Imagine your body were a country, how would you rule it? Would you listen to its many ‘citizens’, including its many non-human ones, and allow for what you feel is naturally emerging to run its course, creating the ‘best’ circumstances for this facilitation to take place in ways that feel supportive, grounded in easeful presence, and unhindered by disruptive interventions intended to force a resolution from the outside in rather than in multiple reciprocities?
In other words would you hold the whole as well as its many parts and would you also relate it to its history, its geographical and social context, its ecology, its cosmology? How this country speaks its own indigenous languages within coordinates that are not set in time and space but forever in movement, and requiring constant re-appraisal and deep listening beneath the surface ‘noise’ to hear what the stars have to say, what the fungi, the bacteria, the pericardium as it relates to the remainder of our fascia suit, this entanglement of tissues shaping our middle?
This mode of ‘governing’ is not the one we're familiar with, there would not be rules from on high, instead the 'grassroots' of a wild prairie would prevail, with all their co-evolutive aliveness deeply engaged and ingrained within the wider community of the living, in perpetual becoming. There could not be set borders but boundaries shifting in each moment as they influence and are influenced, as they relate and respond.
This is a paradigm of being and living in the heart, the middle of a vast liminal space created by the exclusion zone delineated by our modern linear narrative and its social, cultural, economic, political trappings.
I consider the biodynamic craniosacral approach and central philosophy to be such an ‘other possibility’ arising from necessity, from the cracks of multiple failures and ongoing ecological breakdowns. Why? Precisely because it is placing the body’s inherent wisdom and individual expression of an Intelligence that is also present in the collective community of the living, at the epicentre of everything.
It is re-embedding us within the borderless web of life we have artificially been disconnected from through this dominant and exclusionary top down, standardising, homogenising, divisive system with its stringent laws, dogma and rules and its set of solutions and fixes to everything: an imperative knowing that is intent on ‘killing’ and destroying dissidence and radical originality, weeding all that could potentially threaten its very existence.
My whole body sighed with relief the first time I was held and allowed to be exactly as I am by non-fixing, non-doing hands that surrender to a Knowing beyond their limited understanding, and I succumbed, fascinated, enchanted even, by these inner expressions of so many songs, so many dances, so many galaxies with their stars and planets showing me another way, many other ways of being with, of living within and bridging the in-between “I am” and the collective “we are” of all that lives and breathes around me at different rhythms in different ‘time zones’.
It animated what was numb and dormant with myriad stories and possibilities.
This practice ( It is so much more than ‘work’ in the common linear meaning applied to it by our modern societies) revealed vast domains that I had up to then hardly suspected existed. My unconscious knew, and no doubt fed me some riddles now and then, but it took me years to ‘read’ and feel, to come into their presence through biodynamic sessions that kept igniting new possibles.
I also call it a practice because it is constantly co-evolving with earth, the land and creatures I live with and through, the non human universe that inhabits my body, as well as my clients and community of family and friends, a very large collective kin in other words within which “I, named Sophie” is enmeshed.
Reality is constantly shape-shifting and ever elusive, it is a 'queer' phenomenon far from the fixed narratives and universal truths of a linear model, as quantum physics amply demonstrate.
For this chief reason and others, it would be preposterous to ‘rule’ on what is ‘best’ at any given moment and there I refer to my former use of ‘best’ at the onset of this piece. The biodynamic paradigm allows and facilitates a ‘best’, an optimum, to naturally emerge in each session, in each moment, re-entraining the body’s awareness back to relational intertwining with itself, unveiling and clearing ways for she/he/they to awaken to the many stories it is telling and letting them change and shape what is.
It is facilitating an erotic landing back to the earth of our bodies, and unlike our History of conquest laden with plunder, rape, and mass slaughter, seeing this ‘new’ country with eyes and senses that welcome the tremendous diversity of these inner realms and slowly listen, discover what is already there, re-learn a pre-verbal language rich in surprise and unpredictability, constantly evolving and in ‘fluid interchange’ with all that is there, the visible and the unseen. Falling in the cracks of this liberating wild unknown as we do so.
I fell in awe of this inner wildness the minute I held its expression within my thankful hands and knew I would become its lifelong apprentice, because I had always already been there. Its presence kept emerging each time I met a stillpoint of coherence cradling the whole in its subtle motions and could only ground my gasp, my ‘wow’ in humble silence. The moment when all the possibles are held aloft in one biodynamic swell of the Tide, our internal fluid rhythmic inhale and exhale. I realised then that I had been in exile all these years, lost in a sense of false be-longing to a social construct that is superimposed on what is fundamentally queer to arbitrarily reduce and restrict.
There is no ‘fitting in’ possible in a system that denies so much of Life and pretends to offer options governed by the binary diktats of ‘for and against’, ‘right or wrong’, ‘good or bad’, …
Which is why, as highlighted by Dr Gabor Maté in the recent documentary: The Wisdom of Trauma,(1) there has been an exponential increase in chronic inflammatory diseases worldwide, as well as a deadly rise in drug abuse of all kinds.
Which is why more and more of us are either trying to carve out a niche at the edges or simply cut ties and cross over to wholeheartedly embrace our inner and outer wilderness.
I am titrating in the in-between the domestic and the wild, listening, grounding, and allowing as I go. I am learning to slow down and befriend my inner monsters, ever the explorer of new and ancient possibles.
Fittingly, William Garner Sutherland, the founder of biodynamic craniosacral therapy encouraged his students “to read the space between the physiologic centres” and he added, “Tis the mortar in the space between the bricks that holds a structure together”(2).
This reflected his attitude to life, “You see before you a dreamer – one who had to get away from the texts, as did Dr Still, and follow something he could not explain. Something that kept him digging into his dreams.”
Digging at a frontier whose fence keeps on moving. We are sitting across this shifting liminal space, us craniosacral therapists and all other explorers of this unknown and mysterious wild whose complete ‘workings’ will thankfully forever escape our limited understanding so that we can keep on dreaming and the Dream can dream us.
In The Wilds Beyond our Fences (3), Nigerian philosopher, psychologist, and author Bayo Akomolafe writes most beautifully of these in-between spaces as places of creative emergence. I see them also as places of healing.
“Thoughts don’t come from within; neither do they come from “without.” They emerge “between”. It’s the same with feelings. (…) I like to imagine that when a seed falls to the earth, it experiences grief, and its grief is met by the loamy femininity of the soil, and that is how trees sprout out with joy.”
“Perhaps those moments of unspeakable silence, when depths churn and sides groan, when words escape you, when a pill or a diagnosis doesn’t add up to much, when all you want to do is squeeze yourself into the tiniest place in the universe, it is because you—for all intents and purposes— are co-performing the disintegration of imaginal cells within a cocoon, and knowing the pain of becoming a moth.
“Perhaps this is the next frontier: not outer space or inner space, but spaces between.”
This is so akin to and evocative of what can happen during a craniosacral session and it's interesting that we owe this very practice to a meeting between Andrew Taylor Still and the Shawnee Indians on whose land his family settled. It is in this frontier space of a deeply fraught History of conquest that Still was inspired by and appropriated the wild medicine practices he witnessed. He therein ‘fitted it‘ within the prevailing medical paradigm of his lineage and carved a new avenue of tending to the wild of the body or the body as wilderness that became osteopathy, then cranial osteopathy, and later craniosacral therapy.
The wisdom of wellness that is biodynamic craniosacral therapy springs from and is rooted in the prairie of the Shawnee Indians.
It is no accident that this practice emerged when it did and is now gaining momentum at a time when we are returning to indigenous ways for more inspiration and ancient ancestral knowledge. This time however we do not come as victors but as lost wanderers. And yes it could be said that these victors were lost wanderers and vice and versa.
As pointed out by Bayo Akomolafe: “In many indigenous non-Western cultures, time is circular—not flowing forward from past to present then future, but entangled together in a thick now, so that the past is still accessible and the future can be remembered. Or as Karen Barad puts it, “the past is yet to come.”” This sentence, in my opinion, could apply to the somatics of trauma.
This ‘betweenness’ is what is missing in our life-denying societies. We are missing that ‘middle’, like the embryo who becomes a “wind egg” in the third week when it does not remain connected to the trophoblast through a stringy, capillary-rich stalk and does not form a heart, thus forever interrupting the process of building an ‘innerness’, a ‘middle’(4).
The current debate around vaccination is one aspect of this absence of middle in our midst. There is no sitting on the fence allowed, no in-between, we must be for or against, and the measures some countries are enforcing are aimed to corner citizens, to ply them to vaccinate in a process that is deeply divisive, disintegrative, and coercive, in alignment with the same belligerent ways that have governed the handling of this pandemic crisis.
Behind these tactics unfortunately lies a return to what was before: under the guise of protection, health and safety, economic growth can be restored in a semblance of a pre-epidemic ‘normal’ that allows for business as usual, the very same addiction to growth that resulted in the ongoing collapse of entire ecosystems and has spawned series of new viruses since the eighties.
Our preponderant economic, political, social, scientific, and medical paradigm invariably responds to crises with ‘quick fix ’ solutions that evade the root causes and maintain a status quo allowing for same paradigm, same systems to continue unabated.
“How are we honoring the sovereignty of life rather than trying to control it so that we feel we have done a good job?”asks body worker and writer Susan Raffo (5) in a powerfully poignant piece responding to the ongoing unearthing of remains of indigenous children forcibly 'educated' into this conquering paradigm, from school grounds in Canada and the US.
There is an urgent need to question and doubt, to ‘queer’ our realities so that they recount all the other possibles that are tragically truncated from our discourse and our ways of living.
Susan Raffo speaks of these silences of the unheard flesh, the voices of our lineages that are re-surging for us to ask these questions and feel all that there is to feel. The befores that are also nows.
There are no quick answers to these, no quick fixes either. There cannot be. There is so much to feel and be with.
The heart of the matter, that will create or re-ignite an innerness, a fascia-like entanglement lies in a return to our monstrosity, when we "stand still in the face of a monster, warts and all, and recognize ourselves.” (3)
“The dragons that breathe fire in the distance are no less monstrous than we already are. To put it differently, a monster is not the exception to the rule; a monster is the rule without exception.”(3)
Humans are now the last fence post for viruses to go to when the wild once was. Our bodies have become that frontier and each new virus can be seen as that monstrous ‘other’ we keep on ‘othering’, in an effort to outcast and exile it. It is holding up a mirror for us to see what we have done to Nature and our own nature.
In my practice I hold the whole of your bodies, the visible and the invisible, the non-human, the wonder of an ever moving form that is everything and everybody, a miracle: the result of thousands, millions of years of co-evolution of symbiotic relationships between cells, fascia, organs… and bacteria, viruses, fungi. All emergences are welcome. There is no exclusion zone, no fences… in fact a session sees a compact fragmentation give way to a fluid whole where fences and ‘othering’ have no ‘raison d’être’.
Embracing our magnificent aliveness is welcoming back all that we have outcast and exiled, all the monsters. Like the "differential flow of performative becomings"(3) we are.
Can we collectively move into our heart and grow a connective stalk to create space for our middle to emerge on Earth instead of striving to settle in space and further petrify (6) our 'wind egg'-ness?
Notes and references:
1- The Wisdom of Trauma: https://wisdomoftrauma.com/hub/
2- William Garner Sutherland, Contributions of Thought.
3- These Wilds Beyond our Fences, Letters to my daughter on humanity's search for home, Bayo Akomolafe.
4- Thanks to Jaap Van der Wal, see more on this at www.embryo.nl
6- To recall John Moriarty’s metaphor for our dominant paradigm as a Medusa-like figure turning all that is animated into stone. See Dreamtime