Friday, October 26, 2007

Robert K. Hall: Body Mind Spirit (Somatic) Pioneer

With Michael’s death I vowed that 1994 would be a turnaround year for me. I was utterly depressed: we had lost the Garden, I was nipple deep in debt, Michael died, and I weighed 320 pounds, at least a hundred pounds too much for my height and stature. I had to do something radical to change my mood and regain a sense of my life.

One day my friend and massage teacher, Ann Lasater, was reminiscing about the Lomi School, where she went in the late 1970s. Four friends, Robert Hall and Richard Strozzi Heckler and their ex-wives Alyssa and Catherine, founded the school about 1970. They were the first to synthesize psychotherapy, breathwork, bodywork, movement, and meditation into a cohesive method. (“Lomi” is a Hawaiian style of massage, but the word lomi was chosen for the school because it means to touch.)

Off-handedly Ann remarked that Robert Hall, one of the founders of the school, was gay. In all my years of studying spirituality and human potential, I’d met only a few gay men. They, like me, were novices on their path.

Incredibly I now learned that Robert Hall was gay, too. He was no novice, however, but a pillar in the transformational community: a psychiatrist and an assistant to Fritz Perls, the co-founder of Gestalt psychology. Robert was one of the first Americans to learn Ida Rolf’s bodywork system. Later, traveling in India, he met Dr. Randolph Stone, the founder of Polarity Therapy, and brought him to California to teach.

I knew I had to study with Robert Hall. It took a few months to make the necessary arrangements. I combined all my debts with the Consumer Credit Bureau and agreed to a monthly payment plan. Included in my living budget was the cost of the Lomi School tuition. My friend David Arpin, with lots of frequent flyer miles from his travels as a health care consultant, graciously agreed to trade facials for ten airline tickets to San Francisco (he still has beautiful skin).

But now, outside Petaluma, all the pieces had come together. Here I sat, nestled on a cliff, savoring the spring sun and biting Pacific wind, and anticipating this next stage of my life. When I first sat down I felt tired and weary with grief, but an hour later my heart was lighter (although my cheeks stung with the cold). Acute gratitude for life’s generosity temporarily replaced my sorrow, and I sensed a familiar longing to follow the advice of an old advertisement: to “be all I can be.”

Even after conquering the AIDS demon, embracing sobriety and turning my life around, I was buffeted by the loss of friends and financial security. And my body suffered as a result, making recovery much more difficult. As the sun and wind comforted my soul, I dared to hope that through the Lomi bodywork I could learn how to shine again. Maybe one could squeeze lemonade from life’s lemons. I would soon find out.

No comments: