People can be free ‘100 percent’, believe people exploring alternative methods to health. But for that to happen, people need the keys to ‘unstick’ themselves from fruitless efforts and ‘tune in’ to the mind-body connection. New Era explores.
By Catherine Sasman
The soothing sounds of Dhafer Youssef’s Divine Shadows drifts through the rooms at the Anicca Relaxation Centre in Windhoek’s Pionierspark suburb.
Outside in the yard, a life-sized wooden statue of Buddha stands as if saluting the sun. Pleasant water splashes from a small man-made fountain. Inside, people speak in soft and calming tones to each other.
It is important that people working together understand and respect each other, says Ludo Vanhees, as he climbs the stairs to his office, which is adjacent to a massage room with a vibrating table. Tea is on offer. He is comfortably dressed in white cotton pants and easy shoes.
Here, at this centre, information of the body is unleashed to get to what hampers the soul to reign freely.
Anicca, says Vanhees, literally means ‘nothing is permanent’; things are always in flux.
“If you, for example, have pain in your back or shoulders, it is there for the moment, but it will go,” explains Vanhees.
The name of the centre is also a reminder that we cannot cling to things, and attach ourselves to things.
“If we desperately want to hold on to something or get attached to it – like a relationship – then we focus so much on the other person in the relationship and nothing else in our surroundings.
We attach ourselves to material things, but we can lose these through natural disasters like earthquakes, through an accident, or through unforeseen happenings. We have to learn how to detach ourselves from such things.
Only then will we create the space for liberty; attachment narrows the focus and is often causing stress,” says Vanhees in a soft tone.
The centre, like many wellness centres that have sprung up around the city, advocates the ‘reconnection’ between mind and body, the physical and non-physical, the body and the soul.
The centre hence tries to create an atmosphere in which people can ‘let go’ of negative emotions that keep them stuck in destructive patterns, in an atmosphere that is non-threatening and conducive to shed the old skin.
Vanhees, a trained speech therapist, became interested in the mind-body connection through his work, with among others, stutterers that have experienced relapses. After running the centre for 10 years, he feels that his understanding of his professional career is reinforced and strengthened through the work he currently does.
Typical cases seen at the centre are from people who want to relax through the different massaging methods offered at the centre. At a deeper level, said Vanhees, work is done to rebalance the body, and release stored memories remembered on a cellular level.
“It is not something mystical; it is something that a person holds inside the body and arises naturally once the person lets go. It is arousing your innate potential through meditation.
Deep tissue massages help to release pent-up emotions,” he said, adding, “If you think the body is just tissue, muscle and bone, then you are mistaken. The body has a memory of its own. If you pass a place where you had an accident, the body might shiver or contract. It keeps in emotional or physical shocks.”
A rebalancing deep tissue massage was developed in the 1980s, with the main component to make awareness compassion and meditativeness a central feature of the work.
It uses a combination of deep tissue massage, joint tension release and energy rebalancing, while counteracting chronic holding patterns that contribute to pain and illness. This method of massaging recognises the emotional, energetic and spiritual aspects as important to our totality.
Vanhees incorporates the teachings of Byron Katie, bestselling author of the book Loving What Is, who writes about enquiring thinking, and in the process releasing patterns that keep people blocked and stunted.
Katie is a businesswoman and mother from California, US, who became severely depressed, with the depression deepening over a period of nearly 10 years. For two years during this dark period, she was barely able to lift herself out of bed, and was obsessed with suicide, until one day when she experienced a life-changing experience.
This experience was triggered by her understanding – ‘in a flash’ – that her negative beliefs about the world around her, entangled her in a sense of helplessness and anguish.
“Katie saw that our attempt to find happiness was backwards – instead of hopelessly trying to change the world to match our thoughts about how it ‘should’ be, we can question these thoughts and, by meeting reality as it is, experience unimaginable freedom and joy.”
Says Dutch volunteer at the Brahma Kumaris Centre, a world organisation working towards peace through personal change, Freddy Schoonenberg: “We each have two choices in the morning – either to be happy or to be unhappy.”
Katie’s insights into the mind are consistent with research in cognitive psychology, Socratic dialogue, Buddhist teachings, and the 12-step rehabilitative programme adopted by drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres.
She, for example, writes: “The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is. When the mind is perfectly clear, what is, is what we want. If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try, and in the end the cat will look up at you and say, ‘meow’. Wanting reality to be different than it is, is hopeless.”
However, there are the often-incongruent external and internal realities that often go head to head, and cause conflict and confusion in the individual.
Marrying the body-mind – or body-soul – connection, is as important.
For one, says Vanhees, the linear concept of time is illusionary. The present consists of the here and now, as much as it consists of the past and future. And as the body in the present form ‘remembers’ past traumas, it would be best to acknowledge those, rather than keep in the hurt, which could explode at inconvenient times and in unexpected ways.
“There is then a much bigger chance that the body releases itself – negative experiences are dissolved and the body is detoxified. Afterwards, people should drink a lot of water to allow the electricity of the body to move faster and release toxins quicker.”
After such a session, says Vanhees, people may feel vulnerable, they might cry for seemingly no apparent reason, as the body dispenses old and hurtful experiences.
An innovative method from Katie is building a constellation of casts and characters from a person’s past, to determine and work through issues that have caused ‘stuckness’ in the person.
Taking the enquiring ‘deeper’, in a family constellation, for example, a session consisting of 10 or more people can explore the dynamics and energetic happenings of a past experience.
“Because time is an illusion, the past experience can be accessed and energies around the experience can be corrected,” says Vanhees.
Another method employed is the Bowen technique, which stimulates certain parts of the body – the golgi organs – which gives neurological communication to the brain and in effect, resets the body for self-healing, or re-programmes old patterns.
This technique uses soft, yet powerful, moves on the body, which helps it to ‘remember’ how to help itself.
This technique is often used for back pain, sciatica, stress, tension and migraine, infections, menstrual and hormonal irregularities, carpal tunnel syndrome, and sports and accident injuries.
While the centre does not claim to supplant orthodox medicine or psychiatry, it does bring relief to many.
But Vanhees does think that alternative healing methods are not yet appreciated fully, but that there is a growing movement to explore other options to attain a healthy body and greater peace of mind.
“The biggest satisfaction is to work with people who want to explore alternative ways of healing and that is beautiful,” says Vanhees.
Exploring meditation for more peaceful and stressless living is the Brahma Kumaris Centre opposite the Louis Botha shopping centre in Windhoek.
The centre focusses on Raja Joga – meaning supreme union – to regain the inner power, and to “develop the inner core of the soul”, according to Schoonenberg, which includes our innate qualities such as peace, love, happiness, wisdom, and always seeing the good in others.
The opposite of this, he said, is an inordinate focus on the outward, physical world through which we have acquired qualities such as anger, greed, jealousy and attachments.
Through meditation, the centre says, people deepen their understanding of themselves, as well as a deeper sense of respect for self and others.
It also teaches one to rid oneself of the ‘wasteful thoughts’ – of which there are on average 30?