Last night, I asked my dreams for a beginning to this essay but it didn’t ‘work’ in the way I 'thought' it would.
For the world of my dreams is removed from the world of cognitive thinking. Sure we can sow a seed, an intention, a word under one’s pillow which our conscious mind lets go of as sleep overtakes and transports us to another realm, ‘behind the curtain’ of reasoning and all its “gadgets”(1).
"Behind the curtain" and "gadgets" were words and phrases regularly cited by Dr William Garner Sutherland and Dr Rollin Becker in their frequent exchanges. The reference to the first phrase was made by Dr Sutherland when Dr Becker once wondered where his thought had gone: “It has gone 'behind the curtain' and is now available for use.”(1)
These two physicians and osteopaths had the most inspiring pioneer-disciple relationship as they both explored and validated the completely new territory of cranial osteopathy from 1944 when they first met until their respective deaths in 1954 and 1996.
Reading Dr Becker’s early correspondence with his teacher and friend is simply fascinating(1).
I sense a profound respect, a pre-verbal closeness of connection, an intimacy nourished by the pen, as well as “gabfests” during occasional visits, showing a depth of curiosity, courage and trust as well as so much awe and child-like wonder while he was fine tuning his art of listening to let what he would later in his career call his “Silent Partner” do the work, and progressively move away from relying only on all the anatomical knowledge and technics (some of what he called“the gadgets”) he had learnt at the American School of Osteopathy.
In fact it is as if Dr Becker deliberately takes part in and elaborates an initiation, a quest, a "hero's journey"(2), around Dr Sutherland's clues and encouragements.
In a letter dated February 1951, he writes about “obeying orders from the Master Fulcrum [Dr Sutherland’s words]”: “My philosophy says that the Master Fulcrum can do no wrong, that it will work for the best interest of the patient at all times. It has such potential that I sense but don’t understand.” He then asks Dr Sutherland: “Can you give me a clue as to how to get a closer insight into that which I am working with?”
Dr Sutherland replies in a manner that our intellect would call ‘cryptic’, but that my inner biodynamic craniosacral therapist views as beautifully inviting: “Just how to help you with the problem is somewhat difficult. (…) in as much as you keep close to the Fulcrum, it will come to you. And: I KNOW that you keep close to the Fulcrum.”
He continues, “From my study window there is a lovely view overlooking the Ocean, and a lighthouse. So: “Light in the darkness, sailor, Day is at hand”.
Both Sutherland and Becker used plenty of metaphors and analogies such as “the Lighthouse” or “Silent Partner” as well as “Tide”, “Breath of Life”, "Potency"…to translate what eluded their familiar osteopathic terminology, and adorned them with capital letters as if to add majesty (capital letters are 'majuscules' in French) and mark the ineffable dimension of such phenomena.
Dr Becker’s researching quest is replete with enthusiastic discoveries and understandable struggles to let go of his reasoning mind and trust a deeper knowing and awareness of mystery. The sheer candour of his writing is so relieving and alluring in its naturally humble, non self-conscious humanity.
In August 1951 he writes, “I am getting my signals from the stillness more and more, including the “all clear.” When the signal comes, I check the physical mechanism and find the “boss” has come home.”
The following month, he wonders, “Just how many gadgets are there in front of the curtain? Every time I see another one slip behind the curtain I think that might be the last one, but am willing to concede there must be quite a pile left.” Then he announces, “My next tour of investigation is to examine the full meaning of the Potency in your expression: the Potency of the Tide. As near as I can figure it now the Potency, the Intelligence, the Knowing and the Breath of Life are all the same thing.”
As a ‘biodynamic’ (a term first used by Dr Becker) craniosacral practitioner I was taught anatomy and physiology but I was also invited to let all this knowledge go “behind the curtain”, take a backseat, to favour a spacious, permissive and non-directive kind of holding, one that allows stillness and the natural expression of Health, of the Tide, to spontaneously unfurl in my client’s body, while I trust and support what it tells me from within my own, still, knowing wholeness.
The wide spectrum perceptive field and the neutral allowing resulting from the application of this approach, later became some of the key characteristics of biodynamic craniosacral therapy(BCST).
I know that this reliance on the "mysterious forces"(1), the pre-verbal language of the “embryo in us”(3) is what attracted me to study BCST.
And I'm not the only one.
I asked four BCS long time therapists and teachers to tell me what this key phrase ‘behind the curtain’ meant to them and to relate their personal experience of its application.
Cherionna Menzam Sills (4) remembers it as, “a relief to be given permission to do what I naturally wanted to do, which was being present.”
While Jane Shaw (5) recalls, “when I started practicing it felt like a coming home to my feeling and intuition function, using the Jungian psychological function model (…) it gave me permission to rely on feeling. I wasn’t so focused on thinking my way through A&P. So ‘behind the curtain’ was a relatively natural practice for me, I think.”
In a world ruled by reason and ‘doing’, the invitation to surrender to a transformative force way beyond my understanding was a great magnet. It fascinated but also bewildered me. I questioned and 'tested' it like a detective, a bit like Dr Becker with his "tour of investigation". And like some of my clients, I too exclaimed: “What on earth was that?!”, until I learnt to simply but firmly ‘plant’ myself in Earth’s stillness while I listened to life's 'melodies' in my clients’ organisms.
In clinical work, not only does this mean letting our anatomical/physiological knowledge go to one side but it also implies silencing or at least neutralising the thinking mind who tends to go shopping, planning, cooking…and even designing! -- I was still a womenswear designer when I studied and began practising craniosacral therapy.
Tanya Desfontaines (6) explains:
“As the practitioner prepares herself there is a process (which Franklyn Sills calls the ‘ritual of contact’) whereby she checks in with herself, what is on her mind etc, any information arising from the conversation with the client etc. and puts it all to the side, with the intention of becoming more present and receptive, entering that state of ‘bare presence and receptivity’ - another quote from Dr.Becker I believe.
“I talk about ‘beginner's mind’ - that no matter how experienced I may be or how much knowledge I have, I nonetheless aim to put all my prior experience and knowledge ‘behind the curtain’ so that I enter each session anew, without expectation or judgment, without any story or need to make meaning of what may arise. This attitude and approach to session work is helpful in creating as open, receptive a space as possible... and it’s an ongoing practice, every time I go to the table,”
She resorts to an interesting trick, “I actually imagine a curtain with shelves behind it where I can leave all my thoughts, judgements, expectations etc… It works for me!”
Letting go of any attachment to an outcome as well as judgement can be particularly arduous in a result-driven, success-addicted ultra medicalised modern world.
But the more I practised BCST, the more I learnt to trust what Scott Zamurut (7) calls “the natural unfoldment of inherent healing.” I also noticed how helpful and even pivotal this non-judgemental open-mindedness was to creating a safer relating and to enabling resourcing.
Although we do not direct or force an orientation towards results, we welcome resolution, restoration of balance, and a dissipation of fulcra and holding patterns. Cherionna Menzam-Sills explains: “Once we have witnessed remarkable healing events by just listening and supporting what presents, we can trust more easily.”
Because BCST integrates all forms of knowledge and centres on the qualities of awareness, presence, and deep listening, I would echo Jane Shaw when she relates that, "in fact CST has supported me in a gradual validation of my self.“
It has validated the safe flourishing and trusting of my feeling awareness, my intuitive and instinctive knowing in every day living.
During a session, the absence of forcing, of interfering that leaving all ‘behind the curtain’ affords is essential to ensuring a depth of natural unravelling and easeful reorganising. Scott Zamurut notes that, “One point which is abundantly clear is that we do not go searching for, or looking for, anything that is behind the curtain.
If we are looking for anything: a physical layer, a tidal state, an energetic phenomenon like ignition (this one seems to be a popular target these days), we as practitioner are interfering with the natural unfoldment of inherent healing. So what is behind the curtain stays there unless it comes out onto the stage of awareness as part of the inherent healing process. “
It is a skill honed with each new session. But for this very reason I have found that ‘working’ with my “Silent Partner” is a gift that keeps on giving.
There is a reciprocity at play 'behind the curtain'. It acts like a repository of knowledge which serves to support and facilitate the higher Intelligence in the fluids and tissues of the living organism I witness. But conversely each new session is a 'tour of investigation' that teaches and brings new elements to my awareness, that informs my knowing and which I can in turn, place 'behind the curtain' to put to 'good use' whenever my next client's inherent healing process requires it.
It is quite profound. It enables an effortless ‘juggling’ between Knowing (feeling awareness, intuitive, instinctive, deep listening) and knowing (anatomy, physiology, experiential) thanks to our use of "peripheral vision rather than central vision"(5).
This depth of trust and acceptance in my 'bare' holding allows each client's unique precious Story to reveal itself more fully.
As I am also inviting my clients to let their thoughts take a backseat, to resource and surrender to the process, the various phases of the session especially if they reach long tide or dynamic stillness (8) can feel like a gradual untethering of soul.
As Dr Becker's initiation progresses, this 'peripheral vision' comes to encompass the whole earth. At one point he refers to the 'SeaAroundUs', an acronym he makes up after the title of a seminal work on the history of oceans by the famous scientist and author Rachel Carson(9). It is Dr Sutherland once more who provides this inspiration, this clue:
"You say in your "Lighthouse Beam" that "the main arena is the sea," and you quote Rachel Carson, "There is no drop of water in the ocean, not even in the deepest parts of the abyss, that does not know and respond to the mysterious forces that create the tide."(1)
He goes on, "The SeaAroundUs is perceptible in every patient and in every event of life. It is real and it can be known.(...) here is the source of the mysterious forces that create the tide. What is the source? I don't know. I, (...) , only know that if I keep my vision upon the sea and not upon the resulting tides, currents, eddies and waves, that I can "bend to the oar, sailor, and ride the tide to the shore." (1)
I know from witnessing how my clients respond differently to life and living after a series of sessions that this "crossing into mystery" (10), this unveiling of source can be akin to a homecoming to one's true nature, to one's soul as defined by eco depth psychologist Bill Plotkin: "Our original instructions. Our unique mytho-poetic identity, away from our cognitive knowing and cultural, educational parameters."
Probably in no small part because BCST is a kindling of the original forces of creation at play in us from the embryonic stage onwards. Always present, always unfolding no matter our social circumstances, our education, our gender, the colour of our skin, our sexual preferences, our trauma history...
All the conditioning of our lives' "parameters" often prevents us from listening to these creative forces. Our dreams 'message' us away from this every day patterning through their soul artwork, in an attempt to clear a passage to source, to our original blueprint.
I know that my unconscious has been nourished and informed by all the sessions I gave and received, also supporting me towards a soul homecoming.
I sometimes feel that emerging from the source of life, there is a wordless messaging of soul unfurling during a session as "the whole mess of cute little fulcrums all disappeared behind that curtain." (1)
I get to glimpse the original matrix, the sea within and around 'You' and 'I', until you and I return to every day living, a little more skilled to juggle between what is in front and behind the curtain.
References and notes:
1- The Stillness of Life, Rollin E. Becker, 2000.
2- The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell, 1949.
3- Jaap Van der Wal, see www.embryo.nl
5- Jane Shaw teaches at Body Intelligence and at the Elmfield Institute, of which she is the co-founder, see www.elmfieldinstitute.com and www.bodyintelligence.com
6- Tanya Desfontaines teaches at the Karuna Institute, see https://fifthworldcranial.co.uk/ and The Karuna Institute, https://www.karuna-institute.co.uk 7- Scott Zamurut is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico and teaches there as well as online, see www.scottzamurut.com
8- For more on dynamic stillness and long tide go to Franklyn Sills' website: http://www.craniosacral-biodynamics.org/
9- The Sea Around Us, Rachel Carson, 1951.
10- Soulcraft, Bill Plotkin, 2003.