I am ever so grateful for the humility, the awe I experience each time a client emerges afresh from a session with a new sense of familiarity with their body. Their more easeful presence like a better fit.
Awakening to a keener perception of your body is a quest that evolves over a lifetime, should you choose to steer and surrender to its incremental unfurling. As a biodynamic craniosacral therapist, I walk along this path with each client and hold a field of permission, allowing, with a deep sense of privilege at witnessing 'struggles', resistance and eventual dissolving of patterns, with a subtle re-wiring and re-organising towards a new equilibrium and buoyant coherence.
The body’s Intelligence slowly creates enough spaciousness to apprehend each new piece, sensation and pattern in a way and timeframe that feels just right to safely engage with, like a balancing act between the known and the unknown.
Within each session lies an opportunity to meet a little bit more of this underworld and become fascinated, to cultivate an inner quietness and listen to the silence become pregnant with a multitude of signs of Life in the absence of any doing.
But how do we loosen our vigilance and safely re-associate with the body after tragic life events, accidents, losses… break and remould us, adding layers of density and patterns guarding us against the world and our true selves?
“What brings you here?” I ask. Pain, trauma, problems and issues are spoken of, revealing a need for support and a wish for change that belies the possibility of remembering what was before, all this disrupted aliveness, all the layers beneath the protection, the pathos.
With each person a unique map and timeline unfurls.
I have assisted clients for many years some since I began working as a craniosacral therapist six years ago. I have listened with wonder to the evolution of their voice and words when speaking about their body. In the best scenarios the initial complaining gives way to a softening as befriending occurs, allowing difficult body memories to be integrated and transformed.
New stories can then emerge, creating a safer container to lean against and build resilience with.
The initial timid dip in these unknown waters can gradually turn into a deep dive exploration revealing such rich landscapes. How far we can let go and meet the uncertainty of renewal very much depends on how ‘attached’ we are to our existing patterns, how ‘squeezed in’ we are within ourselves.
It can begin with a specific ailment or an overall sense of unease, of deep discomfort. But the painful stories can be in the background at the onset. A client once told me first off that he wanted to “learn” about how his body felt. His excitement was palpable with each new sensation, each new ‘treasure’ discovered even if underneath it all lay deep trauma.
This very direct quest-like approach is quite rarely so freely and enthusiastically outspoken in my experience. Although I encourage my clients to speak what they notice, where their attention goes, and what they feel while I am holding the specific and the whole, the responses range from naught to lyrical with quite a diversity of engagement with the felt sense in between.
Our social contexts constantly pull our attention away from our internal landscape, and building an awareness of our interoceptive dynamics takes dedication as well as a spacious letting go which requires skilful support from the practitioner.
As a recipient of craniosacral therapy, I have come to unlearn and gradually drop my attachment to a specific outcome. But I would be lying if I said that this attachment is completely gone. It has substantially lessened though and instead a trust in the re-organising process, in my inner Intelligence has emerged.
Unlearning to rely on our thinking mind to ‘hold the fort’, or our pain to control the commands of our attention is quite a journey in itself. This is why craniosacral therapy hones in on resources; what helps us, supports us, what gives meaning to ‘well being’ for us no matter the graded definition.
They can be quite tenuous or appear invisible to our hazy perception of reality. This initial clearing of the pathway towards resources is crucial. It comes with a titrated shuttling between the familiar patterns of survival and the gradual recognition of space, of tingling, of pulsing, tremors, oscillations..., that surprise at first but become comfortable to hold and be with over time.
Like a slow embracing of each tree in the entangled woodlands of our inner being, this insightful resourcing is a gateway to an internality that emerges to our senses as we are ready to receive it.
Currents, fluctuations, the slow motions of viscera, the shearing, twisting and softening of tissue, the slight adjustments of vertebrae, the powerful 'awakening' of joints, the gush of blood in the aorta, the sparkle of a fourth ventricle, the loosening of membranes in the cranium, the heart beat... These are mere glimpses of a miraculous living organism that comes more into focus each time I sit down to hold or as I lie to receive.
Motionless on the plinth, I am in complete wonder at my inner dances and goings on. My perception, like an inner sun, sweeps the whole body as well as the field around me while I surrender any kind of interfering, the words of my thinking mind floating about aimlessly, basking in this teeming entangled life.
As a practitioner I invite your body’s Intelligence to express and engage. I help you to resource and hold your 'wobbles' and 'stumbles' from a resourced place but you, the client, have built and continue to build the bridge between the known and the re-membered, the reclaimed, the restored.
This comes with a dismantling of preconceptions, with an emotional realising and coming to terms with the ‘old stories’ that kept you alive and also led you astray.
As cleared space grows so does your receptivity to welcome the richness within and tolerate the eventual discomfort arising as you slowly let go of defence mechanisms. What craniosacral therapists call a releasing of potency translates as a regenerative and liberating sense of increased aliveness that ripples out from within and can hold more of the whole of you.
Not that all old stories will disappear but our relating to them alters. Like a forging of a new sense of perspective.
In visual arts this distinction between the foreground and the background, and conveying more accurately the relative proportions of our multidimensional reality particularly in landscape painting grew more widespread around the 15th and 16th centuries, the hinge between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance if we choose to go with these manmade historical terms. It also meant that a new way of seeing the world, a different mirroring became prominent and with it came a certain hierarchy.
Art critic John Berger in his acclaimed Ways of Seeing speaks of perspective as "a convention", "unique to European art", which "centres everything on the eye of the beholder". In other words, "Everything converges on to the eye as to the vanishing point of infinity. The visible world is arranged for the spectator as the universe was once thought to be arranged for God."
The so-called 'naive' art of the Middle Ages placed everything on the same plane. Perspective manipulates our perception, fragmenting our agency and our reflection of reality. It is a key ingredient of our individuation process and the 'midline' or axis of how we participate in the world.
What do we choose to focus on? What perceptively prevails? What reality do we selectively mirror?
Perspective is a tool to eschew and disguise the truth with what we choose to place in our foreground and 'hide' in the background.
Because we are steeped in this way of being in the world, becoming aware of this perceptive hierarchy is a necessary step on the path to surrender to a higher Intelligence.
Playing with different perceptive fields was what sharpened my senses away from the fragmentation of perspective. One of the great skills I learnt during my craniosacral training, it consists in extending one's field of awareness through gently inviting in my whole sensory being layers of reality around me while also focusing on what is happening in my body.
There is no forcing, no wanting even. In fact it is essential to let go of any 'mind-doing' beforehand, and to simply follow your awareness as it wanders within, effortlessly 'listening' in to the expression of Life forces at play in the vessel of your being.
I sometimes invite the full moon, the nearby ocean and surrounds into my holding while also staying aware of what is unfolding in my client's body as well as my own. This spaciousness can trigger such powerful changes and 'unlocking' in a guarded body, allowing a bridging to emerge and what was held tight in the background to gradually come forth to be met and integrated.
I have sat by the sea breathing her, the sand, sky and birds flying by while being breathed by the same internal rhythmic motions, slowly melting towards oneness, as for a moment at least, dynamic stillness, the fabric of the universe, 'levelled' everything.
In Teachings of the Talking Jaguar, an incredible account of a 'curandero' (or shaman)'s life in a Mayan village in Guatemala, Martin Prechtel explains that, "all Tzutujil shamans (...) understand that the human body contains the whole world, in order to cure disease or pain a shaman had to become a charmer of all that world. A shaman had to become nature, not just an observer of nature."
But first his teacher Chiv told him to sit for days in the same spot and observe everything with all his senses. Eventually, after a year of practice he landed in the place within where," you discovered your own nature little by little without the mind's always claiming that it had done something. You had to learn to distinguish between learned knowledge and remembrance of other layers."
He beautifully explains that, "It was not like some Asian meditation where you empty yourself exactly, but was rather where you filled yourself with all the senses, every cricket chirp and birdsong, every creak, crack, pop, and twitter. You were not to focus on what happened as an observer, but rather to hear, see, and allow it all to sink into the bottom of your body and bones like silt and seeds dropping into your river of liquid bone from the overhanging trees, while you gazed from the bottom of the water, very still, hardly moving, like an alligator."
With the individuation process comes a separation. But it is possible to find a 'middle'. Prechtel describes later in the book how he manages to keep a balance between being nature and his own being. He calls this in-between a "third thing": "While immersed in nature, not analysing, not understanding exactly but becoming nature, one really did begin seeing how vast the human soul can be. It was the middle place, this third thing, Chiv and I were after, the place of shamans in the middle of the world."
Re-associating with our bodies as the natural world they are also mends our severed connection with Earth, as we sense the wood and the trees, and all its inhabitants in equal measure, as we feel the droplets and the ocean all at once without attachment.
Awakening to a keener perception of your body is a quest that evolves over a lifetime, should you choose to steer and surrender to its incremental unfurling.
And maybe even over several lifetimes...