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Interview with Suzanne Scurlock-Durana

What exactly do you mean by full body presence?

When I talk about full body presence I mean my, or your, capacity to be present, to feel sensation, to know where you are and where you are not, in your body. The definition in the book is “the ability to feel all parts of your body, with a good flow of healthy energy moving through you. In order to have a healthy energy flow moving through you, you need connections to your inner and outer healthy resources…and you need to have a healthy sense of your personal boundaries. To know how to ground and fill up with whatever nourishes your cells.

So what does full body presence give us, as human beings? What is the payoff?

It gives us more of a sense of aliveness, of being in each present moment, able to feel more of the joy that is here for each of us in any given moment.

What about when life circumstances are less than wonderful and we find ourselves really stressed out? Perhaps we are in stressed out?

Actually in those circumstances Full Body Presence skills really start to shine. If you are stressed out about something, chances are you are feeling your heart tighten down or you may have a sense of tension somewhere in your body. When you become aware that you are walking around like that, then the skills help you change that state of being. We would call that a disrupted body presence. So let me give you a recent example. I was driving to pick up a friend and as I approached this intersection, two cars pulled out on either side of me, both of them looking like they were headed for my lane. I rapidly slowed my car, but in the meantime, my heart rate was up, my nervous system was over-stimulated in an unpleasant way. Years ago, that feeling would have stayed with me for quite awhile. I might have gotten a headache, or at the very least felt off balance for a while. Instead, I registered the sense of tightness in my chest, and let my awareness drop behind the tight place into my spine. Then I took my awareness to my sitting bones on the seat and my feet on the floor. Notice, I did not say, I thought about my sitting bones or my feet. I actually felt - with my sensory awareness into that part of my body. This gave me a broader sense of my body, which relaxed my chest and within minutes my nervous system was back to a normal relaxed state.

What about emotional pain?

I treat it the same way with one small difference. I feel whatever I am feeling, and then I expand the container of my body around it (like I did in the intersection situation). Then I ask myself what I am believing about myself or my life that is making me so miserable. It is often an unconscious belief or expectation that is running my show. Maybe I am feeling like I am alone, and lonely and always going to be lonely, etc. Or, I maybe I am feeling like I am somehow flawed as a human being and therefore am deficient in some way. Or I might feel like I am too much, that people are not going to love me because I am just too much, I overwhelm people and situations and lose love that way. Whatever it is, I can then hold that thought or expectation and ask myself if it is really true at this moment. And it rarely, if ever, is actually true in this moment. So as I hold the container of my being around the area in pain, I cradle it, holding it with love, and letting it slowly, slowly integrate back into the rest of me when it is ready. This is a really quick synopsis of a process that can take from minutes to days or weeks, off and on, of working with this integration process.

Does it have any practical applications in terms of physical pain?

Absolutely. Areas of physical pain naturally hold tension and tend to wall themselves off. IF you have a pain in your heart and you can allow yourself to feel the strength of your spine and the way that your ribs are cradling your heart, it spreads out the awareness of the pain which actually allows it to disperse (slightly or greatly.)

How does it help with burnout?

When I am in my body and connected to healthy resources that help me stay energetically full, then I am I begin to register it when events or life are wearing me down and I can slow down and rest or plan my day to be able to slow down later…

What kinds of people find these skills most useful?

Those in healthcare (MDs, RNs, PTs, OTs, MTs, PAs) as well as those in non-hands health related professions such as coaches, psychotherapist, social workers, hospice workers, psychologists, etc.) and other professional and non-professional caregivers such as parents (esp. parents of special needs children), adults caring for their elderly parents, ministers, foster parents, etc.

How does full body presence help those of us in healthcare and other professional and non-professional caregivers?

It helps us to have healthy boundaries so we don’t inadvertently pick up the our patient’s or client’s pain or fear. It helps in that we become what I call the “largest pendulum in the room” with those we are caring for, so that our calm, centered presence pulls everyone in the room into that calmness rather than our being pulled off center by their pain, fear, worry, etc.

Are there some fun, easy applications for the grounding and filling FBP skills?

Try using it on an airplane next time it gets turbulent or someone around you is feeling afraid. I have a funny story on this one. I was taking a puddle jumper flight (45 minutes) one time with one of my instructors and it got kind of rough. I told her I would be concentrating on not throwing up if that happened. Well, as the air got rougher, I noticed myself feeling calmer and calmer. I had no trouble at all. I was astounded and pleasantly surprised. She was sitting across the aisle from me with her eyes closed and I finally realized she was grounding me! And sure enough, she confirmed it when we got there. Seems she hates to see people throw up so she was insuring that would not happen to me!

Any other fun applications?

Well, as I write about in the book, it works wonders with grumpy children, scared pets, and babies. Your presence, with no words at all, can be such a calming factor in any situation like that.

How about in the bigger picture of discernment?

Well, one of the big things that full body presence gives you is excellent access to your own inner knowing about all kinds of things, from what is most right for you in any moment, to what is really off and needs to be avoided at all costs. And as you practice your full body presence, grounding and staying full, your trust of your inner knowing gets really strong. It is nice, to not second guess yourself all the time. You just know inside. And when you don’t know – meaning you don’t have a hit about something it usually means you need to wait to make the decision…don’t jump on prematurely.

How did you come to this work initially?

It came in waves or layers across a lot of years. I got parts of it from the sense of energy vibration that I loved in my church growing up when everyone would sing. That is a full body experience if you are singing full out. Then my yoga practice and meditation practices; and then T’ai Chi and Qigong along with my indigenous teachers…and then all my bodywork training, esp. CranioSacral therapy which teaches us to listen acutely with our hands. I quickly realized I could feel a whole lot more if I listened to the people on my table with my entire navigational system, my entire body, not just my hands and my heart. It really expanded my skill level as a CS therapist and instructor.

About the Author

Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, CMT, CST-D, is the author of Full Body Presence. She teaches and speaks around the world and lives in Reston, VA. Visit her online at http://www.fullbodypresence.com.

Full Body Presence

March 1, 2010 Personal Growth • Trade Paperback • 232 pages

Price: $14.95 • ISBN 978-1-57731-860-6

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