Avi Grinberg, Berlin interview, 2012, Grinberg Method (subtitled in 6 languages)

Uploaded by IAGMPvideos on 28.09.2012

I interviewed several Grinberg practitioners recently
and had the opportunity to sit down with Avi Grinberg
in one of the centers in Berlin.
Thanks for doing the interview today, Avi.
For someone who's never heard of the Grinberg Method before,
how would you explain it or describe what it is?
It is a method that teaches you to pay attention
and build up your level of energy.
With enough energy and attention,
there are very few things that cannot be achieved.
So it can be taken into the direction of recovering from physical conditions,
like after surgery, an accident or an illness,
or recovering from chronic pain and similar kinds of conditions,
or it can be used to stop
what you don't want to experience in your life:
If you carry an old fear with you,
if you carry a set of conclusions about who you are,
what you can do, what you cannot do.
And then, with your level of energy, which is higher,
and much more attention,
you basically are trained to stop what you don't want to continue.
Can you tell me about some of the influences
and the different disciplines that you studied
and how the Grinberg Method evolved?
If I look backwards, the first thing that I did
and experienced in this direction
was to do Zen meditation when I was 16.
I did this parallel to martial arts that I was learning
and actually there I started to get very interested
in perception and attention.
When I was in the army, I became a medic,
and I suddenly gained the perspective of illness, suffering, pain
that I didn't have before;
and immediately afterwards, I started to learn in different directions,
things that connect attention, healing, recovery.
I was doing this in different parts of the world,
partly by learning with people like faith healers and shamans
and people that did a kind of healing
that had no dependency on drugs or technology,
but mostly on their ability to pay attention.
Those were people that could sit for twelve hours without moving,
hardly breathing, visibly, and focus on one point.
I never saw anything like that before.
I was learning more and more how to evolve my own attention
and then improve my clients' attention.
In the beginning, I was more into healing
and doing things to the people I was working with;
and over time this transformed into teaching my clients
and not trying to heal them,
teaching them actually to heal themselves, using their own abilities,
but mostly by developing their attention.
Was there a turning point when this paradigm shift occurred?
Yes, about ten years into my work I noticed that people that I work with,
that I was treating then for chronic conditions,
I would achieve temporary improvement
and after a few months, or even a year or two,
they would come back, back in the place where they started
and we would have to do it again.
And what worked first time doesn't work the second time,
and the third time for sure not,
and then I found myself actually creating a dependency
between me and the people that came to me.
Then I was looking for a way to deal with that
and I thought that if you teach a person
not to do what he was doing with himself before,
there is a better chance of it to really stay in his experience
and not needing me again and again.
How did you start to notice
that it was about how people were reacting to fear and pain
and what they did with their bodies?
It started first of all when I was working with pain,
mostly chronic pain.
Working with people with chronic pain, for a long time,
it was very visible that they are their own enemies,
that they invest so much of their energy and attention in fighting off the pain,
trying to eliminate it, overcome it, erase it, forget it,
that instead of just dealing with the issue
they invest so much energy avoiding it that it gets just more complicated.
And then, slowly slowly, I started to teach them
how not to react to pain.
My largest surprise was to see that when the reactions are stopped,
then most of the time, the pain is gone.
It's like by refusing it, we leave it stuck.
Then I saw that once we stop reacting to pain
and the body is able to perceive pain as is,
it experiences it and then it's over, it transforms.
It's just like a feeling that comes and goes,
that is not there established.
And then I understood that we are establishing pain
and making it into a chronic problem by the way we relate to it.
How did you notice what people were doing,
and how did you distil the physical problems
down to how we deal with fear and pain?
This is a very large question; can we break it down a bit?
First let's deal with fear and pain.
When I talk about fear and pain,
I look at them as the forces that shape human attention
more than anything else.
Because when we are not reacting to fear and pain
and they don't appear as terrible things to us,
our attention is expanding and goes outward into the world.
When we suffer from intense fear and pain, or continuous fear and pain,
we start to shrink internally, our attention moves in,
we start to live in an internal world
that has very little connection with the outside.
A lot of physical conditions are created
because of this shift of attention from body to inner world
and I was starting with that to see the need to relearn
how to produce body attention, how to maintain it
and how to use it
when somebody has to recover from any kind of symptom.
How did we get it so wrong with dealing with fear and pain?
I read a lot about history and very ancient history.
There was a point in human evolution that instead of being hunter-gatherers,
we became village people,
and we started living in the same place, building houses.
This transformation basically
was a transformation from living in constant fear,
because you lived wild and everything that wanted to eat you
wasn't far away from you, was very close to you;
and this state of constant attention to your surroundings,
we broke away from it by making the walls
that separated us from reality and in a way kept us safe.
And it wasn't just the act of building the walls
because we built the same walls inside of our attention.
We did that to hide from fear and from pain that are always together.
And this marked a big change, after two million years of evolution
in which we were part of the world,
we started to separate from the world
because we didn't want fear anymore.
Why do you think that we try so hard not to feel these things?
Is it just that they are unpleasant or is it societal pressures?
I wasn't there 14,000 years ago,
so the first person that did that, I have no idea why he did that.
I can tell you that our bodies
are designed to experience fear and pain,
but not long ones.
If you look at an animal being hunted, it's terrified for five minutes,
then it either managed to escape or got eaten.
So the terror is never long.
With humans you can see that we can be in terror for 50 years
and it never stops.
And you can see that in the beginning
it may have been just a need to defend myself from too much fear
or from too long fear,
and then it got established just as a habit of attention
that we pass from generation to generation.
It's just the same continuation of mind set
that tells you that fear and pain are terrible enemies
and you should do without.
And the strange thing about it is that those enemies don't go away
and it's strange that we live for such a long time
and we never take care to deal with something that we meet every day,
and in many forms, and somehow avoiding it became an art.
If you think of a person that got a bruise on his knee.
The bruise is blue, it's very painful and a bit swollen
and I put him on the table.
First of all, what he did with his attention
is to cut away from the knee.
He doesn't want the pain, he's afraid that he'll have a problem,
so he actually sucked his attention back away from the knee.
So the touch will bring the attention back.
When I pull away attention from a body part,
this body part gets much less circulation
and less food and less attention and it can heal much slower.
But once I bring the attention back, the speed of the recovery -
that would anyway happen naturally, the body naturally would heal it anyway -
but now it gets the resources, the energy and attention necessary,
so it does it really quick.
This is not intellectual;
this is how, in our bodies, we are reacting to the pain,
because to understand this doesn't mean you know how to stop
your reaction to pain,
it just means that it gives you the idea.
But how you really react to pain you have to be very attentive
to what you do in your body.
Isn't it a kind of survival mechanism
for the mind to dissociate from the body? Sure, sure.
If you look at fainting,
fainting is the ultimate kind of disconnecting -
it's too much, your consciousness stopped.
And this is a natural body mechanism to survive the situation.
If you think of short fear and pain, the body can take that,
but you increase the length of time and we cannot take that.
And then yes, we disassociate, we move,
we partition our minds, we leave our body behind
and somehow maintain it
and the rest of us moves to a safer place inside.
Then you can survive the bad situation.
Now let's say it's over, the war is over,
whatever was terrible is over, now the trick is to come back
and not to stay separated and split like this.
And in this, many people don't know how to come back.
They know how to go away because we learned that in our culture,
but we find it very difficult to unify ourselves again
and heal those splits that we had to do in order to survive.
So how do you think we should deal with fear and pain?
It starts with a change of attitude,
if I don't see them just as bad or just as wrong
and I don't try immediately to avoid them.
And then I notice that I automatically,
and I was taught by my culture to respond to them in certain ways,
not just in my mind
but also in how, for example, I stop breathing.
Mostly when people are afraid the first thing they do is this:
they contract, they stop breathing, and they in a way freeze.
And fear is a strong energy that allows us to become more awake
and more strong, more flexible and to be able to run faster.
So you can see that we block all this power
and then to block it we need so much energy
that we stay paralyzed and helpless.
So the trick is to learn how to agree to allow all this energy
to become me and to move me and to move with it,
instead of trying to block it and actually suffering then
from two forces that are colliding in me.
Tell me about how, or explain how,
the body responds when we allow it to feel fear and pain.
It depends on which stage of learning it is.
A beginner that comes to learn and lies on the table,
once his mind is more silent and his body is relaxing
and he is not doing too much effort anywhere,
and he is breathing deeply and is paying attention to his body,
the first thing that he'll find is fear.
Fear not in terms of understanding or connecting to past traumas or anything,
because fear is existing in every moment;
you are alive, you are mortal, you are afraid.
Now this is not the fear that you can talk about,
because I'm talking about body fear.
And this fear is continuous and is there,
we just always cut away from it.
So beginners will start to feel this
and many times what they feel is a strong flow, like electricity,
their body shivers or shakes a little bit,
the jaw does this,
and they feel like there's an internal shower
or a wave of fear flowing in their bodies.
In the beginning they react to it intensively,
like it's frightening, the fear.
So they react to it, they try to block it,
they don't know what it is, etc.
But the more they are relaxed, actually it's incredibly pleasant,
because you feel alive.
This is why people do dangerous sports,
to have this kind of liveliness and intensity.
And I actually show people on the table that this already exists
within their basic experience. They usually just cut away from it.
How did the Grinberg Method start from an idea,
how did there come to be other practitioners?
Some of my clients wanted to learn and I started to get invitations
to teach in different formats and I ended up teaching.
When my first book came out, I was invited to teach abroad,
to lecture in different places
and I started the base of the school that we have today.
So that was about 1986-1987
and now this school is growing and it is quite international.
And it is all built on attention.
Assuming someone starts the treatment, how soon would they see the results
and how long will they need treatment?
First of all, we don't call it a treatment,
because it's a learning process.
When you think of treatment, you go to somebody and he fixes you.
We say it's a learning process because you come to learn something.
We train our practitioners to work between four to six sessions
and to expect real results.
Real is not a little change but real effect, real benefit.
If not, they should stop.
Even in many complicated conditions
that take sometimes two, three years to really deal with,
still between four to six sessions
there will be a relevant, significant change
that shows why we should continue.
Can you tell me briefly what a couple of those changes would be?
It depends on the condition.
You want me to talk about serious conditions?
I work, for example, with a client that has been paralyzed from here,
from the middle of his back down, for five years.
He came to me about two and a half years ago
and I did about four to six sessions with him -
I think it was six -
and I saw that when I work with him
he starts to get some kind of movement in his legs.
And from total paralysis to get a little movement in the leg
is a big significant change.
And now, two and a half years later,
he manages today to stand on his knees.
And I decided to invest all this time and work with him
because he showed me a small significant change.
Another person with back pain, has ten years of back pain,
came to four sessions and reduced the pain by fifty percent,
it's a real significant change.
Can you tell me the kinds of pain or symptoms that the Grinberg Method
is most appropriate to treat and the conditions that it isn't?
We work with people that are basically healthy
and have an issue that they want to stop in their life,
like chronic pain or anxiety, etc.
We do not and we cannot work with people that are very sick
because we need as a base a lot of attention and energy.
And if somebody is very sick and is dying
or is not able to communicate and learn,
you can see that we don't really have an avenue of communication.
He is either too weak,
and then we cannot use his energy - this is what we use when we teach -
or he is unable to follow instructions like "breathe"
or "pay attention" to something.
Another kind of people we cannot work with
is people that are very dependent on medication to survive,
like people with HIV or people with cancer,
that even if they are still strong, the medication that they receive,
when we work with them, we can interfere in the relationship
between them and the medication.
And in those conditions we'll never interfere.
The same goes for people that have transplants,
that now receive drugs against rejection,
and again to make sure we don't endanger their life,
we will not interfere.
And how does the medical establishment view the Grinberg Method?
Some doctors are clients, some doctors come to study,
some doctors send people especially with chronic pain.
And basically, since we don't exchange medicine
and we demand from our clients to be checked
and have medical treatment parallel to what we do
and we don't call ourselves alternative medicine,
we live very well next to medicine.
Since we teach people, we make them better patients,
because they are more responsible, they are more attentive,
they take care more, they take a part in becoming healthy.
A good client becomes a good patient for the doctors.
So we live very well together.
Can you tell me about the code of ethical guidelines
of the Grinberg Method?
The ethical code comes out from the practice and how we teach;
that the responsibility for the learning is truly with the client,
and that our responsibility is to be fantastic teachers,
but it is his responsibility to be a fantastic student.
And then, the code of ethics protects the client's privacy,
protects his self-respect and autonomy
in a sense that everything that he chooses
is actually his choice;
not by advice, not by support,
and definitely not by getting sets of commands or demands
about what he should or shouldn't do.
We are trying to teach people
to be free and to become more of themselves,
so everything that can be done to block that shouldn't be there.
The code of ethics looks at all the things
that we shouldn't do because they will block the person
from achieving more personal freedom.
Where is the line between
providing constructive feed-back and advice
and being judgmental?
Can things go wrong or...
First of all, we are not supposed to give advice.
We teach people
to stop what they do with themselves and to gain attention.
Advice is meaningless in these kind of terms.
But the whole training is built to achieve such a detachment,
such an ability to look without judgment
and without any kind of interference or interest,
just to give you what is
and you choose to do whatever you want.
It interested me with the Grinberg Method
and something that you talked about
is that it's not necessary to retell in exact detail a trauma
that someone has experienced in the past.
Can you tell me why that is?
There are a few reasons why we are not obsessed with the past.
First of all, we will have to deal with speculation,
we'll have to deal with blaming, we'll have to deal with other issues
that are not at all how I manage to heal my attention
and to become one again, overcoming the trauma of the past.
Because once you focus on the trauma, then, you try to go back there
and you don't have a time machine, because you exist now.
And what happened then, happened then.
What really matters to us is how you maintain this fear and pain
of the trauma today in your body.
Everything the body does, we work with.
The whole idea is that we join the attention of the body -
where it's weak we make it pay more attention
and where it's obsessively busy with we teach it to let go of this place.
One thing that I've noticed in the sessions
is that there is a lot of breathing and a lot of laughing.
How important is humor to the Grinberg Method?
Humor is essential.
The things that people suffer from - their pains and fear are real,
they are really painful and really frightening.
And most of them belong to the past
because when they meet me it's already over.
And without humor, it becomes heavy,
dramatic, serious, meaningful, significant,
and you become obsessed with it,
and you become hypnotized on your pain and fear.
Humor allows you to let go of it easier.
It has to be a special kind of humor
that you don't really laugh at what happened,
because this is not the issue,
but that you do it in a humoristic way.
And yes, my clients spend half of their time on the table
between screaming and crying they also laugh quite a lot.
Thank you so much for your time today, Avi,
I really appreciate it.
I had a lot of fun myself, thank you very much.