Embodied Being

Written by Jeffrey Maitland

Reviewed by Nancy Eichhorn

Have you ever wondered how you move your body, how you actually experience moving your body?

Jeffrey Maitland PhD poses this intriguing question in his latest publication, Embodied Being: The Philosophical Roots of Manual Therapy. In general, he says, most people don’t think about the felt-experience of how they move; they just move when and where they want. Therefore, the answer, he says, lies in contemplation. . . . “you must contemplate how you experience your movement as you live, breathe, and accomplish it” (p. 148).

The book is an interweave of contemplation, Zen practice, and philosophy to inform the art of manual therapy (Rolfing in particular), with each thread representing a solid thread of Maitland’s internalized fabric. I must admit that not being trained in Rolfing or any other form of manual therapy did impact my reading—I had to consciously set aside my attitude that this book wasn’t for me and find my way into the text from an uninitiated perspective to explore what resonated for me. I didn’t have to look far.

Maitland is clear that while the book is about manual therapy it’s not limited to Rolfing; he offers a “comprehensive inquiry into the theory and practice of caring for and enhancing our embodied uprightness” (p. xvi). He also discusses universal issues that health care providers experience.

I appreciated his comments that we are living bodies, not soft machines created from pre-shaped parts, and that our body, mind and spirit must be seen as a unified whole. The body, Maitland asserts, is a self-sensing, self-shaping, self-organizing, seamless, developmental, unified whole in which everything is related to multiple interdependent relationships. The purpose of therapy is thus far more encompassing than simply getting rid of symptoms; rather, the goal, he writes, is to bring harmony, balance and morphological integrity to the whole person in relation to his/her environment.

The writing style (tone, quality of word choice, sentence type and structure) invites inquiry, encourages the curious witness to replace the bystander, the onlooker that lives within and come into relationship with the material. “ . . . our skills,” he writes, “have suffered when we approach the world as a detached bystander disembodied onlooker” (136). Reading this book requires you to connect, to be within your body and mind and simply absorb the words for digestion, for reflection.

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