Dani Shapiro
August 31, 2008

The Osteopath

Several times over the past six months, I’ve driven nearly an hour to the sweet little town of Sharon, Connecticut to pay a visit to an osteopath. I didn’t even know what an osteopath was (bone doctor?) but a friend of mine told me I had to go see this guy. I was waking up in the mornings with my jaw aching from clenching my teeth in my sleep. (Tension, anyone?) My friend promised me that the osteopath would cure me.

Here’s what happens during a typical visit. I lie on a table, and the osteopath holds my feet. Then, after about five minutes, he moves his hands–sometimes to my sacrum, or the middle of my spine, or my pelvis. Eventually, he ends up cradling my head, manipulating my jaw with a barely discernible pressure. And as I lie there, I fight my own resistance to the process. What is he doing? How can this possibly help? Hokum–pure hokum. Some kind of weird placebo effect. But then, after my cynical mind shuts up, I become aware that I am floating. Feeling…sort of amazing. Almost euphoric. Deeply relaxed. The rock-hard tension in my jaw has evaporated.

The other day, after he had finished working his magic, I asked the osteopath how it had happened: how was it possible that by lightly touching my feet, or my spine, or my head, he had cured me? It had been months since I’d woken up in the morning with an aching jaw.

Things get stuck, is what the osteopath said with a small shrug. All I do is guide the body to un-stick them.

Things get stuck. What a beautiful, perfect understatement. In all the reading I’ve been doing, and in my yoga practice, I know this to be true. Things get stuck in the body, and then we need to find ways to release them. Grief, memory, trauma, pain never go away. Our histories are alive inside of us, flowing like the tide. Just yesterday, Michael has been cleaning his office–years-worth of papers and letters and old photos surfacing–and he pulled out an envelope stuffed with the awful, tortured correspondence I had with my mother in the last years of her life. I started looking through the page and pages of faxes (yes, my mother communicated with me by fax) and letters, and felt it all going somewhere inside of me–to a place where all that lives. It’s not that I think of it every day. I don’t, not even remotely. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.