In her book and one-woman play, both titled “Bodies Unbound”, Cynthia Waring relates the story of her life and growth as a masseuse and artist, her journey of self-discovery and healing from childhood trauma and abuse. In the process, she invites the audience and reader to see how ordinary life is the perfect process for transformation and actualization.
The following was written by Cynthia, based on the transcript of an interview with Douglas Eby.
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What I do in my performance has come out of my deepest healing.
If we allow Life to take us instead of plotting out our lives from the ego’s agenda, we will live the perfect life for our unfoldment.
That was the message of the Buddha.
I had repressed my past wounds and Life led me to become a masseuse.
Through this profession I re-discovered my past by uncovering the wounds of others.
Who could have thought of such a thing? Not me. It couldn’t have been planned from the stand point of the ego.
Religions and political systems try to keep people in a safe, comfort zone of experience. We need the edges, the extremes, to awaken.
Psychology took the place of religion in our culture, but it, too, has become narrow, predictable and dogmatic. My play is part of a new paradigm in which, through art, people can discover and express their truth.
When we look at Life, not as what we want it to be, or are afraid it might be, but what it actually is, we are free. That’s the mission of my play.
I now teach writing classes and workshops to find the book or the performance in other people. I’ve massaged over 16,000 people in the last 20 years. This work has given me insight into the human dilemma.
I’ve learned to find my way past the pretenses, and I’m finding these lessons carried over into my writing workshops.
Right after the birth of my son in 1968, I heard Ram Dass speak.
Something woke up in me. I was twenty two and married to a man who was student body president at Harvard. We were involved in protesting the Vietnam war.
The birth of a child is an initiation in a woman’s life and I was acutely wanting to make a beautiful world for my child to grow up in. I wanted to know what would truly make a difference.
Ram Dass said the only way to make a better world was to make a better person. That made sense to me. I saw all these people at Harvard protesting and actually creating more resistance.
And when they did gain power, they weren’t a lot better than the ones they were protesting against.
I read the Bhagavad Gita and chanted with the Krishna people. I was always experiential in looking for God. I wanted to know the song and the prayers and test our their power.
I wanted to find out how the Buddhists sat. What they did. I wanted to try out mantras. I went on vision quests, sitting in the woods for seven days and nights fasting, and drinking from the spring.
I’ve done Zen sesshims. I’ve gone across the country from one ashram to the next, studying with their teachers. I’ve been an American pilgrim of sorts, living the life with all my heart.
Unfortunately, my past kept pulling me away from my best intentions.
That past included having an abortion, and my father’s sexual response to me, and his constant affairs, and all that that created. And being molested when I was six by a neighbor.
But I think perhaps the most difficult thing was being forced to have an abortion and being sent away to a foster home. And when that started to come up through all the prayers and meditation and the chanting – all of that would bring me close to the pain, to the healing, and I would drink.
Meditate and drink. Meditate and drink. As soon as a spiritual path would start to work for me I couldn’t bare the pain of all it uncovered so I would leave and go on to another path.
Eventually, after all of the gurus and the convent, and practically drinking and drugging myself to death, I found the 12 Step Programs.
I believe the 12 Steps are perfect for the western mind. Through this program I uncovered my past and a safe place to talk about it until it didn’t affect me any more. I had to talk and talk and complain and grieve until it was done with. It took years.
My massage work has gone through many transitions. I used to want to heal everyone of all their troubles and aches and pains. Now I try to get them to simply enjoy the moment.
I approach the body as perfect and whole already. My massage is non-aggressive in nature. Whatever needs to come up will just come up.
But it comes up without an agenda. It is hard to convince some people to simply relax and allow Life to take them where it will.
We hate ourselves so much. We are always trying to improve ourselves. To relax, even for a moment, can be very healing.
This treating the body as a medical problem instead of a vehicle for Spirit is very prevalent in America. It is my biggest challenge today.
To relax and let Life happen.
Another challenge for me is allowing the people I love to be in pain and to not try to fix them. To see that their lives are perfect just the way they are is sometimes excruciating.
To say “This is what life is giving you, for whatever reason; you don’t get your way right now, you may not be happy but who you essentially are is okay.”
That’s difficult. It is my experience, though, that through all my pain and seeking and mistakes, it has been worth it. I would not change anything. It has all been a gift.
Giving my stage performance the first time, I became a person I’d never known before. I learned that there was a powerful, outrageous, confident woman inside me.
This persona didn’t show up in any of the rehearsals.
I never knew if I could get through my performance or not. I went on stage for the first performance and the next 20, shaking, because there is no way out. Once you have gathered an audience and you are on the stage you have to give it everything. Everything!
If you hold back for an instant you are dead. It is a place to meet every fear you have.
The first time I did “Bodies Unbound” I had decided to walk out on stage and tell everyone to go home. I’d been putting this performance together for five months.
I was not an actress. I had made a mistake. I didn’t believe I could remember one word in front of all those people. Friends had flown in to see me. 80 people had come.
I walked out on stage and saw them and decided to just do the first few lines to see if I could.
The audience laughed. I was encouraged. I kept going. I began to have fun. I remembered every line perfectly. I began to enjoy myself.
Before I knew it, it was over. I got a standing ovation.
This performance was done for International Women’s Week on the Colorado University campus in Boulder. The committee had asked me to read some chapters from a book I’d been writing for 10 years about being a Massage Therapist.
I picked out a theme from the book then thought I’d better memorize it. Then I thought I’d put music behind some of the stories to give them a different flavor.
Then I thought lighting a candle would be nice and I ended up lighting a candle for every client I talk about. Then it came to me to wear a scarf representing each client.
The performance grew like a bush. It gave itself to me as a gift.
That was Life creating itself. I could not have planned it.
I was having a terrible winter in Boulder. Being a Californian I was not used to the cold. I had come there to live with a man I was in love with. He ended up in jail much of that winter from drinking problems. I was in hell, but this conflict and the pain forced me to be creative.
Had I been making love in front of the fire I would not have created my play or finished and gotten my book published. We have no idea the gifts Life is giving us.
What we think is the worst situation sometimes turns around to be the most wonderful.
After that winter, I moved back to California, alone, and have been doing my play pretty regularly ever since. It keeps changing itself. It is never the same. It keeps me on my toes.
Because of my past I had learned to dissociate a lot.
Doing the play I am learning to stay present. It is healing me. I have written parts about being molested as a child. During one performance I had the experience of going back to the time of being six years old during the molestation.
I forgot I was on the stage in front of the audience. I was mentally and emotionally on the bed of my neighbor 44 years ago. The energy of the audience took me there. It was like a “soul retrieval”.
When I came back to myself and realized where I was, it was a shock. It took we weeks to integrate the experience. I have never been the same since. The part of me that was wounded was healed.
Many things like that have happened on the stage.
Promoting my show has developed a whole other part of me. The fearlessness, facing rejection time after time until it doesn’t matter is a path.
Writing is another place to do that. You will discover what it is you’re living through writing; what it is your soul came here to express.
That’s what you will gain through writing. Why did you take all the trouble to create a body, get civilized, go through all of the pain of being trapped in this little form, with all these emotions, and all this ignorance — what is it you came here for?
I have so many people from my classes writing books; in Boulder, here in Los Angeles. And I meet with people privately to help organize them.
Usually they will have an idea of what it is they need to write. It is usually based on some need of their mothers or some need for attention. Something they didn’t get they hope writing will gain them, not the writing itself.
And then, aside from those ideas, there is what they are already saying with every fiber of their being. And that’s what they need to connect with.
Writing is so difficult, that if it doesn’t heal you in the doing of it it isn’t worth the trouble.
If you are going to write, find out what will make a difference to you.
One of the things I want to do is to inspire people to give themselves their own credentials. You want to write, you want to perform, you want to sing – DO IT.
So many think they have to get UCLA’s or some school’s stamp of approval. I certainly want my doctor to be trained; that’s different. If you are wanting to be a writer, just write. If you want to be on the stage, find something you need to say and just get up there.
It’s the doing of it that will teach you.
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Book: Bodies Unbound: Transforming Lives through Touch by Cynthia Waring.
There is also a 2009 publication of Bodies Unbound.
Photo from her site ANCESTOR WORK: Uncovering Ancestral Patterns.
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