Sep 132013
Skilled Contact

Image from a craniosacral workshop at the Florida School of Massage

You could probably best define someone by the things they hold on to.

You could say “hold on” or you could just as well say “cling to”.  The things we cling to are the things we will not bend for.  Ghandi held on to his quest for Truth, satyagraha – the quest for truth.  He wanted to know truth, understand truth, and embody and live truth.  We may not even know what is at our core but we may insist on … we may insist on “dinner is a time for family to be together”, or television time at the end of the day, or “my God exists and he is the only one”, or “I do it for money”, or any other phrase we may have adopted as our motto.

We hold onto things in our body too.  Our verbal and mental phrases are physical postures too.  They may be slight such as a passivity to the eyes, downturned corners of the lips, or a shuffle to the step.  Or they may be pronounced, such as an arrow-straight spine, or a collapsed one.

We hold these voluntarily… though oftentimes we forget.

The most skilled kind of bodywork is an act or reminding, not a forcing.  I, as the bodyworker, touch the body and look for the fulcrum, the center of all that is happening.  And yes, the fulcrum is an attitude and a posture but with the right words, and touch and the right movement we can reach the level of the posture and the attitude.

To encourage a change it is not necessary to put a lot of effort; in fact, it is often counterproductive and our effort gets in the way of working with the person.  Find the way to be effortless while being fully effective.

“A good cook need sharpen his blade but once a year. He cuts cleanly. An awkward cook sharpens his knife every month. He chops. I’ve used this knife for nineteen years, carving thousands of oxen. Still the blade is as sharp as the first time it was lifted from the whetstone. At the joints there are spaces, and the blade has no thickness. Entering with no thickness where there is space, the blade may move freely where it will: there’s plenty of room to move. Thus, after nineteen years, my knife remains as sharp as it was that first day.”
- excerpt from Chuang Tzu’s “The Dextrous Butcher

Sep 012013
Touch 3

There is a moment between the decision to let go and the act of letting go when things soften.

Together we rocked right, together we rocked left.  A tide pulled us further out and, after drawing us out so far that it felt endless, brought us back in.  The movement always happened together, never one leading the other; in unison, in sync, in flow.  Yet, it was boring, or became boring.  Where were we going?  What was the purpose?  What was the meaning?
At some point I, or maybe it was you, or probably it was us both, found the boredom more interesting than the story we had been living and decided to let go.  Let go of the other, let go of the precious flow, go our separate ways.

And isn’t that when we felt most together?

Suddenly there was a sense of vertiginous space where before the air was stuffy.  The stagnant pond became an ocean and a tide so strong it put our efforts of trying to feel a tide to shame drew us clear across the universe and back.

Aug 282013
Mateus Bruno First

But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
- William Wordsworth

Newborns are some of my favorite clients for craniosacral work.  As William Wordsworth put it so well, we all come into this world trailing clouds of glory, arriving from a place which we cannot see but we can recognize.

It is at this place that craniosacral work aims.  A craniosacral therapist works with the tissue, with the bones, with the lymph, the nervous system, the craniosacral fluid, the fluid body, and with systems that he or she can feel but cannot name, however, the aim is on that place, the origin, what the founder of cranial osteopathy, William Garner Sutherland, termed: the Breath of Life.

He, William Sutherland, called it: God, The Mind of Nature, or Primary Respiration (The Breath of Life).

Another William, John William Coltrane, in his “A Love Supreme” poem, the same poem he sung on his saxophone in the album of the same name, said:

“God breathes through us so completely…so gently we hardly feel it… yet,it is our everything.
Thank you God.”
- John William Coltrane

Working with newborns is a pleasure and a gift; to once again be in the deep gentle presence of that trail of clouds is rejuvenating and refreshing.  It is also essential for the newborn, for thought they may have arrived from a place of glory they immediately being to be shaped by the forces that brought them here, the forces that gave them a physical form.  They are immediately exposed to lights and sounds and expectations and manipulations that compete with the sense of peace and wellbeing from where they came.

“As the twig is bent, so grows the tree”

Work with a baby touches on the essence of craniosacral – the Breath of Life.  It is my view that in no other field (except very likely craniosacral work with the dying, though I cannot speak to that from personal experience) is the craniosacral treatment plan more defined by the focus on the Breath of Life.

“When we work with a baby we are looking for the health, we are building on what is already healthy and we are simply removing the obstacles that are in the way of that health being expressed.”
- Benjamin Shield, PhD

Aug 212013
Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 1.02.51 PM

It is certain there are trout somewhere
And maybe I shall take a trout
If but I do not seem to care.
W. B. Yeats

And likewise I do not seem to care.  I find it best to not seem to care as I rest my hands over the client’s tight shoulders.

We sit together, them lying on the table, I sitting on the chair, as in meditation.  The purpose of this sitting is not to reach enlightenment, there may be trout, it is certain that there are…

Bony shoulders dissolve into spaciousness and sensation.  I again find my hands dipping into The Ocean Within.  It strikes me how clear and strong this Ocean’s tide is, like a secret hidden in plain view.  It is here, within us, all the time, though rarely are we still enough.

The ebb and flow becomes clearer and I sink into its rhythm.  I seek its frequency, its amplitude, its preferred directions.  I’m curious about how eagerly it pulls or how harshly it pushes, whether it sings a soft song or a chaotic tempest.

Then I say “and here I am”.
I watch its dance.

Then I say, “and here I’ll follow you and follow you and follow you and when you start to lose strength I’ll step in and let’s see where we end up”.  We spiral in, joined forces, steady.
That is when the well of white light opened up, two continents and a divide, and the Heart shone.

Aug 182013

I feel like stepping back and seeing this client from 30,000 feet.  So I start with their feet today.

I ignore who I am.  I ignore what I am supposed to be doing.  I let me hands be simple, my face passive, I hold the feet like I would hold a piece of bread as I sit by a city lake, allowing the city sounds to wash around me, the afternoon sun reflecting off of the water and onto my face and hands, my hands holding the bread that I may throw to the ducks.
Lazily and present.

I notice that the feet mean little to me still, I am reminded of when my daughter exclaimed that she did not notice any individual smells while walking in a forest; so we encouraged her to go slow.  I encourage myself to go slow.

I begin to notice the ebb and flow, a magnetic force, gentle yet unmistakable, pushing and tugging at my fingertips.

I am reminded of words I once heard from an old athlete: “Don’t focus on what you think your body is doing, focus on what you feel.”  Those words stuck to me then and come back to me now.
I don’t feel my fingers, or hands, I focus only on sensation until the ebb and flow is throughout me.  At this point, when my beingness is part of the same web that makes up the client, do I ask what is going on.

I then travel the web with the inner eyes of the physicist, with the instinctual gut of the animal, and with a gentle caring heart.

Apr 032012

In this post I want to slowly introduce the use of archetypes as a means of seeing clearly and, in a very connected way, suggest the use of poetry as the language for clear seeing.

The Poetic Potential

We are not accurately represented by Descartes’ view that the body is a machine, disconnected from the mind; we are clearly not satisfied by situations and interactions in our lives that disregard our emotional and spiritual needs; we more and more intensely yearn for what has been termed a holistic approach, or, better still, a wholistic experience of and interaction with the world we live in.  This is where poetry can come to our rescue, acting as a bridge between two shores; on the one side is the land of reasoning, of science, of logic while on the other side is everything we cannot quantify, our emotions, our gut feelings, our spiritual needs, our love.  On that bridge stands the shamans, the poets, the archetypes.

(The Golden Gate Bridge from the website “The Best Travel Destination“)

Consider the movie “Awakenings” starring Robin Williams as a physician in a hospital struggling to understand and communicate with survivors of an encephalitis epidemic which live with locked-in-type symptons (awake and aware but unable to communicate).  At one point one of the patients manages to briefly communicate with the physician and simply refers him to a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke.  The following poem called Der Panther – The Panther:

The pacing past the bars, the steady stare,
A tiredness grown so nothing holds him here,
of a thousand iron bars he seems aware,
a thousand bars, no world beyond this sphere.

With supple strength, with soft and gently mode
he turns in smallest circles about his flank.
It’s like a dance of power around a node,
his great volition standing stunned and blank.

Sometimes his eyelids rise so he can sense
a picture spread across the moment’s chart
descend through limbs of sinew, silent, tense
and thinning, fading, cease within his heart.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, translation by Gerald Duffy
(This is a different translation than the one in the movie Awakenings, but it is one that I appreciate more and that more closely follows the same cadence as the original German poem.  See Gerald Duffy’s video).

What better way for the patient to help the physician to clearly see what it was like to be living in that condition?

Seeing with Archetypes
A poetic way of seeing others can bring us to a more accurate representation of who they truly are at the same time as bring us into empathic contact with them.  The patient is neither literally a Panther nor literally behind bars, yet to describe him as locked-in, or comatose, or paraplegic in no way brings us close to understanding them.

The archetype of The Caged Panther: a potential of strength, power, balance, agility of motion and grace locked and confined to a small space in which it has been pacing for so long that it’s essence, it’s life has become numbed.

Set aside 10 minutes each week for poetry.  Read a new poem and commit it to memory.  Recite it to yourself.  Let it shape the way you see the world.