3. The Body As Story - the life of Dr. Julie Henderson,an essay presented by Karen Bell on Inter-being & Interconnectedness in Buddhist Psychology, Sophia College coursework, 2005
, in her
book Embodying Wellbeing, about moving 'towards bodily, energetic, and mental well-being', cites yawning as the number one exercise from practices graded into basic, mid-range and advanced moves, to well-being.
The Body As Story - the life of Dr. Julie Henderson (A Study in Compassion)
aim of this essay is to document expressions of kindness and compassion of Julie Henderson
Examples of her
compassion are shown in the form of anecdotes from some of her
hundreds of students around the world.
Also, stories and observations from her
colleagues, friends and family offer further examples of her
loving-kindness and compassionately beneficial activity for all living beings. (For the purpose of easier reading references withinin the body of the original paper have been deleted).
A Place In Time.
The writer of this short biography met Julie Henderson
in 1988 in Melbourne, Australia on a year long training in somatic integration therapy.
The text for the module Julie
taught was The Lover Within, written as her
theses in 1984 in the USA.
A more recent publication was released in 1999.
Over the next few years a connection was formed with Julie
, as she
continued to teach in Melbourne whilst living in Sydney, where she
lived since coming to Australia in 1985, "largely because my work was being met with enthusiasm and appreciation here".
On hearing in 1993 that Julie
was returning to live in the USA an inner sense of loss arose, subsequently manifesting as an impulse to invite her
to return to Australia to teach the following year on an Easter retreat.
Since 1994 Julie
has returned annually to teach in Melbourne, Sydney and Northern NSW.
In the year 2000, a long term Australian student of Julie Henderson
spontaneously composed a verse titled Great Mother of Compassion, as a long life prayer offering to Julie
The Body As Story - the life of Julie Henderson.
Student: Does awareness have a heart?
: Yes, Awareness is heart.
Dr. Julie Henderson
in Being Bodies, suggests that 'the body is just very slow mind' and 'most of our consciousness is tied up in making body'.
The body of Julie Blair Henderson was born in 1941 in Texas, USA to Virginia and Charles.
As the eldest of two children Julie
speaks of 'her
parents complete confidence in her
capacity to learn anything' as the pre-curser to her college years of 'voracious investigating of a number of sciences, theatre, languages, and various psychotherapies'.
The diverse fields of somatics and Tibetan Buddhism came together in 1975.
In that year Julie began studying somatic psychotherapy and met Tarthan Tulku Rinpoche, who went on to establish Naropa Institute in California.
For the next fifteen years Julie
combined three styles of Western psychotherapy in her
work with clients and students.
In 1985 Julie
moved to Australia as the release of her
first book was being well received there.
She came with a Masters in Counselling Psychology, as a bioenergetic analyst, and somaticist.
Julie was the founding president of the Australian Association of Somatic Psychotherapists, and taught somatics in Australia, New Zealand and Germany.
Around this time her
kindness and compassion was impacing more and more students.
In the late 80's she
began introducing students to her
Tibetan teachers Gyalsay Tulku, Kundun Gwalwang Drukpa, and his
father Vairocana Tulku.
In Devotion, Marhsall states that Julie
was 'one of the few people who could translate the teachings into the language of therapy', and that 'she
unselfconsciously and naturally brought many, many others into the Dharma, as a natural extension and progress of her
own work and who she is'.
An example of Julie's kindness and compassion, in the form of tonglen, a Buddhst practice of exchanging self for other is indicated from a long term Australian student.
'I first met Julie
in the early nineties when she
taught a weekend of somatic training for a personal development organistion.
Over the last ten years I have been on fifteen residential retreats led by her
as well as several one day teachings and this has given me ample opportunities to benefit from her
skills as a teacher, mentor and guide at both somatic and spiritual levels.
My understanding of Julie's work has grown over these years and, as I became more able to incorporate her
teaching into my daily life, my physical and emotional wellbeing has improved.
brings many attributes to her
teachings but my observation is that all these are enhanced by her
compassion, which I experience as the foundation on which all else is built.
It was on the Easter Retreat in 1995 that I witnessed what was, to me, a profound example of her
had been talking about the tendency to contract around pain, both emotional and physical, and techniques to create more spaciousness to ease these contractions.
The participants had paired off and my partner for the process was a woman on her
Early in the process she
became distressed and Julie
came to help her
After 'being with' the woman for a short time, Julie
hands and said 'give me your pain'.
The woman soon became calm and her
My understanding of this event is that because of Julie's
is able to allow feelings to exist in that space without contraction and thus avoid the feelings becoming the entire momentary experience.
That capacity enables her
, with her
compassion, to absorb another's distress, which becomes only a small part of Julie's experience.
This was a perfect parable of the contraction and spaciousness that was demonstrated by Julie
on that retreat and on may subsequent occasions'.
listened very patiently and encouraged me to express all of what I felt.
stayed with me, sitting close by on the floor, and I knew she
was listening and could understand where I was.
very gently, but firmly, asked me if I made ANY difference to ANY of my clients.
I answered 'yes'.
kindly suggested that was I was doing in my work must be of benefit even though I thought I was a fraud.
This was a very new idea for me.
The work we did together that day, quite a few years ago, has never left me.
gentleness, the feeling that she
really cared what was happening for me, her
staying with me in my distress, her
listening to me and then her
suggestion, all had a significant impact on my attitude to wards myself and my work'.
In 1993 Julie
returned to the USA when 'two of my heart teachers pointed me back towards the United States'.
'One time I was seeing Julie
as a therapist.
was proposing that I decompress.
I could not believe she
knew what I was talking about - that she
had ever been as tight and drum-like as I was feeling.
did know what I was going through.
I did not believe it and said something like 'show me'.
changed in front of my eyes, tightening and shrinking with lines and bitterness on her
became the person she
might has been if she
had embraced disappointment and blame.
I was open-mouthed, and knew that she
'did' know what I was experiencing.
shook herself and I realised just how miserable she
made herself to convince me.' BW
From another of Julie's USA students indicating Julie's kindness. 'I find Julie's availability the most generous of kindnesses.
No matter what's happening in her
is there for each of us at any time'.
Firstly, Paul Ekman speaks highly of Julie's
'wisdom in understanding the body and emotion'.
According to Julie
, 'Zapchen is a practice lineage - that is, in Western terms, a shaped collection of exercises - designed to deepen well-being progressively and, where appropriate, to support that disjunct shift in perception from local to non-local called 'waking up'.
Since 2002, Julie's annual ten-day international retreats have been held in Kathmandu, at Bairo Ling Monastery
, where her
main 'root' teachers reside, Kundun Gyalwang Drukpa and his
father the 38th Vairocana Tulku.
In 1997, Friendman and Moon invited a range of Buddhist female practitioners such as Pema Chodron, Toni Packer, China Galland
, Joan Tolifson, Julie Henderson
, and others to contribute to their book, Being Bodies, about being a woman, a Buddhist and being embodied.
In this same article one can clearly hear the Bodhisattva ideal voices by Julie
as, 'whenever we self-regulate for more of life than our personal experience - for more beings than one -