An American Therapist in Australia|
by Kimberly Reedy, Bellevue / Seattle - 30 miles north (Mill Creek), Washington
Do you remember the first time you heard mention of Bowen Therapy? Did it stir your curiosity? Did you wonder where it came from?
I first heard of it during Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) training in Sedona, Arizona. A Bowen Therapist and NLP practitioner named Jacqui Taylor from London, England described it to me. A penetrating and profound resonance in my heart told me that it was what I was meant to do. I had had low back and sciatic pain for about three years with only temporary relief from other modalities. Jacqui treated me twice within a few days. I have had no pain in my low back or my sciatic nerve since, with the added bonus of no further pain in my bunion as well. That was over two years ago. I was inspired to give others the same relief and healing that I had received, so it has become my passion. I took classes and became certified in Vancouver, Canada in Neurostructural Integration Technique (NST), one particular type of Bowen Therapy.
Last year, following receipt of my Advanced NST Certification, I found myself compelled to make a pilgrimage to the Land Down Under in pursuit of furthering my knowledge and experience. I sought a better understanding of the roots of Bowen Therapy and how it came to be known. Upon arrival it became apparent that the technique is widely celebrated in its homeland. Nearly half the people I spoke to knew of it or recognized its value in restoring health and balance. Australia has national and state Bowen Associations with networks and annual conferences. Bowen Therapy has its own listing in the phone book, and clinics scattered throughout Melbourne tout Bowen Therapy on their signs. Regardless of the type of certification (I believe there are about seven different types), practitioners in Australia are known as Bowen Therapists and advertise themselves as such.
Tom Bowen (1916–1982) was blessed with a natural healing ability that was fashioned into what we know as Bowen Therapy (see article The Tom Bowen Story.) Throughout Tom Bowen’s career, six people were acknowledged as his students, whom he referred to as his ‘boys’. They learned from him through observation and inquiry, adapting his work and using what they learned in their practices. As a result of their learning, several interpretations of his work developed into teachings, all under various names and certifications.
Within the first month I was warmly welcomed by Bowen Therapist and instructor Ron Phelan in Geelong (pronounced ja-LONG) where Tom Bowen lived and worked. Ron has spent years researching Bowen’s work through interviews with family, friends, patients and colleagues. He established the Tom Bowen Legacy Trust Fund for Children (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) in the spirit of carrying on Tom’s love and generosity toward children. Ron wrote and recorded a song about Tom’s life, dedicating it to Rene Horwood, who worked at his side throughout his career. Ron also erected a monument dedicated to Bowen, all the while maintaining a practice and teaching NST around the world. Ron was my unofficial Bowen history tour guide, showing me the houses and clinics where Tom worked. I listened to recordings of interviews with people such as Rene Horwood, and visited the Tom Bowen monument.
The memorial monument stands in Geelong West Memorial Park directly across from the first house in which Bowen worked. On our visit to the monument, Ron asked a local passerby to take a picture. The man had lived there in Geelong his entire life and had never heard of Tom or his remarkable talents. He was amazed that a humble man from his own home town had affected people so profoundly that it brought them together from across the world. As well-known as it is in Australia and other countries, Bowen Therapy can literally be in your own backyard, while recognition of it remains elusive.
I was fortunate enough to be able to observe Ron in his practice in Geelong. He has developed enduring relationships with his patients, and in true Aussie form has established friendly rapport with them. As they welcomed my visit, I took the opportunity to consult with his clients on their experiences of Bowen Therapy. A few had been worked on by Bowen himself and shared lovely stories of his humor and heart. Some had known of the technique most of their lives and took advantage of it when necessary, while some were referred by family and friends.
One client in particular has Parkinson’s disease. During his treatment with Ron, I spoke with his wife. When her husband originally came in to see Ron earlier last year, he had been bent over about forty five degrees, slowly shuffling his feet and trembling. Speaking was difficult for him. Several people were required to help situate him on the massage table and again to help turn him over. Following each session, she and her husband noticed progress. The day that I saw him, he slowly walked into the clinic in a fully upright position, greeted me and smiled when we were introduced, and placed himself on the table without aid. She and her husband found themselves pleasantly astounded with the results of the therapy.
I also had the privilege of meeting and observing one of Tom’s ‘boys’, Romney Smeeton, who also works in Geelong. With a gentle demeanor, quick wit and a strong sense of integrity, Romney is a respected chiropractor who observed Tom for five years. Technically speaking he doesn’t practice chiropractic in the traditional sense. Rather, he applies what he learned from his observations of Tom to promote healing in his patients.
My observation of Romney occurred during the holiday season. In Australia, this means that it was a sizzling 95 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Regardless of the perplexing nature of the weather, Christmas music played jovially within Romney’s office. Between clients he would dance and sing to himself in the hallway. With a talent for lifting people’s spirits, he also has a skill for targeting the cause of their pain and somehow pinpointing the remedy. Several people came in that day with back and neck pain. One woman in particular could not turn her head without pain. Each one left with enormous relief and in the woman’s case, full range of motion.
Another practitioner who mentored me was Sharon Hopkins, treasurer of the Bowen Therapists Federation of Australia (BTFA), owner of The Natural Approach Healing Centre in Melbourne, and former president of the Bowen Therapists Association of Victoria (BTAV). Sharon has been trained in seven different versions of Bowen Therapy as well as Kinesiology and many other healing modalities. A charming lady with a heart of gold, she allowed me the opportunity to volunteer at her free clinic once a week. Again, I met a variety of people - from those who knew about Tom Bowen to those who recognized the technique through hearsay. I was able to obtain experience working on people with a broad assortment of issues that responded positively to Bowen Therapy including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, injuries and many chronic conditions. In addition I got to hear firsthand how the BTAV originated and learn its function in the Bowen community.
Bowen Therapy arose from Australia as a descendent of the healing heart and hands of a man named Tom Bowen. Those of us following in his footsteps are the fortunate heirs, carrying on the tradition of sharing our human experience in the name of health and wholeness. The richness I experienced in the Bowen community in Australia has extended my sense of connection to its roots and has become a part of who I am and how I practice. I am grateful for the generosity of all the Bowen therapists (and there are many more than were mentioned in this article) who shared their passion of healing with me throughout my seven months stay.
Presented to the BowenDirectory.com
November 11, 2004
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