History of Infinity Walk


The Beginnings of Infinity Walk

Frequently Asked Questions

The Infinity Walk theory and method was conceived in the mid-1980's by clinical psychotherapist, Deborah Sunbeck, Ph.D. Many professionals in special education and physical medicine who are familiar with Infinity Walk do not realize that its original use was targeted for clinical psychotherapy. Dr. Sunbeck, who was specializing in behavioral medicine practices at the time, was searching for an effective holistic method that would facilitate integrated healing and self-development.

THE SEARCH FOR ONE "UNIFIED" METHOD. Dr Sunbeck's original criteria for the method required that it (1) allowed the person to learn to facilitate their own progress, and/or be easily facilitated by non-professionals as well as professionals, (2) enhanced or restored self-esteem, personal dignity, and hope for a better future, (3) supported the person's intrinsic need to integrate all new learning and change on every level of being - physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual/philosophical; (4) progressed easily and naturally by following the body/brain's normal sequence of developmental growth; and (5) was sufficiently self-motivating to practice between therapy sessions and continue after therapy ended. Two psychological theories of professional interest to her helped create benchmarks for an effective measure of the method's potential for clinical success, social facilitation and intrinsic motivation theories.

Dr. Sunbeck also knew that the method would need to get the client "out of the chair" and moving if it were to truly integrate the whole person and if it were to fully trigger natural development processes in the person. She also knew that the best test of a clinical method's capacity to reach the core trigger mechanisms of human motivation and change is that it can be applied to any stage of development; and with modifications, to any age group. A second test of the method's value required that positive shifts along physical, emotional, cognitive or introspective/spiritual parameters should all be possible if the method was truly "integrative of the whole person ". Though a person may choose to use the method for a single purpose, e.g., physical coordination, cognitive attention, self-esteem, public speaking, enhancing study skills), the method would need to independently prove itself across multiple clinical, educational, medical, and spiritual disciplines to be considered truly integrative by her own standards. (Also read About Dr. Sunbeck to understand the personal and professional background she brought to the creation of Infinity Walk.)

 THE BILATERAL BRAIN. The 1980's produced a surge of professional interest in "alternative" approaches to health and well-being. Some of this interest explored the mysterious relationship between the lateral halves of the brain. Early in her career, Dr. Sunbeck was exposed to a flurry of research and literature suggesting that the bilateral brain not only served different motor and sensory nerves (left vs. right sensing and moving), but that the lateral halves may also represent different perceptual, cognitive and emotional aspects of the person. Published conclusions from the study of "split brain" research, multiple personalities, Erickson's clinical hypnosis, Dr. Jane Ayres' Sensory Integration theory and The Menninger Clinic's biofeedback research on "altered states", fueled Dr. Sunbeck's early interest in what was then called psychosomatic medicine, and is today only slightly better termed "behavioral medicine". Dr. Sunbeck found her professional passion in attempting to create a clinical method that could integrate the resources, abilities, and memory imprints of the lateral halves of the brain and make them consciously available to a person's will and desire for growth and healing.

THE GUINEA PIG YEARS. Dr. Sunbeck turned her "80's" clinical tools and knowledge on herself for three years, believing that her own conscious urge to create this still unnamed clinical method was coming from her unconscious, and her own intrinsic need to relate directly with her brain's lateral hemispheres. She was in fact an excellent subject for such a self-study because, like many other people, the behaviors of the lateral halves of her body were noticeably divergent in unexplainable ways. She was right-handed and right-sighted, but never, with any exception did she place the phone to her right ear, even though her hearing was equally excellent in both ears. The left ear phone placement was a definite "preference". Why?

A dentist pointed out her left-sided chewing bias when he remarked that she needed to start chewing on the right side as well or she would wear down the left teeth much sooner than the right. After that comment she took notice and realized that she always chewed food on the left side and never on the right. Why? The change to balanced chewing had to be consciously willed. Eating was found to be less enjoyable on the right side. Why?

Dr. Sunbeck had been very athletic in her 20's, including "high peak" hiking in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. But, by age 30, her right hip joint was complaining when she walked too long over uneven ground. Also being a daughter of a naturopathic chiropractor, Dr. Sunbeck questioned "Why just the right side and why at such a young age?". She switched her activities from strenuous hiking to daily swimming in her 30's to stop the early joint deterioration. But, the question of why it was happening intrigued her. She suspected that an unconsciously created, imbalanced lateral movement habit was causing the problem. This conclusion proved correct, in hindsight, after she resolved the problem with a bilaterally balanced daily swimming program and intensive emersion into the study and practice of Moshe Feldenkrais' Awareness through Movement method.

Dr. Sunbeck, like many people, also had divergently different life interests in the 1980's. A part of her would have been happy being a reclusive forest ranger, another part of her would have loved to follow her earlier career interest in singing and song writing. Yet another part of her would not be satisfied with her life unless she could look back on it in later years and feel she had left some sort of contribution to humanity's social and spiritual evolution. Each "part of her" could have consumed a whole lifetime. She wondered how one part won out over another and what, if anything , the bilateral system had to do with our capacity to hold such divergent life interests within us.

She had not been an intrinsically ambitious student but she had learned to turn an academically driven part of her brain on and off in pursuit of a fulfilling career. What was she turning off and on? As she delved deeper into understanding the bilateral brain, she realized that one's happiness and success may well be subject to the whims of "which part of us" is unconsciously directing our decisions and perceptions on any given day.

During these self-inflicted "guinea pig" years a evening visitor to Dr. Sunbeck's home might find her slowly undulating across the quiet, dark surface of her pool in "reptile fashion". Pool circling quickly gave way to a more natural feeling figure-eight surface gliding over the water. The shift was instinctive. Circling the pool had left a part of her mind attending to her breathing, the time and other matters. The shift to undulating left and right through the waters brought a sense of timeless well-being as the movement became effortless. Everything "came together". Her body would lose all awareness of its history with land. Yet, at these very times of feeling most "primordial", her cognitive mind would be most generous in yielding sparks of theoretical insight that allowed her to integrate bits of unrelated knowledge and experience into the concept that birthed Infinity Walk.

Much of Infinity Walk's early development evolved in the water. The rest emerged during her walking of a land-based version of this same figure-eight movement pattern. An upstairs deck overlooking her backyard went through two outdoor carpet replacements during those experimental years. She had worn a hundred mile and more of figure-eight walking into the carpets. Her right hip had never felt better and unlike her experience of more common "forward" walking and hiking, she was feeling an additional "lift" that fueled her inspired research and writing even more. These were also the "sticky hair" years. When she was dry and on land, Dr. Sunbeck would have her head "wired" for EEG biofeedback so she could quickly capture changes in left and right brain signals before and after "Infinity Walking". Brain wave readings consistently confirmed what she felt - this bilaterally integrating method spread increased brain response across the hemispheres (brain location) and across a broad range of brain wave frequencies (rhythmic timing of various specialized neurons). The shift in neural response was similar to that seen when a person's attention has been fully engaged and stimulated by a completely novel and intriguing experience. (This is the best circumstance for natural learning, and the best opportunity for positive lasting change to occur.)

SHIFT TO SPECIAL EDUCATION, LEARNING AND PERFORMANCE. The direction of Dr. Sunbeck's Infinity Walk R&D shifted to special education after she met Michael, a 14-year-old gifted artist who was failing school. Just weeks into his work with Dr. Sunbeck, Michael's learning capacity shifted to that of an enthusiastic student who made honor roll by the end of the same school term. Most important to Dr. Sunbeck's emerging theory was a telling statement made by Michael that he knew when learning was effortlessly possible and that it coincided with a feeling that was like jumping into the cool waters of a refreshing swimming pool. Michael was not talking about just a vague shift in mood, attention, or motivation. He was becoming self-aware of a bilateral flooding of "neural priming" (See Sunbeck, 2002) that could be triggered at will, through knowledgeable intention. This was also Dr. Sunbeck's Infinity Swimming and Infinity Walking experience. Michael showed Dr. Sunbeck that perceived academic learning capacity could be rapidly altered for the better by triggering bilateral neural priming that normally only occurred in spontaneous, intriguing and otherwise novel circumstances. Michael's story is told in Chapter One of Infinity Walk: Preparing Your Mind to Learn (editions 1991,1996, currently out of print). A link to this book chapter is provided here for those interested in this history. MICHAEL AND THE ILLUSION OF LEARNING DISABILITIES. From the late 1980's to the late-1990's Dr. Sunbeck's non-clinical time was given over to bringing the Infinity Walk method to educators and parents.

PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC INSIGHTS. Dr. Sunbeck's private practice followed this same natural shift towards working with more academic and work afflicted learning and performance issues. Simultaneously she tackled more complex and elusive psychodynamic disorders, such as multiple personality and dissociative disorders, which might hide their slippery chameleon-like process between shifting neural perspectives and resources. Developmental, medical, academic and work history took on new levels of meaning and importance as she searched for brain lateralized clues to client's perceptual and behavioral inconsistencies that plagued their lives and short-changed their happiness and attempted successes. She has been collecting her clinical observations from therapy successes since the mid-1980's. Her thoughts on how best to use Infinity Walk to facilitate certain types of counseling successes are in her newest Infinity Walk book due out in 2005: The Complete Infinity Walk: Book II: The Emotional Self.

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS AND DEVELOPMENTAL OPTOMETRISTS DISCOVER INFINITY WALK. Starting in the 1990's occupational therapists and developmental optometrists began to approach Dr. Sunbeck. They were hearing about Infinity Walk through parents, and special education and early education teachers. The method was a good fit for their work in sensory integration and visual-motor training. Some of these professionals now include the simple motor and sensory aspects of Infinity Walk training in their own workshops. Dr. Sunbeck respects their professional ability to do so within their area of expertise and appreciates that the method has been found to have such broad value. She only asks two things of professionals who are teaching, or wish to teach Infinity Walk within their own field of expertise. First, that they do not give it a different name that makes it untraceable to the root source of the complete Infinity Walk method; and second, that it is explained to their trainees that the use of Infinity Walk as a simple sensory-motor exercise is only the beginning of its therapeutic potential, not the total method. Dr. Sunbeck welcomes competent and respected licensed professionals in all fields of clinical expertise to "spread the good word" about Infinity Walk, and to do so in a way that enables their listeners to gain more knowledge about the complete method if they so wish. To encourage this good will she offers 50% book and video discounts to professional workshop presenters who are willing to make the source material available to their workshop attendees. Follow these links to read more about policies and legalities related to teaching Infinity Walk method, and how to order books and videos at 50% discount.

PHYSICAL THERAPISTS AND NURSING STAFF COME NEXT. On May 20th of 1999 Dr. Sunbeck's 40-year-old brother suffered a very serious stroke. When all inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation was exhausted he was much improved in the relative sense of how far he had come from the initial trauma to his body; but he had not even begun to reintegrate the multi-levels of multi-tasking that he had been capable of prior to the stroke. He quickly succumbed to post-rehabilitation depression that takes hold of a person when they start to believe that most of the healing is behind them and that it has not been enough to help them find their way back to the self that they knew. They are lost in a strange body that refuses to obey them and they begin to despair.

After so many years of witnessing Infinity Walkers make developmental and remedial progress, Dr. Sunbeck naturally looked for a way to modify Infinity Walk so her brother could benefit from it. He needed daily home access to the method. He also lived hundreds of miles away from her. His gait was unstable and required single focused attention to move around his home. That is, he would not look up and around while walking, or talk with someone while walking, because any additional task might throw off his balance. Dr. Sunbeck envisioned a railing that followed a continuous figure-eight track. Once built, adding the method to the use of the railing would be simple. Her brother is a movie buff, having worked in the Hollywood film industry for many years. So, she knew that placing such a railing in front of a television would pretty much guarantee daily practice of bilateral eye tracking, neck turning, etc. It did; and how!

In addition, his wife was trained to act as an Infinity Walk "social facilitator" to encourage expressive language practice while Infinity Walking. Video footage of his incredible progress from day-one (3-11-02) to one month later is available to professional facilities interested in a possible purchase of this Infinity Walk assistive railing. Contact Dr. Sunbeck directly at sunbeck@sunbeck.com.

THE INFINITY WALKABOUT®. Starting in 2004, the availability of The Infinity WalkAbout will allow the Infinity Walk method to reach people who could not otherwise benefit from it. At this time, questions from physical medicine professionals regarding the Infinity WalkAbout may be sent to Jane Ver Dow, P.T., c/o sunbeck@sunbeck.com. Jane has been enthusiastic about the Infinity Walk method since the early 1990's when she organized an in-service, with Dr. Sunbeck as guest presenter, at a large physical rehabilitation facility after happening across her book. Jane has also stayed informed on the Infinity WalkAbout development since its first prototype build, and was Dr. Sunbeck's choice for a professional consultant on its use by her brother. Jane is happy to answer questions within her areas of expertise with include physical rehabilitation, motor disorders and the combined use of the method and railing in residential care facilities and nursing homes.

The Infinity WalkAbout® with adjustable height/width handrail, and single or double rail options, is now completing its final R&D prototype stage, and is available for purchase as of 2004. (see Infinity WalkAbout for more about this.)

WHAT'S NEXT? Dr. Sunbeck's five year plan for Infinity Walk theory, method and products include: (1) the first Infinity Walk "self-help" book for the adult general public; (2) a 4-volume college curriculum series that includes "The Physical Self", "The Emotional Self"; "The Cognitive Self"; and "The Spiritual Self"; (3) U.S. manufacturing of Infinity WalkAbout with a number of design models to be released over this time period; (4) U.S. manufacturing of Infinity Walk rugs and surfaces; (5) Development of Infinity Walk games and learning programs; (6) Instructional Video/DVD formats that focus on special topics and needs.

WHERE IS THIS ALL HEADING? Currently, it is Dr. Sunbeck's intention to eventually grow Infinity Walk resources and assets into a public not-for-profit foundation. All profits made from Infinity Walk products and services have always been reinvested back into the work. It is a natural evolution of her philosophy to ensure that this work be preserved and further developed under the protection of a public foundation. A future foundation is planned to have a strong international Web presence.

COLLABORATIVE OPPORTUNITIES. Dr. Sunbeck and InfinityWalk.Com welcome win-win collaborative efforts with other companies. Email her if you feel your company is a good fit for a collaborative effort (e.g. manufacturing, marketing, retail, co-authorship, publishing). PLEASE DO NOT email your original ideas for inventions or products. This creates legal confusion we cannot take responsibility for. InfinityWalk.Com has a huge backlog list of Infinity Walk related inventions conceived by Dr. Sunbeck and protected under U.S. patent, trademark and copyright laws.

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