Friday, January 29, 1999
Former hi-tech engineer turns his attention to Oriental bodywork
It was two weeks before Christmas when I first heard about Paul Hackbarth's latest endeavor, Inner Strength, a form of Oriental bodywork, which offers chair massage and Shiatsu. There was some vague talk about Hackbarth coming into the Mosquito office to demonstrate some of the techniques of his new treatment program designed to relieve tension in the back, shoulders, neck and head. Before anyone could get a word in edgewise, I eagerly offered to interview Hackbarth at his home, participate in a chair massage, learn about Oriental bodywork, and find out how Hackbarth, a former software engineer, had come to embark on this new career. I was sure to find a good story there.
My interview with Hackbarth was done in two stages. The first was an opportunity to experience a chair massage, which fortunately took place a few days before Christmas, one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year. It was a chance for me to sit quietly for 15 minutes in the massage chair while Hackbarth administered gentle pressure with his fingers to key areas of my back. It was a relaxing procedure, enhanced by the recorded music playing quietly in the background. Although I didn't participate in Shiatsu, which normally takes 60 or 90 minutes, Hackbarth did briefly demonstrate this treatment, performed while one lies on a comfortable mat on the floor.
As I left feeling refreshed and ready to resume the whirlwind of Christmas- related activities, I set a date to return and talk about his decision to enter the business of Chinese medicine and learn more about Oriental bodywork.
I returned in January, eager to hear more from this man who had been a software engineer for 17 years at Wang Laboratories and now was a practicing healer using principles of traditional Chinese medicine.
Taoism, Buddhism and Zen
Hackbarth grew up in a fundamentalist Christian environment in Houston and Dallas, Texas, before heading east to the Boston area to attend Harvard College. Although he was at Harvard during the student uprising of the sixties, he didn't take part in the protest movement. An applied math major, Hackbarth said this was the time when he first started to look into Taoism, Buddhism and Zen. "I needed something to believe in. I needed something to hold me," he explained. "That's why I looked into these and other religions," he added.
From the mid-seventies, through the eighties and early nineties, when software was such a rapidly expanding field, Hackbarth recalled the excitement of being involved in the computer business. But in the early nineties, when many software and hardware companies started to fold, his enthusiasm for the work waned. "With all the layoffs, there was no more excitement and it was grinding me down," said Hackbarth. "While many people went off to different companies, I starting thinking of something else to do."
T'ai Chi at Wang
In 1991 Hackbarth took his first T'ai Chi class, offered at Wang, and continued this course once a week for nine months. In 1993 he took a weekend course in Shiatsu. "I think of all these practices as one, based on Taoism which is related to Buddhism, which started in India and moved to China," said Hackbarth.
In 1995 Hackbarth met T'ai Chi instructor Dennis Reynolds, an acupuncturist. With Reynolds, Hackbarth took a series of classes on Chinese medicine, including the theory behind the practice of acupuncture. "I became fascinated with Chinese medicine. I was really looking for the meaning of life. I take this more seriously than most people I know," admitted Hackbarth. "Chinese medicine has interesting answers."
"Chinese medicine is concerned with having adequate energy. It is preventive in nature. It addresses the small issues, while what so often happens in Western medicine is waiting until something breaks," continued Hackbarth. How can a person be healthy? "The body needs a balance," answers Hackbarth. "A person must always be vigilantday to day. This balance is basic," added Hackbarth. "Awareness comes first, then being balancedphysically, emotionally and spiritually. It's important to cultivate awareness. When someone has a heart attack, it makes them pay attention to harmful things. Colds are the body's way of saying 'slow down.' Eastern medicines stress getting plenty of sleep."
Involved in the community
Since moving to Carlisle in 1987 with his wife Stephanie, a special education teacher in Burlington, and their two sons, Andy and Stephen (a senior and freshman, respectively, at Harvard) Hackbarth has been active in the affairs of the community. He served on the Town Finance Committee for six years, coached youth soccer, and has played trombone with the Carlisle Cats on Old Home Day and under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.
Now as he sets out on his new enterprise, Inner StrengthOriental Bodywork, Hackbarth will be offering chair massage and Shiatsu. Both tap into the body's inner strength to restore balance and heal itself. The chair massage "is for people who want a quick pick-me-up," as Hackbarth describes it. It improves circulation and helps relieve tension in the back, shoulders, neck and head. It is done using a portable massage chair that can be brought to your place of work. The Shiatsu session is performed on a comfortable floor mat. A session takes between 60 and 90 minutes which provides time to customize a treatment for special needs, applying pressure along prescribed pathways. Hackbarth says it leaves you feeling deeply relaxed and balanced. Those with pain and limited range of motion in shoulders, neck and back often find improvement. The Inner Strength office is located in Littleton, but treatments are also available in the workplace.
Hackbarth has also started a class for the study of T'ai Chi, the ancient Chinese art of meditative movement. The class is designed for seniors, including those unable to walk. Classes are Wednesdays, 3 to 4 p.m. through March 17, at Newbury Court (a senior citizen residence) in Concord.
He would like to form professional relations with doctors and other medical professionals to explore the possibility of integrating his Oriental bodywork into the standard medical practice. He knows of one colleague who is doing treatments in hospital settings.
For a man who spent more than 25 years using his left brain tackling highly technical software problems, Hackbarth finds himself drawn more and more to right brain activitiesintuition, creativity, openness, uncertainty, mystery and artistic endeavor. This discipline of balance, which is the cornerstone of Chinese medicine, is what Paul Hackbarth is attempting to bring into his own life, as well as others'.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito