Dwight and I have known each other for 40 years. The reason for the visit was to celebrate his 90th birthday.
It was through a mutual friend (in fact Arthur Lincoln Pauls, osteopath and founder of Ortho-Bionomy) that Dwight and I got into contact, and through this I arranged an introductory Ingham reflexology seminar in London.
The year was 1976 and the day before the seminar I was waiting in the foyer of the hotel for Dwight to arrive from Florida. ‘Hello my man i’m Dwight, great to meet you, we are going to have a terrific seminar’ said Dwight while extending his hand in greeting, it was like a tornado had arrived from the West, reflexology would never be the same again!
At that time, reflexology was a rather genteel therapy which was taught in an almost pious manner by the few people teaching in the Uk, to have someone, and particularly an American to shake up the established status quo was seen by some as an act of blasphemy.
We got to know each other over a breakfast, and apart from the obvious subject of reflexology taking up most of the conversation, the subject of our shared interest in physical fitness became a point of interest.
In those days I would start the day with an early morning run over London’s Hampstead Heath, that morning had been no different and I had my running gear in my car.
On hearing this Dwight went to his room, and in a short time appeared in the foyer in his running apparel ready for a run.
As the hotel was adjacent to London’s Hyde Park this was really convenient-and off we jogged into the park on that beautiful early, spring day. In fact that jog never really stopped but was to continue in many guises internationally over the next 40 years.
Little did I know what a life-changing catalyst this day would be.
Over the passing of the years it is natural that the memories of the pioneers of reflexology gradually fade or become blurred. For this reason it is important for me to mention some facts about Dwight, who in case you may not know is the nephew of Eunice Ingham, the Mother of reflexology.
This year marks my 45th in reflexology, which to me seems a long time, which I suppose it is. However it pails in comparison to that of Dwight who is into his 75th year of reflexology.
From the time of our first meeting Dwight and I travelled extensively, giving seminars on a truly international scale and introducing reflexology to countries where it was hardly known.
In between seminars we would explore the countries by going on treks. In Africa we climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, in South America we trekked and camped high up in the Andes, finishing at Machu Picchu. In Switzerland we trekked in the Mountains - in fact Dwight climbed the Matterhorn in his mid sixties a tough climb even for younger people.
We gave hundreds of seminars all across America then Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Canada, Switzerland, France, Holland, Israel and the U.K. I stopped over in Mongolia and China to search out indigenous reflexology.
We also gave reflexology ‘in the field’ so to speak during our many treks helping those who had succumbed either to the altitude or had various ailments from their exertions.
It was because of the amount of travel and times that we spent in each others company that I got to know Dwight from a different viewpoint other than that of a reflexologist.
I feel that at this stage of his life, it is worthy to reveal some of the little known areas of Dwight’s life.
Dwight, because of family circumstances lived from an early age with his Aunt, Eunice Ingham. She had founded The National Institute of Reflexology in America. He began by assisting her at seminars, eventually becoming her driver. He was well and truly indoctrinated into the Ingham Method of reflexology and was to become a fervent supporter of his Aunts work throughout his life.
Money was scarce in his younger life, it was a difficult time in America in the 1920s. To make ends meet he would park cars in a parking lot after finishing school in the afternoon (the more cars he could squeeze into the space the more he was paid) after this he would wash dishes in a hotel until the early hours of the morning.
His association with cars eventually led him to becoming a champion race driver later in his life. Apart from driving fast cars he also loved acrobatic flying, something he enjoyed doing regularly.
One time while he was in the U.K. I arranged for him to fly a glider and a stunt plane. I can vouch for his skills as I watched him from the ground performing death-defying acrobatics.
The photos below show him about to take off in a glider and a stunt plane from Booker airfield in the UK around 1980.
Another side of his life which few people know is that he was an assistant pathologist for many years, personally performing over 1500 autopsies.
He rarely mentioned this at seminars.
The dilution of reflexology
It is difficult for me to witness how the memory of Eunice Ingham (the Mother of Reflexology) is gradually receding into the background noise of ‘modern’ reflexology. I become increasingly aware of this by the amount of students who have to be reminded of who she was and the part she played in reflexology. Even her heir apparent Dwight Byer’s part in the tapestry of reflexology is gradually fading from memory.
During my recent stay with Dwight, he spoke in depth of his life with his ‘Aunt’ Eunice. We looked at her writings and comments regarding her association with Dr Riley and how from this she gradually developed what she called Reflexology.
We visited the house in St. Petersburg, Florida where during the 1930s she would escape the harsh winters of Rochester New York State. It was in this house where she treated thousands of people and started to gather material for her seminal books “Stories The Feet Can Tell’ and ‘Stories The Feet Have Told’.
Much of this material will be displayed in the Museum of Reflexology, some I am keeping in my archives.
The conversations with Dwight ranged across a wide spectrum of reflexology-related subjects. One in particular is the way that reflexology is becoming increasingly diluted into something resembling little more than a feeble type of foot massage. Whereby a treatment which is given with an authoritative, professional and focused approach-something which the receiver can actually feel, is branded as being brutal. This view is held by those who do not know or understand what authentic reflexology is.
Dwight has always related about the firm and often (therapeutically), painful pressure his aunt used when giving treatments. It was this approach which made her treatments so effective. (I shall be commenting on this and other related subjects in my next blog.)
Dwight has his critics, who judge him by his positive (American) manner, but those who know him the way I do realise that he is totally dedicated to preserving the way that his Aunt Eunice worked. My only criticism is that perhaps he was too protective, not allowing for the changes which naturally evolve with a therapy over time to take place.
I was really surprised and in a way honoured that Dwight accepted my early technique adaptations, (later becoming known as A.R.T). in a serious way.
This is why, and believe me when I say in an unbiased way that the Ingham methodology performed in the proper manner serves as a platform upon which other techniques can be built.
My experience has taught me that effective reflexology relies on the correct use of the fingers, thumbs, hands and very importantly the entire body. Only when this has been achieved, can other modalities be incorporated.
My message to those negative critics is ‘where would you be without Dwight’s input? Indeed where would any of us be, and even more pertinently, would reflexology have come into being as we know it without Eunice Ingham and Dwight? After all it was Eunice Ingham who coined the term reflexology.
Dwight and I spent many hours together on long flights. I remember the first one was to South Africa-as soon as the seat belt sign had been switched off Dwight got into conversation with fellow passengers and cabin crew about reflexology and offering treatments during the flight. I have to admit that I hid my face in my hands in embarrassment. However, Dwight treated a lady who was hyperventilating due to fear after going through turbulence. His magic hands calmed her down within minutes.
People with headaches or nausea during the night came and asked for treatments, an empty four seats at the rear of the aircraft with arm rests up became the perfect treatment couch.
In those days it was possible to visit the flight deck by appointment. Dwight being a pilot was interested in a visit, which was arranged and he was soon talking aviation matters to the flight crew. The first officer had a stiff neck and tight trapezius muscles, I took the controls as it were by giving him a massage which was much appreciated.
Dwight and I were in Business class, but were surreptitiously upgraded to first class for the rest of the flight!
Another positive was that one of the passengers who received a treatment during the flight actually attended our lecture in Johannesburg.
I learnt a lot from Dwight other than reflexology, the main one was the importance of cultivating a positive outlook, something he constantly reminded us all about. He learned this from Eunice, who also claimed that a positive outlook of the reflexologist had a positive influence on the therapeutic benefits of treatments.
My Best Wishes
Copyright©️ Tony Porter 2019