The amphidromic points and the blanket experiment


I remember the blanket experiment when we were studying biodynamic craniosacral therapy. Four of us would hold onto each corner of a blanket and we would replicate the slow movements of the current-like waves of expansion and contraction that traverse a human body as health expresses itself through what we call primary respiration -- not to be confused with pulmonary respiration.

We would then re-configure this abnormally perfect two-dimensional surface with one knot, holding it into a fist and again move very slowly, expanding and contracting while observing how the pull from this tighter area would affect the expression of the whole.

We would add more of these tight fisted knots and continue the experiment to better perceive (with our bodies as well as our minds) what the founder of craniosacral therapy, William Garner Sutherland, called the Tides and how impacted they are by inertial fulcrums (organisational centres for areas of absence or of lesser health expression).

Many of the analogies used by Sutherland refer to the sea, and it is no wonder as the push and pull of the rhythms gently dancing our mainly fluid bodies is very tidal and wave-like.

As a practitioner I very often feel as if I were at the helm of a ship, not steering it however, but merely witnessing from within and following the movements of bones, muscles, tissues, liquids, joints, organs… I notice the luminosity, the denser spaces, the lack of expression or presence of some area(s) compared to others and how centres of inertia re-configure the landscape around them creating patterns as they do.

Sutherland spoke about a universal force which he called the Breath of Life, animating and presiding over the birth of all that is: a common and all-encompassing Life-giver connecting all beings, all creatures as well as the stars and planets…

He spoke of, “Something that is governed by the same Intelligence that governs the tide of the ocean, governs the rotation of the Earth, the Sun, the Moon and all the planets.”

He also famously said, “Be still and know”, to refer to this quality of non-doing, of still presence of the therapist merely holding the space for change to take place naturally, without any physical manipulation. We are acting like “a beam that goes out from the lighthouse: It lights up the ocean but does not touch it” (William G Sutherland, Contributions of Thought).

I recently came across this description of the tide on a marine science blog: “The gravity pull from the Moon and the Sun elongate the water, which bulges on one side, (…) an opposite bulge is also formed as Earth is also being pulled.”(see http://moocs.southampton.ac.uk/oceans/2014/11/09/amphidromic-points-tidal-spiders-in-a-real-world/)

This reminded me of our blanket experiment except this time the article went on to talk about a water container.

Imagine a box half full of water, and observe how when you slowly rock it on one side and the other you ‘create’ a low tide and a high tide. In the middle there is an axis that always remains the same in height and position like a still point, or what the author calls a “tidal node”.

This very roughly mimics the gravity pulls of both the Moon and the Sun on a planet Earth that is just water and does not rotate on itself.

The various landmasses have different sizes and shapes so they affect the "size of the basin" and therefore the amplitude of the tides while the impact of the rotation of the Earth is called the Coriolis effect. So, “instead of rocking our box with water, we are swinging a bowl with water in circles,(…)”

The previous “tidal nodes” are points of zero tide called "Amphidromic Points", and “tides propagate in a circular way around them”

(For a more detailed analysis of this natural phenomenon see http://moocs.southampton.ac.uk/oceans/2014/11/09/amphidromic-points-tidal-spiders-in-a-real-world/ )

[Global distribution of amphidromic points with their cotidal lines and relative coranges. Source (http://science.kennesaw.edu/~jdirnber/oceanography/LecuturesOceanogr/LecTides/1116.jpg)]

Isn’t it fascinating that these spiders' web-like patterns are echoed throughout the Earth’s oceans and seas and can also be found on landmasses: New Zealand and Madagascar are themselves amphidromic points.

I was totally awestruck when I first heard about this because the similarities with what I perceive in a body during a cranio session are quite staggering.

I have felt “the swinging bowls” moving in circles around an axis so many times when holding and sensing a heart, a liver, a stomach. I have followed the pull and push, the bulging, the bobbing, the swirling, the waves, the web-like patterns...

Of course it makes perfect sense that the rotation of the Earth (the Coriolis effect), of the Moon and the Sun would affect our internal fluids too.

But the mere realisation of all these correspondences, these parallels between the micro and the macro sound such a magnificent universal symphony, unveil such a poetically stunning vista, it is simply irresistible.

It helps to perceive and wonder at the interconnectedness of all that is which Sutherland and many other spiritual figures talk about.

This in turn affects how you approach your practice, from a much higher, vaster vantage point, with a panoramic perceptive field that could throw you off balance, unless you yourself can turn into an amphidromic point: a still point inviting, reflecting re-connection, reorganisation… between all still points, all the midlines, all the axes and centres of spirals that are everywhere in our bodies.

In the wider context of every day life, are we not indeed like the Moon and the Sun to each other? Are we not in many ways acting like planets and stars to one another? Pushing, pulling, disturbing, pleasing, attracting, repulsing…dancing our dances of shadow and light around our amphidromic points.


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