Excerpts from publications by James L. Oschman, Ph.D.
Readings on the Scientific Basis of Bodywork and Movement Therapies:
The connective tissue and myofascial systems
The connective tissue is a continuous fabric extending throughout the animal body, even into the innermost parts of each cell. All of the great systems of the body --the circulation, the nervous system, the musculo-skeletal system, the digestive tract, the various organs -- all are ensheathed in connective tissue. It is an organ of form, relationship, support, communication, and movement.
Connective tissue is a composite material, consisting of strong insoluble collagen fibers embedded in a gel-like ground substance. The fibers are arranged in highly ordered, crystalline arrays. Like many other crystals, connective tissue is piezoelectric, i.e. it generates electric fields when compressed or stretched. Hence any movement of any part of the body, muscle, bone, skin, blood vessel, etc., generates characteristic electrical fields that spread through the surrounding tissues. Since collagen is a semiconductor, the connective tissue is an integrated electronic network that allows all parts of the organism to communicate with each other.
The structure of the adult body is not fixed or permanent--tissues are constantly being replaced. Electrical fields generated within the tissues may regulate the replacement process, so that structure can change in response to changes in activity. This is how athletes and other performers optimize their structure and function by practicing a movement again and again. Perfect performance implies total interconnection, the free flow of information through the connective tissue fabric.
An energetic model of the body can account for the observations of Rolfers and other somato-therapists. Specifically, the parts of the organism are joined together and composed of an interconnected electronic fabric, the connective tissue system, whose properties (elasticity, flexibility, length, resiliancy) depend upon a continuous flow of energy/information. When this flow is diminished or restricted because of physical or emotional trauma or lack of movement, the mechanical properties of the tissue are affected, awareness may decrease, and pain may arise. Restoration of flows can be accomplished by applying appropriate pressure to the affected areas, or by restoring movement. From the physics of gels, we can predict that pressure or movement may cause the connective tissue ground substance to dissolve for a short period of time, during which the tissue becomes more hydrated, and trapped toxins and metabolites can be released. When the matrix gels again, it is softer, more open, more hydrated, a better medium for electronic communication, and for diffusion of nutrients. Cells and tissues can then re-enter the natural cycle of renewal and replacement. Pain-free movement and flexibility are restored.
Structure and properties of ground substances
Studies of arthropods and other animals including man have revealed that the interstitium, cytoplasna, and nucleus each contain a matrix or ground substance composed of various biopolymers. The extracellular ground substance consists of chains of glycosaminoglycan molecules which may be linked with hyaluronate to form supramolecular complexes called proteoglycans. The cytoplasmic ground substance contains microtubules, microfilaments, microtrabeculae, and intermediate filaments, and cor~stitutes a movable cytoskeleton. This framework interconnects the cell surface, the various organelles, and the nuc!ear envelope. The nuclear matrix consists of a peripheral pore complex lamina and an Internal matrix. Glycophorin, fibronectin, and other proteins appear to provide specific linkages between the extracellular and cytoplasmic ground substance. The nuclear matrix has peripheral elements that appear to interact with the cvtoskeleton at specific sites. Intimately associated with the ground substances is a dynamic matrix composed of water and counterions. The structure of the whole system, macromolecules, water, and ions, is being built up from basic laws and principles, enabling quantum mechanical descriptions to be extended to domains containing many interacting components.
To develop a scientific approach to concepts such as "life energy" and "healing energy" we need to consider the energetic mechanisms by which the various parts of an organism communicate with eachother.
When a physiologist is asked to discuss communication, the nervous system is usually given most of the attention, but many other forms of communication take place within the organism. Bioelectromagnetic communications are involved in the formation of the parts of the body, both small and large, for the integration of structures, for hormone/receptor interactions, for cells to recognize each other so they can join together to form tissues, and for the maintenance and regulation of body shape. Communications are also involved in healing processes such as regeneration, tissue repair, and activation of the immune system.
The various tissues and the body as a whole are not electrically or magnetically shielded. Hence signals used in bioelectromagnetic communications tend to leak into the surrounding tissues and into the spaces around the body. This article presents the hypothesis that the various tissues in the body "listen in" on the signals that initiate actions such as muscle contraction, secretion, sensation, etc. It is also suggested that this is an important mechanism of communication and integration. Non-neural cells, for example, may listen to the steady stream of messages that radiate out from nerves and muscles, and use this information to adjust their activities.
The Natural Science of Healing. A biology of whole systems
- An Introduction to Whole Systems;
- A Language of Relationship;
- Evolving a Science of Relationship;
- What is Quantum Mechanics?;
- Quantum Biology;
- Biological Fields (Appendix: Publications of Harold Saxon Burr);
- Gravity and Life;
- The Gravitational Field;
- Electrical and Bioelectrical Fields;
- Magnetic and Biomagnetic Fields;
- Electromagnetic Fields;
- Tissue that Connects;
- Physiological Integration;
- Verticality as an Example;
- Significance of Balance.
How does the body maintain its shape?
Note: This article answers a question provided by Rolfers Steve Banks and Siana Goodwin.
QUESTION: My experience with Rolfing leads me to conjecture that the connective tissue system is subject to a number of processes which have the combined effect of expending energy to actively maintain the shape of the body.....If the body is actively maintaining its shape, then there must be some physiological pathways for this. Such mechanisms may have been noticed by researchers who are working with various animal systems, but not placed in context may not seem so significant. Part 1. Metabolic pathways; Part II. Neural and biomechanical pathways; Part III. Conclusions.
A biophysical basis for acupuncture
1. Regulation is a fundamental concept in both Western and Eastern approaches to the human body.
2. This essay focuses on unsolved problems in regulatory physiology that might be advanced by looking for whole-body communication and control systems such as those proposed by acupuncture.
3. Western physiologists are usually satisfied that the nervous and hormonal systems are adequate to account for whole-body integration and coordination. Why should we look for another energetic and communication system as proposed in the theory of acupuncture? If such a system does, in fact, exist, why has it not been discovered by Western physiologists? And if it exists, what are its functions in relation to orthodox regulatory systems, how does it carry out these functions, and how is it formed?
4. We present four reasons, from the point of view of Western biomedicine, that it might be useful to search for additional communication systems in the body.
a. There are major unsolved problems in regulatory biology.
b. The nervous and hormonal systems that are the primary focus of modern biomedicine are relatively new inventions from the evolutionary perspective. Older and more primitive mechanisms are probably still present, and are important in wound healing, defense, and recognition of self and non-self.
c. Within the organism are a large number of cells and subcellular components that are not under direct influence of the nervous system but that must nevertheless have some way of being in communication with the rest of the body.
d. Solid state physicists have discovered a number of cooperative or collective phenomena that could provide a basis for very rapid movements of information and energy within living systems. Acupuncture is based on the existence of energetic phenomena of this sort.
5. Progress in understanding regulations could help us solve medical problems that are beyond the scope of either Western or Eastern medicine. Regeneration of lost or damaged limbs and organs provides an example.
6. Cell biologists have discovered that every cell contains a cytoskeleton that is connected, across the cell surface, with the extracellular connective tissue matrix. This discovery enables us to visualize a structural and energetic continuum that extends throughout the body and into every nook and cranny. We refer to this as the connective tissue/cytoskeleton. Pienta and Coffee call it a "tissue tensegrity matrix system."
7. Robert O. Becker has developed a regulatory concept that includes the digital nervous system, an analog communication system in the perineural cells that surround the neurons, and the extracellular fabric, which he regards as a semiconductor.
8. The semiconductor nature of proteins was proposed by Szent-Györgyi in 1941 and has been confirmed. Virtually all of the molecules in the body are semiconductors.
9. The connective tissue/cytoskeleton is a quasi-crystalline material. To the solid state physicist, this property explains its great tensile strength, flexibility, and interconnectedness. The high degree of order allows for cooperative or collective phenomena. There is evidence that these phenomena are involved in whole-body regulations, but the concept has not been incorporated into modern biomedical thought.
10. Tensions and compressions in the connective tissue/cytoskeleton system give rise to electric fields because the materials they are constructed of are piezoelectric. The resulting electromechanical, electrochemical, or electrooptic signals may be involved in regulation of growth and form.
11. Electrons, holes, protons, phonons, and excitons are subatomic particles that may be involved in solid state regulatory systems. As units of communication, these particles have the advantage of being able to move very rapidly within the quasi-crystalline material of the connective tissue/cytoskeleton. Each of these particles also exhibits a quantum wave-like nature, which enables information to spread rapidly throughout the organism.
12. The water and ions surrounding proteins in the organism are highly structured, forming chain-like filaments that hold the proteins together and that allow for rapid conduction of protons (proticity).
13. The spacing of amino acids in collagen, the primary connective tissue protein, is ideal for structuring water. The fact that the collagen molecules are held together in a regular array prevents the water structure from being broken up by large random motions of the protein.
14. Coupled oscillations, resonant transfer, and electrodynamic coupling allow energy and information to move through the framework of the body. Fröhlich has suggested that giant coherent oscillations can be communicated between separate molecules via the electromagnetic field. A cell, a tissue, or an organ could have a stable resonant frequency which would be a collective property of the assembly. Support for Fröhlich's model has been obtained from absorption and emission spectroscopy of a variety of cells and organisms.
15. Electronic conduction is a well established phenomenon in chloroplasts and mitochondria.
16. Biochemistry envisions the "flow of energy" as the movement of metabolites, culminating in compounds with high energy phosphate bonds (adenosine triphosphate and creatine phosphate). It is not widely known, however, that this model does not account for all of the energy (heat plus work) produced during muscle contraction.
17. Western scientists who have observed practitioners of the martial arts, which developed in parallel with acupuncture, are often astonished by the energetic phenomena that can be demonstrated. A recent study by Seto and colleagues has shown that very strong "Qi emission" can be detected with a simple magnetometer. This particular form of Qi appears to consist, at least in part, of strong pulsating biomagnetic fields.
18. The waveforms recorded by Seto and colleagues, in the range of 4 to 10 Hz, are reminiscent of signals recorded by Zimmerman from the hands of a "therapeutic touch" practitioner. They are also in the same frequency range as human brain waves recorded with the electroencephalogram, and as the Schumann resonance in the atmosphere. Previous studies have linked atmospheric electric oscillations with brain wave patterns.
19. If the relationship between atmospheric oscillations, brain waves, and biomagnetic or "Qi" emissions is confirmed, we may have the beginnings of a scientific basis for the "healing energy" that is a central paradigm for a variety of unorthodox practices.
20. The biomagnetic fields or "Qi emissions" may be whole-body collective oscillations, possibly driven by higher frequency Fröhlich oscillations, and involving the quasi-crystalline array of proteins in the connective tissue/cytoskeleton continuum and associated water molecules.
21. As a speculative exercise, we design an ideal communication system for integrating the parts and processes of an organism, using a wide range of natural materials with useful solid state properties and millions of years of evolutionary selection to test different combinations for their effectiveness.
22. The result is a distributed network of information channels and microprocessors located at nodes in the system. The basic biological phenomenon of self-assembly is employed to show how the components might gather together and connect to produce a whole-body communication network comparable to the acupuncture meridian system. Some other examples of self-assembly are presented.
23. If the acupuncture meridians really exist, why have they not been discovered by Western scientists? From the ideas presented here there is an obvious explanation. The meridian system may be composed of ordinary connective tissue and cytoskeletal elements, and is therefore difficult to discern as an anatomically separate system. Meridians may be laid down in the embryo along lines of current flow of the sort described by Jaffe. The properties of the meridians may be a consequence of invisible submolecular solid state cooperative phenomena. They may be a consequence of energetic phenomena rather than of observable macroscopic structures.
24. Matsumoto and Birch have pointed out that acupuncture theorists have for many centuries envisioned the flow of "energy" as taking place within the connective tissue of the body, particularly in the fascia, which are termed "fat, greasy membranes, fasciae, systems of connecting membranes; that through which the yang qi streams."
How healing energy works
Practitioners of a variety of healing methods tell us of special moments when they feel particularly "in tune" with their clients and with everything around them. Athletes often describe similar experiences of connectedness during peak performances. What is the basis for these moments? If we knew, we might be able to have these experiences more often.
This article presents a scientific basis for the concept of "healing energy" that is common to many of the complementary healing practices. We describe what may be happening within the practitioner and the patient during times of profound insight and sensitivity and connectedness.
Years of research into this topic, by a person steeped in the Western scientific tradition, in collaboration with a person with extensive experience and sensitivity, has led to some unexpected conclusions. Here we present a brief summary.
The energy field of the human body has been widely studied. Many practitioners feel they have departed from the mainstream when they attempt to influence the body's energy field. In fact, we regard their explorations as advanced, leading edge research into the medicine of the future. There are many scientists who now believe that "energy medicine" will be the source of the next great advances in health care. Methods of interacting with the body's energy fields will become a part of accepted medical practice. These methods will emerge when the wisdom of acupuncture and other ancient methods is integrated with modern scientific concepts.
Scientists know that phenomena are usually described intuitively before they are quantified or objectified. Healing energy is a classic example of this, since "laying on of hands," therapeutic touch, aura balancing, polarity, acupuncture, and related energetic approaches are ancient methods that we are just beginning to understand scientifically.
We now know that every part and process in the body produces a specific set of energy fields that travel through the tissues and that extend into the space around the body. When a nerve conducts, a muscle contracts, a gland secretes, the skin is touched or cut or compressed, or a cell changes its function, characteristic electric currents are produced. While these currents are strongest at the site where the activity is taking place, currents are also conducted a certain distance through the surrounding tissues. The current flows are not random, but follow specific pathways because certain tissue components are good conductors for electricity. And when biocurrents flow, biomagnetic fields are created in the space around the body.
Matter, energy, and the living matrix
A number of scientists are beginning to recognize that the "global," "whole-system," and "energetic" effects of Rolfing and other forms of bodywork arise because practitioners become intuitively adept at interacting with a fundamental organizing, communicating, and energetic system in the body. This system is not the nervous system, but the nervous system is a part of it. The system we are referring to is the place where the body's relations between matter and energy are manifested. Structural components of the system include the musculoskeletal, connective tissue, cytoskeletal, and genetic frameworks. While we usually study these as separate systems, it is also useful to view them as a single structural, functional, and energetic domain, a continuum, which we now refer to as the living matrix. This is the continuous fabric that forms every part of the organism, that defines the shape and function of each cell, tissue, organ, and of the body as a whole. Our recent research and writing aims to facilitate communication between the bodywork and scientific communities about the solid state and synergetic properties of this system. This article is a summary of some of the concepts that are emerging.
Sensing solitons in soft tissues
This is a note to let you know how and why I continue to be inspired by your work. The path of inquiry that began some years ago, with my first encounter with Peter Melchior, Ida Rolf, and their many colleagues, has recently taken a new and very rewarding direction. I want to share this with those of you who are curious about the scientific basis of the miraculous.
The phenomena you observe in your practices provide a fascinating and virtually untapped resource for exploring unanswered scientific questions. This short essay introduces some recent thinking about unsolved biophysical mysteries related to concepts of "body energy," memory, perception, consciousness, and "Qi projection" in the martial arts.
An energetic approach is leading to a deeper and simpler understanding of all of these topics. Like the way many of you experience your practice, the biophysicist must alternate between material and energetic realities. The great physicist, Niels Bohr, developed the principle of complementarity, which states that objects can be viewed as either waves of energy or as particles. In Bohr's time, these two views could not be logically connected, and Bohr said that to understand reality one must be able to look at it in both ways.
New evidence on the nature of "healing energy."
I. Communication in the living matrix
For a long time, sensitive bodyworkers have been developing practical and intuitive understandings of body energetics. "Healing touch" involves far more than merely rubbing tissue and stimulating the circulation of body fluids. The nature of the emanations from the hands of the bodyworker has long been a topic of speculation. Likewise, we would like to know how practiced hands can sense from a distance areas in a client's body that need attention. Consciousness and "state of mind" of the practitioner and the client seem to be important factors in the healing of physical and/or emotional injuries and diseases.
The nature of the emanations from the hands of the bodyworker has long been a topic of speculation.
Until recently, subjective information, acquired by intuition and sensitivity, could not be reconciled with modern scientific medicine. This situation is changing because of research by physiologists and biophysicists around the world. The work we are summarizing is providing a possible basis for exchanges of "healing energy" between two or more organisms. The focus is on the ways energy and information are channeled throughout living tissues, and how the various kinds of bodywork can influence those processes.
We have two complimentary goals in presenting this information. First, we are making the new scientific information available to bodyworkers who are interested, but who may have difficulty following the technical literature. The information leads to some new approaches you may find useful in your practice.
Our second goal is to examine the scientific ideas from as many perspectives as possible. The recent conceptual breakthroughs are being discussed, tested, and interpreted in many laboratories. Like all new discoveries, each aspect must be examined from every possible perspective. This is an endless process. For the true biologist, no approach or phenomenon can be discarded if it might provide a clue about how life works. We are convinced that the bodywork practice is one of the best "laboratories" for the investigation of whole system phenomena. The "Broad Reach" program (described in the July/August, '94 issue of this magazine) has provided an exciting and successful environment for testing new ideas with input from experienced practitioners.
Can we heal the split between intuitive knowing and rational understanding?" (Rupert Sheldrake)
Scientists are realizing that an understanding of whole systems involves new principles that are not simply extensions of the behavior of parts. Cooperative or collective phenomena arise in living systems because each individual component is modified in its behavior as a consequence of being a part of the whole. Previously nebulous and poorly understood phenomena, such as learning, memory, consciousness, and "wholeness," are becoming accessible through this approach.
II. Coherence and healing energy
The nature of the energies projected from the hands of the bodyworker has long been a topic of speculation. Consciousness and "state of mind" of practitioner and client are important factors in the healing of physical and/or emotional injury. Research from around the world is now opening up these subjects to scientific investigation.
In the first part of this article, we described recent discoveries about the underlying features of the living matrix that forms all of the tissues in the body. These discoveries have important implications for bodyworkers. Like all science, some of the ideas have a firmer basis than others. We need to examine both the concepts and our interpretations from as many perspectives as possible. We are convinced that the bodywork practice is one of the best "laboratories" for the investigation of whole system phenomena.
We described the living matrix as a structural and energetic continuum, joining every nook and cranny of the organism with every other. The cell membrane is not the barrier that biologists once thought it was. There are specific molecules that traverse the cell surface and that conduct energy and information all the way into the nucleus and the DNA, and in the opposite direction as well. Our inquiry concerns the way the living matrix can detect, conduct, amplify, and project different forms of energy.
The living matrix is a crystalline piezoelectric semiconductor--terms we defined and discussed in Part I. Because of these properties, the living matrix can convert all of the different kinds of energy from one to another in a very rapid and sophisticated manner.
Flows of energy and information serve to integrate and unify the living body. Regulatory communications and decision-making are accomplished very rapidly at all levels. The rapidity and subtlety of these processes are manifested in the Olympic athlete functioning at the limits of human accomplishment. A world record is set when the individual is able to coordinate the activities of every tissue, cell, and molecule in the body. Slower integrations and regulations reveal themselves in the ways our overall structure and form change in response to the ways we move our bodies.
The phenomenon of coherence provides a link between form and energy. Coherent structures (crystals) give rise to coherent energy fields which feed back on the structures to stabilize their coherence.
An appreciation of coherence engenders softer approaches, emphasizing order, linking of subtle rhythms, and projection of energy from the whole body.
This article continues our interpretation of the new discoveries and ideas with respect to learning, memory, consciousness, wholeness, and the "healing state".
Part I. Soft tissue memory
In Swann's Way, a taste of a small cake, a petite Madeleine, causes Marcel Proust to be flooded with memories from his past. At first he is baffled, but he then remembers his aunt giving him Madeleines when he was small. Obviously, the association triggered his memory.
Most of us have had similar experiences, in which a glimpse of some long-forgotten place or object, or a particular odor, taste, sound, or even a movement, elicits the recall of a scene from our distant past. This article concerns a related phenomenon that is frequently experienced by massage therapists and other bodyworkers.
Massage therapists, acupuncturists, Rolfers and other somatic practitioners frequently report uncanny experiences in which vivid images flood into their consciousness as they are working on some part of a client's body. Sometimes there is a transient sensation that "something has happened" within the body they are touching. An avalanche of detailed sensory material may be triggered. The images may be so striking that the practitioner asks the client about them, only to discover that their client is simultaneously having a similar or identical "flash back." Rolfer Randy Mack describes this as ".....the recall of deeply repressed, highly charged emotional material with full sensory detail possibly including visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, and olfactory components."
Practitioners who repeatedly have these "somatic recall" experiences with their clients begin to suspect that "memories" of traumatic or other events may be stored in or accessed by the soft tissues of the body. Sometimes the "flashback" is associated with erasure of the memory. When this happens, the emotional "charge" surrounding the memory may disappear. The client may even forget, by the end of the session, that the recall occurred. In other cases, the recollection begins a therapeutic process that resolves the associated trauma, pain, or psychological attitudes. In other instances, the "flashbacks" may occur a day or two after a session of massage or other bodywork.
It has long been recognized that our individual memories shape our sense of who we are as well as what we do and how we do it, on a moment to moment basis. Our personal identity, our comprehension of the world around us, our place in that world, what we can and cannot accomplish, our every act and decision--all are referenced to what we have learned and remembered. If these references are to traumatic past experiences, and to the resulting pains, secrets, fears, judgments, mis-truths, guilts, angers, narrow attitudes or beliefs, our physical and behavioral flexibility are limited. Freedom of movement and thought, and awareness of what is happening inside and outside of us are compromised. To the extent that our mental lives influence our physical bodies, and vice versa, any therapeutic practice that has an effect on memory can have a profound, dynamic, and multidimensional influence on every attribute of the organism.
The study of memory and consciousness are among the most fascinating and controversial topics for scientific inquiry and somatic exploration. Reports that touching someone can release memory traces and even communicate them to another person are of great interest. Of course, conventional science labels such experiences as anomalies or hallucinations, as they do not fit with our normal theories about how the brain and nervous system work. However, we have talked to enough practitioners who report similar experiences that we have come to regard somatic recall as a frequently occurring phenomenon. Some massage therapists have these experiences daily or even more often. Not only is somatic recall widespread, but we think it is an important clue about unsolved mysteries of learning, memory, consciousness, the ways parts of the body communicate with each other, and the effects of touch.
In this two-part essay, we explore somatic recall in the light of recent progress in biophysics and cell biology. New discoveries are pointing to a simple yet scientifically logical explanation for a variety of phenomena relating to massage and other kinds of bodywork. The emerging concepts have far-reaching implications for scientific and philosophical inquires into the nature of consciousness, and for a variety of approaches to the body. This article is a summary. For a more thorough treatment, see our other recent articles.
Part II. Soft tissue holography
The first part of this essay defined "somatic recall" as the release during massage and other kinds of bodywork of repressed and often highly emotional memories. Often such "flashbacks" are beneficial, leading to resolution of old trauma, pain, or psychological attitudes. Sometimes therapist and client simultaneously detect an identical avalanche of sensory information. We described some ways that soft tissues can store information, and how touching certain parts of the body could trigger and then erase memories at the same time that toxic materials are being released, physiological communication channels are opening up, and flexibility is being restored.
As a phenomenon, somatic recall seems a bit too peculiar for scientific exploration. Most scientists would consider instances of somatic recall to be hallucinations or delusions, as they do not fit with normal theories about how the brain and nervous system work. This is frustrating for the therapist who has such "hallucinations" on a daily basis, and who would like some scientific validation for a phenomenon that seems both important and therapeutic. We take the view that the phenomenon is not only valid and therapeutic, but that it is an important clue that could help us answer unsolved questions about the mechanisms of learning, memory, consciousness, and whole-system communication.
In the first part of this essay, we described a new way of looking at living tissue as an interconnected molecular continuum, which we refer to as "the living matrix." This way of looking at the body is the result of an important discovery: the matrix inside cells, known as the cytoskeleton, is directly connected to the matrix outside of cells, classically known as connective tissue. The living matrix gives the body its overall shape and features, defines the form of each organ, tissue, and cell, and extends into every nook and cranny of the organism. The nucleus and DNA are a part of the living matrix.
The most exciting property of the living matrix is the ability of the entire network to generate and conduct vibrations. Modern biophysical research is revealing a wide range of properties that enable the body to use sound, light, electricity, magnetic fields, heat, elasticity, and other forms of vibrations as signals for integrating and coordinating diverse physiological activities.
According to the continuum communication model, every event in the organism produces vibrations that travel throughout the living matrix. In this way, every part is informed of what all other parts are doing. Massage and related techniques are effective because practitioners have used their intuition and sensitivity to develop methods of interacting with fundamental and evolutionarily ancient communication systems that are not part of conventional biomedical paradigms.
The cytoskeleton is being referred to as the nervous system of the cell. Biologists are now describing ways that specific components of the living matrix can store, process, and erase information. We now continue to develop a theory of how massage and other kinds of bodywork may release memories stored in soft tissues, and how these memories reach the consciousness of both the client and the practitioner.
Before doing this, however, we need to summarize the reason neurophysiologist have not looked beyond the brain in their search for the location of memory.
Biophysics of energy medicine
These are exciting times for those of us who are interested in the scientific basis of energetic bodywork. Research from around the world is documenting the validity and credibility of a wide spectrum of complementary approaches to the human body. The mechanisms involved are of great interest to biomedicine, and can contribute significantly to our health care because they expand our understanding of how the body heals itself.
We wish to make the emerging information available to interested bodyworkers. We have reviewed an important book on the subject, "Biological Coherence and Response to External Stimuli," edited by Herbert Fröhlich, published in 1988 by Springer Verlag, New York. Here we summarize some of the new information contained in that book, as well as from related sources. We have translated scientific terms and concepts into ordinary language. For details and references to the literature, see Fröhlich's book and/or our review.
Physiological and emotional effects of acupuncture needle insertion
In the first symposium, we discussed acupuncture an an intervention with whole-body communication and regulatory systems. Here we detail specific physiological and psychological effects expected from needle insertion. Two hypotheses guide our exploration. The first hypotheses is that acupuncture simulates an injury without actually injuring tissues, and thereby elicits local and systemic wound-healing responses that have a variety of therapeutic effects. The second hypothesis is that the skin surface is not uniformly sensitive to stimulation--certain areas are more responsive than others in terms of their ability to activate particular injury responses, and to spread those responses away from the point of stimulation. There is a biological basis for suggesting that stimulation and injury produce similar responses in cells and tissues, and that any cells or blood vessels that may be penetrated by the needle will quickly seal themselves, so their contents do not leak out (Heilbrunn).
We consider systems involved in the intricate cascade of events mediating wound healing and the recall of memories associated with physical trauma. First, the epidermis is a battery. Piercing it with an electrical conductor depolarizes the epidermal membrane, creating a wave of excitation and current flow that spreads over the body surface. These events trigger the migration of cells toward the site of injury. Observed regional differences in transepidermal potentials (Barker and colleagues) support the concept that some regions on the skin surface are more responsive to stimulation than others. Regional potential differences are the likely source of the currents that are driven through "ion pumping cords." These devices therefore spread the area of activation from a specific point to a larger area.
Electrical and chemical events in the vasculature activate the hemostatic system. Cytoskeletons of epidermal, vascular, connective tissue, and nerve cells, together with the extracellular matrix, form an electromechanical semiconducting continuum (referred to as "the living matrix") that can generate and communicate coherent vibratory signals throughout the body (Pienta and Coffey; Fröhlich, Oschman). Emotional memories related to traumas or injuries may be stored and accessed within this matrix (Hameroff).
Perineural cells, surrounding the neurons, form a continuous network functioning as an analog communication system. A perineural current of injury is conveyed from the site of puncture, and regulates a variety of repair processes. These currents are sensitive to magnetic fields (the Hall effect) and are therefore transferred through a semiconducting medium (Becker). This finding provides a basis for the therapeutic effects of magnets. Finally, the digital nervous system can be activated, triggering the sensation of puncture, behavioral changes, and the release of neuropeptides by the brain and by other tissues.
We discuss ways the various systems involved in wound healing interact with each other to produce the responses to needle insertion.
Approaching the toes (theories of everything)
Professional physics journals are bursting at the seams with audacious theories of everything (toes) and grand unified theories (guts). The acronyms physicists use for their most exciting concepts are parts of the body! But what about the most important frontier of all? Who is searching for a unified theory of life?
Quantum physicists and cosmologists think they may soon explain all of the things they see when they look at the world through their lenses--particle accelerators and other devices that reveal the very small, and telescopes and other probes that tell the story of the grand structure and history of the universe. These explanations are arrived at by synthesizing countless observations, made during centuries of scientific inquiry. Biology has a comparable history of inquiry, and the time has come to look for a unified picture. We believe the ideas of the cosmologists and quantum physicists will play a part in the unification of biology, medicine, and bodywork.
In all branches of knowledge it is being realized that none of the great microphysical, cosmological, or physiological ideas could exist without observers. Werner Heisenberg (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1932) established once and for all that observers are always part of each and every experiment or inquiry. While philosophers can still consume large amounts of ink arguing the issue, Heisenberg effectively destroyed any notion of an objective reality that exists "out there" without our participation. Neuroscientists, such as Sir John C. Eccles (Nobel Prize in Physiology, 1963), who have looked deeply at how we construct our reality from our sensations, concur:
I want you to realize that there is no color in the natural world and no sounds--nothing of this kind; no textures, no patterns, no beauty, no scent.....The "world out there" is synthesized in our Consciousness.
Sir John C. Eccles
Of course, many inquirers dislike or ignore these ideas, and continue their searches for causes and effects and predictability and "the truth about nature" as though Heisenberg or Eccles had never spoken. These are the researchers who consider nature to be a machine that can be understood by studying it's parts. While their perspective is limited, their discoveries continue to nourish those who search for the larger picture.
In contrast to the seekers of logical causes and predictable effects are those who touch the world by placing their hands on living tissue. They are engaged in an endless and fantastic exploration of nature's deepest mysteries and surprises. Here the only constant is the unanticipated. In the context of this journey, the books of science and medicine are in their proper places, on the same shelves with spirituality, mysticism, shamanism, and philosophy. In the practice of bodywork, no idea or approach has more intrinsic value than any other, unless it opens us to a deeper level of connection.
No one has an exclusive franchise on the truth. We have different approximations and different sets of ideas of how to get there. Ultimately, each of us creates our own way that fits us. While there are differences in approach, there are no differences in the impact of the experience of truth. When it comes to the heart, all approaches overlap.
after Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
Those of you who have followed our writings over the past decade or so may have noticed a gradual and natural shift in focus, from microscopic, molecular, and cellular phenomena, to physiological, emotional, and cosmological issues. The study of informational and energetic microcircuits within the organism has progressed naturally and logically to an exploration of the subtle flows in the spaces around and between us. This shift has come about naturally because of a simple and well known aspect of consciousness, long familiar to poets and artists:
When we look at any one thing in the world, we find it is hitched to everything else. (John Muir)
After much fuss about tiny things--strands of algae, chromosomes, microtubules, and glycoproteins--the broader inquiry has led to something that feels profound. We have rediscovered a reality that has been with us since ancient times, the only difference being that we are now able to language it in the context of contemporary physiology and biophysics. The depth and beauty and mystery of the experience of this reality lies far beyond any words, scientific or otherwise, but a technical description is simple. Here it is.
The living matrix under your hands is an ancient system that was created at the same time that life began. This system evolved to a very high level of sophistication long before it established, within itself, the other systems that physiologists focus their attention upon and give names to, using labels such as "nervous, immune, digestive, hormonal, circulatory, lymphatic, etc."
The system we are referring to is the most ancient and natural part of the body--a part that never wears out. We are referring to the system that created and wove together those aspects we refer to as connection, communication, regulation, self-defense, injury repair, regeneration, awareness, memory, consciousness, form, wholeness, movement.
This is the system that has spent the longest period of time, in the evolutionary sense, experimenting with the grand laws of nature and the great forces that extend across the cosmos. From those laws and forces, life extracted all possible forms of communication and connection. Nature tested and refined these forms, and then joined them all together into a perfectly coordinated system of systems so sophisticated that we can only comprehend a small part of it.
All of the wisdom of nature is found here. All of our sciences and "ologies" are maps of discovery, superficial voyages into the mystery of our living selves. What we have learned so far is but a scratch on the small exposed surface of a huge iceberg, the depth and size of which we cannot fathom. We cannot know how much we do not know.
I am afraid that Nature is not only smarter than we think, Nature is smarter than we can think. (Ken Wilber)
The ancient system we are referring to has long been known to science, but many of its remarkable and miraculous aspects have not, until recently, been appreciated or even approached. When such an appreciation does settle in, the apparent separation between conventional and alternative or unconventional or unorthodox medicine will vanish.
Biologists have not fully comprehended this system because of the way they are trained to look at the world. When a new piece of life's puzzle is discovered, its obvious function captures everyone's attention. The part or system is given a name that goes with it's function, the story is reported in the literature, it is taught to students, and it becomes part of the prevailing paradigm, dogma, discipline, point-of-view, attitude.
Connective tissue is a good example of this process at work. The mechanical and architectural roles of connective tissue are obvious and have been universally accepted for many years. Many of the original observations go back to a Russian, Professor Alexander A. Maximow, late Professor of Anatomy at the University of Chicago. Maximow was enchanted with the beauty and ubiquitous appearance of connective tissue in every part of the body that he examined.
Only recently has science begun to examine the more subtle energetic and informational functions of connective tissue. Fortunately the original name, "connective tissue," is also descriptive of its newly found (in Western science) role in conducting energy and information. These concepts have been a fundamental part of acupuncture theory for millennia.
Similarly, the cytoskeleton was named for its obvious role as a movable mechanical scaffolding for the cell. At about the same time that biophysicists began exploring connective tissue as a communication medium, cell biologists began to refer to the cytoskeleton as "the nervous system of the cell." And immersed within the cytoskeletal matrix is another fabric of profound importance, the genetic material, embedded in a nuclear matrix. From this perspective, the overall structure of our environment and our organism and its parts can be described as a matrix within a matrix within a matrix within a matrix. Boundaries, such as the cell membrane and nuclear envelope, are porous, and mask the continuities.
One of the most fundamental biological discoveries in recent times is an intricate and intimate set of linkages between the systems we have referred to as extracellular, cytoskeletal, and genetic matrices. Major parts and domains of the organism, which can be separated and studied individually, are, in reality, totally interconnected, mutually interdependent, and mutually pervasive. Together these elements and their activities form a dynamic and seamless web or fabric extending into every nook and cranny of the living tissue, and beyond, into the spaces around and between organisms.
Every conceivable kind of vibratory information courses through this web, forming ever branching rivers and streams and trickles. And the smallest trickles are as essential as the major rivers, since they represent vital information flowing back and forth between the whole and its smallest component parts.
The connective tissue and cytoskeletons together form a structural, functional, and energetic continuum extending into every nook and cranny of the body, even into the cell nucleus and the genetic material. All forms of energy are generated and conducted and interpreted and converted from one to another in sophisticated ways within the living matrix.
The flows of energy and information within and around us can be broken down into different categories, in the same way that physicists distinguish different forms of energy. Hence one can classify energy as electricity, magnetism, light, sound, movement, elasticity, heat. (All of these energies are projected by your hands as you work). But in making these distinctions we distract ourselves from that which underlies or is common to all of these forms. Here is the branch of science where all of us, as living conscious beings, have mastery. For our moment-to-moment experience is the totality of the energy and information flows within and around us. This totality has been given many names by seekers of different kinds: life force, prana, healing energy, Ch'i, K'i, orgone, life-field, wakan, puha, kundalini, bioplasma, odic force, love, great and holy spirit. What reveals and underlies and is common to all of these concepts is that mystery we refer to as consciousness.
In laboratories around the world, researchers are beginning to explore the remarkable signaling systems within the living matrix. Much of our research and writing aims to translate the biophysical concepts into words that bodyworkers can comprehend and use in their daily practice.
Any activity, such as walking down the street, or giving or receiving a session of bodywork, generates a veritable symphony of electrical, electronic, protonic, photonic, phonic, and other vibratory signals that travel throughout the living matrix. Information diffuses from the primary communication channels (nerves, blood vessels, acupuncture meridians) into the nearby tissues, which "listen-in" and keep abreast of what is going on throughout the organism. Many of the signals are coherent or laser-like, and are strong enough to be radiated into the environment. This happens because the body and its parts have no shielding to prevent communication signals from leaking out across the surface of the skin.
The story that is emerging has tremendous implications for the future of our medicine, our health care, and our species. We are now able to understand why many aspects of life and disease and disorder have been so elusive to our biomedicine. We are able to see what has been missing from the biomedical perspective, and why the logical scientist has been unable to comprehend the miracles of bodywork. Something has obviously been missing from our conceptual frame. It is the set of ideas that permits all of the pieces to fit together in a logical manner. Now we can see not only what has been missing, but why we have missed it and what we can do about it!
We learned much by studying the separate parts of life's fabric, but there exist profoundly important principles that cannot be discovered this way. Scientists now refer to these as cooperative or synergistic or collective or whole-systems properties. These propertiesare consequences of relations rather than of parts. Many of the most significant of these relations are transparent, invisible to our senses. But their outcome is our essence.
One whole-system property is that the body is highly non-linear. Among other things, a consequence of non-linearity is that a small amount of energy applied at a specific point at a specific time (acupuncturists refer to this as a critical or singular point) can give rise to a sudden and dramatic shift into a new and stable pattern of structure and activity.
Because of your choice of vocation, you are daily and quietly and deeply immersed in every aspect of the system we are describing, and it is here that many of your most profound and thrilling experiences take place. We believe that, sometime in the future, our present age will be regarded as a time of great discovery, with bodyworkers taking their respected places next to the scientists and researchers and other explorers of the day. Along side the physicist's theories of everything and grand unification theories will go the great organizing discoveries of biology and bodywork.
The profound discovery to emerge from biology and bodywork is the essence that nourishes the matrix, and that is lacking in those places of disorder or pain that draw our attention. The fundamental nutrient for the living matrix is information. This is the same information that courses through the rivers and streams and trickles, into every corner of the organism, and then outward, from the tips of your fingers.
Indications are that information, gently supplied in the pure form that can only be obtained from another living system, not only enhances functioning, it is essential for the growth and life of the organism. The side effects are always beneficial, sometimes magnificent. Over-dose is impossible. This is the biomedicine of the future. It is the only approach we are aware of that can stimulate the body's repair systems to repair themselves.
When you come to be sensibly touched, the scales will fall from your eyes; and by the penetrating eyes of love you will discern that which your other eyes will never see. (François Fénelon)
From the beginning of this inquiry we knew that something unexpected and useful would emerge. The first wave of joy came when some of you began to find the images and ideas useful in your practices. The next waves will take place when biomedical researchers begin to ask you for advice about how the body really works.
Continuum in natural systems
We live in a time of extraordinary paradox, sandwiched between seemingly complex crises on the one side, and simple solutions on the other. Our inability to connect predicaments with remedies is a legacy of our biological, cultural, and linguistic endowments and bondages. Nowhere is this gap more evident and more costly than in our present and deepening health crisis.
Methods such as yours, working in harmony with the profound wisdom and intelligence of living nature as it really is, reveal and encourage the smooth working together of parts within the body, and the harmonious flow of the living body within its larger context. Much could change if we could apply our inherent structural and physiological wisdom, that sustains and nourishes life's every moment, and that guides your daily work, in our larger affairs and relations.
Because of our intellectual endowments, great ideas, clearly articulated, can profoundly influence the way we live, and can change the course of history. There is a simple idea, that we refer to as "continuum," underlying our most profoundly wonderful and beautiful experiences. Continuum refers to the state of continuous organic wholeness fundamental to the structure and behavior of the natural world. Our most memorable and breath-taking moments are glimpses, of one sort or another, of deep connection. Our inability to maintain this level of awareness and experience sustains our dilemmas.
Biomedical paradigms for complementary medicine
Providers of health care share a deep commitment to the alleviation of pain and suffering. However, our health "system" has long been in crisis, in part because of unnecessary yet powerful intellectual, institutional, and economic barriers to free and open and honest communication regarding areas of common interest. The barriers are languaged by the terms we use, such as "conventional, alternative, unconventional, orthodox, unorthodox," etc. We prefer the term "complimentary medicine" to avoid categorizing and separating and alienating and making "second class citizens" of compassionate individuals with common goals.
Here we define "complementary medicine" as therapies that are not widely taught in medical schools in the U.S. and that are not generally available in U.S. Hospitals. The simple truth is that no one approach has all of the answers, and nobody benefits when the potential contribution of any approach is dismissed out of hand as invalid. In this article we focus on an area of common interest to all providers of health care-the human body's inherent systems for self defense and self repair.
Complementary approaches to medicine are rapidly gaining in popularity. A survey conducted in 1990 showed that Americans made more visits to providers of complimentary therapies than to primary care physicians . In essence, what has in the past been classed as alternative, unconventional, unorthodox, etc., is quietly and inexorably becoming the dominant medical paradigm.
Some studies of complementary methods have passed rigorous scientific tests of efficacy and are being published in standard medical journals [2,3]. Research on complementary medicine is being driven by our health crisis with its escalating contribution to the national debt, and by the public's right and desire to be informed about the safety and effectiveness of all medical approaches. Our current problems make a new approach to medicine virtually obligatory, and complementary medicine is obviously a major component of this change. An Office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health is initiating scientific inquiry into methods that have in the past been regarded as "outside" of normal biomedical research.
A sustained exploration of complimentary approaches is of inestimable value. Our present crisis makes it obvious that something has been missing from medicine's conceptual base--the set of ideas that will enable the various pieces to fit together in a logical and beneficial manner. An unbiased intellectual synthesis is urgently needed, for humanity suffers daily and deeply because of our inability to provide effective care in many situations. What is needed is innovation, originality, and creativity, balanced with the accuracy and reliability that science can provide.
What's in a handshake? A commentary on human energetics
"This thing is the strongest of all powers, the force of all forces,
for it overcometh every subtle thing
and doth penetrate every solid substance"
(Tabula Smaragdina )
The nuclear, cytoskeletal, and extracellular matrixes: A continuous communication network
Evidence accumulates that nuclear matrices, cytoskeletons, and extracellular matrices are mechanically, chemomechanically, electromechanically, and functionally interconnected throughout the organism. The entire molecular continuum has been called a tissue tensegrity-matrix system or, simply, the living matrix. Oscillations generated by cellular activities are conducted throughout the matrix, and are altered by mechanical forces, hormones, growth factors, drugs, and carcinogenesis. Amplitude and frequency domains of the oscillations can be analyzed by Fourier and wavelet transforms. Viewed whole, the living matrix is a dynamic solid state communication network with global systemic regulatory roles. Major components of the network have semiconductor properties, a high degree of order (e.g. phospholipid bilayers and arrays of cytoskeletal, motor, and connective tissue proteins), tensional integrity (tensegrity), and can produce coherent self-sustaining oscillations with complex harmonics (Fröhlich oscillations). Hence the network generates and transmits various kinds of vibratory information and converts signals from one form to another. Examples of such conversions include mechanical to electrical and vice versa (piezoelectric effects), electrical to photonic (electro-optical effects), mechanical to photonic (acoustic-optical effects), etc. As a solid state network, the matrix and its associated hydration layers are capable of conducting message units in the form of electrons, holes, excitons, photons, phonons, protons (proticity), solitons, etc. Where dissimilar molecules bond, semiconductor junctions can form. These can function as solid state devices capable of filtering, amplifying, attenuating, storing, multiplexing, switching, and interpreting signals, as in integrated circuits. By influencing enzyme activities and protein conformations, oscillations generated and conducted throughout the living matrix can coordinate dynamic nuclear, cytoplasmic, and extracellular activities involved in growth, morphogenesis, regeneration, wound healing, and disease resistance.
Links to other online articles by James Oschman Ph.D.:
These excerpts are posted at this website http://www.somatics.de with the kind permission of Jim Oschman.. Please respect the copyright of the author and do not copy or distribute without clear permission.