The keystone

Nature doesn’t have a plan. It constantly adapts according to its many relationships.


But we have plans for it.


The story enacted by most humans in the last three to four hundred years has seen many such ‘plans’ interfere with the natural order, creating categories and artificial polarities where there were none and seriously upsetting the overall balance, by discarding the subtlest, most wondrous multiplicities of the Earth’s organisms, including ours, and funnelling them through a reductionist, binary, dualistic model.


In my view and experience the craniosacral paradigm allows the many-ways of interconnection to emerge and thrive through a witnessing and listening that mimics the biotensegrity that is everywhere in nature. This tensile flexibility and multi-focal perception marries the complexity of subtle details to the sophisticated whole and is also very adaptive.



We are taught in the art of non-doing to sense from the groundswell of stillness in as-neutral-as-possible a relational framework. This is one of the reasons why the biodynamic craniosacral holding can contain infinite possibilities.


Could this model of interaction be the keystone of an archway reframing our current extinction stories? Could its tools and principles facilitate the salutary convergence of science/economics and indigenous shamanism/spirituality, two profoundly divergent ways of relating to Earth?



While science backed up by financial interests breeds a linear specificity that has tended to separate and disconnect us from our bodies and our home lands, shamanic healing and intuitive knowledge hone in on wholeness and learn from the circularity and symbiotic partnering embedded within nature.


While so-called scientific enlightenment has placed us above nature as a dominant and overpowering species, indigenous living effortlessly weaves human beings in the existing ecological chain through co-creation and rituals of grateful, spiritual co-celebration of Life in all its forms on Mother Earth.


While science only gives credence and weight to what it can clearly ‘see’ and prove, what can be reviewed and replicated through reliable demonstrations, shamanism leaves ample space to the uncertain, the mysterious unknown and takes its instruction from the languages of Nature and the interpretation of invisible dreams.


I had many such apparently intangible stories stirring my unconscious while I slept during ‘lockdown’. As the collective unconscious was itself ‘processing’ this radical shutdown, past personal trauma insinuated into my knowing.

My womb and my belly had two separate surgical operations back to back in one such iteration. I was learning to live with these scars, these internal wounds. Building resilience: fashioning and re-organising my existence around their conditioning forces.

I saw how deeply they affected me. In the dream still, I was shying away from intimacy with others, pretexting I needed to be careful, as I was still healing from these major interventions. In time my over protectiveness congealed into many patterns of behaviour that were quite seamless in that they did not apparently relate to these original traumas anymore. They were decontextualised.


I was clueless at first when I awoke, and then it made sense. As I went walking in the forest that became one of my closest friends during ‘lockdown’, a magnificent oak revealed the roots of this story when I looked at him. I stopped and I felt my hands on my belly and womb. I sighed heavily and sat on the forest floor, remembering, holding.


I only had two major surgical operations in my life. Both involved an incision under general anaesthesia first of my belly in my teens and of my womb in my mid-thirties.

The first one took place in France and the second one in Ireland. Both were overseen by men in white coats displaying little or no sensitivity in hospitals where I felt stripped away of my basic rights as a human being. The right to privacy for one was non existent: I shared a room with others and everything I did, from toilet activities to speaking up was known.


I still hold in my heart and mind my terrified, deeply ashamed teenager awkwardly attempting to hide her intimate parts as she lay denuded on the bed when the chief surgeon and my father walked in. I still remember first the shock, then the sneer, on their faces. It was my first operation. I was in pain, stressed and confused, and was given unclear instructions by nursing staff that were too busy to really care. The surgeon urged the nurse then attending to other patients to give me a scrub to wear but it was too late. There was nowhere to hide and I could not escape. I was too immobilised to voice my discontent.


During both my hospital stays I felt like ‘meat’ on a conveyor belt. On both occasions I emerged from surgery dazed, looking and feeling like death, trying to come to terms with a pain I attributed to stitches; the only visible sign of what had happened while I was knocked out.


The dream added clarity to what had not been fully named: the pain of violation of my intimacy while I was numb.


In the first instance I did not really have a choice as my father, himself an MD, rushed me to hospital with appendicitis. In the second I chose to elect for surgical examination. In both cases, as shown in the dream, much more was taken away from me than what I had signed up for.

I know of many folks who have nothing but praise for hospitals and their staff. But my personal experience was profoundly dehumanising and intimately jarring.


I am aware of clients and friends whose dignity was robbed and who were also seriously and lastingly affected by shocking relational skills and practises verging on the barbaric. For example being left unattended for over an hour in a corridor waiting for surgery, or brushing aside people’s natural concerns and failing to reply to basic queries about the role and side effects of medications being forcefully given. Questioning the medical establishment as it is standing over you in a white coat takes a lot of courage. Most folks silence themselves around the supremacy of medical authorities.


When did the medical establishment become so insidiously oppressive that patients mostly just put up and shut up? How could people whose prime duty is to care for others do it without paying heed to the emotional and psychological impacts their words and acts may have?


I do not wish to minimise or question doctors’ and nurses’ intention to treat and relieve from harm. But could the paradigm, fast working pace and economic context in which they operate be conducive to such ‘inherited’ and reproduced patterns of behaviour?


During the covid crisis there is no doubt that such tendencies have intensified because of the extreme stress caused by the urgency of the situation and in many cases the lack of adequate resources and equipment.


This is of course bound to affect patients in many ways let alone isolating them from their loved ones, and placing them on ventilators… practises that are deeply traumatising and will leave many unseen scars.


Where and when did the ‘care’ pop out of healthcare? Have you ever wondered whether the urgent ways in which treatment is clinically administered, and somewhat forced upon patients, could create more harm than it alleviates?


From the cold minimalistic clinical architecture and interior design to the chemically-laden, artificially sterilised world peopled with machines, scrubs and white coats while the big pharma complex manages behind closed doors.


This context came to strip the very qualities and essential meaning of the word 'care', replacing it with questionable patterns of behaviour that became habits, a medical culture in need of serious shaking up.


It is a culture that reigns supreme and when the curtains of confinement came down, alternative medicine practitioners such as craniosacral therapists had to bow out and exit as ‘non-essential’ caregivers.


I dream of an archway with craniosacral therapy as its keystone.


Whereby the current medical culture would be gifted with relational and deep listening skills, a shifting of focus towards resources and health rather than disease, the creating of safe conditions for the nervous system to down regulate and orient more easily towards healing, a qualitative holding respectful of boundaries and embracing the whole human being, ample spaciousness and time to meet each individual where they're at…



Instead our already fragile psyches and stressed physiologies have been blasted with fear-mongering and belligerent terms reinforcing the us vs them scenario; the polarisation at the heart of what has sickened our planet: we are at war, must lockdown, be thankful to frontline workers and fight this enemy with sanitised living, masks and isolation.


I have wondered why and heard others lamenting the absence of any encouragement and advice being given by medical authorities relayed by reporters, to help people boost their immune systems through eating nutritionally rich organic diets, doing regular exercise, and taking specific supplements for example.

Similarly governments could promote public health policies that seriously incentivise people to work from home, and refrain from driving in cities, to reduce air pollution and restore optimal ease to our respiratory tracts and lungs to meet covid19 from a position of health and vibrancy.


Once more we are missing the bigger picture and acting within a short term window: we are treating the symptoms, not creating the long term conditions that will restore Health.

But isn't that the major flaw, the core of the problem? This is not about 'healing', which according to Zach Bush MD, is seen as a "new age" term by his peers*. This is about disease.

If it were about Health it would promote and be in alignment with the greater biodiversity in the natural world whence Health abounds.





Health is not the absence of disease, as Nietzsche once said. Health with a capital H permeates all that lives. It is part of the force that ignites us alive, organises us throughout our existence and will also outlive us.


It also manifests as a breathing current woven throughout Nature. Craniosacral therapists have called its rhythms within our fluids primary respiration, following in the footsteps of the founder of osteopathy in the cranial field, William Garner Sutherland.


Our work centres around the restoration of Health. We assist in the natural orientation of each body's Intelligence towards its powerful expression, by listening to the subtle ebbs and flows of primary respiration in the entire organism, indicating where restrictions need supporting, and where resources of potency can encourage the whole to return to homeostasis, or natural balance.

Therefore this work is essential.

Craniosacral therapy takes its origins in indigenous shamanic practises but has demonstrated great plasticity in integrating ongoing scientific developments.


Groundbreaking scientific findings of the last ten years have pulverised the many walls erected by the top down, mechanistic and fragmented models that have ruled medical schools. They have blown apart the myth of the blood brain barrier for example, as fungi and bacteria have been found in the brain's interstitial fluid as well as in many other viscera such as the liver, kidneys, gut and heart. They have discovered neurons in the heart and gut, and conferred the status of second brain to the gut with its powerful microbiome and busy messenger, the vagus nerve, which is having its moment along with the heart and its massive electromagnetic field, "about 60 times greater in amplitude than the electrical activity generated by the brain" (www.heartmath.org).


Craniosacral teachings are espousing and taking on the works of many scientists that are re-writing somatic and behavioural sciences and challenging current medical models.


Dr Stephen Porges' polyvagal theory, Dr Gerald Pollack's discovery of a fourth phase of water, Antonio Damasio's writings on emotions and the limbic system, the brilliant work of embryologist and phenomenologist Dr Jaap Van de Walto name but a few.

These findings highlight the circularity and interconnectedness of processes in the body, the multiplicity of information pathways and relationships at play, the presence of many decision-making centres, the great extent of the unknown compared to the known.


The role of bacteria, viruses and fungi has also been grossly underestimated. We are still in some ways the wild creatures we once were through the diverse flora and fauna that inhabit us and interact with our genes. Their virulent vibrancy and diversity are actually our portals of connection with the natural world.


The more biodiverse our organism is, the healthier. Which is why growing a multiplicity of food varieties in ways that promote biodiversity mirrors Health's Intelligence. Similarly forest bathing, walking barefoot in meadows, sticking one's hands in the soil, spending time regularly outdoors in nature will boost your resources and strengthen your immune system.


On the other hand mono crops heavily sprayed with pesticides or genetically modified, living an ultra sanitised, indoor, isolated, digital life will lessen the natural plasticity and resilience of your immune system.


I mentioned earlier how air pollution is a major factor in the covid19 crisis, and how it could be easily minimised through the simple implementation of policies.


I recently listened to a brilliant podcast by Charles Eisenstein interviewing Dr Zach Bush, a self-confessed "renegade" MD who has done research on viruses, endocrinology and the microbiome. Their conversation is absolutely fascinating. They turn the entire medical response to covid19 on its head and articulate extremely clearly why learning from the natural biodynamics of biodiversity is the best path out of this crisis.


Bush at one stage explains how pollution, the poor quality of our diet and our stressed lifestyles alter the quality of our viral receptors and typifies the different individual responses to covid19.


He adds that air pollution creates a "clumping of viruses" that increases the likelihood of infection. (*https://charleseisenstein.org/podcasts/new-and-ancient-story-podcast/dr-zach-bush-life-is-a-community-e49/)


Why are we surprised to hear that auto immune diseases are at an all time high when we are constantly encroaching on what is giving us Life?


I dream of a world where the craniosacral paradigm is a keystone holding the balance of the whole.


Life as a community of rich intermeshed biodiversity.





Humans and non humans harmoniously partaking of the same web of life. Aligned along its many midlines, with Earth spinning around hers. Entangled living like the complex network of mycelia thriving in the invisible darkness of the undergrowth.


Such wealth of inter being we have bypassed through our insatiable thirst for control.


But such possibilities of convergence emerge as science is increasingly stepping out of the fenced-in, lab-only-mentality towards meeting the abundant panacea of the natural world and seeing Life express itself through its many languages.


Trees living in complex communities relating with each other below and above ground through a cornucopia of commingling beyond our understanding. Trees and plants reacting to our presence; some like the Pine trees speaking to us through special scents that benefit our organism.


I wrote earlier that science only believes in what it sees but I wonder is it only now learning to really see?


"No one sees trees. We see fruit, we see nuts, we see wood, we see shade. We see ornaments or pretty full foliage. Obstacles blocking the road or wrecking the ski slope. Dark, threatening places that must be cleared. We see branches about to crush our roof. We see a cash crop. But trees-- trees are invisible." ( Richard Powers, The Overstory)


Could this utilitarian lament be applied to other beings including humans? How has our reductionist thinking culture affected our field of vision? How could we sense Life if our senses are impaired?


Craniosacral therapy taught me to see differently, below the surface of beings, to establish presence. During 'lockdown' I adapted my practise to trees and saw them as the magnificent creatures they are, pulsing with such Life, vibrating with such potency; they were the ones giving me cranio.



It is Bob Paine who coined the phrase keystone species to define one without which the whole ecosystem collapses. He called human beings "hyperkeystone species" because we influence the influencers and "dictate the fate of every arch" through our controlling dominance (https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/06/humans-the-hyperkeystone-species/487985/).


Our disproportionate impact destabilises, restricts, impoverishes, destroys.


Can we learn to become a keystone species?




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