Have you ever noticed that there is a moment, a second, before we glance at something or listen to a sound that orients us over there, that turns on our senses?
Have you ever wondered what influences your eyes to move in this or that direction when there are no apparent sensory stimuli of any kind?
Something calls our attention but the what, how, and why are mysterious.
I feel this way when I walk in a forest. It is a place of surrender to the wonder of presence and its many gifts.
I also sense it when I hold a living organism during a craniosacral session. My attention becomes perception as it is called to witness and support. What fascinates it is the awe-inspiring and mysterious agency of the body’s bio(living) dynamics that are at play in each moment and orientate the flow.
Each practitioner's journey is bound by their degree of embodied grounding and the quality of their relationship with the client, both defining criteria of a clear presence.
In a past blog post (1) I explored the field of resonance with the helpful input of a few other BCST practitioners and teachers.
This time I wish to explore further and bathe, float, and dive into a related topic; this capacity to maintain clarity, to be a clear channel like water, like the fluid bodies and the fluid field we hold.
How do you ‘reset’? How do you clear and practise ‘energetic hygiene’ as some practitioners term it, are common enough questions that keep arising in tuition classes but also during sessions.
Regardless of our profession, we are all immersed within layers of information and distractions, conditioned by a multiplicity of events and a morphological ‘inheritance’ that have shaped who we are and how we respond to life's turns and vicissitudes.
This topic of ‘clearing’ is particularly salient for the chaotic and uncertain times we live in, asking of us to be ever more care-full and attentive to carve out a grounded presence within a constantly evolving maelstrōm.
So another way to phrase these concerns could be: how do you redistribute or diffract your attention and perception in such ways that they nourish rather than overwhelm you?
It could be, like CST practitioner and teacher Andrew Cook explains, through a practice of “focusing on the Divine rather than anything else”.
“I see people who do “achieve” that, and they are not in denial – rather are in a different reality, and the world doesn’t tend to sneak up behind them unpleasantly (as one might suppose if following a more precautionary, fearful way of seeing) - but rather, it aligns itself to that way of seeing.” (2)
Andrew adds that “The capacity to do this is in all of us… I run resilience workshops, and the central thrust of the message in those workshops is that animals, hunter-gatherers, and any living creature (such as an amoeba floating in a pond) don’t survive by being constantly attentive to what will go wrong, but are far more constantly attentive to what goodness the world has to offer. This is how our neurology evolved.”
An observation that aligns with the social engagement 'drive' of our ventral vagus nerve (3) as per Stephen Porges’ polyvagal theory.
Our neurology has evolved to orientate towards safe connection (and pleasure I would add) within the uncertain dynamics of life.
This orientation towards an organising or integrative force within the natural world we also call health or Health (in the Nietzschean tradition) is also what characterises craniosacral therapy.
“Where is health?” is a rarely asked question in the western world yet it is one that keeps recurring in a craniosacral setting.
As clients tell me what ails them before lying down on the plinth, I listen and empathise but I also always inquire: where or what feels supportive, strong, vibrant, and alive in you?
(Photo courtesy of Elise Desmet)
Similarly, whenever pain or discomfort, or ‘difficult’ emotions are felt during a session I invite my clients to find the expression of ease, spaciousness, and health elsewhere in their bodies.
This is a mindful discipline we are not accustomed to. It runs against a cultural paradigm leaning towards what is wrong and problematic.
“Stepping sideways out of that way of seeing the world is also stepping outside our cultural training into something that may be unfamiliar but it is also totally natural. “ (2)
This introduction of more complexity helps to zoom out from our narrow focus on a culturally-entrenched narrative and welcome a more diverse and much richer panorama.
“Bad stuff can still happen, but it hasn’t been played round zillions of times in the head before then, and neither has it interfered with any of the beauty of life, and it lasts a much shorter length of time because it remains possible to see/live in the newnesses rather than the same old same old. In Ian McGilchrist’s terminology, we become more able to inhabit the Right brain.” (2)
I guess such an approach to living completely changes the meaning of the word predicament, which is often seen as an unpleasant experience in our cultural prism, when in fact to predicate in the Latin etymology of the word means to affirm and assert.
Within this wider, more complex context, ‘clearing’ also becomes something else, from thick to thin air, from viscous to flowing waters. It feels much easier to swim and health becomes the current's natural direction.
BCST practitioner and teacher Scott Zamurut (4) says, “When as a practitioner we are genuine observers of the healing process our boundaries are clear, thereby diminishing the transfer of energies. The prior domains of practitioner skills support our capacity to meet the Inherent Healing Process in a relatively open and neutral space.”
I have often felt that although I am grounded within my own body, I am also plugged into the wider field as I listen to the chirping of birds, the occasional wind and rainfall, as I feel the warmth of sun rays, as my perception embraces the ocean and forest nearby... Both my and my client’s presences are enriched by these unspoken influences and healing emerges as the consequent mainstream of this complex immersion and sensuous entanglement.
There is a tacit agreement between all these sensory presences at play in the room.
Scott reminds us of Dr Rollin Becker's words "objective awareness" as our primary perceptive guide which allows for and is allowed by a "moment-to-moment somatic relationship to the Earth through gravity" and by "the anchoring of our Midline into the Earth" so that our organisms' biodynamic and biokinetic Intelligence can be held in a much vaster field of possibility.
While another experienced BCST practitioner Jane Shaw speaks of the "gifts of awareness" brought by her clients within this delicate and powerful process, "signposting me to what inner patterns I need to continue to heal or address".(5)
This practice of self-care is intrinsically part of our work and it is also part of living. The more fine-tuned our perception is, the more we can swim in the complex currents of existence.
As Jane adds, "I work continuously to know myself, "the issues in my own tissues," so that when I feel something in a client session I know what is mine and what is my clients'. (...) So that I can attune to different levels of perception without "losing" myself".
A wise and learned redistribution of our attention to anchor oneself in a vaster field of awareness.
Andrew Cook also speaks of 'gifts' when he says that, "In fact, I would personally say that the focus I am required to have in my practice usually brings something of a relief from the world, and patients bring many gifts to take home as well as burdens (to not take home!)"
There is a natural clearing process within each session which is enriched and nurtured by our personal resourcing practices.
Scott mentions morning prayer: "Every morning I begin my day by offering incense or sage in the prayer wheel behind my home. I make an inner connection with Earth and Sky, the Directions, the Elements, the natural world. I will offer thanks and put forth prayers."
Andrew talks of the Tibetan spiritual practice of transformation that is Tonglen: "I do not accept the thing into my body – but rather accept the “fact” (or story) as having whatever presence it has and then have compassion for the parts of my body that are struggling with that and resisting it in various ways. I think words such as “Love”, “Compassion”, “Belief”, “Trust” (just to name a few) are bandied around as if they are easy, and they are not ... If one finds oneself disconnected from them in even the smallest way it can take a lifetime’s effort to regain them. They demand that we strive. They have layers of depth, and there is always more depth that can be discovered."
It is this incommensurable depth that informs our practice and always steers me towards what Jane Shaw calls a "returning to myself" within the wider field I am immersed in.
Like a consistent 'oiling' of a wheel of living. Like a watering of fertile ground. Like a sowing of new seeds, I bring each of my clients' gifts with me on my walks in the nearby forest to be released and merged with the mycelium above and below ground, transcending the fortuitous "I am".
I speak of the mycelium above because as practitioners we are also part of a community and whether we are conscious of it does not matter. It is a web of presences connecting us with each other through the gifts of CST.
Scott says he receives a session every week. "My most potent ally is the BoL [Breath of Life] within me, being held in a space in which the BoL can unfold inherent healing keeps my system clear of inertial energies, and provides an opportunity to resolve any interpersonal dynamics I may be holding"(3)
I personally would receive at least one BCST treatment a month and attend regular postgrad gatherings where I receive several sessions during a weekend that leave my inner and outer layers, the connective tissues of a mycelium, abundantly re-enlivened and nurtured.
There as well there is a tacit agreement, a natural concord emerging between beings connected by their common practice. This is a community.
This is part of an ongoing exploration, "to continually heal more deeply my own traumas so that I can listen with as much presence, neutrality, and awareness as I can." (5)
What helps you to feel alive and pleasurably, pleasantly embodied?
Scott speaks of yoga and hiking. I would add dancing, leaning against trees, listening to their heartbeat, to birds and the wind’s whispers and melodies...
Andrew goes for, "Gratitude, prayer, self-compassion, Awe, physical movement (building, gardening, walking)."
I notice how all these practices of self-care and nourishment are different ways to tend the rich soil of our beings within a vaster community. Scott Zamurut speaks about how "Cultural styles and expectations regarding healing are the foundation on which we build our practice. Our own self-view regarding the type of healing work we are offering, our scope of practice in practical terms, is the other key factor, and how these two pieces interface with one another defines the texture of our place in our community."
It is true that each practice interfaces within a cultural context but there is something about our craniosacral model that also transcends culture, with a set of central principles that are universal and core to many indigenous societies throughout the world.
I go back to the redistribution of our attention and quite like what Andrew Cook has to say about it: "Attention is everything, and what we pay attention to grows. The biggest obstacle to peace is that we focus on our own shadows/fears and make them solid because they are given so much attention."
I think what I really mean by 'redistribution' is a dilution and an orientation of our porous membranes to a myriad of influences. Returning to my initial evocation of water, it is the art of becoming like water as we flow more freely and clearly, as we are more transparent, less heavily and densely pulled by the rocks of darker material.
Can we become like the rivulets of capillaries that bleed in the earth of our bodies?
"In the end, the world will sort itself out. “All” we have to do is refuse to be distracted or pulled into it and use our free will to exercise the only true choice we ever have – to choose what we focus on and orient ourselves towards." (2)
And inform this choice and orientation with a conscious awareness of the exquisite depths and complexities of the vast and rich dynamics of our living, breathing Earth.
Like the many gifts and teachings bestowed by our clients, our families, friends, communities, all ecosystems...may we keep nourishing our lives with wonder, gratitude, awe, and the beauty of life in its many forms in this dawning New Year.
May we ease-fully and gratefully skate on the river of living (6)
Notes and References:
2- Andrew Cook is a CST practitioner and a teacher. See more at: https://www.body-mind.co.uk/craniosacral/redirect_landing.html
3- Stephen Porges is the author of the Polyvagal Theory. See more at www.stephenporges.com
4- Scott Zamurut is a BCST practitioner and a teacher. See more at www.scottzamurut.com
5- Jane Shaw is a senior teacher with Body Intelligence, a BCST practitioner, and the founder of the Elmfield Institute, see more at www.elmfieldinstitute.com
6- Reference to Joni Mitchell's song River: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpFudDAYqxY