A life in Reflexology Pt.1
Receiving the news took me back to a dawn in 1983 on Mt Kilimanjaro. Dwight and I were camped for the night during our ascent of Africa's highest mountain. I had stayed up, in awe of the immensity of the universe spread around, which at that latitude and altitude had an indescribable magnificence. It was an overwhelming experience.
Dwight and I sat together in the silence and looking out into infinity. Eventually, being so moved we both said spontaneously 'I shall remember this to my dying day'. I am sure that Dwight had that magnificence in his thoughts as he passed on.
It was that climb up the mountain which revealed another side of Dwight, Revealing a sensitivity which, apart from his immediate family, was kept locked up to everyone else. It is this side of him, and how it affected me is the main subject of this article.
I first met Dwight back in 1974 when he arrived at London's Heathrow airport from his home country of Florida.
Dwight had wanted to come to the U.K. to introduce his Aunt's Eunice Ingham's work and asked me if I would organise something.
I arranged for him to give a lecture and a demonstration of reflexology, and to talk about his life with his ‘Aunt Eunice’ 'The 'Mother of Reflexology'
It is interesting how Dwight and I came into contact.
During my early days in physical therapy, I met (by providence ) Arthur Lincoln Pauls a Canadian osteopath living in London. Arthur was the founder and creator of Ortho-Bionomy (O.B.) a passive form of structural adjustment. As I had planned of eventually becoming an osteopath, I found his passive method of O.B. fascinating and trained with him. I should mention that Arthur was a Judo champion, so had an innate knowledge of body movement.
Arthur was invited to give a presentation of his work at a conference in, I think New Orleans. The first day of the meeting was Arthur's birthday.
During a break in the various other presentations, the person sitting next to Arthur introduced himself as Dwight Byers. A conversation began where they realised that their birthdays were only one day apart. However, when the time difference between Canada and the U.S. was taken into account it was found that they were born on the same day of the same month of the same year!
'Great to meet you' he said, giving me a very firm handshake. 'It is great to be in London, we are going to have a great seminar'. At that time, reflexology in the U.K. had something of a pious air about it — to be greeted in this positive and exuberant manner was something I had never encountered before, either in or outside of reflexology.
On the drive to the Hotel, Dwight was totally focused on the forthcoming seminar and the techniques he would teach. Despite just getting off a long flight, his energy and enthusiasm were boundless.
I naturally thought that on arriving at the hotel, he would want to catch up on sleep. How mistaken I was!
As soon as Dwight had unpacked, he appeared in the foyer ready to go, in his running apparel. He knew I was a committed runner, and because of this, I carried my running gear with me in the car.
This was very convenient as the hotel was opposite London's Hyde Park
So, off we ran into the park on that beautiful, blue, sky day.
Little did I know at that time that the run would continue in many forms over the next forty years or so and change my life beyond recognition.
At that time reflexology did not have the popularity it has today so I had booked one of the smaller conference rooms at the hotel.
On the evening before the function, Dwight and I walked in the park where we discussed the programme and how we would demonstrate techniques to the group, after which we went to our rooms to sleep.
I had set up the conference room to seat around thirty people.
After breakfast, we prepared ourselves to meet and greet the delegates as they arrived. At around 8.30am, we became aware of activity outside the room — we were greeted by the sight of lines of people in the corridor. We assumed that there must be an emergency of some kind in the hotel, and people were being evacuated. This was not so, these were early arrivals for the seminar!
More and more people arrived, and as the room could not hold that many we had a dilemma on our hands.
This was before the age of the internet, it was mainly word and mouth that the seminar was advertised.
Fortunately, the large conference room at the hotel was free that day, so everything was transferred with the help of the staff. Around two hundred eager delegates attended, and like me were mesmerised by Dwight's charisma and magic touch as he demonstrated techniques, and spoke about his life with 'Aunt Eunice'.
It was from that day and hotel that reflexology was launched, not only to the U.K., but to Europe and the world.
I cut my Ingham reflexology teeth by assisting Dwight on his regular seminar tours across the USA and Canada for several years.
Later, we were invited to introduce reflexology to Holland, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Israel and then to South Africa, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand (North and South Islands) and countries in between
I have mentioned in detail her influence over the years in my compilation of a life in reflexology which after many years may finally be finished.
It was because of our long association that I knew Dwight better than most people outside of his family.
Space prevents me going into real depth about his early life, but suffice to say it was not easy.
Born in Rochester in New York State, family circumstances dictated that he became the sole breadwinner, and supporting his Sister Eusebia. This meant doing two jobs every day after school. The first was parking cars in a car parking lot, and after that washing dishes in a hotel kitchen until the early hours of the morning. From this experience came his discipline of hard work, and not wasting time, and interestingly because of the experience of parking cars, becoming a champion of NASCAR racing driver later in life.
Because of family circumstances, Dwight spent a lot of his life with his Aunt Eunice Ingham, where he received regular reflexology from her for his asthma. Naturally, he was taught her techniques of the then fledgeling therapy of reflexology.
Later, he became her driver and assistant at seminars across the U.S. and Canada. Eunice, according to Dwight, taught him the value of hard work and positive thinking, something which remained with him for the rest of his life.
Dwight did his time in the military as a medic, he was based in Germany for some of his military time, and was visited by Eunice on one occasion.
It is not generally known that Dwight for a time was involved in the funeral business, and was trained to perform autopsies, personally performing around two thousand.
This was something which he rarely mentioned at seminars.
Those who came into contact with Dwight became immediately aware of his positive, mental and 'can do' attitude. To some, this was not the way how a natural therapist should behave. In contrast, to others, it installed confidence which resulted in more therapeutic treatment outcomes.
It was because of his difficult early life and the influence that Eunice had on him that he became aware of the value of a positive attitude.
It was this that was to have a life-changing effect on me later in our friendship
It became so bad that, particularly in the mornings where I was unable to get a single word out.
I was under the impression that I was to assist Dwight with the driving and setting up seminars and everything else that went with it.
How wrong I was and what a shock I had when Dwight told me that I would give the opening lecture from 8.30-10.00 am. This was not a regular audience of reflexology delegates. It was an audience of chiropractors, physical therapists and medical personal, which numbered over 300!!
'But Dwight, I stammered, I cannot speak'! ‘Porter, (he called me Porter more than Tony, in return I called him Byers) I have not brought you all this way just to drive and set things up'. You will just have to DO IT Stop playing the victim, be positive!
The night before the conference was the loneliest I have ever spent. I decided to do a runner, pack my things and get a cab to the airport and back to my cocoon of comfort in London. In fact, I had packed my suitcase, but one essential item was missing, my passport, it was with Dwight in his room!
Thoughts crowded in about what would people make of this Englishman making croaking noises while drowning in the sweat of fear!
The time of my 'execution' arrived I was lead down the corridor to my 'death' chamber (lecture hall) by Dwight. Instead of a rope around my neck, Dwight placed a radio mike while telling me how to switch it on.
I saw the hundreds of delegates gathering in that raised lecture hall, looking down onto the stage where they would witness my execution.
Standing backstage on my own, I was soaked in sweat, shaking, with a terrible migraine through lack of sleep and food, and in fact, being sick in a backstage fire bucket.
Dwight had begun giving the information about the times of the breaks and lunch and where the restrooms were etc.
While this was going on, I realised that I was committed to doing something, even a Morris Dance! At least that would take attention off my speaking! I was dying on the spot when something happened (and this is true). I experienced a comforting mist descend around me which enveloped me in peace and mental strength, while at the same time my migraine disappeared, along with my fear - I knew that all would be well, in fact, I could not wait to get going with my presentation!
'And now I want to introduce you to my great friend all the way from London - Tony Porter' announced Dwight.
I walked on to that stage and gave a word-perfect presentation for 90 minutes. I was not aware of time or the audience, what I became aware of was Dwight giving me the' time's up' sign from the back of the hall.
'I knew you could do it, I had the same problem when I was young, and it was Eunice who made me do what you have done,' he said
It was because of Dwight that I have been able to teach internationally.
Dwight’s positive attitude had helped, not only me, but many other people to overcome lack of confidence and to become highly successful reflexologists.
To keep things brief, on the last day of the ascent I showed off my fitness to Dwight by jogging up to the last hut where we would stay before making the final climb to the summit during the night. I felt ok until I reached the hut, where the next thing I knew was that I had collapsed to the ground with altitude sickness
I told Dwight to let me be and to make the ascent without me, just with the guide. 'Porter you have not come all this way and to this altitude to chicken out' he screamed. 'Give me your feet!' and with that, he worked, pummelled, manipulated every part of my feet for nearly two hours. 'Hear what I say, you are getting to the top even if I have to push you up — be positive do you understand? Anything with a positive intention can be achieved'. And with that, five hours later in the darkness, I stood on shaky legs to embark on that final ascent to the summit
To this day I can relive that continuous upward, zig-zag trek towards the summit in darkness with a cold and snowy wind whipping around my legs like a hound from hell trying to pull me to the ground.
After three hours, the summit or what I thought was the summit came into view, it turned out to be a mirage. At that point, I collapsed onto a rock and just wanted to sleep. Above the howling wind I heard Dwight saying ‘get up Porter you will die if you don't, we are too high for rescue — make a last, positive effort, and we are there'. With that, I felt him pull me to my feet and push me forward all the way to the summit. He was in his late 60s at the time.
It was first light when we made it to the highest peak of the mountain, which is, in fact, an extinct volcano which still spews out clouds of sulphur.
We brought our Kilimanjaro reflexology flag with us to plant on the summit which you can see in the photo. The reason that I am holding it up high is to hide the vomit on the front of my anorak!
Thanks to Dwight this was another 'mountain' I had overcome, the first being the one in St. Louis.
Dwight had previously climbed the Matterhorn on the border between Italy and Switzerland which is a difficult climb.
During one of his visits to the U.K., I arranged for him to fly a stunt plane, which from the ground I watched as he performed extreme acrobatics.
On landing back to earth, he had a grin like a child in a sweetshop.
Following this, he flew a glider which he had never done before and again enjoyed every minute
The conversation went to reflexology which the flight deck crew found interesting. This was continued to the passengers (much to my embarrassment) where he offered to give treatments. The four empty seats at the back of the aircraft with the armrests up made a convenient treatment couch.
Dwight walked up and down the isles explaining reflexology to passengers. At the same time, I sat cringing with eye mask and headphones on, burying my head in the sand.
However, when the time for sleep came, a member of the cabin crew sheepishly explained that she was not feeling well and as she was off duty could she take up the offer of treatment, to which Dwight of course obliged.
Laying on the four seats with a pillow under her head, Dwight applied his magic to her feet, and within a few minutes, she was in a blissful, soporific state. The end result was that she got up feeling renewed and could not thank Dwight enough. The word got around, and a passenger asked for a treatment and received the miracle of Dwight's magic. He ended up giving more treatments during that time.
After breakfast had been served, a member of the cabin crew invited us back to the flight deck where the Captain was most interested to hear about the treatments. He mentioned that his co-pilot had a stiff and painful neck, on hearing this, I offered to massage his neck and shoulders giving him great relief.
You may think, as I did that this was not the 'thing' to do outside of a clinical situation and this brash approach was not good for the image of reflexology.
The outcome was that as the flight was nowhere near full, we were upgraded to 1st class for the rest of the flight. The member of the cabin crew who received treatment could not thank Dwight enough and had decided to train in reflexology. The Captains wife attended our seminar in Australia.
Years later Virgin Airlines introduced reflexology on various flights.
Getting back to his seat, Dwight asked why I was embarrassed? 'I helped people which is the purpose of reflexology, we are in first class, you helped the co pilot and we shall meet the Captains wife at the seminar. What is wrong with that’?
As a point of interest socks or whatever, were not removed during these treatments.
At that time, security was far more relaxed, and I doubt very much if what we did in those far off days would be permitted today.
I am not suggesting that Dwight was all Milk and Honey are any of us?
We had our disagreements which often became heated. He was a complex human being and needed to be understood. But behind that was a highly sensitive and kind person, not only a great friend and supporter to me, but to thousands across the world.
I know that Dwight’s attitude did not sit well with various people and organisations of reflexology, particularly in the uk. They knew nothing about the man, nor had anything approaching his experience or command of touch. All I can say, is that without him reflexology would not enjoy the popularity it has today, and they probably would not have been in work.
He had a genuine love of reflexology and had a touch of magic, firm sometimes painful (a good hurt) but immensely therapeutic.
He believed as I do, that it is the ability to give effective touch, rather than having degrees in various physiological sciences that makes a successful reflexologist. I can vouch for this as I have had students with degrees in medicine, had all the knowledge, but without having that effective touch.
Don’t get me wrong, study and knowledge of the various physical sciences is paramount to be a professional reflexologist, what I am saying is that this alone does not guarantee being an effective and successful reflexologist.
People who were fortunate to know or have been taught by Dwight will know his charisma and his positive attitude not only to reflexology but to life.
I am thankful that our paths crossed. I feel that it was my Ying which complimented his Yang and vice versa.
He is greatly missed.
I am completing a compilation which at this time is 250,000 words and growing, of a life in reflexology which includes more detail of Dwight and our travels.
This quote from the Upanishads 800-200bc is appropriate at this time:
‘There was never a time I did not exist, nor you nor all the Kings, nor in the future shall any of us cease to be’.
Thank you from us all Dwight and see you down that trail you mentioned.
Tony Porter copyright 2020