An image of a rainbow parrotfish, which is of personal significance to the author; through an encounter with a parrotfish she had a direct, profound experience of backspace, the topic of this article.

There are many ways to practice and develop the skills of being, listening, embodiment and presence. I will share one I call “embodied backspace,” which can benefit both practitioner and client.

The first phase of this embodiment practice is becoming aware of your physical body’s back side—the entire posterior side of your body—from top to bottom. The second phase is softening the back to find the energetic backspace that expands behind the posterior side of your body, or what I call the back-body.

Together, these phases combine to become an effective doorway to come into resonance with the client and to fine-tune your own presence.

Embodiment through Proprioception

Being aware of where your body is, moment to moment in time and space, is called proprioception. Right now, are you willing to pause, drop into your body and experientially perceive the surfaces, shapes and bones of the posterior side of your body, tracking gradually from the top of your cranium to your heel bones?

To do this, you might imagine a color warmly melting down each area, or you can bring a subtle movement to that area to access awareness. If you are sitting, you might wiggle your back body to the rear of your chair and sink in physically to let the chair support you.

More specifically, tune into the frequency of these back bones, the back of the parietal bones to occiput to neck to shoulders. Invite your scapula to glide and soften down your ribcage. Feel the movement of your costal basket and the back of the right and left lungs as the breath goes in and out.

Continue to soften and melt back and down to light up your physical back, all the way down to the lumbar vertebrae, sacrum, coccyx and iliac crests of your pelvis. Track your buttocks contacting the chair, your ischial tuberosities growing tap roots down, the back of your thighs, knees and calves streaming all the way down to sturdy calcaneus heel bones.

Can you find within you a field of awareness of the entire posterior side of your body? Let these words resonate: “This is my physical back-body.”

To develop this felt sense of the back-body, we must consciously befriend and establish an ongoing relationship with this dimension in us. If we tend to orient more to our front-body and doing, which is quite common, it can be novel to include our back-body in the mix, but it will take repetition and practice. Over time, cultivating embodied backspace can contribute exponentially toward a long and sustainable massage practice.

Energetic Backspace

Once our felt-sense experience of our physical back is anchored in, then we can come to the gateway of our energetic backspace. Can you expand back right now, filling up the energetic space behind you, like filling up a balloon? Energetically relax, soften and melt back beyond the physical space of your body. The intention is to create a more spacious and neutral field to hold both you and the client.

Here are some images that have helped others explore energetic backspace:

• Imagine resting and relaxing back into an energetic hammock. Feel the matrix of energy all around you and behind you and let it support you as you soak in the ease of simply being.

• Imagine your back-body is the sun and let the rays of that sun become your energetic backspace that radiates and melts behind you to create more spaciousness.

• As if sitting against a tree, let the tree become your backspace of support as you root back to be more like a witness and observer. Imagine energetic roots growing off your physical back into the energy of the tree where you can absorb stability, strength and a bigger view.

A more esoteric approach might be opening to a guardian angel, guides, wise healers, ancestors, or spiritual beings holding and supporting you from behind.

We soften back into the bigger field that is always holding everything unconditionally. When we expand to that wider field, we can let the healing unfold in a natural way without getting our ego too involved. We open to the possibility of allowing the healing intelligence inherent within our clients and ourselves to emerge.

The Rainbow Parrotfish

Years ago, while discovering embodied backspace, I was curious to apply it to situations beyond the therapeutic environment. Simultaneously, with the deepening of my tai chi and qigong practice, I had heard the expression, “When someone is a tai chi master, everything in nature just keeps doing what it’s doing, and nothing needs to scurry away.” 

As a naturalist, I had my most profound, direct experience of backspace while snorkeling for the first time in a sparkling blue coral reef one winter day in the Caribbean. As I floated on the surface looking into this unfamiliar ecosystem below, I caught a glimpse of a brightly colored parrotfish five feet below me, hiding in what looked like a natural-rock castle structure. My initial inclination was excitement. My energy launched forward toward the fish. The more I wanted to see it, the more this fish remained hidden, and I could only get partial glimpses of it thru the holes. When I remembered to soften back, which in this case was toward the sky, the fish immediately responded by lifting its little eyelids and looked up at me. We gazed softly into each other’s eyes. I remained calm. The fish came out of its hiding spot and escorted me around its home. Time stood still as we swam in tandem together.

My apprenticeship to spaciousness, slowing down, and softening back allowed me to blend and resonate with this parrotfish like what happens in the therapeutic relationship with our clients.

Being Informs Doing

From my experience, being is back-body oriented and doing is front-body oriented. We first invite our being and back-body in, to listen from this wider witness perspective to both our client and to ourselves. Being informs doing. Doing is born out of being, and together they can support one another. To find backspace does not mean we leave our front dimension. We still connect from our frontspace and soft heart. It means that we don’t predominantly operate from our frontspace.

When we soften into backspace it invites our client’s system to come to us at their pace and timing, rather than imposing our timing and will onto them. As practitioners, when we are in doing mode and front-space too much, we can use more effort or be invested in fixing the client. We can crowd and compress their system so that all we see are the holding patterns of stress and dis-ease in isolation.

Being mode and backspace give the therapeutic container a wider aperture instead of the narrow band of zeroing in on only what is not working. With that bigger space, the inherent healing essence can shine through and come to the forefront to inform the session. In Polarity Therapy, we listen to someone’s system from that spacious place of wholeness that we call the inherent template of health. That takes being both spaciousness and grounded in the energy field.

Some of the Benefits of Embodied Backspace

• A sustainable way for practitioners to bring more ease into sessions.

• A softer, gentler approach that helps therapists take better care of themselves through inward listening and realigning places within, where they might be carrying tension.

• A reliable practitioner anchor and reference point to return to in a session if therapists use too much effort physically and mentally; things feel intense or compressed during a session; they are caught in an agenda, trying to “fix” a client; or are taking on too much responsibility.

• A way for touch therapists to become self-aware and adjust if they have a habitual pattern of leaning in physically or energetically into the client’s system or if they are too focused on their frontspace of doing.

• When there’s a lot going on in a client’s system, Backspace allows practitioners to be spacious and objective and not swim in the client’s energy field. By day’s end, there will be less client residue and energy to clear from their own system by incorporating this tool of neutrality.

• A way to not crowd a client’s system physically and energetically thereby creating a neutral space for both practitioners and clients to work in.

• A way to deeply listen to, meet, see, and witness our clients.

• A way to resonate with the original blueprint of wholeness in a person’s system rather than just the pathology or the places that are holding the stress.

Cultivating embodied backspace is just one tool of many that can help your system soften and relax, to access your being/witness lens.

There is an expression used often in Polarity Therapy that “to give a session, you get a session.” Practicing with embodied backspace provides an element of replenishment and ease where we feel something bigger is breathing and holding us in this amazing person-to-person healing touch work. Like a radio frequency, when we tune our inner dial to this practitioner tool, we bring that resonance into the client’s field and into the bigger healing space.

When clients are deeply met, seen, witnessed and touched in this way by another, I believe that is where true healing happens. One being’s wholeness resonating with another being’s wholeness—center to center, original blueprint to original blueprint.

Author’s note: Polarity Therapy’s founder, Randolph Stone, DC, DO, ND, was an osteopath before osteopathy became allopathic. From that original tradition, Polarity Therapy inherited and continues to embrace the approach of creating a grounded, spacious therapeutic container to deeply listen to and touch the health and wholeness of each client’s system. Self-awareness and therapeutic presence are foundational keystones of the Polarity Therapy healing process. An important aspect of teaching this comprehensive healing system is to guide and season the practitioner’s neutral skills of being, listening, embodiment and presence.

Editor’s note: this article is being republished due to an editing error that misnamed “posterior” as “anterior.

Janice Marie Durand

About the Author

Janice Marie Durand, Board Certified Polarity Practitioner (BCPP), NC LMBT #1349, is founder and director of Tree of Life Center in North Carolina, a Somatic Energy Healing Polarity Therapy School, (American Polarity Therapy Association-approved training.) She also teaches embodied movement classes in tai chi, qigong, and gentle chakra yoga, and has a somatic transformational private practice specializing in trauma healing.