Interview at Unmila

Unmila doing RebalancingRebalancing: a form of massage that’s old and new at the same time. It’s new because it began in the late ‘70s through the collaboration of various specialists in different techniques of body and mind work who met in America to listen to the teachings of an Indian master. But it’s also old because, as Unmila Malfatti, rebalancer and Rebalancing teacher, says, "Even the ancient Mongol warriors had discovered that fear, pain and the fear of the same were what caused the removal of the posture from the original model."

The path that led Unmila to bodywork and Rebalancing was certainly not without a good share of trials and tribulations. Despite her rebellious and obstinate spirit, it wasn’t easy for this intellectual to learn to relativize the mind and dedicate herself to the observation of the body.

Today, Unmila speaks about her work with enthusiasm and poetry, as well as a certain sense of humor, particularly when we asked her about the more difficult patients she has encountered. "There's a certain kind of person who wants to be able to say, ‘I’ve really tried everything.’ They want to challenge the world and themselves, knowing already that nothing will heal them. Those are the most difficult clients.”

How you deal with these people?

“Usually I provoke them by saying, ‘You know, I don’t think I can do anything for you.’ Self-sabotage is their game, so if someone explains it to them on a rational level, they can’t understand it. Therefore, they either convince themselves that I'm useless and leave, or they react positively and collaborate. It’s not like all their problems are solved, but they begin to see life in a different way, less as a one-way street, without the usual classic advantages of depression and self-deprecation. Without the need for suffering as ingrained by Catholic education, as if we had to pay for every moment of joy with ten of suffering. But the rebalancer doesn’t say all that; rather, he makes you feel it at a cellular level, which is very different.

“It's a bit like waking a sleeping dog, but a happy dog, not a mean one. So after the massage, people often go away all perky. Other times, when it comes to people who have been living with serious stress for a long time, the massage can bring out a terrible fatigue, or even discomfort, a feeling of nausea – because that type of tension that keeps them ‘living on their nerves,’ as the saying goes, disappears. The massage allows the body to express itself and to make everybody understand its true needs. And there’s another fact: when people get together, they almost always talk about diseases and misfortunes and almost never about good things. It’s a sort of parlor game.

“With this type of massage, I and probably all rebalancers try to open an internal space, that positive and proactive space that’s in each of us. And that’s the healing, because you finally have a choice again, but now you're no longer a child who’s obliged to pick a particular script because it’s the only way to get the attention and affection of others.”
Is it true that Rebalancing is like a form of meditation?

“No doubt, but first we must understand that meditation doesn’t mean to concentrate or make an effort to… It means letting our being, our natural self, come into contact with the other by itself (the world around us, and THUS people) without any interference by thoughts (everything that regularly passes through our minds: concerns, opinions…).

“The purpose of our exercises is to create a space within each of us, an opening to a ‘yes.’

“This ‘yes’ means understanding that all your opinions are your baggage and that the other is always infinitely more than what it appears to be. If we ask ourselves, ‘Who am I?’, we discover that we all give ourselves the identities that others have stuck to us: we are children, mothers, husbands, lovers, secretaries, builders… But in the end, who are we? We are human beings who are living, or even better, who have received some possibilities of which we exploit only a small part.”

Do some people come to you just to get a massage? People who don’t think about meditation or being in better contact with their bodies?

“Yes, I see even that kind of person. It all depends on from whom they got my address and what they want. Sometimes they come with a physical illness, but already with a certain consciousness of the fact that this problem has different origins. Or they come simply because the doctor told them to get some massages because their neck is out of alignment. Then they start listening to me talk about rather strange subjects. But in the end, since they’re obvious things that you can’t intellectualize, it’s enough to ask a few questions about the famous neck and they suddenly remember that, coincidentally, they’d had a family quarrel just two days before. And so, through these little insights, they begin to understand that their neck problem isn’t really just a matter of bones that are ‘out of whack’ and that it’s not always necessary to take medicines to relieve pain.

“To improve the situation, it’s often enough to just touch the part that hurts, to devote some attention to it so that the person feels that it’s more flexible.

“And maybe I didn’t even do anything specific. In that case I say, ‘Look, I just paid attention to that part. Maybe that’s all you need.’ After all, Rebalancing is also a re-learning to pay attention to the body and the breath. The way we breathe is fundamental: tell me how you’re breathing and I'll tell you who you are and where you are. When a person learns to pay attention to a part of the body, he can also feel when that part is tensed, whereas before he only felt the pain when it had reached a pathological level.”

And can pathological conditions be treated with Rebalancing?

“Sometimes, if the work is continuous and combined with another type of work in which the person takes responsibility for the way he sits and moves. In effect, the person has to shift his attention from a robotic life to a chosen life. And the choice not only consists of deciding where to live or what work to do, but also choosing how you stand, how you bend over, how you brush your teeth. But I don’t think it’s always necessary to get sick in order to do something. I focus a lot on prevention. And besides, all these choices keep our minds awake.

“Because the mind is also important; we shouldn’t exorcise it the way it’s sometimes done in certain oriental practices. The mind is as much a part of us as are the physical and biological parts and, even if we don’t touch it and we’re not aware of it, there is another part, too: call it soul, call it spirit, call it what you want, but it’s that part of you that you don’t know but that determines who you are. So you might as well realize that you have the body and the spirit. When you know you have so many things, you really feel rich. Life is so beautiful…”

Do you also treat people with psychological problems?

“One problem is the person who ‘has really tried everything.’ I prefer not to treat the most serious cases by myself. I often suggest a treatment based on support, because there are also people who the psychology manuals define as psychotic or schizophrenic, and you may sometimes give space to a part of their personality that tends to slip out of control – that is, in the sense that in these cases, giving space to dreams or visions could lead to a loss of touch with reality. With these people, we have to work on keeping their feet on the ground.”

Can Rebalancing activate the imagination?

“It’s almost inevitable. I also use suggestions that are sometimes a form of induction, but always closely linked to the body and to the person’s past so that the person can experience herself. I also help myself with music, which is itself therapeutic. I sometimes encourage people to take home a tape of the music they find particularly relaxing because I know that when they listen to it, they’ll find again that state of relaxation. Everything is in the cells. Everything is anchored there. So much so that when you massage an area that has been operated on, it’s likely that the person will relive the moments of terror linked to the memory of the pain, the loss of consciousness… It seems impossible, but it’s true. When they laid their hands on the scar from my caesarean section, even I felt the scalpel make its incision in my tissue, I smelled the anesthesia, and I let out a scream that deeply shocked me. That’s why I’m very cautious when I see scars, even if they’re from minor operations. But it’s not a given that such a memory will present itself. In women, there are certain areas such as the breasts that are 'dead' because they are deeply ambivalent. On one hand, women are proud of their breasts, but on the other hand, the breast has a significance that I would define as strictly sexual. That’s why, outside of that precise context, the breasts are in a certain sense forgotten and not completely experienced.”

So we must fight taboos?

“We have to throw out useless things to make room in our body and in our mind for new knowledge, or to draw out older and more real knowledge.”

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