Gil Hedley: Movement Speech.1

Maybe some of you were like me, very “movey” as a kid like moving all over the place, right? Not anymore~ I used to move a lot. Playing “kill the carrier.” Ten years old , you get the ball, and you run. While your friends run after you. They pummel you, they push your face in the mud. They beat you until you let go of the ball and then they take the ball and they run with it and y’all chase after that one. You do that for hours and hours: “kill the carrier.” That was my favorite game! [laughter] I was gooood! That’s the way it is at a party, right? The little kids are running around, they’re tumbling around on the rug, they’re wrestling with each other, they’re running around the house. And the middle aged folks, like their parents, they’re all in the kitchen. they’re moving, but they’re like making macaroni salad, they’re sprinkling mushrooms into the jello… not mushrooms!! [laughter] MARSHMALLOWS!! [laughter] …depends on the party! …marshmallows into jello-molds~ and uh…. and yelling at the kids. And then the old folk, they’re sitting around the living room. Alright, they’re watching people moving. The older ones are just watching with their eyes. [laughter] Every once in a while they call out like “yeah, I’ll have another!” [laughter] Right? So the stages of movement throughout your life. Now when I went from that tremendously “movey” young child, and then I kind of road my bike a lot in high school, but particularly in the ‘70s we had a weightlifting machine at the gym called “The Universal Machine” Now some of you might remember The Universal Machine, it had several stations: bench press, military press, lat pull down, and leg press. You went around in circles doing that and by junior year in high school, every boy walked around like this [laughter as Gil waddles with arms puffed out to sides] We had what was called the “24 hour lat spread,” We kind of waddled, and we had the range of motion of “The Universal Machine,” right~ [laughter] Now, eventually I got religion and started imitating St. Francis, and I always wore my hood up, walking around like a monk. And by the time I got to graduate school I was pretty much like a monk. I walked around and read for hours and hours. I was like a professional reader and I would read philosophy and theology as I walked around the library with my hood up. And if the weather was fair I would go out on Lakeshore Drive and walk from the South Side of Chicago all the way to the loop, six to eight miles maybe, just reading, reading philosophy. Can you see my movement pattern had changed, huh?! And even I recognized things had gotten a little limited. And I went to a club meeting at the University of Chicago’s “club night,” right~ And I saw this group of people there was about a dozen of them with a leader, he was like a great heron, the teacher. It was the University of Chicago Tai Chi Tao Club, and they did this kind of thing. [Gil performs the gentle Tai Chi movements] I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. So I joined the club. And I did this for seven years. Until I was going to go insane! [big sustained laughter] I had built up so much choreography that it took me two hours a day just to maintain my choreography. [laughter] And, uh, what had (been) a tremendous boon to my range of motion from this stage had become like a straight jacket over the course of time, and I had to move differently. Some of that exploration took place through my Rolfing and my Rolfing training. I uhh, for instance, when I stood in front of my Rolfer, for my first evaluation in my first session, you stand there in your underwear and he takes a picture with a Polaroid. And I’m like… He says “Just stand in front of me” and I’m like “ok.” [Gil awkwardly assumes his strange posture] And he looks out from behind his Polaroid and says: “Stop doing that!!” [laughter] And I was like, Woe! I knew I had been doing something, right~ My pelvis tucked, breathing from my diaphragm, straight back and chin tucked and it was like, I was a “Tai Chi guy,” right?! So I got my Ten Sessions right there. I cried on my way to the bus that night, not from the touch, but from the fact that I was allowing my body to move again in a way that I had sort of dis-permitted based on my ideas of what it meant to walk like a “Tai Chi guy.” And when I went to the Institute, we did our movement training and I walked in front of the class— Jane Harrington, she had me walk in front of the class— And I walked like this, just while they were going to evaluate my gait, my walking patterns. And here I was, eyes six inches… or rather six feet in front of me on the ground, huh~ To avoid the concupiscence of the eyes, right? Because if a monk kind of looks up and catches “titty”… [loud laughter] So, a basic form of self-protection! And so I’m walking along and Jane says to me: “Gil. Would you consider raising your eyes to the horizon while you walk?” And I remember the moment well. And I lifted my eyes to the horizon and I saw exactly what I see now. I saw, I marveled, at this warm group of people who were looking at me with appreciation and kindness, hoping the best for me, and I thought, Wow, I’ve been missing out. I’ve really been missing out. And my eyes come up to the horizon and I spotted the mother of my children in the room at the time. So lot’s of movements creeped into my behavior. Another thing: I would practice the Tai Chi outside in order to get “cat called” basically. [laughter] Watch ‘em throw beer cans at you and stuff, and that’s a way to sort of, we believed, to increase our focus. The particular “cat call” that I got, more than once, was: “It looks really pretty! but you don’t have any chi!” I mean that was like SO mean. [laughter] And I’m thinking to myself, What do you mean I don’t have any chi, I’m a Tai Chi guy, Chi, Tai Chi guy! [laughter] And I’m thinking—I’m really taking this to heart— I’m like, Do I just have “Tai?” [laughter] And then I’m thinking, my teacher gypped me! He just keeps taking my money without telling me about the “chi.” And I’m like, pissed off at that. [doing tai chi movements] Where does pissed off fit here? How can I be pissed off like this? Or this guy, walking along like this, right~ [Gil walking like a monk reading] Where does sex fit in there? Was this guy having sex? [shakes head vigorously “no” to groups laughter] No, remember St. Francis? So… [begins breath and movement exploration] it turns out that anger, it turns out that anger and sex, that was where my chi was. It was in there. It was contained. It was kind of “gummed up.” I couldn’t permit myself those emotions, I couldn’t permit those movements. They didn’t fit with my identity. Right? So… it’s not just stasis, dehydration and inflammation. Those are secondary effects to identifications, relationships, behaviors, churches, families, communities, cultures, in which we are moving, in which we are structuring our movement patterns, right? And creating limit cycles for ourselves. And within those limit cycles we gum-up some of our body and allow some of it to move. Right? Depending upon the identity you’ll allow yourself to move in different ways and EVERYBODY could spot the Tai Chi guys at the University of Chicago, we all moved the same way. Right? And I could spot the other Catholics in my community, we all moved the same way too. And you could build up those bits and pieces together. You see it’s all the way down to the motor units. Right, you were looking at great gross differential movement in the body in the footage that I showed you. But if I could show it to you all the way down to the motor units! Anatomical named “things” aren’t functional units —”gastroc” isn’t a functional unit— it doesn’t function all at the same time, right? If all the fibers of gastroc fire at the same time that’s not functional movement that’s a “charley horse” OOwww!! Right? [laughter] That’s what that is, right? Functional movement is where some units are on, and some units are off, and they trade off back and forth between one another. Alright, so right next door to each other a motor unit is firing, or not, and there’s differential movement at that very level, and at that very level these behaviors and patterns and associations and self identifications are played out and when you take someone into movement choreography as a pilates instructor, as a yoga teacher, when you rub on them as a MELTer or take them through your Eccentrics program or you Yoga Tune Up ‘em, you massage ‘em or Rolf ‘em or what-have-you, you’re actually disrupting that set of compensations and making an invitation to move into and live in the tissues that you’re touching. Consciousness comes there and says Is this my home too? Is this a room in my house? Am I allowed to live and move here too? Because if I can do this it’s going to create a very different set of relationships in my home: “Hey baby, I just got a massage!” [laughter] And that might open doors in that home. She could have been waiting for years to see that walk through the door. But it could also… Doors Shut! Right? Not tonight honey… who are you?? And when they come back to you the next week looking exactly like they did the week before don’t shame them for that, because they could have taken that richness that was offered home and found that home wasn’t quite ready for that yet, Sorry, thank you very much. And everybody at the Rolf Institute was divorced. [loud laughter] If you go through this incredible transformative life changing body exploration, and you achieve a whole new level of self where you can now be angry, or you can enjoy your sexuality, or you can live in every bit of your body, right, then does it fit? Because you’re not moving by yourself, there is no yourself. There’s only the nest of relationships in which you’re swirling. Just something to be mindful of when you’re working with people and inviting them beyond their place. You’re all in transformational territory doing what y’all do.

Glenn Chapman


  1. Thank you Gil, glad I caught this live too!
    If I map your movement history to mine, the details are different but the results are much the same. I like this quest for what is natural, an understanding without too much intellectual parsing, which is why I’d guess your integral anatomy dissection course is a necessary link to connecting an understanding of our universal protoplasm. We are more than robots with meat on our bones yet all too often we get stuck on trying to understand our choice cuts or hiding from the parts that are injured.
    I look forward to more

  2. Gil – Thanks for sharing this. I hope you come back to San Diego again!

  3. WOW! You capture an amazing intersection of understanding philosophy, history, science, movement, psychology, behaviour, culture and simply reminding us what it is to be human. Thank-you for sharing your wisdom and making us laugh and smile at ourselves.

  4. Thanks Gil, Every time I see you, I remember why you have been one of my roll-models for the past 18 years or so. Back then you gently, and wisely steered me away from graduate school, and into a career as a Rolfer, for which I'm very grateful. It's been a meaningful way to cultivate. What important, and novel work you do. We're lucky to have you. J

  5. Thank you Gil for bringing back to the forefront the message that we move in patterns that are not just physical but very much an expression of our communities and beliefs! I enjoyed this now just as much as I did in person.

  6. Wow, thanks Gil! Such gratitude for the insights you share, and particularly in the personable way in which you don’t divorce yourself from it!

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