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Authentic Body TherapyCOLUMN: In Everyday Life
In which we visit with Shambhala practitioners from all walks of life to hear stories about their life, livelihood and how their meditation practice permeates their everyday experience.

Recently over the phone, the Shambhala Times had the opportunity to interview Brandon Jellison, Shambhalian, Massage Therapist and Holistic Health Coach living in Boston, MA. Brandon and his wife Ugne run Authentic Body. We asked him about his work, his perspective, and his vision to create a culture of kindness supporting people step by step to attend to their health.

“Fearlessness is required to create something out of nothing,” Brandon shared. A thirty-something marathon runner, Brandon is very fit and has a cheerful warmth to his voice. His practice is focused on helping people take really good care of themselves. “When people take really good care of themselves,” he said, “people can relax into who they really are, without the general habitual patterns of pain.”

Brandon and Ugne JellisonBrandon described his latest shtick. It has to do with exactly the intersection of his work and the practice of meditation. He described it in terms of sitting practice, saying, “Bodywork (specifically massage therapy), is very beneficial to help someone sit up straight and have good head and shoulders.” But for many reasons, Brandon says sitting up properly can be very uncomfortable at the beginning. Our culture is a culture of chair sitters, which means we have poorly developed hip flexors. “Our hip flexors are really important,” Brandon explained, “for maintaining a good upright posture for sitting meditation. Our culture doesn’t support that.”

Furthermore he explained that, “In our Western culture, we are encouraged to walk too early. This doesn’t allow the hip flexors to fully develop.” We end up over using the hamstring muscles (a common source of back pain) because of this, and that translates as something that we end up carrying for a long time. By the time we engage with sitting meditation practice, our muscles are not developed for good meditation posture. It’s not all bleak, though. “This can change. Particularly as we learn new patterns for our body,” Brandon says.

“Back pain is very suspicious,” Brandon quotes Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. “He said the pain was all in the practitioner’s mind.” On an absolute level perhaps, that is true, but the body is very relative. “Given our cultural upbringing versus children in Asian cultures,” Brandon explained, “children don’t wear diapers, and they don’t have as many chairs. Even old men can be seen squatting on the sidewalk as a way to share space together.” They are squatting and chatting away, and that is interesting because, Brandon says, “That indicates a fuller range of motion in muscles and joints.”

Brandon Jellison is a therapist, a small business owner and a practitioner. The Shambhala teachings have really helped him be kind to himself and kind to others. “I am more successfully kind in more situations than I was before I started practicing,” Brandon says. The name of his business in fact comes from the idea of encouraging people’s own authenticity. “There’s no formula,” he says, “for what someone is supposed to do to become healthy, but the process of removing obstacles and standing up tall to breathe fully helps people to take a better posture and be themselves.” Sounds good!

As for motivation, well that’s simple: it’s all about healthiness. Brandon says, “The world is a better place when we take care of ourselves and we attend to our health.” His inspiration is to do an excellent job at supporting people as they take care of their health.

But how did he get there? “When I was a teenager, I attended a healing arts festival in Maine,” where he had the opportunity to meet a lot of different people from different alternative health disciplines. There were shamans, Reiki masters, chiropractors, crystal healers, and others. “They were really nice to be around,” Brandon said, “and were very interesting people.” A bit of a contrast to the rough and tumble lobstermen he had been hanging out with before that.

Later when he was in a car accident and found himself needing a lot of bodywork, he met a therapist with some unique training in structural integration. This therapist spent a lot of time cleaning up scar tissue in his body and, as Brandon says, “I was blown away by how much better I felt.” It made a tremendous difference in the quality of his experience. Out of that, he realized this was something he could do too, and could learn to do well. “It would be a straightforward way for me to reduce the amount of pain and aggression in peoples’ bodies. That would in turn help them help the people in their lives, which might have a ripple effect on people throughout the world.”

The first few clients had good results, and Brandon says he continues to have good results. “Just last week a woman came in with an awful pain. An hour later when she left she wasn’t in pain, for the first time in months.” She had been having terrible trouble sleeping, and now there was a good chance she would go home and have a good night of sleep. When we are out of pain it is so much easier to be kind to others.

“I really love the Sakyong’s Running with the Mind of Meditation book and want to encourage people to get out there and go running and do exercises that make them feel good.” Brandon encourages us to really look at our posture when we are sitting. Finding good head and shoulders on the cushion allows our body to continuously regenerate. “It’s just like the breath,” he says. “Take a fresh start, take a fresh step with your posture.” No matter how long we’ve been on the cushion, there is a way to find freshness in our practice.

Brandon Jellison~~
Brandon Jellison’s passion for massage therapy began in 1997. To support his clients more fully he has become a holistic health coach, meditation instructor, and personal trainer. He combines all these skills to help his clients to attain their personal goals, whether it is running a marathon, becoming less stressed and more healthy, losing weight, recovering from an injury, living a more balanced and healthy life, or all of the above. In his spare time Brandon enjoys running distance races, traveling to remote counties, climbing big mountains, sailing with friends, skiing with family, and Shambhala meditation. Most recently Brandon began teaching “Running with the Mind of Meditation” at the Boston Shambhala Center.

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