Episode 52: Feeling More with Jocelyn Olivier
In this episode of Guest Speaker interviews recorded live at OneTaste Urban Retreat Center in San Francisco, host Beth Crittenden has an intimate conversation with Jocelyn Olivier, a dynamic pioneer in the field of holistic bodywork. Jocelyn discusses her personal experiences and influences that led her to develop a way to help people find body experiences. Listen in as we hear about her philosophy about body consciousness and how she believes people can experience and feel their body more as they release and feel the emotions that have been trapped and repressed in the body. If you are curious about ways to feel more alive in your body and how to access all the feelings you have inside, tune in to this episode of Guest Speaker Interviews.
Woman 1: This program is intended for mature audiences only.
Beth Critenden: Hello, everyone. Welcome to “A Taste of Sex: Guest Interviews” here on Personal Life Media. I'm your host, Beth Critenden on One Taste Urban Retreat Center in San Francisco. We offer a wide variety of programs and guests and practices.
I am here with Jocelyn Olivier, who’s the founder and Director of the Institute of Conscious BodyWork: Alive and Well and the Healus Center.
For today, we're going to talk with Jocelyn about her experience and background and what she's learned along the way. Jocelyn is known for creating the technique “neuromuscular reprogramming.” She's also a trained Tantra teacher. She studied with Margo Anan for a year and continues to journey into that practice. She's basically a visionary in the field of sematics, which is the study of the body.
So, Jocelyn, I think that our listeners are really going to want to hear about your approach to body consciousness. They'd like to learn how they can feel more alive in their body and have the ability to access all the feelings that are there that so many of us tend to shut down when we're rushing. So, first of all, what led you to get into kind of cultivating your senses and your body consciousness.
Jocelyn Olivier: I've been in the field of body work now for 34 years and I grew up and matured in my explorations of the body through a very promiscuous period of history, the 1970s, the late ‘60s. So there was a lot of exploration going on in those days. Of course, when one’s in one’s 20’s, one is exploring everything. Anyway, that’s what we do.
In that period of time, I had a lot of opportunity to participate in things that were really about the expansion of consciouness. I had a lot of curiosity about everything to do with the body because I was working in the field of bodywork doing massage. I'd always been very interested in helping people who were having physical, structural problems. I was interested in relieving people’s pain. So my work was focused in that direction, but my personal exploration went in all directions.
So the marriage of those interests eventually arrived with me. I had the opportunity to study Tantra and I was being initiated. I remember feeling very teary eyed and that big surge of personal gratitude for the fact that here's the part of one’s life that one takes for granted, and it either works for your or it doesn’t. For some people, and I think a rather large portion of the population, it doesn’t work as well as the fantasy of what we see represented around us in the media.
So when your own personal experience doesn’t match that which is representative by the media, you don’t really know where to go with that except to feel inadequate. Certainly, in the intimate moments that I've shared with many people in the context of hearing their various life stories and conditions in the context of working with people’s bodies and hearing their personal story about the things around their life or the things that happened to them, that are frustrating to them, or the things that caused them stress and tension.
I would have to say that you learn an awful lot about the suffering that people have been subjected to – the abuse histories, the communication struggles that go on in relationship, the families that were totally dysfunctional, and all that stuff adds up to a level of incoherence and what I would call a lack of consciousness in the body. The end result of that is a shutdown in one sense of appreciation about what really could be possible.
Beth Critenden: When you found yourself wanting that, I think so many women, especially will have a desire come up and then have so many points of resistance come up to kind of push it down or push it away. What give you the courage to go forward with the inquiry? What made it important and valuable to you to go forward?
Jocelyn Olivier: I don’t remember pushing through a lot of resistance around in any of this. I think my curiosity, my interest, and my honoring of the body is what drew me on. Honoring your body’s experience and finding your body’s experience valuable, respecting your body’s experience, and also valuing the idea that having a full sensory experience of being alive and well – which is of course became my tagline for my school – having that appreciation is the thing that just made it natural for me, I would say, to be interested to help other people to find opportunities to that which is part of our sensory life.
Beth Critenden: How do people know when they're kind of on the spot? How would someone recognize that they are having a curiosity in that direction? How would they identify it?
Jocelyn Olivier: We're all on this path. There's really nothing more that needs to be said. Everybody is on this path. Everybody is curious about it. Not everybody is comfortable and not everybody knows of an appropriate place to explore or get more information. But from that time, [xx] open the door and it's great that they made that movie about him recently. But where everything was taboo and everything was being lied about, where people really weren’t representing in any way, what was actually going on in what they were feeling and thinking about and then to have that door open and all the statistics come pouring out of it, there's a whole another reality going on there and there's a lot more that we need to learn about.
I think that it's a terrible mistake that we make it all the way through our school years without learning a thing about the body. When I went to school, they didn’t even teach us muscles and bones and organs. All they taught was hygiene, cleanliness. If all the things that human beings have in common, living in a body has got to be the most universal. I think anywhere you go in the world – and I've traveled all over – there's that common language.
Beth Critenden: Why do you think it is that way?
Jocelyn Olivier: Generations of repression, a lot of suffering, I think. A lot of suffering at the lower level of the world. A lot of distortion in what would otherwise be the natural curiosity. When I was younger in my 20s somewhere, I read a fascinating story that I think really prejudiced my whole life in a point of view about the fact that I don’t think we, as human beings, have yet to realize what we are fully capable of, what is really our birth right. I've seen so much sufferings at people’s bodies and I see the nervous system shutting down. My job is to try to open it up to at least get people out of pain. Most of my work has to do with getting people out of pain and fully functional.
So my own personal interest in Tanta and things having to do with sensuality and sexuality is another layer of my life path. But my work life is really focused on function, comfort, and freedom from pain. So I really do hear a lot of people stories about health suffering and I see how it shut down, their nervous system, their ability to feel. My knowledge in this area is very graphic and accurate to the hundreds of thousands of bodies that I've had my hands on.
That is, I guess, what it's had to be in order to take the stigma of pandering, where people are selling services for dollars out of the context of taking care of your body. So it's been divorced, but as far as the actual functionality of [sp], those two things belong together, sexuality is healing. Sexual energy running through your nervous system is very healing to the nervous system. It stimulates all the endocrine functions and it makes your whole organism a lot more healthy and vital.
Beth Critenden: Something that we play with here and live in is how to define orgasm. How do you personally define orgasm?
Jocelyn Olivier: Gosh, I don’t know you'll going to ask me that question. So since you're asking a question that, obviously, has many answers, I will have to say for me that it is a state of heighten ecstatic experience that can go on for long periods of time if you cultivate it. Really, it's about training your nervous system to be able to experience intensity. Often times, if you look across a room and you catch somebody’s eyes and you get that shock of recognition or contact with somebody, we go, (makes a gasping sound) and we stop breathing.
One of my encouragements in that realm is to say, stopping breathing is exactly the opposite of what you want to do in a situation like that. You actually want to (takes a deep breath) stoke the fire until you get an opportunity to have a real rush of experience that has intensity in it. Then, blow on those flames and make it bigger and see where it takes you. What would it feel like to be that excited about your life. One is not really allowed to walk down the street showing that you feel that excited about your life.
But I think it would be an interesting experiment to open the door and blow on those flames some more and see if we couldn’t get ourselves up to a higher level of excitement. Usually, what people do with their lives, they say they repress, they suppress where they are oppressed and, eventually, they become depressed. I think all of these things are actually the same at the metabolic level if you look at what's going on at the cellular level with those full realities.
Depression is a huge subject in our culture right now where people have been oppressed, suppressed, repressed, and are now depressed in a way that we look upon it as it's like a malfunction in our internal body chemistry. Maybe so, but I think, there's something about the way we're doing our lives that takes us there.
Beth Critenden: What do you see happening under these circumstances? How would that be?
Jocelyn Olivier: For sure, an increased capacity for joy. An increased capacity for having that which everybody says they're great. Contact, intimacy, sensation, fun, joy, and lightness of spirit.
Beth Critenden: Is that how you're living?
Jocelyn Olivier: I would say a good portion of the time other than when one is overcome by the responsibilities of life and all the daily problems that one has to deal with. But if you can have some balance in your life where there are things happening that provide a context for aliveness and joy, whether it's your movement practice, your dance, your love of dance, your lover, your friends, your intimate community, the people that give you satisfaction, whether it's communing with nature. All of those things can be a source of that kind of ecstatic joy in one’s life.
Beth Critenden: I am Beth Critenden, your host of “A Taste of Sex: Guest Interviews.” We're speaking with Jocelyn Olivier. When we return after supporting our sponsors, we'll hear more about Jocelyn’s specific practices and more about enlivening and nurturing and getting the nervous system turned on.
Jocelyn Olivier: I was a dancer and I love to dance and play music. I explored yoga and spend a lot of time in my body and I was blessed enough to have lived this far in my life without any major damage to my system. I've never had a massive car accident or terrible fall or broken anything. So I've actually managed to maintain my body in pretty good condition. I've seen enough of what happens to people when it becomes disorganized, when people have shock and trauma to their system, whether that shock and trauma comes from their exposure to oppressive circumstances in their personal lives or whether it comes from a physical accident or injury. There can be an accumulation of the kind of disorganization that, eventually, your body doesn’t know how to heal itself anymore. It breaks down.
So you can have a minor whiplash and then six months later, you have kind of a medium whiplash. Then a year after that, you can have ski fall and pretty soon, there's this cascade of, “Oh, my God, things that were working in my body before don’t work anymore.” Then, the amount of pain that people have to live with is so suppressing to one’s joy and aliveness in life. I found, as I put their physical functional pieces back together, that it freed up tons of creative energy, tons of pleasure energy to be able to have your life back again. You can imagine the sense of relief that somebody would feel whose energy system has been completely repressed from having not been able to sleep because of pain from not being able to do what you would normally do to give you pleasure, even keep yourself in good condition.
You can't walk. You can't exercise. You can't play. You can't sit. You can't anything. So when you put it back together and you make the whole system coherent – would be a good word – what you find is it's the key to freedom to living your life in a way that ought to be ours. But in fact, there are many things that happen to us in life that disintegrate our ability to live our lives fully alive and well. There aren’t a lot of solutions for this in the medical realm. Unless it's broken or torn, the medical profession doesn’t deal with it. [xx] that it had a whiplash. She was running, she fell, she hit her head from two directions. That was two years ago, now her brain doesn’t work properly.
It wasn’t that she hit her head that hard, it was just that it was such a shock to her system that she has never recovered from it. It gives me great pleasure to be able to contribute into recreating that coherence in somebody’s system and allowing also to discharge. It has happen because when I connected in with her, the first thing that happened was she just burst into tears. Finally, somebody understood how intense her experiences had been for her and how what a struggle it had been for her to just do ordinary things that other people find easy.
Beth Critenden: So I hear the value to you on the individual level of facilitating that opening with someone. What do you feel like as your higher level of personal mission with this work? It's interesting that you haven’t had chronic pain and injuries yourself. What kept you going to found alive and well and to do so much?
Jocelyn Olivier: Well, it's definitely a mission. You got the right word there of feeling like we really need a lot more information than we've been given so far to [xx]. They were the pioneers in exploring human potential. They were the “the” original, high risk, try-everything group of people who were looking into really what a human being capable of. That’s probably the carat. What really is a human being capable of? Who would be if we hadn’t had all these knocks, shocks, traumas, suppressions, conditioning, and all the stuff that’s laid on us by our cultural environment and our physical environment.
Beth Critenden: How would a human know when they’ve reached their full potential?
Jocelyn Olivier: I doubt that there's an end to it.
Beth Critenden: For you, how do you know when you're kind of in the groove and going in the right direction?
Jocelyn Olivier: That question how would you know when you’ve reached your full attention, I really do want to say for one for the thing about it because one of my taglines at the school has always been “Conscious evolution through somatic education.” I think that we are on an evolutionary path and I think that we have the tools available to us to consciously evolve ourselves. How do I know when I'm in the groove? I think of my life being in the groove when I'm excited. When I'm excited about what I'm doing and when I'm talking to people about things that make their eyes light up.
I'm talking or demonstrating or teaching something that has personal relevance to people, it brings a technique that I first developed and then talked to a bunch of people who then helped me developed it. It was a new way of using muscle testing to interact with the structure of the body to find out why things weren’t working. So you can actually put five pounds of pressure against the muscle and they ask it to respond. If it cannot, then what you know is that when you send a message to that muscle, it doesn’t work for you.
So there's something wrong with the messaging system that’s running between the command center up in your brain and the muscle. So as the body loses track of the pieces of itself, that’s when it becomes fixated or dysfunctional. So there's a weakness and then there's a fixation and then there's the body’s trying to cope because the body is your willing servant and it's always trying to follow your instructions and do for you whatever you want it to do. Yet, something had knocked it senseless. If you think of the word “struck dumb.” So there are things that happened to us that causes to be struck dumb and we don’t know we lost that part of ourselves.
I can them “kinestatic blind spots.” So there are places in your body that aren’t working and you don’t know they're not working because they don’t hurt, maybe, or they don’t really collapse until they do. People will say, “My back went out. I was waiting for it to get better. I went to the chiropractor. I went to the acupuncturist, and it’s still not better. Why not? Why isn’t my body healing itself?” In order to heal itself, it has to have coherent information. If the information system that’s governing your body isn’t coherent, you can't heal. So that’s a hugely stressful experience.
So what neuromuscular reprogramming does is it recreates the coherence of your coordination system. It sounds like a simple thing and it sounds very physical and it sounds very biomechanical, which it is. But when the biomechanics of your body are working properly, the amount of stress that that relieves off of your whole body function is amazing. Then life can go on and we can be interested in something besides the issue of how are we going to make it through the day when we hurt this much. We can't sit, we can't reach, we can't squate, we can't do what is required of us in the context of earning a living or taking care of our family. Washing the dishes can be a terrible burden if you can't stand in front of the sink without your back aching all the time. It's exhausting.
Beth Critenden: So what do you think is necessary for people to have handled it before they can address how their sexual system is functioning? Where does that fall?
Jocelyn Olivier: It's on the parasympathetic side of the nervous system when we aren’t stressed, when our body’s at ease, when we're calm and meditative inside, that’s the place where we can feel fully. So if your body is not working right, there's a constant level of stress going on in your system. If there's stress going on in your system, you're in the sympathetic side of the nervous system. You can't access things like digestion, meditation, orgasmic potential, full sensation when there's a lot of static going on in your system. So it's quite the opposite.
So what I see then is I see as people’s bodies become more functional, normal things like sensuality, joy, appreciation, sensuality, and all that stuff opens up to. So reducing stress on the system is really what it's about.
Beth Critenden: Jocelyn, thank you so much. Before we wrap up, we're just about out of time, are there any final thoughts you'd like to tell the listeners out there?
Jocelyn Olivier: I guess I would really like to encourage people to listen to their bodies, to honor their bodies, and to realize that the pain that your body might experience or any sensation but in particular, pain. Pain is not a thing to avoid. Pain, pleasure, and sensation in the body are actually the body’s feedback. It's the way the body talks to us. So pain is actually a thing that your body that call your attention to something you need to be paying attention to. Take care of it.
Beth Critenden: Good advice. What's the best way for people to contact you if they'd like to work with you?
Jocelyn Olivier: I'm easily found at the Institute of Conscious BodyWork: Alive and Well in Corte Madera, California. Our phone number there is 415-945-9945 and that is the Healus Center, the home of the Institute of Conscious BodyWork: Alive and Well and also the Healus Treatments Clinic. We do neuromuscular programming and neurofeedback, a conscious bodywork massage, individualized strength and conditioning because we want to create the coherence that your body needs. We want to condition you to be able to sustain that on your own.
You can also look us up on the Web at www.Healus.com or you can go straight to the school where all these various things that I've been talking about are taught in the context of a state license certification program for people who want to get in to the field of bodywork and massage. That address is AliveWell.com and it doesn’t have the “and” in it, so it's just AliveWell.com.
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