I went to Spirit Rock last Monday for meditation and dharma talk led by Jack Kornfield.
His talk centered around form and emptiness, how they are one and the same thing. One cannot go without the other. He referred to the paradox of human existence as an illustration: “consciousness is born into us …and then it leaves us”.
He spoke beautifully of his experience of the ‘vastness of the mind’ through meditation and how thoughts and memories emerge to almost immediately return into the void whence they came from.
It’s intriguing but not surprising how the cranium comes first in our craniosacral practice: it is most definitely a portal of infinite possibility but it can also hold so much density, pain and trauma.
I’ve had a full range of reactions to head holds from relieved surrender to sympathetic activation requiring hands off or shifting to another hold.
This is a very sensitive place requiring an ultra skilful and gentle approach. Firstly because of the position of the therapist, often sitting behind the client.
If your traumatic memory is triggered when someone steps around your back in what is quite a vulnerable location since you cannot see the person, your amygdalae will ring their alarm bells and a full on fight/flight response could follow unless it is caught on time and held well.
It is therefore essential to check in with the person before moving to the head and maybe even begin by holding the neck or the occiput from the side.
I love that we’re taught to always speak our moves to our clients and let them know what we're about to hold as well as ask for permission. It is something so profoundly respectful of the client’s boundaries.
This consistent verbal contact is paramount to establishing the safety settings of a 'relational field' that will allow the client's system to slow down and healing changes unfold.
In some cases, however, the client may respond positively to enquiries around comfort and safety but their system tell a completely different story so it is good to double check and keep a light touch and sensitive presence.
Once you're set up for a settling, go past the thinking buzz and bioelectric abundance of neural activity. Once you resonate with the intricate protective mesh of the glial cells and go downstream to listen deep into the viscous expression of the interstitia, the cerebrospinal fluid magic of the ventricles and the whole spine, the ‘vastness’ as Jack Kornfield calls it, is usually what comes next.
I find that to invite this incredible spaciousness, my perceptual field of awareness needs to match it and my holding stay ultra grounded, like a strongly rooted tree.
I remember a wonderful session with a client who was on the brink of letting go as I held her occiput in what we call a cradle hold.
I invited her to surrender through reminding her of an external resource she had mentioned earlier. Soon afterwards something clicked open in her cranium and what felt like a powerful flush of current unrolled, bathing her gradually from the top down in the most beautiful exhalation, to then settle into a stillpoint.
My client felt it too and when I checked in eventually she was in full on bliss mode…and so was I.
When this happens, as a practitioner, this is the zenith, I sit back, continue to ground and hold and just enjoy the show.
It is literally full on magic that probably no science will ever capture and who would want to limit and define such ecstasy with experiments anyway.
As Charles Ridley says, "It is time to relax, to wait, and to enjoy, while the Breath of Life intimately breathesstillness, which fills you with unconditional love and awakens your heart." (Stillness: Biodynamic Cranial Practice and the Evolution of Consciousness, 2006)
The form becomes void and vice versa. Nothing, absolutely nothing else matters, literally, in a welcome "substitution of eternity for drama" (quote of Aldous Huxley by Jack Kornfield)
As I meditated among the few hundred people sat in the magnificently expansive temple of Spirit Rock, its beautiful octagonal roof framing above us, I felt that "groundswell" take over and settle.
When I opened my eyes again I noticed how my gaze had softened and how my head and whole being felt lighter, sleeker.
I looked at Jack Kornfield and felt his gentle comforting relaxed presence across the room, slit-eyed, still mostly inward.