How can you bring a new level of presence to your relationship? And what if this new level of presence could also help you find a sense of well-being in any moment? And how can you make sure you’re being yourself – instead of trying to be what somebody else wants you to be? This week, our guest is Julie Henderson, author of The Lover Within and Embodying Well-Being, and the creator of Zapchen Somatics. Zapchen is a Tibetan word that suggests something naughty, or improper – and for Julie Henderson it’s a practice of how sometimes things that are unexpectedly simple can have profound results. The practices and principles of Zapchen Somatics are a direct approach to embodying well-being, which Julie refers to as “feeling as good as you can…in spite of everything.”Click here to receive the Transcript for Julie Henderson
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Julie Henderson: Most people don’t know how to be present. So, they don’t know how to be present in relationship to someone else, so they make something up. They make it… They make some kind of a guess. And then, they do that and see if it has the effect that they want. I would like to say that my… One of my two inside cats has come into the living room and is sniffing the sun, that’s nice. So, what it is to be present? Most people are not encouraged to learn how to do that. That’s central to everything. So, I would say, notice… Well, notice that you are. That might be a surprise to a lot of people, in fact, just to do that, but it’s a huge step for most people to notice that they are, and just to experience how they are, when they are noticing that they are. [chuckle] It’s kind of a strange, strange way of talking about things, but it’s… Almost everybody is born knowing how to be, but they are often taught from an early age not to be because it bothers their parents.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. So…
Julie Henderson: When we are being, frequently, we are loud, if we’re kids. Yeah.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Julie Henderson: So, you were going to say?
Neil Sattin: Well, that was the exact thing. I was going to, hopefully, get you to point out. What are these ways of being that come naturally or innately that we would be conditioned not to do?
Julie Henderson: Well, it varies from person to person. Don’t you see? There are… It almost always involves… When we’re young, it almost always involves spontaneous movement, spontaneous noise really because often we are being noisy before we know how to talk. And so, when we are both noisy and active, dancing around, or… Yeah, dancing around, often. Young people like to experience being by moving, and lots of times, parents don’t like that because it’s… Parents are tired, parents don’t know how to be themselves anymore because they have to go to work and stuff like that, so they encourage their children not to be loud, not to be moving, not to be having a good time being. That’s the main difficulty, I would say. We are taught not to be. Not to be present, certainly. What is it? I’m trying to think how I would say, What do we mean “present”? Noticing, in various ways, what it feels like to be present, what it feels like to notice that we actually are. I don’t know, maybe it’s old, but it all sounds a little bit who cares, but I find it absolutely necessary.
Julie Henderson: And it’s not so hard, except that when we are grownups we have often spent a lot of time learning not to be present, not to notice that we are really this being of presence. And so…
Neil Sattin: Yeah, there are some things that are clicking into place for me. For instance, yeah, when we were young, let’s say before we’re even verbal, we have very limited ways of communicating with our parents. And if I think about my experience of being a parent, I was recognizing a lot of what seems like discomfort and unease in my children and trying to address it in a way that hopefully brings peace and happiness to them. But what I’m hearing, or what’s clicking into place, is that through that process there’s inadvertently really… What happens is the ways that our organism innately wants to communicate and express and just kind of deal with being a body, existing in this realm, that we might become either alienated from those ways, or like you were just saying, told that we can’t do those things. We can’t express, can’t make noise, can’t be unruly, can’t jump around. This is common, I think, for a lot of us to go through that experience.
Julie Henderson: Very, very common, very common.
Neil Sattin: And so then we find ourselves as adults trying to make sense of the world, and trying to make sense of our relationships. But at that point there’s a communication system, the communication that emerges from within us, and in many ways we’re alienated from that. We’re alienated from the messaging that comes from within that tells us about how we are.
Julie Henderson: Yep. We have learned to ignore what’s actually true and to come up with something that’s acceptable, or we have been taught is acceptable. And then we try to bring that into a relationship with people that we find attractive.
Neil Sattin: Right. No wonder it gets confusing.
Julie Henderson: No wonder it gets very cranky.
Julie Henderson: We try so hard to get it right so that that person will love us, and by and large it really doesn’t work.
Neil Sattin: Right. Or it works for a little while, and then it starts to get confused, or there’s all this tension and bumps that could happen.
Julie Henderson: Yep.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Julie Henderson: I think eventually there’s a… What… A resentment that arises in us spontaneously because we are not being who we are. And we may not even recognize that that is what is going on, but that we are trying to be what somebody else wants us to be, and that’s uncomfortable.
Neil Sattin: Right, and I’m getting the sense that when you talk about being who we are, in some respects you’re not talking about being… Like being who we are as an expression of your preferences, or your likes and dislikes. It’s something on a deeper level than that.
Julie Henderson: Oh yes, yes, yes. One of the things that I have found people take to, even given the invitation and the possibility of trying it out is to, I say… When you say I, where is it coming from in you as a body, is it coming out of your head, is it coming out of your chest, is it coming out of your belly? And I just invite people to notice where that “I” is that they are talking about is located. And very often, very often, especially with Westerners, it’s in their head. So then I would say, “Okay, well, if you were to move that voice into your heart, would you say the same thing that you just said, when you were being in your head, in your brain? And often, often they’re just really startled that the rest of them, starting with the heart in this particular instance, is not feeling or responding to being the same as we have been taught to do by being located in our head, especially if we went to school a lot.
Neil Sattin: Right. There’s a lot of head instruction when you’re in school.
Julie Henderson: Yup, yup. I remember for myself, when I first went to. I was at Cal as a freshman, the University of California, Berkeley, and I was sitting in a classroom and suddenly I was noticing that it was not my head that was engaged here, it was my whole body, ideally speaking, but I didn’t get that far that suddenly but just noticing that I could be more of myself, so to speak, and that that was very attractive.
Neil Sattin: And was there something particular about that class that created that experience for you?
Julie Henderson: I think it was in English class but I don’t remember because what studies stayed with me was that recognition and whatever we were talking about in the class was not it, was not the relevant recognition.
Neil Sattin: First let me just say that I find your work, at least to the extent that I’ve been exposed to it so far, to be both fascinating and comforting and it’s just, for me, like such a curious blend of all these different practices and techniques and ways of looking at experience that even in just my simple introduction to your work, that they’ve made an impact and in particular, I’m thinking…
Julie Henderson: May I say that’s very nice to hear.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, of course. And in particular, I’m thinking right now about one of the first conversations that we had and just to give you listening, a little background, my introduction to Julie was through her book, The Lover Within, which had been given to me by a friend and reached out in a number of different ways to try and connect with you, Julie, and then when we finally connected and started talking about your work, you were like, “Oh there’s been so much since then. And let me send you a few things,” and you sent me, among other books, which we’ll get to in a little while, you sent the Hum Book. And that was where I started actually was by reading your book about humming, and in the time since then I’ve used humming as a way of bringing myself back to presence, a lot actually. I’m curious if you can…
Julie Henderson: Oh, it’s a treat.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, can you talk a little bit about the practice of humming, and also what is it about humming that’s so restorative, in your opinion?
Julie Henderson: Well, there are 75 different ways of answering that. [chuckle] One of the… One of the ways would be to say, “When we hum, we are touching our whole body.” If we are relaxed enough to let the hum go through the whole body, which most people aren’t, to begin with, but eventually. When we are touching our whole body from the inside, and what drives me wild with joy, just to think about it, and to talk about it, is that we are touching… We are touching the cellular presence of being a body, and offering it nourishment, because of the oxygen that goes with the hum, and the encouragement to be a body that goes with that kind of inner contact with ourselves. And it’s very relaxing, for one thing. I’m sure you’ve noticed that.
Neil Sattin: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Julie Henderson: But it is… Yeah? Go ahead.
Neil Sattin: And when you talk about how it… How you’re actually touching the cellular structures within you, I just want to give the people listening a sense of what you’re talking about. As a visual, you describe someone, I think bowing a violin, and in the presence of a pane of glass with a bunch of sand sprinkled on the glass, and that by making the sound, everything on the glass dances. And then, when the sound stops, it comes to rest in a coherent pattern that comes from the vibration. And so, through humming, we get to send this coherent pattern through our entire body.
Julie Henderson: Yes.
Neil Sattin: And experience that, the results of that resonance. How long should someone hum to experience that, do you think?
Julie Henderson: How long do they want to hum?
Neil Sattin: I love it. And is there a quality of the hum that you… So, when people are like, “Well, I’ve hummed before. I don’t think I’ve experienced what they’re talking about.” How do you get at that particular kind of humming that has such a deep effect?
Julie Henderson: I would say, be the hum. Mostly, if somebody says, “Well, I hummed and nothing happened,” something like that, it’s because they weren’t there. They weren’t there as the hum, for the hum, following the hum, so of course it didn’t have the same effect. I think a lot of times it just doesn’t occur to somebody to be present in the hum, and as the hum. And you can go… Well, I’ve got to tell you, the first time I had the good sense to do this that I’m about to say, it was just stunning to me that I could, for example, I could hum in my chest. And then, the hum, if I relaxed a little bit and changed the location of my attention, if I would take my attention into my belly then, for example, then the hum would automatically go there, and down my legs, and into my feet and toes, and so forth. Wherever I placed my attention, that is where the hum will go, and feel good. Feel good.
Julie Henderson: So, one of the things that happens is that if you are humming into your chest, for example, where in your chest? If you have learned about the mediastinum by studying this or that, then if you hum into the mediastinum, the tissues there which we often… When, for example, we feel unloved, if we notice that the tissues in the mediastinum, if they are contracted, automatically we will be feeling unloved because that is the way we have of protecting ourselves from being alone or feeling like everything is too hard, or whatever our practices of that sort are. So, if we locate the mediastinum, that wonderful, wonderful set of, excuse me, set of tissues that surround and support the heart, and a lot of the… A lot of the feelings that we have about how we are arise in the cells that surround, that fill the mediastinum and surround and support the heart. That’s a wonderful thing to do, really wonderful.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. I’m reminded of how, at the very beginning of your book, Embodying Wellbeing, there’s a foreword from Paul Ekman. And some of you listening may know of Paul Ekman because he studied micro-expressions in the face and your ability to tell what someone is really feeling or thinking by studying their micro-expressions. And then, he further went on to talk about how, if you could reproduce those expressions in the face, you could create emotions. And then, just to give everyone the background here, because I found this so fascinating, Julie ended up being in contact with him. And you can correct me if I’m wrong, Julie, but he studied you in his lab, and was amazed that not only were you able to create different emotional states, seemingly at will, but also you weren’t bound by having to change your facial expression or the way you were breathing.
Neil Sattin: There was something you were doing that was allowing you to experience joy, and rage, and sadness, and all of these things, just through how you were… Well, you tell me, because I’m so fascinated and curious to know. [chuckle] What were you doing?
Julie Henderson: Because my body knows how to do that.
Neil Sattin: Yes, great. Great.
Julie Henderson: As I am a body, I already know how to do that. And if you look at that very first part of Embodying Wellbeing, where the basic, basic, basic exercises are, those are things that kids do spontaneously. And if they are not suppressed from doing them, they will grow up with that capacity, inherent in themselves as being a body, and they will be able to do what I can do.
Neil Sattin: And so, let’s just talk for a moment about what it means to embody well-being. because we’ve brought up presence, we’ve talked about embodying, and I’d like to converge that into what the heck are we actually talking about? Embodied presence, what does that mean?
Julie Henderson: You want to talk about embodied presence, or embodied wellbeing? They’re not quite the same. They go together, but it’s… It will be helpful if we choose one to begin with.
Neil Sattin: Where’s a good place to start?
Julie Henderson: Well, whichever one for whoever is wanting to try it out, whichever one is easy for you. For example, for me, it was easy because both of my parents were actors and they would be preparing for roles and they would be feeling various feelings and stuff, so it was not an uncommon experience for me and I could try things out, I was not suppressed from doing that. Let’s see.
Julie Henderson: It all seems so straightforward to me, at the moment. Yeah, either way, well being or presence, it doesn’t matter, you start by bringing your attention into your body as sensation and let yourself take in the qualities of those sensations and that will tell you what you are at that time inclined to feel. So if then you want to feel well-being, which is a very nice thing to do, it’s sort of like tweaking. What do you want to invite yourself as a body to do so that well-being arises, that would be the question from a grownup point of view. And if you have access to what it has been like for you to be a kid, a child, it’s very easy if you have permission from your experience to [chuckle] laugh and to think of something that attracts you, that you like, that you are glad that you know about and let your body sense in to those sensations and, yeah, just enjoy them, just enjoy them.
Neil Sattin: When I think about being in relationship and how much energy goes into trying to solve problems. Then what occurs to me is that the first thing that has to happen in order for you to be trying to solve a problem is you have to imagine that there is a problem and that sense of there being a problem is probably coming from some sense of discomfort within you. And one of the lovely other insights that your book, Embodying Wellbeing, starts with is this idea that you don’t have to wait to fix the problem, if there even is a problem, to feel good, to embody well-being.
Neil Sattin: And I’m imagining, because I haven’t fully experienced this yet, honestly, but I’m imagining what it could be like for people in relationship to be so aware that they say, “Okay there’s a problem right now. First thing I’m going to do is I’m going to hum and then maybe I’m going to laugh and yawn or jiggle my body,” and I’m just kind of cherry picking a few of the techniques that you mentioned at the beginning of Embodying Wellbeing. And I’m going to see what that does to my state of being and the way that I feel before we even try to solve anything.
Julie Henderson: Yup.
Neil Sattin: And it’s such a profound degree of… Well it’s funny, I was about to say control, but that word control feels so like not the right…
Julie Henderson: Try choice.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, there, perfect.
Julie Henderson: Try choice.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, so the ability to choose what our experience is in the moment.
Julie Henderson: And to play around with… Suppose you feel like there’s something wrong and you don’t know what it is exactly, suppose then you choose to do some or one or two or three or four of these things that help us to move towards well-being before you worry about it and see if it’s still there.
Neil Sattin: Right and what if it is, what if it is still there?
Julie Henderson: Well, then you may also have more clarity about what it is that you would like to have different.
Neil Sattin: Right. because so often we’re just reacting from a place of, “I’m uncomfortable I want to feel better.” And the illusion in those moments with a partner especially is that the way to feel better is for you to change, the other person to change.
Julie Henderson: Yeah, “be different for me darling”.
Neil Sattin: Right, exactly. Do you have any suggestions for a practice that might be a good invitation for two people to do together, maybe even in a moment of tension between them but maybe even before a moment of tension it could be, they practice it with [chuckle] when there’s less at stake or something like that.
Julie Henderson: Well before they decide that they’re going to feel bad because they don’t like what’s happening, that would be nice. There are… Horse lips is perfect and I guess probably most people have long gone past practicing horse lips. [chuckle]
Neil Sattin: Horse lips?
Julie Henderson: Horse lips.
Julie Henderson: You can do it that way, or you can do it with more relaxed lips, so it’s like. It won’t do it for me at the moment. I’m getting it wrong.
Julie Henderson: Yeah, there is a way if your lips are really, really relaxed, that they vibrate and flap instead of making the buzzy sound and that’s a lot of fun.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, kind of like this?
Julie Henderson: Yep, that’s horse lips. Horse lips because horses do that, God bless them. When they are excited or interested or just playful, they will do that.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I’m noticing right now that… Well, okay, so it feels silly to have done that. Here we are, we’re in an interview and thousands of people are listening to us and…
Julie Henderson: Oh my God.
Neil Sattin: I know, exactly.
Julie Henderson: I didn’t do it. [chuckle]
Neil Sattin: But it feels like silly and good.
Julie Henderson: Well, it is the beginning of a willingness to move towards well-being even if we were taught not to be silly.
Neil Sattin: Right, that is so funny. Just hearing you say that, it makes me think of those moments when we are abdicating our choice to feel good and in particular those like tense moments with, it could be with our partner, could be sitting in traffic, whatever it is, but those moments when we choose to stew, or choose to be angry or choose to be fearful and I’m saying this right now and I can even hear myself in a different frame of mind being like, “I’m not choosing this,” it’s like, “It’s overtaking me.” But yet if in that moment if someone said, “Oh well, just like do horse lips,” a favorite one of my wife Chloe and I is to speak in gibberish. But it’s like, it can take a serious amount of effort to actually make yourself do that in a tense and triggered moment because there’s so much that wants to resist.
Julie Henderson: Well, I tell you what. It is really something worth trying, to say, “I am feeling like I want to be pissed off about something and I’m going to try feeling good first, then I can be as pissed off as I want to be.” If I still want to be because if I’m allowing myself to feel well and happy first, then the whole organismic context, the attitude that is held in the cells and all of the ways that we are put together as a body, when we are feeling good as a body, then it’s unlikely that we will want to feel pissed off. We may have an objection still, but we don’t have to go into a contracted state of being. I mean we can, we always have that choice. It’s just that we don’t… It’s not necessary that we go in that direction.
Neil Sattin: Right. And even then you get to bring the element of choice to how you handle your objection versus just…
Julie Henderson: Absolutely. Yeah.
Neil Sattin: Losing choice because you’re in a contracted state.
Julie Henderson: Yep.
Neil Sattin: So I can already imagine the next little bit of conflict that comes up between me and Chloe, I’m going to be like, “Just excuse me for a moment,” and go into the next room and do some horse lips and laugh and hum and then come back and be like, “All right, let’s try this again. Let’s have this conversation again.”
Julie Henderson: Mm-hmm.
Neil Sattin: Can you talk about the difference between well-being, feeling good in that way, and pleasure? Because I think at least in part, the desire for pleasure and mutual pleasure is another aspect of what brings two bodies together.
Julie Henderson: Yep, often enough, unless they’ve already been taught not to do that. Then they have to practice letting themselves enjoy being for its own sake rather than some screwy version of getting things right.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. So maybe, where would we start with like where’s our introduction to pleasure?
Julie Henderson: Well, we’re born moving into pleasure by being when we’re babies, and then we can do that but some parents are very encouraging of that and then it stays that way, and then we get to… [chuckle] Then we get to learn that we don’t always like everything that’s happening and we get to practice not liking it. And that’s one of the things that kids are very good at, and then parents don’t understand why they are choosing to scream and holler.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. So if I’m someone who… Like I don’t think this is me, honestly, but at the same time I do think it’s really important for us as adults to kind of re-learn pleasure so that it’s free from the cultural constructs, the ways that we’ve been taught are the ways we should and shouldn’t experience pleasure, and to actually experience it from the inside out. So we’re not trying to re-enact something that we think will give us pleasure, but… If this is making sense. So I’m wondering, is there an exercise for you that comes to mind that’s about kind of re-awakening this experience? Like a very kind of raw experience of pleasure in our experience in our bodies?
Julie Henderson: Well [chuckle], first be a body. If you isolate yourself in your head, for example, which many people in the West are brought up to do… If you let yourself… Well, I’m trying to think… The easiest thing really is to notice something that you like and let yourself rest in that and feel the bodily sensations of that. And as you do that you will be feeling pleasure.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. It’s almost like you’re saying experience what it’s like to like something.
Julie Henderson: Mm-hmm. Let yourself experience what it’s like. Let yourself experience that there is something that you like. Some people feel like that’s… Well, some people would say, “Oh that’s just the kid thing,” or, “I have to have something that I like to like.” I think, yeah, if we give ourselves… For example, if you will plant some flowers or if you will plant a tree… I mean, here where I live, I have a house that I thoroughly enjoy having living in and six and a third acres of forest. It would be very difficult for me to feel bad. I’d have to really work at it.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. So there’s something…
Julie Henderson: And I have cats.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. So there’s something to knowing yourself that well to know what you, what you like and what you don’t.
Julie Henderson: Yeah. And to practice noticing what we like rather more thoroughly than what we don’t like. It is important to notice what you don’t like, but it’s better to notice more often what you do like so that you don’t get stuck in not liking.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, and that makes me think of your concept of appropriate touch, which is something I’m really curious to hear more about from you because it seems like… When I think about the sexual paradigm that we’re all born into, the ways that we learn to experience pleasure with each other. And actually, I don’t want to say born into, it’s more like, “This is what our culture is created,” and we’re seeing a lot of this manifest right now in the Me Too movement and recognition that a lot of people are feeling violated in the name of at least one person’s pleasure others are feeling super violated and disrespected, and so I’m curious to where this brings a couple so that they can experience each other and awaken pleasure and awaken touch with each other in a way that is appropriate. That’s the word that comes to mind for me. So can you talk a little bit about what that means for you, appropriate touch and how that enters the picture?
Julie Henderson: Okay. If I were to talk about it just as me, rather than me in relationship to somebody, I would say it’s interesting. I would first ask my body, ask myself as a body if there was some touching that it would like, that I would like and whether that would be, for example, to go outside and lean up against one of the trees or whether it would be asking one of the cats to sit in my lap and purr, or because there’s… At the moment there’s nobody else living in this house except me. It’s just me. Only me.
Julie Henderson: One of the things, one of the things that’s very, very helpful. If there are two people that are either confused about how to approach touching each other, or just wanting to be very tender and slow with something. If you sit back to back so that you can feel your heart from behind and you can feel your heart touching the presence of your partner’s heart. That’s a very, very helpful thing to do. It’s very respectful and it’s very tender.
Neil Sattin: So okay, I’m going to ask maybe a sort of crass question.
Julie Henderson: Crass on sweetheart.
Neil Sattin: Okay. How do you get from back-to-back to front-to-front?
Julie Henderson: Well, not all at once. [chuckle] Take your time and sit side-to-side. Sit side-to-side on the ground, so that your thighs are contacting each other and hold hands, I would say. I think that would be a lovely thing to do. You can also do that lying down, which is nice. If you do that lying down and then reach across and hold each other’s hearts, so if I am lying down with my friend, Tony, and we are side-by-side, the whole side of the body touching each other, and I reach across and put my hand on his heart, and he reaches across and puts his hand on my heart, that’s a very full embrace really. And it’s easy to maintain for a short time or a longer time, without trying to make it sexy. It can easily become sexual, if both people are wanting to do that, and if they feel safe to do that, but they don’t have to do that.
Neil Sattin: And what are the energetics that are going on when this is happening? What are the energetics that are happening within a body and then between bodies?
Julie Henderson: You mean what is, how is the body expressing its experience of what’s happening?
Neil Sattin: Sure, and I think this also goes in a little bit to your ideas about what is happening energetically, in those more subtle levels as bodies interact with bodies, and hopefully, present bodies interacting with present bodies.
Julie Henderson: Well, if the body is not being present, there will be very little if any contact actually. If you mean, by energies, if you mean the sensations that arise in and around the body, when it is not… What? When it’s not staying inside its skin. If it lets itself move beyond its skin, then what you would be experiencing would be some of its energy. Otherwise, the energy is felt as movement and sensation when it’s inside the body.
Neil Sattin: So if I wanted to taste the energy, the beyond the body experience, what… Yeah, how does one approach that?
Julie Henderson: Well, I would say, first feel… Aha, my bird clock is about to say it’s noon. Squeak, squeak. First, it would be a question of recognizing, learning to recognize what those, the sensations of the energy, of being that body, and check it out from one place to another. You know like what does it feel like to be your liver, for example. Bring your attention out of your head into your liver, and feel what the sensations of being a liver are, and just go around the whole body and try them out. And then, if you have the background, you can follow the circuitry, the circuitry of that body, which lots of people have been to classes to learn how to do that. And it’s not always the case that the teaching includes noticing that those branches of energy movement, they do not stop at the skin.
Julie Henderson: So you can follow the… I’m trying to think a bit. There are many, many of these ways of… Especially the Chinese. They’re very good about teaching people to perceive the movement of these channels, and you can follow them from each of the chakras, and each one, each chakra has more or less numbers of first a location within the body, and then these channels that go out from each of the bodies, each of the…
Neil Sattin: The chakras.
Julie Henderson: Yeah, each of the chakras, yeah. And when you follow them, they will come to the edge of the body, and you just don’t automatically stop there. You let that channel and the movement of energy through that channel extend beyond the skin. And the more you have practice doing that qi, the more access you have to feeling your awareness and presence beyond the body. And then, not only your own but others.
Neil Sattin: Why would someone want to do this?
Julie Henderson: Well, some people would like to do it because it’s fun.
Neil Sattin: Right. Fun and cool, yeah.
Julie Henderson: Yup, and then it’s an exploration for many people. They discover that they can do that and then they say, “Well, I wonder what goes with that? If I do that, what will I discover?” There are many, many, many, many things that people discover about being a body that are beyond the body.
Neil Sattin: So that brings me to two questions. Earlier you mentioned something depending on our background. And it’s funny to me, in some ways, that I feel like we’ve done this interview backwards because typically we would have started here, but I would love for you to give our listeners just a sense of your background. Like where does all this work come from for you?
Julie Henderson: Depends on which aspect of it we would like to look at first. I guess the earliest would be that both of my parents were actors, and they were, at least until I was 12, they were frequently preparing for roles. And so I had a lot of support in feeling things and feeling, and I just relaxed about doing things that are a little odd. And that was enhanced when I went to Cal, to the university, because although I started out studying chemistry, I rapidly discovered that what I really wanted to do was to learn to act, so I did that. And after I graduated from the university, I spent a lot of time studying and I learned a lot from that. I’m trying to think… Round about the same time, I met my first Tibetan teacher, and from that time, until just the last few years, the main influence on me was my Tibetans.
Julie Henderson: And, most recently, one of… Well, about a year ago, my closest teacher died. And so, I have spent time being aware of him, completely without restriction on his presence. So, he’s been very, very vast, I would say, very vast. And his son, who is still being a body, since I don’t have any children, and I was trying to think, I want to try and find a way of preserving this house and land for people to practice in and support themselves with, and I was going to ask my main teacher’s son if he would like to have it as a place to come in California when he was not… When he was moving around a lot. And he thought, “Well, here’s a nice thing.” I was… I did not, and have not for some time, had his telephone number.
Julie Henderson: So, I was saying to myself, “Well, let’s see. Who… Cornelia doesn’t have his telephone number, but Philip has his telephone number. I will ask Cornelia if I can have Philip’s telephone number, so that I can call Philip and ask him if he would give me access to Drukchen’s telephone number just long enough for me to ask him this question, and then I would erase it from my mind.” And so, as I was formulating that plan in my mind, this Tibetan placed himself in my mind, and it’s very straightforward that it actually feels like a physical happening.
Julie Henderson: So, I told him, “I was trying to get your phone number to ask you if you’d like to have access to this place as a refuge when I have died.” And he said, “No,” very straightforwardly, “No, because I want what you do to have its own lineage. I don’t want it to be attached to me. I want it to be what you do and for people to learn from what you do, and not think it’s about me.” So, I said, “Okay,” and that’s the plan. I still don’t know what I’m going to do with my property, but probably I will live another 10 years, and then, maybe, I will know.
Neil Sattin: Perhaps that will…
Julie Henderson: Is that making any sense?
Neil Sattin: Yeah. And perhaps the answer of what you will do, perhaps that will come to you similarly.
Julie Henderson: Oh, yeah. I just know that it’s not going to be from him. It might be his son. I mean, his father, who as I say is being great space, I would say. He’s being great space. So, maybe it might come out of great space. That’s quite possible.
Neil Sattin: And there’s something about the Tibetan lineage or your teachers that you mention in your books, that their method of instruction is very experiential.
Julie Henderson: With me, certainly it is. There are… In the Tibetan culture, there are at least several ways of approaching what they teach that are different parts of adjunct lineages. And this one, the ones that they hooked me with, my ones, is very… It’s not about something in a book, it’s about the direct experience of how they are, and being influenced by how they are.
Neil Sattin: So…
Julie Henderson: They don’t teach everybody that way.
Neil Sattin: I see, I see. From my perspective, it feels really important given all the things that we’ve talked about over this past hour because so many of them sound so simple as a concept and yet you don’t really get to experience it until you experience it, until you try and see what it actually does for you, with you.
Julie Henderson: Yeah, that is very true.
Neil Sattin: And the name of your work, you’ve called Zapchen, and we haven’t talked about that at all, this entire time. What does Zapchen mean? Why that word?
Julie Henderson: Well, it is a Tibetan word and it has a number of meanings. It is often a word that is associated with children in Tibetan. So sometimes it means that they’re being playful, sometimes it means that they’re being naughty, and when it applies to grownups… Let’s see, at one time I asked one of my secondary Tibetan teachers, “What’s Zapchen? What does it mean really? What does it mean in Tibetan?” And he looked a little startled because actually it turns out it’s a naughty word.
Julie Henderson: You wouldn’t just go out and say Zapchen, Zapchen because most Tibetans would not use that word, especially proper women. One time I was having a… My teacher and his wife and his son were in San Francisco and spending some time and they were going to be teaching in San Francisco and in Berkeley so that was very nice, and we were having lunch and they were speaking Tibetan. And I don’t know squat all, really about Tibetan, it’s a very difficult language, but in the middle of the conversation, Drukchen, the son was talking to his mama, and used the word Zapchen and she giggled and he smiled naughtily himself and that was the closest I came until I had the opportunity to talk to this Tibetan monk when I was in Nepal and I said, “If it would be okay, would you tell me what Zapchen means?”
Julie Henderson: And he smiled and looked a little sheepish, and then he said, “Well, if I were a married man and I had to go on a trip away so that my wife was at home, and she went to the… To the… What? To the… To the… ” I don’t even know… My brain is draining. “To the place where you buy beer and spent time with another man, that would be Zapchen.” So that’s the only understanding, it’s a complicated word.
Neil Sattin: So then I gotta ask, “Why did you… “
Julie Henderson: Ask us.
Neil Sattin: Yes. Why did you choose it for your work?
Julie Henderson: Well, long before the story that I just told you, when I was still living in Australia, I spent time teaching out in the country, and there were some Tibetan monks, but there also was very high, a high Lama who were there and they found out that the name of what I was doing there was Zapchen and they laughed about it and I said, “Well, what is it about it that’s funny?” And I still don’t know quite the answer to that question but it was clear that it was a naughty word and… I’m trying to think. The very, very, very first time that I decided to use it I really don’t know why. I mean, but of course it had to do with my Tibetan teachers but why did I choose that? No, I don’t know. I guess I just liked it.
Neil Sattin: It’s another part of the mystery, I guess.
Julie Henderson: I guess.
Neil Sattin: Well, Julie, I so appreciate your time and your wisdom and your offerings today, and your work, as I mentioned, is so fascinating and I think so deceptively simple, at least in terms of what we’ve talked about, I know it gets deeper and more complex and you’ve been doing what you do for decades and so it would be ludicrous to think that we could distill all of that into an hour long conversation but I so appreciate that you’ve been willing to show up here and give us a starting point for Zapchen…
Julie Henderson: My pleasure.
Neil Sattin: In your practices. What is the best way for people to find out more about your work, if they are interested in finding out more?
Julie Henderson: Well, they can call me.
Julie Henderson: It depends really on what they want to know. They can read the books. The books are pretty good.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, the books are great.
Julie Henderson: They can find people like your way. There’s a woman in Vermont who teaches not just what she has learned from me but from part of that she teaches. There are people in Chicago. There are people in Arizona. And lots of people in Germany and Austria and Australia. I don’t know actually what is inherent in your question. You mean, if they would like to learn more or…
Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, and I think what we can do is we can have some links on, in the transcript for this conversation, we can make sure that we have links to your website. And I think that’s probably a good starting point for a lot of people, and then I know that if you…
Julie Henderson: There are people in Germany who would like to be able to get a copy of the script.
Neil Sattin: Yes, we will ensure that that happens. And for those of you who are listening right now, you can download a copy if you visit neilsattin.com/julie, J-U-L-I-E, or you can always text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions, and that way you can download the transcript to this episode. And, Julie, I’m wondering if, since probably we have a mix of people who are listening to this, we have people who are just being introduced to you, and I know that your students are going to be excited to hear your voice, and I’m wondering if there’s just anything that comes up for you, as sort of a final encouragement or offering for everyone who’s listening and has been tuning in.
Julie Henderson: I would say it’s a very good grounding. It’s a very good starting place and the people who have worked with me, let’s say 10 years or more become very good teachers and frequently tell me how much they appreciate what they’ve learned from me and that they can share it with other people in a way that’s accessible and helpful. It’s just nice to hear.
Neil Sattin: That’s great, yeah. And I was speaking earlier with one of your long-time colleagues and students, Laura.
Julie Henderson: Laura.
Neil Sattin: Laura Lund and she mentioned that there are at least probably 500 practitioners worldwide of Zapchen and then if you include the people that they’ve taught probably thousands of people who have been impacted by your work.
Julie Henderson: That would be nice, that would be nice.
Neil Sattin: Well, I so appreciate your time again today and thank you so much for joining us and maybe we can have you back on one of these days to talk about some more of the finer points, but this definitely feels like an excellent starting place for us in embodying well-being.
Julie Henderson: Right, I think so, I think it is. And if people are interested enough to try it out, I think they would probably then discover that they have questions that they’d like to pursue. And the books are good for that or if they become very interested they could be in touch with me.
Neil Sattin: Great, thank you. We will ensure that they have your information through your website in the show guide.
Julie Henderson: I don’t know that anybody goes to that website anymore.
Neil Sattin: I went. [chuckle]
Julie Henderson: Okay. Well, go then do it.
Neil Sattin: But if there’s a…
Julie Henderson: It worked for you.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, somehow, somehow it did.