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The Apprentices

I write in layers, in relationship with the words and their ‘portée', their scope, their fit, their bearing. They are my witnesses in the present moment. They arise from deep within, from the surface or from elsewhere, and often times surprise me when they suddenly clear the confusion of my inner world by sowing more coherence or by digging a rabbit hole into which I must plunge. Sometimes quite blindly, surrendering to the unknown, without expectations or any definite target.

Like right now.

I notice a slight tightening in my sternum as I write this: an anxious resonance. In turn my gut contracts just below the umbilicus, a signalling of a birth imprint: when the cord is cut too quickly for us to transition slowly from one universe to another. When instead of gradually feeling into support and bonding before surrendering to this complete unknown, the new born is violently separated, cut off from her placenta: shockingly ending a nine-month relationship with her previous lifeline, her other half.

Just like that.

I have listened to and held many harrowing stories of wounding, abuse, loss and much overwhelm through my work as a biodynamic craniosacral therapist. They have spoken of a deep longing for safe reconnection with self and the world we live in through engaging with resource and nurturing relating and relationships. I am blown away by the courage and strength, the beauty of the human spirit as well as the extraordinary ability of our bodies to transmute and heal.

I have nourished my soul, my bodymind with equally wonderful and challenging essays, documentaries, books, workshops, discussions that speak of the ongoing disruption, destruction, corruption of living processes and contrast it with different ways of being and doing in the world, of perceiving life's relationships anew.

If only we created more space for their many languages to be taught and spoken more fluently, to support their inherent intricacies, so that we can more wondrously embrace the great unknown we live in.

I am left with many questions. Starting with how come knowing what we know and witnessing the interconnectedness of life all around us, do we continue to think and act as separate entities?

When did we lose our ability to wonder, to become enchanted by life and all its manifestations? How could we not apply, imbricate, embed this fascination into all that we relate to and do?

I watch birds as they flit from branch to branch, playfully frolic about with their mates, sing to their small heart’s content, feed from this and that. Alert to every and any potential danger yet navigating these so lightly and briskly.

I feel my heart open and brainstem relax as I gaze, my whole being lit up by the infinitely exquisite subtleties of each of these expressions of life, as well as their excruciating fragility.

Then I hear lawnmowers trimming and levelling, cutting down wild flowers bees feed from and I feel my nervous centres activate. My inner voice wonders when will this madness stop, when will we finally realise that living such out-of-tune ‘tidy’ lives is not really living at all?

How could we be so far removed from the beauteous enmeshment of life? How can we continue to fail to connect the dots even though we know that bees' numbers are dwindling, that we as well as many other species depend on their pollinating to feed ourselves, that we cannot thrive apart from all other members of this tremendous ‘oikos’ (home or house in Greek, the root of the word ecology) nurturing us all?

How can we still spray deadly herbicides on footpaths to kill so-called weeds? We would not use such products in our house yet we act as if nature was a living room we can hoover, and wipe 'clean' of its wilderness with toxic sprays; or a reservoir of resources we can relentlessly abuse, exploit and rip asunder.

In An Ecology of Mind, the documentary about her father, the ground breaking anthropologist Greg Bateson, psychotherapist Mary Catherine Bateson asks a potent question I have asked myself many times: “What is there about our way of perceiving that makes us not see the delicate interdependencies in ecological systems?”

She adds as an offering of an answer: “Given their integrity, we don’t see them and therefore we break them.”

But is it because of their integrity or because of our projecting from a dis-integrated place that we do not see them? For many writers and thinkers throughout the ages have written and spoken about these interconnections yet the predominant ‘story’ of modern humans living Western lifestyles, feeds a separatist bellicose narrative where Nature is an enemy, wildness must be tamed, harnessed and controlled. What is it within us despite our cosseted living that is still terrified by the wild? Why do we continue, despite all the books, the science, the conferences, the documentaries, to feed an insatiable 'monster' that is destroying us, and wiping out millions of other species in the process.

With each new listening to my clients’ tight connective tissues loosening their anxious grip and basking in the relief of a returned wholeness, my perception becomes more sensitised to these interdependencies. And the more I hold and witness the interplay between the fragments of the divided self and the oneness of dynamic stillness and coherent homeostasis the more I 'understand' from a place of deeper knowing and can hold more compassionately why we act the way we do.

Like Greg Bateson and many other thinkers, I have questioned our siloed and divided living and studying, each discipline arbitrarily separated from the other, instead of embracing how they can interact and pro-create, feeding off one another like a mycelium.

Like him I wondered about our obsession with definitions, names, capturing, limiting instead of delighting in simply being with and marvelling in the myriad of relationships at play all around and within us.

Many of us resonate with Greg Bateson’s questioning around life’s processes and our ignoring them at our peril. Should we not challenge our lifestyle as a result? Should we not “tell the truth” as the non-violent organisation Extinction Rebellion calls for? Should we not cry out ‘ecocide’ when entire forests are cut down to make way for yet another motorway or for cattle to feed our meat-eating habits all of which exacerbate the emission of greenhouse gases?

It is Franz Kafka who wrote: “It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at the table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet.”

There is a similar simmering, a witnessing of creative forces at play in a biodynamic craniosacral session. I have no idea what is about to happen yet I completely trust their unravelling. I have learnt to ground my patience, and hold the emergence of resources as my client comes into more presence and feels supported enough to safely surrender. It is usually at that magical threshold moment that the ecstatic flushing of potency into areas of inertia begins. When some of the traumas our bodies freeze and rearrange around, -- protecting the rest of our organisms-- gradually thaw, regenerating the whole.

This is also when I perceive how this fragmentation deeply affects the fluid expression of the whole, and how our initial pre-verbal mapping loses its original fluency to continually adjust and create new holding patterns that translate as ways of being and doing in the world. Like a geological multi-layering that not only speaks of one lifetime but includes transgenerational stories. A multi-storied evolutionary ‘oikos', an ecosystem with its own unique ecology heavily influenced by a context and the quality and quantity of different relationships.

Stored in our physiology and our unconscious, unprocessed traumas divide our being, creating dis-ease, dissociation and dis-integration; fuelling our reactivity and straining, draining our life force and love of life.

These inner divisions rule the whole unless we address them holistically.

Our triggers for example reflect our restricted, divided selves as we project and act out our overwhelm from a place of hyperarousal (fight/flight) or parasympathetic absence/numbness (dissociation).

It takes repetition, support, determination and patience to become aware, to come into resourced presence and safe embodiment, to redesign the familiar and observe definite changes, to make more of the unconscious conscious, to retrieve our souls and vitality, our lust for life.

Some dams easily break free in the very first craniosacral session transforming a burdened frown into a whole body buoyant radiance but the journey rarely stops there. As we go deeper the transitioning to a more aware and fulsome expression of self takes tremendous courage and patience. It must be gradual as it is uncovering exquisitely sensitive vulnerabilities, alert to any disturbances in the field.

It brings us back in touch with the animal within, with a specific neurobiology and reactivity, a wild kind of wiring, something we often try to mask, conceal and deny.

In this manner the war on nature is a projection of our own inner wars, fragmentation, our own traumatic stories as written and acted out in novels, tragedies, pervading popular as well as high culture over many generations. Sadly but truly these external manifestations of inner unresolved conflicts are born of our protective reactions against our inner 'wild', this reservoir of overwhelming emotional wounding which we numb and flee: a positive feedback loop that fuels and is fuelled by greed, addictions and insatiable needs.

As author and spiritual teacher Thomas Hübl writes: “Until trauma has been acknowledged, felt, and released, it will be experienced from without in the form of repetition compulsion and projection and from within as tension and contraction, reduction of life flow, illness or disease.”(2)

This is what lies at the root of our societal double-bind, a phrase coined by Greg Bateson.

Around our widespread culture of entitlement and the pro-deregulation and anti 'nanny state' corporate agenda, psychologist and author Robin Grille says, "You can see in our culture, economics, and politics the hyper grandiosity of a three or four-year-old whose developmental needs were not met." (3)

We can only free ourselves from the tentacles of this developmental scarcity projected on our modern societies if we dissolve their grip with integrative regenerative collective healing. One way described by Grille is to meet and feed our inner child with the emotional nutrients that were lacking during childhood.

In my experience as a BCS practitioner the healing process is mostly non verbal. Silence and slow, patient listening are essential to our spontaneous physiological and psychological unravelling, reflecting embryonic pathways of coming into form.

When words are spoken they serve to support, resource and enable the staying and being with whatever is emerging in the now.

Transitioning is deeply unsettling if done too fast. Yet this is what we are experiencing now as a collective of beings. We may not have the luxury of time to individually heal our traumas but we can at least support, inform and inspire one another, become one another's apprentices.

In today’s divided world, as the urgency to emerge anew is rising, as the predominant Western story of development is repeatedly and forcefully challenged, our perceptions are changing, offering possibilities to “re-thread the world back together from the inside” (1).

The double bind we are caught in is an opportunity for creative apprenticeships.

Just like healing forces the positive feedback loop of disintegration to stop in its tracks and reconfigure creatively, freeing up trapped energy that will enliven the whole.

As we keep re-attuning to this whole and orienting to health, we can transform our pain and suffering, enjoy a more embodied, fuller presence and ground ourselves in stronger, sturdier, and more harmonious foundations.

The freer we are from trauma, the more enlivened and in love with life we become. At the root of our collective healing lies our renewed consciousness of our innate love of life or ‘biophilia’ as coined by biologist Edward O. Wilson (4): “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.”

Indeed, whether we are conscious of it or not, “We are ‘holobionts’ or complex, collaborative organisms consisting of trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that coordinate the task of living together and sharing a common life.“(5)

We are essentially symbiotic beings.

Life is a constant interchange as observed by cranial osteopath Dr Rollin Becker (6) and we are in constant interchange with it.

As I set out to write this blog post I did not know what I was going to write about. Just like at the onset of a craniosacral treatment I am an apprentice to the great unknown, serving and entrusting myself to a higher Intelligence. Each session clears the way towards a deeper, more compassionate apprehension of self, igniting our inherent biophilia, our love of life, in more ways than one.

This precious work has shown me time and again how we are all apprentices to life's enmeshment. There is nothing about our rich, chaotic, inner wilderness to tame, be ashamed of and destroy but instead everything to learn and be in awe of.

So we may experience our body as the splendid, shape-shifting, metamorphic "sensitive threshold", "travelling doorway through which sundry aspects of the earth are always flowing", " open to the same currents, the larger valleys and plains of the earth, open to the same currents, the same waters and winds that cascade across those wider spaces." (7)

Notes and references:

1- An Ecology of Mind, Nora Bateson, 2010:

2- See Robin Grille on developmental needs: and his latest book Inner Child Journeys, 2019

3- Healing Collective Trauma: A Process for Integrating Our Intergenerational and Cultural Wounds, Thomas Hübl, 2020

4- The Biophilia Hypothesis, Edward O. Wilson, 1993.

5- Exiting The Anthropocene and Entering The Symbiocene. Glenn Albrecht, 2015,

6- The Stillness of Life, Rollin Becker, 2000.

7- Becoming Animal, David Abram, 2010.


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