The Therapeutic Value of “Maintenance” as a Life Process

We all need to devote energy to “maintenance.” No, this does not refer to some kind of human 30,000-mile check, like what you might do for your car (although healthcare would be much simpler if it only required a new water pump or brake pads at certain intervals). No, we are referring to a different kind of maintenance. What is being recommended is more along the lines oftaking the time to really work through what has been taken in, so that it can fully become one’s own.

In anthroposophic medicine we work with the recognition of seven archetypal “life processes,” which are part of every process of true change or transformation. The words used to originally identify these stages refer quite closely to the way they work in our physiology:

Breathing (the first life process)
Warming (second)
Nourishing (third)
Secretion (fourth)
Maintenance (fifth)
Growth (sixth)
Reproduction (seventh)

They can also be well-described using somewhat broader terms, which allow us see how they relate not only to the way our organs work, but also to our processes of learning, of transition, of grief, of growth:

Coming to Know
Bringing into New Life.

The last three steps–maintaining, growing, bringing into new life–are largely unconscious. In fact, they are essentially characterized by being a little hidden, by not being consciously decided upon. In other words, you can’t plan and intellectually navigate your way through all the steps of change. Those later, more inner steps happen in a quiet, interior space, which is really only found when we let go of the way we are consciously trying to guide a situation.It’s the space where we make the turn from taking something in to giving something out, from being reactive, to creative—a bit like the pause between taking in one breath and starting another. We don’t decide every four seconds that we need to breathe again; it just happens when it should. But knowing when the new breath should begin only happens properly when we pause. The pause is not about doing nothing.There is tremendous inner sensing and equilibrating going on underneath it.

That “maintaining” pause can also be an important part of therapeutic work. The most consciously cultivated examples of it probably come in anthroposophic nursing, movement and massage work. For after a session of therapeutic eurythmy, a nursing compress, or a rhythmical massage treatment, there is a rest time. This can feel a little strange at first if you are not expecting it. If you knew it ahead of time, you might ask “why am I paying for an hour’s treatment when half of the time is spent laying around?” But that question is almost never present once you actually experience the rest time. It’s part of the treatment so that the experience can really penetrate inward. In fact, the effects of a rhythmical massage often keep unfolding over 24-48 hours.Doing a series of treatments creates overlapping waves of experience, which quietly work their way through the seven life processes to facilitate lasting change.

We are blessed in the Denver/Boulder communities to have a variety of exactly these kind of marvelous “wave workers” who offer such thoughtful anthroposophic treatments:
Judy Lucas, rhythmical massage,
Dona Totten, anthroposophic nursing and massage
Glenda Monasch, eurythmy therapy
They are under-utilized treasures and are doing such good work.Please consider trying some of this important therapeutic activity—it can only really be understood by experiencing it.

Good maintaining!

Dr. Blanning

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