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What Bill Bowen Taught Me

I learned to touch hearts.

Literally. The first weekend of my first training, we were touching each other’s hearts — with humility, love, presence and curiosity. Now, when I am sitting with a client, even if I never physically touch their hearts, I know that our hearts can and do touch even though we are five feet apart. I learned this from Bill touching my heart, from him putting his hand over mine as I touched another’s heart, and from seeing how his heart met another’s every time he did a demonstration. This is what I try my best to do, before anything else and during everything else I do in my work.

I learned that we know we have feelings because our bodies tell us.

We use phrases to describe feelings such as: “gut-wrenching,” “heavy,” “frozen,” and “heartache.” The body always knows; it just may not know how to say it. I learned to help the body speak it's words directly, and for thoughts to find their reflection in the body. Watching Bill work was like watching an artist (He started off as a sculptor!). He would bring something out that was hidden in the form, and then help work it into knowing, which would then lead to the next discovery. Because I trust the body, it’s wisdom and it’s drive toward wholeness and integration, I rest in a deep trust in the process of therapy that includes the body.

I learned to not worry about not knowing.

In the world of diagnosis and treatment, there is often a rush to “know,” to diagnose, and to define the formula for treatment based upon that diagnosis. With Bill I learned that diagnosis went way beyond the DSM. It was very specific to the individual and the experience, and by responding specifically — to the nuance and complexity of the body and mind’s organization in response to specific life experiences — we would be able to provide the most effective and respectful support to our clients. All I had to do was deeply listen, without hurrying, or trying to fit what I heard and saw to quickly into a predetermined pattern.

I learned more from Bill than I can say in words.

I spent hundreds of hours in training with him, watching him work, having his hands and questions guide me in growth from my first weeks as an intern to consultation calls when I had my own practice. Before he died his students were able to gather with him, and I was so glad to tell him that his teaching has moved through me to so many people, and will continue to do so as long as I’m able to work.

You can still watch Bill at work.

Videos of short presentations can be found here.

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