Two Ways of Seeing

Consider the difference between these two medicinal postures: treatment that seeks to change, and treatment that seeks to orient the patient to where they are.

I don’t mean to glamorize the latter. If you’re losing blood through a severed artery, you want change, not orientation. Likewise perhaps if you have a virus, though even that, perhaps, is starting to bleed into a variance in what you’d want, depending on who you are (at that moment).

Spatial medicine — bodywork et al — asks these questions all the time. Schools, both of thought and the literal schools that train people, tend to organize around one stance or the other.

Many, of course, do both at different ratios and in their own way. Structural Integration, one of the tools in my kit, tends toward change as medicine for sure, but orientation — indeed, integration! — is a big part of it. Again, that’ll change not only from method to method, but practitioner to practitioner.

Other schools like Continuum or Open Floor dance, from what I understand of these approaches, tend towards orientation as medicine. “Where are you and what’s that like? What’s it like being you right now? What wants to arise, here and now?” Questions — spoken or not — like that.

Yoga āsana is another example of a school that can be strongly one outlook or the other, and most some of both.

It’s an interesting question, I think, to ask ourselves if we find one of these orienting questions — change or be with? — more inherently useful, or more evolved or whatever we tend to prize as a metric.


Psychotherapy seems to have similar differences in orientation. (Again, from what I understand. I’m not a therapist.)

Difficulty arises. And change-centered outlooks does just that: seeks to change. Orientation-centered outlook might not seek to change the state per se.


Both seek to help, no? So of course, et’s be kind to each other’s outlooks here. A liver cell has a way different outlook of what’s important than a fibroblast in the iliotibial band does, but they are both of the same body and, indeed, coordinated by the same intelligence.


The great joke of this is, of course, how either of these approaches can lead to the same place (or whatever you want to call it). A masterful surgeon must be keenly, exquisitely oriented towards the way things are in order to make the change she needs to make in the patient.