Somatics 4: The Tissue

As a somatotherapist, or if you prefer, a bodyworker, the tissue is what I am most fascinated with. Why does touch feel so good? How does massage do the things they claim? If deep tissue massage hurts why do people like it? Who would pay that much just to get rubbed on? What happens if you don’t get touch? Asking these questions and others eventually led me to Where do I sign up?

When we talk of tissue most people think of the skin. While the skin is our largest "sense" organ it is just the beginning of the tissue which is the substance of our bodies. Reductionistic science and medicine would differentiate organs, bones, glands, etc., but on the inside tissue is continuous, seamlessly blending together. There is some level of individuation but it always serves the unified whole. The checks and balances and compensations possible in human beings are truly amazing.

As I began to put my hands on people as a bodyworker, I was astonished at what happened. The tissue communicated with me – if I was listening clearly it spoke quite specifically. So it rang a bell when my friend Jim Oschman* explained the term "living matrix" to me. Also known as the extracellular matrix (plus the cells) the living matrix is a better description of what tissue really is. It not only communicates within and outside the system, it stores information. This is called tissue memory.

Recent discoveries in cell biology show that this living matrix is continuous through the cell walls, forms the cytoskeleton, and connects directly to the cell nucleus, including the DNA encoding. In this way a network is set up throughout the being. It is no wonder science has not found a memory-specific part of the brain – memory exists everywhere! Now we enter the new paradigm – the bodymind validated by science.

Regeneration of the tissue, a concept made popular by Deepak Chopra, might make you wonder "Why do people get old?" Somatics has a lot to say about the myth of aging, although it does stop short of explaining death. My understanding is that unresolved or repressed experience, commonly called trauma, creates gaps in our internal communications systems resulting in ‘dis’ease. Restoring the integrity to the living matrix creates health. We will look at these issues in upcoming columns.

As I see it, the challenge of my work, somaZen, is developing a language, with precise vocabulary, to communicate directly with the living matrix. In this shared conversation the topics will be levels of health not disease, living fully not just surviving, integrating not repressing. Just as a bone becomes stronger when healed from a break, so do we become stronger when we integrate and resource our trauma. This is the powerful message that I and other body therapists carry.

If this all sounds serious remember there’s fun to integrate also. As my Rolfer© used to say, "All Kleenex is tissue but not all tissue is Kleenex."

*information available from NORA, Nature’s Own Research Association, PO Box 5101, Dover NH 03821-5100, 603-742-3789