Sandra's Interview with Meir Schneider
What makes me really motivated to work is that I think that we need to develop a new relationship between patient and therapist which doesn't exist so far. The relationship would be of mutual work rather than one person working on another to give you a sense of it. If you come to most therapists the idea is that the therapist knows what to do with you, you don' t know what to do with yourself and so the therapist has to figure out and find out what's right and what's wrong for you. Normally he or she would work with a certain dogma or principles and apply a certain method – you will be a passive recipient and you will expect to be healed or cured or do better as a result of what the therapy has done for you.
And there is a very big problem with this because if you take a look in the United States I would agree with half of the lawsuits which are done against physicians and physiotherapists but I don't agree with the other half. Half of the lawsuits are done because the patient thinks that if he or she paid to be healed then they should get better. If the procedure had some adverse effect then they want the doctor to pay a big price for it and the problem that leads to is that the doctors are so afraid – instead of doing what is right for the patient they do what's not wrong. Which means that they never take chances unless the situation is acute and could be reversible and thus stifle the improvement of the patient.
I remember that on my way to England I was on Virginia beach and I worked on a lady who had a car accident and was totally immobilised from the waist down for a whole year. I discovered a few movements with her that nobody had discovered before. I put her on her stomach, bent her knee and she could straighten it. I've done a few things that nobody even dared do before, but that is my talent and that I guess belongs to my method. Her physiotherapist did not stand her up using a parallel bar and didn't get her to walk for a whole year. The physiotherapist was afraid that she was too weak to support herself with her arms and that she could fall. I can understand the physiotherapist because the physiotherapist doesn't want to be sued, but on the other hand, for a whole year this lady who was actually capable of walking did not walk.
I don't know if you understand how important it is for a person to stand up even if they are paralysed, in order to have some gravitational resistance on the bones and the muscles and to have a better circulation. For a whole year to sit with the physiotherapist who played it safe for herself and did not walk the patient – that's a year of loss of strength that the patient did not experience in her legs. What I'm saying is that we are paralysed by the approach "I know everything: you are dumb you know nothing and I'm here to fix you".
Our approach is very different. The approach that I have is that I educate myself as much as I can educate myself with your case, then I will teach you all that I can teach you, first of all individually and if there is too much to teach you, I enrol you in one of my classes and then continue to work with you individually so you will know what I am trying to accomplish with you. If it is to your liking and you want to accomplish the same thing as I do, we work together on your case and we together try to solve it, instead of me being the master.
Here you are the master and you employ me to help you and that's why we call our work self-healing. It doesn't have a religious connotation as much as it is hard work that you take on yourself and you employ me as your soldier and as a reference for you to work on yourself.
I think that is very needed because medicine is so built to take care of acute problems that it forgot that most of the problems these days are chronic, long lasting and need to have feedback for a lifetime. So you use me for a teacher who will help you to take care of yourself right now, and you continuously take care of yourself for the rest of your life.
It seems to me that you have incorporated into your programme elements of techniques like Feldenkrais, Alexander, massage, Bates and so on. Is that true and in your programme for training practitioners, do they need to be already qualified in anatomy and physiology before they come into your programme?
These are two separate questions; let's look at them one by one. My work is very original and is not really influenced by any of those methods, but a lot of the elements of those methods would take us to my system of work because they have good ideas. There was no reason in the world for me not to incorporate them. It is unique – it is a complete system on its own that expands with all the other systems.
The Bates method has really helped me. I can't be grateful enough to Dr Bates. I cured myself from blindness as a result of the work that he did, but I'm definitely seventy years ahead of the work that he did and I think that a lot of the Bates practitioners who are not too traditional are also many years ahead as they should be, because he was living in the beginning of the century. In some deep ways you can't improve on something perfect like his work that was very effective.
But on the other hand, a lot of new information came to the world. Many of his theories can be disputed and are not very defensible and so we had to theorise from the very beginning the ideas of eye exercises. The fact that you see largely with your mind and only partially with your eyes has been proven time and again by modern physiology and modern psychology and by my own case where I have only three quarters of one per cent of my lenses. I didn't have vision until I was seventeen and with mind work and body work I was able to restore nearly seventy per cent of normal vision. His work has progressed through my work now.
The Alexander work is a wonderful form of art and a lot of what they say is great but I think it needs improvement and because I started with a whole different method to begin with I think that Alexander work can also be found in my work
How did you start with your work?
If you read my book (Self-Healing: My Life and Vision) you could have seen that my teacher was very unique. She was very intuitive and she herself had to deal with a lot of problems like a prolapsed uterus, paralysed foot and she took care of herself in many, many different ways. She actually learned to work in Russia and developed it very, very personally and informed me of one thing, that whatever she teaches me I need to improve or her teaching is not right. So a lot of my method has been improved by the seven thousand patients that I have worked with. Among all the methods mentioned Feldenkrais is the closest but is still very distant in the sense that Feldenkrais understood that in the first three years, every infant, baby and toddler moves the way they want to move and you correct them and that's why they move more or less perfectly unless they have an illness.
After the age of three we imitate adults and we move in the most stressful way we can, we imitate them very well and his method was like trying to teach you to move in different ways all the time, so your brain will build new compartments and not be fixated in old compartments. I appreciate his concept but you keep moving and moving and moving and you get so confused that you don't necessarily build a new way of moving.
In my method (the handbook has five hundred exercises) I need to find for anyone that I work with the correct ten or fifteen exercises that work for them and get them to repeat it all the time in new ways.
I think the only way for one to break patterns and build new ones – and in that way I agree with him one hundred per cent – is that we need to find the right exercises for you in the moment and to practise them until you don't need them. Sometimes it takes a year or two, so that's where we're different, but also where we're very similar in our thoughts. And again I don't want you to misunderstand me, I think that Alexander was the first modern Yogi in the sense that he taught us that awareness is just as important as action and his mistake was, the mistake of many others, that he thought that the action was not important. I think that action is important.
For my birthday I ran for seventeen miles barefoot on the beach in San Francisco. That is uncommon but I've done it through awareness and so I think that it's important to exercise but it's important to exercise with awareness and most athletes do not have awareness and most people don't have awareness, so Alexander brought the idea of awareness to the world but then you have to improve on it, you have to adopt awareness to every single action that you do and you have to support new action just like Feldenkrais. There are many, many methods of influence on my methods. Many teachers of other methods will come and teach me their methods and whatever is good I'll adopt, I'll be influenced by it just like anyone else is.
My two questions were not entirely separate in that you obviously have built up over a lifetime a wealth of information from your own experience and your teachers. When you train, getting back to this idea of training practitioners in the UK. here especially are they first of all qualified as practitioners before they come into your programme?
I actually train everyone who comes to my programme who has some education. In Southern California they imposed on me that this should be post secondary. If you have intuition and talent often it could be corrupted by many schools that you would study; the school of massage, the school of bodywork. Often you would end up being very nomadic and I have a wonderful t-shirt which says 'My Karma ran over my Dogma' and often you need to denounce your dogma before you start to be an empty vessel and learn something.
There are many open minded physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, massage therapists, optometrists and opthalmologists. I think that if you're an open vessel my programme which includes 764 hours of training could be a very good start for you and I really encourage people to study much more than I teach when they finish with my programme but you don't have to be prequalified if you study with me.
The only difficulties people have is that they say the levels of physiology that I teach in my course may be a bit too advanced for the beginner and we're trying to help them in support groups and study groups outside of my courses. But if you have intuitive talent to study my work, then by all means I want you to study my work and it doesn't matter where you start.
Would you for the record say how many hours are in your training.
It's 164, it's 160 but it will grow to 164.
In those hours of training with you do your students learn how the body works; anatomy, physiology and so on?
Students learn anatomy and physiology definitely. There are seven systems that they learn and you can ask my poor students who just took the course from me from Devon how much they learn anatomy and physiology, but they mainly learn the art of touch and the art of movement in a very unique and new way. When they started to work with me they learned very extensively how to take care of the body and how to learn. The certificate they get is self-healing practitioner/educator so the point is the relationship between you and your therapist is the relationship with the educator and I learn quite a bit to educate people in my work. They know all I know because they have to spend with me 500 hours in clinical studies with my patients and I have a lot of patients and part two, the one I did in Devon was 150 hours of working with more than a hundred appointments. They learn quite a bit about the work that we're doing so I would say that people who finish my full training are qualified and know quite a bit.
Allan Rudolph, in one of his columns in Positive Health, pointed out that certain famous body therapists including, Moshe Feldenkrais, abused their bodies by smoking and drinking and felt protected by their aura of being famous.
I agree, I agree and it's a problem. I don't smoke and I don't drink but I do overwork. That is the one thing, I do overwork and that is a problem especially since I have a very, very warm and functional family. I have a wonderful wife and two children and so this is the big, big problem I have. When I'm away from home I really miss my children but what you can do is miss them or displace them. I'm going to take them to Australia when I go there but it's definitely the hard part of my life and I agree with it but you're asking me exactly the questions that I'm trying to solve. That is the issue.
I want to bring this work to the world. I think it's very needed, very unique, very different and it will help people quite a bit and after curing myself from blindness which was a very powerful experience, it was very important to me that the world would benefit from the concepts and the system and the progress that I have made. It was very important to me and for that reason I'm very driven and I'll be the first one to admit that I am driven to bring this work to the world and so your questions are very legitimate.
In terms of how we run the school, let me explain two things. You asked me about qualification and the process in my opinion is the most qualifying thing. In our school first of all the most important thing is the change in the person experiencing in him/herself. The change is learning to relax the muscles as we are always tense, use the muscles that we have always used before, to create a sense of movement in the people's body, and so the work that we do helps them create a big change in their own body. Learning how to touch without stress; and there's two reasons for it, first of all the thing that most massage therapists get is repetitive strain injuries in about two or three years.
None of my practitioners do because they learn how not to tense up the arms when they work and so that particular change is extremely important. Just to cite one little example: I worked with one patient who was a heart replacement candidate. He had a very enlarged heart, his beat was 104 beats per minute which is not very healthy because of the enlarged heart and my beat was 72 beats per minute just like in a text book. One of my students who is a nurse with very sharp senses measured our pulses and put one of my hands on my chest and my other hand on his chest and our heart beat together in five minutes was 84 beats per minute and in twenty minutes my beat went down to 72 and his went up to 94. So he learned something and what I want to say is when you touch somebody you touch them with your intelligence, inner intelligence.
What we learn is movement intelligence not to just apply something that we know but to learn to respond to what's in front of us. Our work is both general knowledge and general information but our learning processes in being able to be alert and responsive to the patient or student that you have and in that way we're very different. You know that most people want to read the last page of a book after they've read the first without reading the middle and what I'm really trying to teach my students is to read the middle which means to see what is the next step for the person, not only what's his problem and what should be applied, but what needs to be done next. That is the biggest and most exciting part of our training programme.
Thank you very much.
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