Barcelona 2018 October: Kailey Brennan

Back in the spring my husband and I planned a trip to Spain that would coincide with the Yearly Follow-Up Class in Barcelona (YUFB) at the end of September. This is an annual 2-day class that Chip has been facilitating for close to a decade for practitioners across Europe who are continuing to progress with the Engaging Vitality (EV) material. It’s an opportunity to review topics participants want to revisit, practice the various palpation techniques, and reconnect and practice with fellow practitioners. Rayén Anton, a Barcelona-based practitioner who organizes and teaches EV trainings throughout Europe describes the YUFB as “a special kind of gathering, made by all the parts (which is all of us) and becoming something that is more than the sum of the parts.” I think this is a very beautiful way of describing it, and captures just how I feel when I get the opportunity to spend time and practice with fellow practitioners in the US who are also working with the EV material. 

This year’s YUFB directly followed a 3-day Visceral Course with Dan Bensky. Dan lead the first day of review and practice while the EV European teachers crew oversaw the second day. For just coming off of a very full few days of training, everyone (and their very juicy livers) were remarkably focused and present. 

It was a jam-packed couple of days. But a few things really stand out…

First off, when you make your way across the Atlantic Ocean to have Dan Bensky tell you for the ten-thousandth time that you’re still emitting when practicing the Manual Thermal Technique, it really has a way of finally getting through. I have a tendency to come in really hard and focused and look for the top of the Thermal Layer and end up doing all kinds of emitting in the process. But for whatever reason this time his instruction really got through to me. I understood what he meant when he told me I was emitting. I got it. Oftentimes it works out this way learning these palpation techniques. It takes a long time and a lot of practice and then just a bit of refinement in the moment and then “Wow, I get it.” A big learning moment presents itself. It finally gets into your body.

It was very evident to me from the beginning that this is a group of practitioners who have been deeply influenced and shaped by Chip’s approach to the Engaging Vitality material. The individuals who I had the good fortune of practicing with during the two days exhibited this very lovely and admirable blend of clinical rigor and deftness with genuine, heartfelt presence. The word that I kept hearing repeated while practicing was appreciation - appreciation for the quality of touch and resonance with patients, appreciation for the Shape of Qi, appreciation for the appearance and quality of the Fluids, appreciation for what the patient’s system is trying to convey in this moment. The European teachers really embodied a sense of soft focus and levity, this kind of benevolent attentiveness when making contact with the qi. 

Additionally they are all fantastic teachers - patient, precise, encouraging, and very supportive. During a practice session I received some feedback from Rayén that was so helpful, so incredibly useful in my own personal process as a practitioner. I really don’t think I could have heard it or digested it if it had been given by a different teacher or if it had been delivered in any other way than how she delivered it in that moment. Rayén helped me to really see and understand in the moment that my particular stance and energetic communication was too forceful and too forward and that it was inhibiting me from really being able to come from a more receptive and open place while needling, a place of true listening. This was very evident in the fact that when I did start to soften and pull back, my partner’s system started talking to me, and I was able to connect with a sense of Settling, Suppling, Integrating and Opening (SSIO) while needing. This was invaluable feedback, a true gift, the lessons for me applicable in my life even beyond my practice of Traditional East Asian Medicine. 

We fleshed out Channel Listening a little more. We revisited some of the material we all went over in the Cranial Course. We did a practice set on Listening Through The Needle that was fantastic and for the first time gave me a visceral sense of what that actually means. We talked about differentiating between the Fluids and the Shape of Qi. We talked a little bit about the timeless quality of working with the fluids, how time has a way of slowing down when making contact with the fluids and we find ourselves inhabiting a different space. We discussed the importance of not forcing anything, respecting limits, and the importance of gentle pacing and listening and quietude in the clinical encounter. We talked about Extraordinary Vessel movement, morphology, and resonance. It was such a breadth and depth of material that we were able to discuss in such a short period of time, and at the end of the two days it gave me such an appreciation for how incredibly cool the Engaging Vitality material is, how fun it is to work with the principles and the palpation techniques, to share in this joy with my colleagues, to see how I have been nudged along and encouraged and have grown as a practitioner. It was very joyful for me to be there. I felt an immense amount of gratitude. 

Altogether my husband and I spent about two weeks in Spain, a good deal of it in Barcelona. I e-mailed Chip at one point while I was there to tell him: 

I also love that you guys have set down such strong roots in this city. I love this city and I love to get lost here. To the extent that I am willing to totally lose my way here, to get lost, I am rewarded with new experiences, locations, something interesting to come upon. The more willing I am to get lost, the more likely I am to find something completely new. The metaphor of EV is totally alive for me in this city. And it’s all imbued with warmth, benevolence, curiosity, appreciation, boundless love.

Kailey Brennan, October 2018