie - So you spent 16 years at Esalen, and of course Corey talked about it when he was here, but we also had another guest Roger Byrd on several weeks ago and he spent time there, and he is trained in Esalen massage and also in Tai Chi, I don’t know if he learned the Tai Chi there or somewhere else, but in 16 years you must have had some amazing experiences, I’d like you to share some of those if you would.
Robin - Well I had so many amazing experiences, I’ll say specifically just around the massage, I think one of the most amazing things for me was getting to study with a lot of really amazing teachers there. One of the great benefits of being at Esalen is that the teachers come to you, so you don’t have to go anywhere, your living and working there. My first massage teacher was a student of Milton Trager, who developed the Trager approach. I really got to study with their their direct students. Some of my teachers were students of Ida Rolf and Moshe Feldenkrais. So I was sort of considered like the third generation there. I also got the opportunity to study with John Upledger who developed his own school of craniosacral therapy. He was an amazing man.
Eddie - Talk about that, was is that ?
Robin - Craniosacral therapy is a type of bodywork, it’s done typically with clothes on, I like to think of it as a deep listening practice, where you listen to the craniosacral rhythm, the movement of the cerebral spinal fluid flowing up and down the spine and around the brain and the movement of the bones and you apply gentle pressures to the bones to help release and open up the bones and that flow of cerebral spinal fluid. I feel like I have been studying it for 24 years and I still have so much to learn about it. It’s a really powerful modality and I’ve seen people have miraculous healings from that. I got really fascinated by it when I used to suffer from pretty severe migraine headaches, and just from a few, from one of my teachers putting his hand on my head for a few minutes, seemingly doing nothing, my headache went away and so that really intrigued me, and I had that experience several times.
Eddie - That would get my attention
Robin - Yes, I saw people getting up out of wheelchairs and walking, I heard many stories of just miraculous things happening. I got the opportunity to work on lots of people, I’ve helped turn babies in the womb, things like. One of my main teachers and mentors her name is Suzanne Scurlock-Durana she is based out of Washington DC and she is a craniosacral practitioner. She would come to Esalen every summer, she still does, for a few weeks and I would stick to her like glue and go everywhere she would go, any session she would do I would just jump right into the mix. I learned a lot that way and I got to work on lots of people and we’d always have a kids day and work on all the kids in the community there, that was really amazing.
Margaret - Can you remember a specific incident when you worked on someone and it was transformative for either them or yourself?
Robin - Well, we worked on my sister in law actually who was pregnant, and her son was turned upside down and we worked on her in the hot tubs, and I got her baby to turn around, so that was pretty fun, that was a pretty profound experience.
Margaret - That is certainly profound
Robin - Yes, and the hot springs there are really magical, I think some of my most profound experiences were actually in the hot tubs, in the hot springs themselves. The hot springs there were considered, for the native americans who lived there, the Esselen Indians, they’re really healing waters, and I feel that way, that they are really powerful. I had some amazing craniosacral sessions done on me in the hot tubs, by several people at a time. I remember one time one of the instructors was working on me and about four other people as well., and he put his eye on my eyeball, and my whole body sort of unwound around my eyeball, it sounds really bizarre right now but it was a pretty crazy experience, and I was in the water and so my body was really free to move. I’ve had many experiences like that, bodywork sessions which stood out as being very profound and life changing. So that continues to intrigue me. I had another mentor as well for many years, his name was Ray Swartley and I also followed him everywhere (laughs) I probably annoyed these people I don’t know, but I just followed them around, because I was so fascinated and I was so eager to learn. Any sessions that they would let me sit in on and watch and participate in I would. That was amazing to have mentors like that that were so easily accessible that I could work one on one like that. Just this week one of my students asked me how do i find a mentor, and I thought gosh probably not the way I found mentors
Margaret - You were like the puppy dog
Robin - (Laughs) I was like the puppy dog and we were in a very small community, so it was very easy to follow people around.
Margaret - Sometimes that visual model of how you interact with a client or a patient is more valuable than anything else.
Robin - Totally, I mean I feel like I was just sort of thrown in the fire in many ways. My first teaching job in massage, I hadn’t really planned on teaching, first I was doing yoga and my yoga teacher said just start teaching, you should start teaching and I was like ‘I don't know what I’m doing’. I was very shy too, so the idea of talking in front of people was mortifying to me, but I got small jobs teaching a few people yoga at a time and I learned a lot just by doing that. Then teaching massage someone just asked me and said ‘hey I’m teaching in Bali do you want to come and assist.’ so I went to Bali and I got there as the assistant. One teacher got sick, so I sort of got thrown into teaching immediately because the lead teacher was sick and that was a real challenging training, we were in Bali and some of the students got robbed the first night and we had translators because there was three languages going on. That was sort of a whole other challenge and then sadly one of our students died during the training. I felt like after this training I can do anything.
Eddie - Was this up in Ubud ?
Robin - This was up in Ubud yes, it was my first experience teaching (laughs) So it's been all uphill since then.
Margaret - The universe was saying are you really ready to be a massage therapist
Eddie - I wanted to ask you more about the teaching that you do but first sticking with Esalen just a little bit longer, obviously they have more than just bodywork going on there as such a ton of human potential programs. Having the interest that I’ve had for so long in that area, I constantly hear about all these great figures who spent time there. So I’ve got to ask you, I know Joseph Campbell came through there probably during that 16 year period, is that true? And if so, did you see him, meet him by any chance? Because he’s one of my heroes
Robin - I didn’t meet Joseph Campbell, if I did I might not have known it. When did he die because he might have been just a little before?
Eddie - Well I think he died in the late 80’s
Robin - Yes I feel like he died before I got there, I got there in the early 90’s, but his foundation, people from his foundation always came. But I have gotten to meet other people
Eddie - Didn’t Thich Nhat Hanh come there ?
Robin - He probably did too, I didn’t meet him either.
Eddie - Now you were right down the road from Tassajara the Zen center, that’s pretty near there isn’t it.
Robin - Fairly near, if you were to hike over the mountain you would get there in half a day.
Eddie - Better bring some water and you might want a massage when you're. done Let’s get back to the teaching, so where do you teach and who do you teach?
Robin - I work here in Asheville, I teach at the Center for Massage and Natural Health in their core program.
Eddie - Is that downtown?
Robin - That’s downtown Asheville yes, and they run a 600 hour massage program so I come in and I teach a little bit in that program a few classes, their integrative massage, their ethics class, and their energy work class. I do that, but a lot of my teaching is CE courses, continuing education for massage therapists. I go out to California probably 3 or 4 times a year and teach at the Esalen Institute, so that’s what I was doing there a couple of weeks ago, I was teaching a 5 day course there.
Eddie - You go out there for a week at a time?
Robin - Yes, I go out there for a week, I teach maybe a 5 day course and do a few massages in between. My mom still lives there so I like to spend time with her as well. I have taught in different places, I’ve taught in Bali, and I’ve taught in Japan, but my kids don’t like it when I travel that far, so I’m trying to stay a little closer to home so now I teach here in Asheville. I teach continuing education courses in Esalen massage, and Craniosacral therapy, I teach some ethics classes and then I’ll teach in Chattanooga and Charlotte and spreading out. A couple things I have coming up which are pretty exciting, in the spring The World Massage Festival is going to be held in North Carolina out at Cherokee, so I’m teaching there and then next summer I’m teaching in the Florida State Massage Conference as well. So I’m kind of getting into the conference world, which is fun. I reach a lot of people that way and that’s exciting.
Eddie - Well talk about moving into the big leagues, in 2012 you had something happen which is pretty impressive, at the World Massage Festival, you were honored by being inducted into the World Massage Hall of Fame.
Robin - Yes that’s right, it was a really great honor for me to be acknowledged in that way, having spent most of my life focused in this arena, it was beautiful, there are a lot of really great bodyworkers that I highly admire also in that Hall of Fame and so it is a real honor and a privilege to be a part of that.
Eddie - Now is there an actual location, like the Baseball Hall of Fame you go to Cooperstown right?
Robin - (Laughs) There is not an actual physical location you’ll have to go online to see all the inductees into that Hall of Fame but who knows, some day.
Eddie - And you’re also featured in the Esalen Massage DVD?
Robin - Yes, so in 1996 at Esalen we made a DVD, we had it very professionally done and we did our best, there was about 40 people involved, so it was a lot of opinions but we did our best to try to put into words and into video an Esalen massage, it’s all done on location at Esalen and I am in a lot of scenes either being massaged or giving a massage. It’s funny I show it to my students sometimes and it’s a little dated because it was filmed almost 20 years ago now and because at Esalen, at the Hot springs there, it’s clothing optional, so the draping at Esalen is a little bit looser than what I use in my office now and what I teach my students with. So that’s always a question that comes up when people watch that video, they are like wow that’s not much draping, and that’s because in the context of Esalen that sort of worked then, so I always need to share that with people.
Eddie - Well I remember reading or hearing at some point that both the person getting the massage and the person giving the massage at least at one point in time wore no clothing.
Robin - Yes, well I’m glad you brought that up because that’s actually a question that a lot of people have. I would say that at Esalen in the 60s and 70s that certainly was true, even still a little bit when I got there in the early 90s. However, I’d say by the mid to late 90s that was not so true anymore and if you went to Esalen now you definitely wouldn’t see that except maybe for amongst people who knew each other. Because in the bath house it's clothing optional and the massage tables are just right there by the baths, it’s not uncommon for students to jump out of the hot tubs together and one to give the other one a massage without any draping, that’s not too uncommon, however thankfully I think even at Esalen we’ve realized we need to sort of grow up with the times and for me what’s most important is that my clients feel really safe so that they can relax.
Eddie - Yes that’s the bottom line, well and obviously it’s not a problem because as you say Esalen has been around 50 years and so if it were a problem there would have been some drastic changes. You mentioned Fritz Perls early in Gestalt therapy, I was wondering if you could talk just a little bit about that and does that inform your work at all?
Robin - I would say absolutely, Fritz Perls is considered the father of Gestalt therapy, he died before I got there so I never got to meet him but certainly when I go back I like to talk to some of my colleagues that did know him because they have some pretty wild stories about him from back in the sixties and seventies.
Eddie - Well if you meet Roger Bird, who was on our show, he knew Fritz Perls.
Robin - Yes, there’s lots of stories about Fritz Perls, but how that really affects the massages, Gestalt Therapy is essentially an awareness practice as well. It’s practiced at Esalen today and every work group takes time out of their day and their week to sit down to have check-ins or weather reports with each other and how they’re feeling that day. Every week have a 2 hour facilitated where you might even share with your boss that you’re unhappy about something happening in the workplace with a Gestalt therapist present. Or you might talk to your mother, the pillow, which is your mother. So, it’s really alive and well in which there is a sort of language “ing” that often goes along with the Gestalt practice. How it really informs us, like I said, is an awareness practice. Gestalt is an awareness practice and so is the Esalen massage. The founders of Esalen massage were students of Fritz Perls so they really took that work to the table, the massage table, in a big way. I teach a little Gestalt when I teach massage during my 100 hour trainings and I bring my husband in, who’s a therapist, and we do run Gestalt circles in the training and I think it’s a big part of the training.
Eddie - I’ve had experience with Gestalt and it can be extremely powerful and transformational. I’ve seen some amazing work done with that. Now you also have had experience with Somato-Emotional Release (SER)
Robin - Yes
Eddie- I had to look at that very closely to make sure I could say it. What is that?
Robin - In my training in craniosacral therapy, as I got more advanced into the training, it goes into a type of Somato-Emotional Release. So, essentially it’s with the same sort of hands on cranialsacral work, but there is a whole dialoguing piece where you help to bring about awareness people might be holding emotions in their bodies. For example, I may be working with somebody’s arm and doing some work and through a dialoguing process you might discover that this arm might have a frozen shoulder because of a car accident they had 10 years ago and it might still be holding on because they were in a fight with their partner at the time so those emotions might have gotten locked in, or coupled in with the car accident and shoulder. It’s very powerful work. I see people able to really let go of injury in their body that they had not been able to because they really hadn’t addressed that emotional components of the injury.
Eddie - Is there any similarity to Somatic Experiencing, in which I know Corey’s been trained in. I believe he was trained by Peter Levine wasn’t he? Is there any overlap or similarities?
Robin - I want to say there is. At this point I’ve taken so many workshops, Peter Levine being one of them, I can’t help being influenced by Peter Levine and his work. So, there is some overlap, definitely.
Eddie- I love his book “Waking the Tiger.” As a survivor of trauma myself that was given to me and it’s a really really great book. So I’m sure you get people to come in who have suffered from trauma and it’s so pervasive. What’s the most important thing you’ve in approaching those situations?
Robin - Well my husband and I tend to specialize in that area because I think working with people with trauma takes a lot of sensitivity and I think what I’ve learned is the most is to go very slow and there is no need to push and to really follow someone else’s pace. Yeah, that’s probably the biggest thing.
Margaret - And that slow pace is the opposite of trauma. So it probably feels very welcoming for the other person to feel safe and calm.
Robin- Absolutely, When i was younger and a little bit more naive I would work with people and they would start expressing some injury or trauma in an area of their body and I would just go for it. Now I’m more experienced I tend to go to the areas that feel good and let those areas that might be more traumatized be held by really helping someone re-source and helping someone feel good in their body first.
Eddie- Yeah, feel safe in their bodies which is so hard. One thing I want to mention as we start drawing to a close you have been doing for years now Restorative Yoga and have been doing classes at Asheville Community Yoga. Talk about that a little bit.
Robin - Yeah, I just have a deep love for yoga in general. I been studying yoga for longer than massage even, for almost 30 years. I’ve been teaching a restorative yoga class for about 15 years and it’s just been a real passion of mine so when Corey and I moved here to Asheville we started teaching at Asheville Community Yoga on Friday afternoons at 4pm and since he’s a musician it’s such a beautiful blend combining the restorative yoga with the didgeridoo, Tibetan bowls, and there are a couple other musicians that came and joined us frequently and it’s just this beautiful sound bath experience.
Eddie - It’s delicious, I’ve done the class several times and just to lie there and have him come and one time he came and brought the didgeridoo and set it on my chest, it was so beautiful and your voice, the way you guide people through. I remember one of your daughters was there and she was helping out.
Robin - Yeah sometimes my 11 year old loves to help out with that class. I always say it’s the yoga class for people who don’t do yoga.
Eddie - It’s kind of like Yoga Nidra in a sense, that relaxing restorative practice and it’s 4pm on Friday’s
Robin - Yeah it’s at 4pm on Friday’s at Asheville Community Yoga and is a by donation yoga studio so it’s really accessible. It’s a 75 minute session.
Eddie - Anything else in the last minute or so that you would like to mention?
Robin - I’m just really grateful for you inviting me to be here, Margaret and I. Thank you so much. Yeah, I hope that everyone has a massage sometime in their lifetime. It’s such a blessing
Eddie - You talked about self care earlier. I mean that’s up at the top of the list of things we can do for ourselves.
Robin - Totally, I see it as more of a self-care/self-practice. I’ve stayed really healthy my whole life and I attribute it to getting regular massages.
Eddie- Without a doubt
Margaret - It allows that self awareness to come in and know where we are holding tension and know how to release it.
Eddie- Well thank you Robin and thank you Margaret for joining us today
Robin/Margaret - Thank you