I am sitting with vulnerability as I begin to write this. What I am about to reflect and reveal is so intimate, so precious and yet this is not about me, but about all of us human beings, spirits in the flesh inhabiting Earth.
I consciously sat with the possibility of the whole, or rather the Whole in Jungian terms: a cosmology of wholeness consisting in more than its parts, an embodied soul’s pilgrimage back to the origin of Self, the Source.
A few biodynamic craniosacral therapists recently took part in a wondrously insightful workshop hosted by Jane Shaw at the Elmfield Institute, in Gilford, Northern Ireland.
We explored our birthing alive to Earth through journeying with our current reciprocal relationship with Her— a midwife of ongoing becoming and nurturing, but also a passage tomb and a pain bearer.
With it came the inevitable question of scope and boundaries: how far back am I willing to go? Or how far in am I willing to travel? How born am I to Earth?
We strolled the liminal space between verbal and non-verbal languages, between life and death, drawing from the well of a somewhat evasive frontier, pausing in the deep listening of its pregnant, limitless unknown. Bravely birthing some of the stories of our authentic self as reflected by Nature and one another.
The Elmfield Estate is a graceful palace full of ancient trees, native regalia brushing with exotic trophies hailing from voyages across the British Empire by the wealthy linen merchants of the time— Beech, Oak, Ash, Linden, Alder, Hazel, Willow, Elm commingling with Redwoods, Cedars, Douglas Firs, Noble Firs…
It is easy to feel at home amongst such wonders. It is easy to ask questions and listen for answers. It is easy to seek and possibly lose oneself.
The disrupting sounds of nearby traffic tugged these typical craniosacral questions: how can I hold the whole? How can I let it all sing and play even if it’s out of tune? How can I facilitate a cacophony become a symphony?
Re-Source. Literally. Find the Stillness within that preceded the Big Bang of conception. When we, about-to-be-embodied souls, were all One. The Original story. The springboard of Creation. The primeval source of Being. And then stay still, resource in its potency.
In this original return I meet the furious inextricability of death, and vainly resist its intricate entwining with life. It rages in my contorted intestines, a volcanic meandering vortex I have little control over. Instead I choose to funnel its might through the speaking word. I express its(my) frustration at the structures and linguistics of a social paradigm that consistently preempts wholeness at an individual as well as a planetary level: conditioning practices and dogma of a doctrine based on scarcity and separation binding us to ecological collapse.
In other words: we are told from an early age that ‘being with’ is not enough. That we must strive towards completion through education, work, consumption, religion, entertainment… Because the emphasis is placed on ‘doing’ rather than ‘being with what is’, "being with the beauty of joyful life" as Pat McCabe would say (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhWfgQXJXTk&t=5s). There is no real satiety built into in this model, only an illusory sense of wholeness based on material rather than spiritual wealth, therefore we tend to dread death as a grim ripper stealing our substance.
This delusion is beautifully summed up by the magician Prospero in Act IV Scene 1 of The Tempest by William Shakespeare:
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
But what if we could behold the original dream? What if we could, perchance, consciously awaken to the incommensurable force of life continuously pouring in and out of us?
Craniosacral therapy is that messenger, that harbinger of wholeness.
Not only is it restorative but it is a remembering of the matrix of life dreaming itself alive, the intimacy of before-the-conception, and in this it is also a reminder of death as a companion and a destination: the return to the primeval elemental pool that precedes embodiment.
How does biodynamic craniosacral therapy enable such miraculous contemplation? Thanks to its anchoring in the universal backdrop, the fabric of Being: Stillness.
Stillness is at once the beacon and the ocean in our paradigm: the practitioner and the field. As I drop anchor, a spacious slowing down of bodily rhythms gradually (the sequence varies according to each individual) occurs, Stillness emerges, and the dynamics of its unconditional Love imbibe the fluids and massage the tissues.
Existential pain and angst dissolve with a silencing of the intellectual distortions of a restless ego. The pre-verbal realm of sensations takes over as the quiet inner speech of witness consciousness sits back.
Stillness is Shakespeare’s “sleep”; the one many of his characters’ egos wrestle with. The one many of us escape from by ‘doing’ so much. For sitting with it would mean surrendering to the whole, meeting the racing mind, the traumatic layers, the shadow material buried in our unconscious; but also giving in to the alchemical power of supreme Love, a complete unknown.
What happens during a craniosacral session can be quite surprisingly powerful but it is not overwhelming because like our Health, we orient to resource and potency. Our safe and supportive relational field readies clients to gradually meet what lies beneath the chronic illnesses, the tensions, the emotional strains, the patterns of attachment, the pain and suffering…
Being able to navigate such murky currents with love and compassion is not a given for most of us living in the Western world. Interoceptive resourcing is not part of our tool kit. Neither is true connection with the natural world.
I place my hands on a Redwood and tune in to the Breath of Life surging from the vast Stillness we share, listening to its Love ignite my heart.
I lay my existential grief bare. Saline water pours out of me as rain begins to fall. I surrender to this fluid internal wave transporting me further in and with Earth—embedded as well as embodied.
Grateful, I amble along, my fluid self permeated by the grace of magnificence surrounding me: rich with portals of invitation towards wholeness.
Birth is a loss of one state of being to another. It is a death to a before as well as the promise of a becoming. Here I waver again at the well of my tears. Dare I continue?
I almost did not make it alive. I was breech, feet first. As the first child, a cesarian was opted out and patient negotiations ensued till I was pulled out by forceps. My mother would tell me later that I almost “killed” her in the process, failing to realise how much of an impact this would have on my 7 year-old self.
Life has been a visceral navigation between killing and being killed. My inner killer has learnt to face and meet the shame and guilt of my full aliveness, holding the questioning of my ‘right’ to be alive. My victim has attempted to reckon with the fury directed at whoever or whatever attempts to 'kill' her while at the same time dreading the power of this rage.
Until I learnt about dissociation and the polyvagal theory in my craniosacral training eight years ago, I was not aware that I was engaged in such a fight/flight/freeze response throughout most of my life.
Transmutation is one of the great alchemical processes of craniosacral therapy, the process whereby the embryonic force that is the Breath of Life manifests as potency in our fluids and tissues, unfurling the reorganising powers of Health on its way.
Interestingly I sometimes confuse it with the word transubstantiation, the catholic ritualistic infusion of matter and fluid with divine aliveness. In both cases a ‘spiriting’ takes place magically conjoining a before and after, transforming the whole.
A fascinating conflation of immanence and transcendence.
Which brings me back to the dream of being alive and its many deaths. The first death is a parting with the original Oneness at conception, the second as an embodied being in the womb having to let go of another oneness to be birthed to Earth, the great Mother. But instead of nurturing oneness with Mother Earth, our next womb, our Western model has separated us from her, severing that other umbilical cord.
The way back to Earth is through Stillness, the common thread connecting all these states of Being.
What if the common admission of ‘I am not enough’ referred to the unconscious memory of this unwanted separation from the original Oneness?
This remembering of the ‘primeval’ Oneness that craniosacral therapy sets off. One that facilitates wholeness as a return to being enough, Home, the promise of satiety modern humans yearn for and yet fight against or run away from.
One that features in many indigenous stories, using myths as the language of their collective unconscious, mapping their dreaming of Creation. (The Myth of the Eternal Return, Mircea Eliade)
Rather than Sisyphus-like tasks, it is this intimacy with Earth as Creation that one could strive towards, a deep conscious awakening commanding moment to moment presence and connection with a stillness that is always there, however obtrusive the ego is to its allure.
It is true that I am not enough but it is also true that the “I” is enough. There is no separation.
Like in an act of exquisite love making, the ego dies to the “I”, to Oneness.
Why are so many of us terrified of true, full blown intimacy with another? Or with the wildness of Earth?
Because we are afraid of death, of the unknown, of losing what is familiar.
The Sufis spin to surrender to unconditional Love, to liberate themselves from the fear of death, the ultimate Lover.
As I walk through the glen, my eyes strolling between the river, the rich undercover and the trees, pausing on the specific, while holding the spaciousness of the fields beyond, I stop to gaze at an old Linden tree, its shape eliciting memories of summers spent at my grandparent’s home, a long time ago. A familiar wish to merge with him surges within.
The abandon needed to bridge the mind’s expansion draws near as I attune to Stillness, listening deeply, beneath the canopy, beneath the cambium, beneath the soil, right in the midst of the entangled life.
There is no separation. The quality of our reciprocity with Life (and Death) determines how enough we are, how whole we can be.
The land I walk on is colonised. The magnificent exotic trees I breathe with were bequeathed by this colonial mindset of 'never enough'.
As I burst into tears soon after making hand contact with the rich relief of Redwood bark, I also cry her pain and the land’s.
I read in Peter Wohlleben’s Secret Lives of Trees, that for a long time researchers were wondering why Redwoods implanted in Europe did not grow as tall as their indigenous counterparts. It was only recently discovered that the reason why is their need for community.
This is just one of many impacts due to the forced dislocation of sentient beings perpetrated by our colonial mindset. Separation stunts the possibility of a whole relationship with our home planet in more ways than are visible to the human eye.
We are witnessing a worldwide amplifying roar against this polluting, debilitating, destructive model. A welcome rage that needs grounded expression to shake off the foundations of a killing paradigm. But its dismantling will take time and require slowing down to listen and establish new, or revive ancient, reciprocal pathways between human beings, between human and non human beings and the whole of Earth.
Learning to be enough and slowly, gracefully, lovingly, compassionately rest in the whole, is not only healing us, it is healing Earth.