In my 30s, I had a husband, a daughter and a small chiropractic home practice. Lots of people got well, but the ones who didn’t, the ones who needed the same adjustment over and over -- these were the cases that intrigued me. Chiropractic helps lots of things beside back pain (asthma, migraines, indigestion, menstrual problems, to mention just a few), dealing as it does with the nervous system. But I had the feeling that there was something else, something even deeper, driving many people’s conditions, and this was something emotional. (I didn’t even know for sure what that meant, having been raised to pretty much deny my emotions, but that was my sense.)
Why did Bob’s 5th dorsal always go out? Why Emily’s L4-5? Sometimes a history of an accident made the answer apparent, but just as often, no known cause existed. There was Charlotte, who needed her T12 adjusted every week -- that is, until her husband died. Then her T12 was fine. And what about Dave, whose back was supposedly healed from the surgery he’d elected, but who endured the same old pain as before?
The question I kept asking myself as a chiropractor: Was there a way to address something deeper than levels of pain? Did a system of medicine exist that acknowledged emotion as a factor -- and, even, spirit as a factor?
1. At 40, just after my son was born, my marriage ended in a shocking way, meaning it was over before I knew anything had changed. I was so shattered that my digestion basically shut down. For three months, food refused to stay in me and I lost 30 pounds, my weight barely three digits. I remember giving thanks that I had two young children to look after. Without that grounding, my will to live, I realized, was tenuous. When Harvey, a homeopath, asked how I was feeling aside from my gut problem, I heard myself say, "I really couldn’t care less if I live or die." Driving the very winding Grizzly Peak Boulevard in the hills above Berkeley, I entertained visions of not bothering to make the turn. But the kids …
Based on that -- apathy and gut dysfunction -- Harvey prescribed a homeopathic remedy that improved things to some degree. The apathy lifted to a certain extent. A not-quite-right remedy, said Harvey. He sent me to a medical lab to test for parasites, viruses, infection, etc. -- all came back negative. A couple of other remedies were also partially helpful. I felt a little sense of purpose, for me a vast improvement.
But time was passing. I ate only chicken and rice, still losing weight like crazy, still somehow doing everything that I needed to do as a single parent and practicing chiropractor, and adding to this psychotherapy, dreamwork, meditation and exploring dance for the first time in my life. It was exhausting, but at least I felt determined to plumb this tsunami of pain and disillusionment, rather than keep a upper lip stiff, as I’d been taught as a young child, and as a 13-year-old when our dad died. Somehow I decided to go into the pain to find a purpose for it. Or a way to be with it. Some part of me appeared to know that what was happening was good, even though it seemed to be killing me.
Then one day, my dream-work teacher told me about a new kind of energy work she was learning called Kairos (www.kairostherapy.com). And by the way, she added, would I care to have her practice on me? My response: Sure, why not? Who cares, anyway?
The session took place on a Thursday evening, before Star Trek, I remember, so that might have been an omen (exploring the vast frontier, or something). My friend instructed me to lie on a massage table with my clothes on; she covered me, and began to place her hands lightly on different places on my body. She would leave her hands in a certain position for a few minutes, move the hands, stay awhile, move somewhere else, stay awhile.
Very soon a deep, gentle relaxation settled in me that I could not resist. I remember it as floating in a kind of half-sleep. When she reached a part of my belly near my ovary, her hands rested there quietly for a bit longer than before, one on front of my belly, one behind, near my sacrum. It was then that an internal turbulence, totally unfamiliar, aroused me. It felt like an energetic earthquake, or a hippo rising from beneath the water. Then, a thought, or a voice but almost audible, arose in my mind: He hurt me right in my womanhood. I thought, What? Wait a minute. Who is that?
And then, to my utter surprise and disbelief, I burst into tears. Grief broke open like a volcano, wails and swales and bellows of it. The most powerful emotion I ever felt came roaring out of nowhere. It was a catharsis of some kind, but that's all I knew, and it lasted only a minute, maybe two (time felt different in this space), followed by a deep and peaceful sleep for a half hour.
Afterward I wondered at the force of it, the pure intensity of it, the strange brevity, and upon waking, the profound calm.
But most important, the next morning, my gut function was normal. Normal, after 90 odd days of severe diarrhea. There was nothing in my history, including youthful experimentations with psychedelics, to compare with this experience. Where did all that grief come from? I wondered. What had been covering it up? Was it just about this dreadful divorce? The reasons, the logic, the answers all evaded me. Wow! was all I knew, and still know. Professionally I continued on as a chiropractor, but I thought perhaps I'd found a way to address the emotional component in my patients' cases.
I began to study Kairos, this new thing I didn't know what to call -- bodywork? massage? meditation? -- that my friend was learning. With her I attended the few trainings and workshops available at the time, always adding a bit more to the nutshell of understanding that made so much sense to me. I did know that placing my hands a certain way on another person's body created a field of energy that improved that person's health. That was irrefutable. Eventually, I put out word that I was learning something new, and who would like to volunteer to be practiced on, at no charge?
2. One chiropractic patient’s pain pattern resembled a seesaw: One week his neck needed adjusting, the next week, his low back. Back and forth. After one Kairos session, neither neck nor back needed chiropractic adjusting again. Wow! he said, although for a long time afterward, I thought, Maybe a coincidence. I’m just gathering data. But he kept coming in for the Kairos. A welcome bonus to the disappearance of his back problems was that Kairos treatments calmed him, he said. I didn't appreciate what kind of bonus this was until one day when he arrived for his session looking ashen and taut. He’d just received news of contracting HIV+, and the prognosis was not good. His Kairos session didn’t change the diagnosis, but he reported that his fear about HIV, which had nearly paralyzed him when he first got the news, dissolved soon after.
3. A woman I did not know came to the office simply to let me practice my Kairos training on her. I knew nothing of her history for several weeks as my hands moved about her body, sensing energy blockage (see In a Nutshell). Eventually she mentioned her age (41) and said that after giving birth to her son a year and half before, and loving being a mom, she now found herself in a dilemma. Before the baby she had planned to return to a successful editing career, which she was now aching to resume; but everything had changed with her experience as a parent, and she was just as passionate about having another baby. Finding clarity on this decision was proving difficult. She came in for an hour of Kairos every week for the next seven weeks, and brought me a potted foxglove as thanks. Ten months later, I received a birth announcement with a note from her thanking me for the treatments, which she "felt certain" had given her permission to "go ahead with another pregnancy." I remember looking at that note and thinking, Wow. Where there had been confusion, doubt and indecision, there was now clarity, forthrightness and confidence.
So while I discovered as a chiropractor that many patients’ back problems responded very well to this new approach called Kairos, I also found that many conditions and situations besides back pain changed for the better because of Kairos.
4. A woman whose chiropractor was out of town for the holidays came in with hip pain on the recommendation of a friend. She worked at the airport selling tickets to passengers and often picked up and set down suitcases weighing 50-60 pounds. I assessed her hip pain to be work-related, but before adjusting her as a chiropractor, I kept a promise I’d recently made to myself that I would inquire of everyone without exception: "Do you think there might be an emotional component to your condition?"
To my surprise, the airport ticketer responded, "Oh boy, are you kidding? We live in a rough part of Oakland. Since our daughter was born eight years ago I’ve wanted to move, but my husband refuses. It's been very hard."
"I’ll make you a deal," I said. "I’d first like try this new work I’m learning before I make a chiropractic adjustment. After that, I’ll check your body again and adjust you if needed. No extra charge.’
She gave the green light. I did a Kairos session that took about 45 minutes. Afterward I checked her chiropractically, but no symptoms remained; she simply did not need adjusting any longer. The woman looked at me, dumbfounded and delighted.
"Okay, I want you to come back tomorrow," I said. "I’m pretty sure you'll still need an adjustment since you're going to continue shlepping heavy bags, but let's see what else happens."
The next day she told me this story: ‘"I don’t know what you did here yesterday, but when I got home, my husband started in on his routine." (She meant his habit of starting a fight to distract her from the issue of moving to another neighborhood.). "Instead of taking the bait and getting upset, I found myself saying, ‘You know, Ted, if you want to do that, fine; I’ll be in the next room; let me know when you’re finished."
She didn't know why, but "nothing he said got to me." And the expression on her face said, Wow.
She still didn't need adjusting, so I practiced the Kairos on her again and asked that she please come back in a couple of days, after her next airport shift. On her return, she looked just as baffled as before. "I can’t understand this either. Last night my husband came into the kitchen and said, ‘You know, honey, you’re right. We need to move.’ Just like that! After all these years! It must be the work you did. I don’t know what else could account for the change." Wow!
I'm not saying that Kairos sessions can affect people around you -- to this day no one knows the extent of Kairos sessions or how powerful Kairos treatments can be at all. But it sure feels good to have been a part of that shift that the airport ticketer experienced.
5. One patient came for help with her chronically painful shoulder, which had been caused by a fall from her bike. I worked on her only using the Kairos: During her sessions she found herself revisiting the strained relationship she had experienced her whole life with her mother, who had recently passed away. While I had been working around her injured left shoulder, she remembered that the accident with the bike had happened while she was caring for her mother near the end. This was a pivotal connection leading to the lifting and eventual disappearance of pain. Looked at in Kairos terms, the client's blocked emotion from her difficult relationship with her mom kept the shoulder injury from healing completely. As my hands sought out and freed the chi blocked in her shoulder, both things got healed: the physical trauma and the emotional pain.
6. A very talented young animator suffered spells of paralyzing anxiety that compromised his work at Pixar. By this time, I had stopped providing chiropractic adjustments, except in situations of frank mechanical trauma, because Kairos treatments had proven much more effective. On his fifth session, the animator retrieved a painful memory of competing in a relay race during the sixth grade, when he was bullied so badly that he couldn't fully take part, so he didn’t win. His anxiety left him after that session, and he was able to return to Pixar, he said, "at full capacity!" Wow! and hooray.
7, 8, 9, etc: The many young (and not so young!) women who now have children, when they couldn’t before. Wow!
IN A NUTSHELL
We contract around pain. Can’t help it -- it’s a reflex. Like blinking in bright light, sneezing from dust, pulling your hand back from a hot stove. Whether it’s physical or emotional doesn’t matter: If you're teased unmercifully on the playground -- or the workplace, or the retirement center -- your feelings contract.
If this happens when we’re really little, or when there’s a big fright or trauma, it's not only our minds that tuck the memory away, out of awareness, but our bodies. That shock, that fear, that rage may go right into the core of our muscles, joints and tissue. We not only want to forget it happened, we truly do forget, and to our conscious minds it didn't happen. And if we do remember -- if we go back in memory and feel our emotions contracting -- we can't release them no matter how hard we want to. These memories are too deeply buried, and, like any contraction (think of isometrics, like holding your hand out straight, with a book on it) keeping in the emotions that go along with those memories takes energy.
So, you had surgery as a child; your parents fought (or divorced); you were made fun of; the list is familiar, and long. Each time something like this happens. either a loving adult like your mom or dad recognized the emotion for what it was, and made space for you to feel it until the hurt was done (GOOD, not that common); or you were told to go to your room until you got over it; were grounded for being sassy; felt but denied the hurt physically; stuffed your feelings down on your own (BAD, very common).
Many of these insults to body and mind come at us in the course of life, so we get more and more contractions happening -- and each time we pull back, a hit to the body remains. Visually, this buildup might look like a parfait, layers and layers, while it feels like a mountain, sediment on top of mucky sediment, with you carrying it all everywhere you go.
Eventually, often around age 40 or so, a person’s body reaches the limit of how many sustained contractions it can support. The energy tied up carrying them and keeping them out of consciousness is not available for other jobs, like immune function. New pain tends to stick like velcro to old hurts, blockages of more stuck emotion occur, and as a result, our overall health begins to suffer. Systems like blood and lymph flow are impeded, and new problems (migraines, back pain, ulcers, menstrual cramps) seem to come out of nowhere.
Kairos approaches each blockage of energy as an engineer might approach a dam in the river. To free up the flow of things, the practitioner works with you to gently unlock these packets of hurt and pain and let the contents move freely, as they are meant to do. When we say you're "in the Kairos," we mean you're feeling lighter and better, more at one with the world because the energy you were using to hold those blocks in place has been released to work for you in a positive way. And the chronic pain that locked down parts of the body has begun to resolve. Sounds easy, right? As long as you’re willing to be with your body, it’s easy. And you don't have to understand the complexity of Kairos to experience its many benefits.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The first time you come to my office, I will ask you what wants help, meaning how do you feel about everything from physical discomfort and pain to your emotions about life, which may include sadness, anxiety, fear, anger, dread, etc. I'll want to know a great deal more than you may be used to telling Western doctors because Kairos meets so many different needs on different levels.
For this reason I'll ask you to fill out a longish history, a physio-emotional history, not your usual medical office intake form. We will review that together. My ear will be listening for how one thing has led to another, for patterns in your life -- for example why recurrent ankle pain might crop up at certain times of the day, or whether the digestive problems you experience today began when you got divorced. My eye will be looking for what parts of your body have felt the impact of your life story.
Unlike psychotherapy ("talk therapy"), the talking we do in Kairos care is mostly at the beginning of each session and has a single goal: where to work on your body.
After our talk, I'll ask you to lie fully clothed on a cozy, cradle-like table. I'll then place my paired hands in a number of positions on or near your body. You may experience images, sensations, emotions or memories. Sometimes I may coach you to revisit volatile experiences in which emotional blocks began, and after that you may fall into a Kairos sleep -- a light, floating state in which you're entirely conscious but happily at peace and dreamlike, and from which you awake refreshed and full of new energy.
I ask people to come in for treatment three days in a row at the beginning. My first time working on you will tell me where your system’s chi is blocked (where the contractions are); the second and third times will give me a comparison with the first session. In this way your body gives me an idea of how ready it is to relax, so I get a sense of how many sessions might be beneficial for you. If you’ve only had one trauma in your life, say your life was a picnic until your house burned down six months ago, we can resolve that pretty quickly, a few sessions. The older and more embedded pain/trauma is in your body/story, the longer it will take.
But not to worry. Kairos involves very fast work. Because these first three sessions are both diagnostic and therapeutic, we can more fully discuss my assessment and recommendations to you.
In general, Kairos care is delivered in individual sessions of 90 minutes. (The first appointment is usually two hours.)
After the initial assessment period of three treatments, a session a week is generally adequate to "keep a process moving." Sometimes having treatments a bit more frequently is helpful if a big piece of work -- blockage that seems ready to open up -- is beginning to surface.
From time to time, we have four-day group intensives called Deepening Workshops, usually for eight people. These are highly experiential meetings that explore the many dimensions of Kairos and are conducive to expediting your healing process. They are intense, but in the good sense of going deeply into the Kairos universe, from learning specific hand locations and energy fields to understanding interactions of body, mind, heart and spirit. Participants develop strong bonds with one another, help each other and get personal work done at a depth that isn’t always accessible in individual sessions.
Often, people choose to speed up their process with an individual intensive, doing daily or twice-daily sessions for a week or more. This option is popular with people who have no Kairos practitioners near them and must travel here to do the work, and is helpful, even necessary for certain particular problems.
The fee for an intensive is based purely on the number of hours we work. In general, two sessions a day for five days is an effective schedule.
Q: What’s the difference between Kairos and, say, Reiki (the Japanese healing technique that transfers chi to the patient through the palms of the practitioner's hands)?
A: I’ve not been initiated into Reiki, but as I understand it, the practitioner learns to alter one’s vibration to coincide with a healing vibration external to oneself -- for example a life force from the universe. In Kairos, we use only the chi of the practitioner, which we align with the chi of the patient, inducing local relaxation. Kairos is more physics than metaphysics. There is no acceptance of external healing forces needed.
Q: Can anyone do Kairos?
A: Anyone can do Kairos. Some people have "stronger" chi than others, but practice strengthens the chi flow. I’ve never found anyone who couldn’t learn it. Not that everyone wants to (sometimes takes hours and hours of intense focus). But it is a very handy First Aid tool around the house.
Q: Could I earn a living doing Kairos?
A: You could if we had a sensible health care system. I have because I began asking all the "wrong" questions of Western medicine and sought out alternative approaches like homeopathy and Kairos. Since I have rather simple tastes and lifestyle I don't need much to earn a living. You can if you love it and want to.
Q: How do I know whether Kairos or homeopathy is the thing for me?
A: If you have a preference, let me know in our first meeting. Since my practice is basically word-of-mouth, people often come for whatever that referrer was coming for. If I have a different opinion after having a conversation with you, I will let you know. A homeopathic cure goes deeper in the sense that it can actually remove your susceptibility to getting ill. It takes longer because I might not find the correct remedy right off the bat, or you may need several remedies to get to your optimum health; but we meet less often. Kairos is a heavier time commitment up front, but you can pretty much count on feeling better very quickly. And some people like to be touched more than they like to talk. Sometimes both are happening side by side. It just depends on you, really, along with what my experience indicates to me. But finally the decision is yours.
Q: How long will my Kairos series last?
A: Again it depends on your history, and your body’s readiness to relax. Other factors may be medicines you are taking that could dull your experience of the Kairos; these drugs won’t stop that experience but may slow it down. Very often, and sometimes quite suddenly, both patient and I, within a week or so of one another, will know that this chunk of work is done. So the patient goes on with life until another "layer" comes up for work, and we work again. Chunk work. Once you’ve experienced the profound calm and relaxation that Kairos brings, you begin to become acutely aware of when your body begins to re-contract.
Q: Tell me about chi?
A: Chinese medicine refers to the energy traveling around out body as chi, or qi. This life force is essential to the body, like blood and respiratory systems, but because we can't see it, Western medicine doesn't treat it. For over 5,000 years, however, Chinese practitioners -- and, increasingly, British and American practitioners -- have been working with chi-based methods such as acupuncture, massage, herbal meditation and exercises like tai chi and qigong to cure injury and disease as well as to advance health and fitness to extraordinary effect. In Kairos, we are dealing not with the meridian chi that acupuncturists work with, but with the wei chi that flows outside the meridians, suffusing and surrounding the body.
Kairos is a Greek word meaning the perfect moment, the charged and loaded time when things can change instantly. It means the passing instant, the suspension of time in which life comes into fullness. Kairos is the opposite of chronos, which means chronological time, tick-tock time. A more concise definition: Kairos refers to quality of time while chronos refers to quantity of time.
Kairos practitioners work not only with the unblocking of emotions, then, or the resolution of pain. We work with the flow of chi, the life force. We don't use the terminology of Western medicine that separates the body and mind, the physical and the emotional. Our larger vision includes all aspects of chi -- physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.
What you get
the first time,
of experiencing life in
All you need
is a mind
to something powerful in terms of
one's personal health.