I’ve often reflected on and enjoyed the ways in which biodynamic craniosacral therapy is a ‘wandering line’ away from the dominant paradigm.
BCST is a deep listening through gentle hand contact which supports and facilitates the natural expression of our bodies' inherent wisdom or Intelligence. This statement alone defies our habitual temporal and spatial boundaries. How do we listen to bodies? What is this wisdom at play in our organisms and how do we access it never mind support and facilitate it?
Surrendering to what is often intangible and invisible deeply challenges the common perception of the body as a defined ‘machine’ controlled by a computer-like brain.
As I journey with BCST, the perceptive walls restricting my senses continue to tumble down while I venture further and further into the wild of our bodies held within the wild of the land and the cosmos. I use the word 'wild' to mean what is untamed, true, vital, and the manifestation of this wisdom or natural Intelligence in and around us. It refers to rocks, rivers, oceans, mountains...as much as plants, animals, and fungi.
As one of Earth’s incarnated extensions, our human body is inhabited, some say haunted, by many, many other forms of life. Organelles, like ancestral memories, are microorganisms that symbiotically transformed into the constituents of plant and animal (including humans) cellular cytoplasms for example (Lynn Margulis,1998).
Mammals could not survive without the billions of bacterial, fungal and other microbial organisms that help us metabolise.
As I listen with my hands on your ankles, as I tune into the tissues and rhythms in your fluid body, this ancestral microbial legacy dances with a vast network of allegiances in the world outside your skin.
For these microscopic life forms ‘more-than-humanising’ our bodies share their spacious existence across many terrains and ‘bodies’ (human and non human). Their presence and impact affecting and affected by the food we ingest, the air we breathe, the water we drink, but also the insects, the weather, the birds, the people, the land... One could say we metabolise and are metabolised by many unknown intricacies, by many mysterious interdependences.
Words like rhizome, mycelium, microbiome cloud, and biota invite us away and beyond epithelial boundaries and the singling out of humans as separate, independent entities in the natural world. We never were enclosed territories, distinctly fleshed-out apparatus operating as impermeable insular isolated parties within bordered lands. We are naturally nestled within multiple interconnected nests mostly invisible to our perceptive lenses used to man-made corporeal containers like houses, cars, offices, factories, planes etc…In many ways the story of our restricted perception evolved with the rise of this materiality/materialism surrounding and embedding our bodies, tethering them to these new concrete gods or masters to which we are in our own individual ways enslaved and devoted.
The more I practise BCST the more my awareness untethers from its trappings and wanders away from pre-set definitions of reality. Each session is a fresh exploration of this wild life Intelligence as it expresses through the subtle, complex, and intricate relationships in a human body.
Philosopher Bayo Akomolafe asks this urgent question: “How do I hack my own sensorial systems so that I can perceive and respond to the world differently?”
I experience BCST as such a “hacking”, except it is not ‘forceful’, it allows a gentle surrender that unlocks portals of perception. I witness and hold your body lying on the altar of forces that have created and re-created us since and even before conception, as well as plants, and other living creatures.
Bodies are fluid-filled fluid fields, which is why I also appreciate Bayo’s image of the body as a “raft”. It evokes a fluid structure adjusting to and in constant relationship with what holds, moves, and breathes it.
But I also see the cracks in a “raft”, the wounds, and how they condition who we are. Bayo invites us to stay in the personal and societal "cracks”, in what he calls “the fault lines”, “the failures”, not to fix them as if they were illnesses or problems that require solutions but as gestating loci of many possibilities.
Biodynamic craniosacral practitioners orient towards Health and ease, not disease. So we do not focus on what is wounded but instead hold the whole. We invite our clients to find and connect with their sense of well-being, of 'okayness' wherever it may be in their bodies, and/or to what helps them feel well or at least okay in their lives so that what is wounded, tightly contained in tissues or fluids can be held from a place of resourced relatedness. This expansive permissive facilitating allows whatever wishes to arise from these 'cracks' and can safely welcome grief or any other emotion. With time, our perception and relationship with our wounds can evolve from a place of "what is wrong with me?" to a more spacious and comfortable understanding and embracing of the whole of who we are. What lies beneath or is entangled with trauma is our blueprint (Anna Chitty). Our wounds become portals to our essence.
Bayo Akomolafe, a self-confessed “recovering psychotherapist” calls out on a tendency in the therapeutic world to pathologise trauma, the most frequently-used word of the last decade apparently. He wonders whether this negative emphasis on trauma actually reflects the formatting of a reductionist neoliberal system: 'we will make sure your trauma does not get in the way of your performance within the dominant paradigm.'
Our clients understandably wish to 'unburden' themselves of what has often crippled their lives and scarred them emotionally and physiologically. So it is tempting as a practitioner to wish to fix the consequences of trauma and offer coping strategies. Without "dismissing pain or suffering", Bayo invites us to "stay with the trouble of what has been lost in how we think about trauma."
As a craniosacral therapist, I cannot fix your trauma and make it disappear. I consider the crises of trauma as they are held in your tissues and fluids as yet another expression of your body's wisdom.
We stand at many crossroads during a craniosacral session, and our perception of our edges, our liminalities keeps shifting. This chimes with Bayo’s “We ought to cultivate bewilderment” as a practice to meet crises and envisage a different “cartography” in a deeply troubled world.
As our perception and relationship with our bodies and all their stories change, we enter many portals and become closer to the forces that made us possible, what I called earlier our blueprint or essence. This progressive freeing reveals that our wounds can birth many potentialities and that we are much more than our traumas.
Perceived as tricksters or portals, our wounds lead us on a journey of self-discovery that deepens our connection with ourselves and the world around us. I see and feel your body orient differently to your surroundings and drop further into its original home through postural adjustments, facial expressions, kinaesthetic interoception, and the dynamics in the relational field.
This ripples out to our families and communities in the broadest possible sense as this process does not begin and end with one’s body or the clinical setting. Our everyday, with or without our awareness, is touched and moved by so many knowns and unknowns. I notice that the rhythmic whistle of a nearby Dunnock has gently rocked this writing session and no doubt set its flow, its tempo. But what about the temperature and degree of humidity in the air, the amount of invisible microbes ‘partying’ in and around me, the podcast I listened to earlier, the news, the texts, the emails, the people, plants and other animals I met or who met me …
Our bodies live in broad communities of being and mutual exchange we often arbitrarily shrink to fit into a reductionist narrative.
Indigenous traditions look at the Health (seen as a force of organisation and integration) of the whole ‘village’ when approaching an individual’s disease. An illness is the embodied manifestation of a wider ‘malaise’ or the physical sign of an overall imbalance in the community(See Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, Martin Prechtel, 1998).
Bayo mentions that when someone “hears voices” in a Yoruba village in Nigeria the local medicine person asks ‘what are the ancestors saying?’ In a western psychiatric setting, this person would probably be clinically labelled, institutionalised, and prescribed pills.
As Bayo suggests in many of his writings and talks, our modern western world has enslaved us into the same uniformising ‘monocultural’ system mired in crises of its own making. So one way back to Health, to the natural expression of our wild selves is to fail to respond to these systemic disabling demands and re-engage in the whole spectrum of life differently. Surrender to the cracks that arise when we stop cooperating with what conforms and confines us by “bending the paradigms of scarcity”(Bayo Akomolafe), by “staying with the trouble” (Donna Haraway), by following “wander lines” or “lignes d’erre” (Fernand Deligny, The Arachnean, and other texts).
I started this piece by positing that BCST is a ‘wandering line’. The image speaks for itself but I wish to clarify where this phrase comes from. Fernand Deligny, a visionary, worked with children with autism and other forms of what would be seen nowadays as neurodivergence in Les Cévennes in the South of France, from the sixties onward, at a time when such children were locked in psychiatric hospitals or delinquency centres and deeply medicalised. Instead of pathologising their difference, he let them express themselves freely and drew maps of their ways of moving, what he called their ’wander lines’, their wandering gestures.
Deligny saw himself as a spider weaving her web (hence the title the Arachnean for his book). Through this “network as a mode of being”, Deligny and his team followed, traced and filmed the children’s movements in the forests and mountains of les Cévennes “making rudimentary line drawings to indicate their direction of movement across the rural encampment and the surrounding wilderness.”
These drawings became the centrepiece of research that witnessed and diligently recorded the children's wanderings as a pre-verbal process unfolding itself.
While patterns repeatedly appeared Deligny noticed that the trajectories seemed to match a network of underground waterways. Other words he used for these lines of errance were vaguer (wave as a verb) rooted in the French word vague or wave, and can be translated as drifting, flowing.
Could these maps be seen as cartographies of the children's fluid Intelligence?
I first heard of this fascinating research through Bayo Akomolafe. He used this process of staying with and recording relationships between bodies and their surroundings to illustrate the rich potentiality of ‘cracks’, the ‘failures’ previously mentioned.
Which brings me to this enquiry: in what ways can BCST become even more of a ‘wandering line’ away from the dominant paradigm?
As this body of work is itself deeply rooted in indigenous wisdom and medicine I feel we hold a responsibility as practitioners towards the 'village' at large.
How can I root this modality more explicitly within the wider ecological community? How can I include this awareness as part of the relational field within my sessions?
I feel called to more consciously and verbally engage my clients with this vaster field of awareness. I’m not alone. Some of us bring stones and plants that participate in their holding process. Others make offerings, ceremonies in relationship to the land and the living…but do we tell our clients about them?
So how about offering a different perceptive lens within the client-practitioner relationship? I have often invited the nearby forest, river, or ocean to assist me in my holding. I have often encouraged my clients to include their favourite tree, flower, or animal within the field.
Animals and plants have spontaneously emerged in my clients’ bodies within sessions and I have very much welcomed them.
I have long felt it was incumbent on me as a space holder and facilitator of Health in people’s organisms, to share my sense of wonder and awe for our body and its mysterious complexities. However, as our human forms are themselves portals to a much wider world and are, as Bayo says, “tentacular” in their interdependent webs of belonging and behaving, healing must include our multidimensional relationships within this vaster ecological context.
For millennia, our ailments and traumas, our ‘inner turmoils’ befriended plants, animals, bacteria, fungi to cooperate, associate, transform and seek, test pathways through crises.
I have just qualified as a community herbalist and wish to bring BCST out in the wild to encourage people to honour their bodies within the body of the land, allowing and celebrating what Irish philosopher John Moriarty called "commonage consciousness" to naturally arise; what made us all, the living on Earth, possible. Our wounded selves reclaiming a lost intimacy with the wild, we can weave ourselves back into the fabric of life.
As Merlin Sheldrake says in Entangled Life, “In difficult times, organisms find new symbiotic relationships in order to expand their reach. Crisis is the crucible of new relationships.”