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Support as the primary function of life

‘Allow support to restore you’ could sum up quite well biodynamic craniosacral therapy's invitation to our bodies, yet I never quite heard it formulated like this. In short ‘pitch yourself to someone who has never heard of BCST’ kind of way we prefer words like facilitators of Health (seen as an organising force of vitality) or space holders allowing healing to unfold. 

Sure the word ‘support’ was used but I did not experience it as a central function of BCST when I trained. Yet in the years that have followed and particularly more recently it has become my main go-to term to explain what I do. I offer support to the whole body as it seeks to restore and regenerate itself.

 A support that comes with a knowing and a particular style of holding, deeply grounded in fluid stillness. Supporting is both an act and a feeling in this and many other contexts. Not an interfering directive act but an expression of the subtle non-doing that is so specific to the biodynamic paradigm: our gentle listening presence hones in on parts of the body that seek support and as our client continues to softly let go to the non-verbal invitation to ‘allow support to restore you’, their body’s Intelligence reorganises and reconnects to the whole in its own unique ways. 

An inherent feeling because support is the essential agent without which none of us in our individual and collective lives could function. This intrinsic sense of being supported by life, by an aliveness that is beyond my personal confines also permeates each session, each action of my everyday as a therapist, a client, or a person. 

I find my body responds much more to the soft gentle support offered by BCST precisely because it is not directive, it does not wish to control what unfurls but instead allows and meets equally all that wishes to express at any given moment, the vitality as well as the vulnerable wounded places, letting the whole of what I know and don’t know about me decide if and when I am ready to respond to the invitation to surrender to support. It always happens to varying degrees depending on the style of holding and the quality of unconditional support, and can feel quite ecstatic at times because something beyond the conscious realm within me knows it is completely safe to slow down and just become a witness to whatever needs to shed, reveal and create within me. Doorways of permissiveness open and my fluid self can move through them with increasing ease. In fact the more practitioners themselves feel supported by a force beyond their individual understandings the more a client’s organism can trust and shed resistance. 

I gratefully welcome the reverential awe that fills the space during a session either as a client or a therapist because it is familiar to my non-verbal, non-cognitive blueprint.

This supportive knowing and allowing held the field as my embryonic self formed herself. Each formative layer more complex and differentiated than the next dancing to the tunes of life in the primeval brine of the amniotic fluid. This brine fills the embryo’s neural tube to become the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes, protects, and restores our brain, mixing with our venous blood, our interstitium, and lymphatic flow to impart its sparkling “liquid crystal” quality, as the founder of cranial osteopathy William Garner Sutherland called it, to our whole organism.

Like a signature this embryonic matrix imprints its unique healing pathways, the evolving expression of which each BCST practitioner attunes to.

Before I make light hand contact with ankles I tune into my baseline, a mix of blueprint and imprint, and as the session unfolds my whole body perceptive touch supports the fulfilment of expression of my client’s embryonic rhythms as they remember and seek to restore their initial blueprint. 

I recently heard Craig Foster, one of the world’s leading natural history filmmakers and the director of My Octopus Teacher, academy-award winner for best documentary in 2021, speak of a majestic encounter with a giant stingray. He explains how wild animals track our rhythms, our heart rate, our blood flow, our nervous system activation, and adapt their behaviours accordingly, just like we (and pets) become more vigilant when our autonomic nervous system senses this alerted mode in another. Craig spent over a decade diving every day in the South African Kelp sea forest. As he sees this imposing creature approaching he quietens his whole body, relaxes every muscle, and lets his ancient wild biochemical wiring take over as he surrenders to the greater holding of the ocean. The stingray responds by covering him and pressing his body down against the sand. He speaks of the ecstatic bliss that pervades him as this intimacy settles, with the trusting knowing that he won’t be harmed. Such “moments of grace are rare,” he says but they speak to a common wild non-verbal language that connects all earthly creatures. He calls it "the oldest language on earth".

(Pic courtesy of Pixabay)

The embryonic fluid rhythms dance to the tunes of this common wild tongue from which our busy, stressful lifestyles disconnect us. 

“Craig believes that the greatest threat we face is the cooling of the human heart towards nature”, says Jon Young in his introduction, a master tracker and Craig Foster’s mentor and teacher. This freezing of a constant internal/external multidirectional relating that was initiated by our embryonic self is what happens when the vital connective stalks to our intrinsic wild nature are severed, often due to trauma in its many guises, including intergenerational stories and their imprinted language. 

How fascinating to read that the word “support” was first recorded in the Middle Ages and came from the medieval Latin “supportare” which means ‘to endure’, no doubt impressed with a strong religious overtone that still very much inhabits our psyche. Like Job in the Old Testament, we must endure and bear what befalls us while believing and trusting in the sanctity of the divine testing our resilience.  

Supporter in French still carries this meaning of bearing. We speak of a situation as being ‘insupportable’, unbearable. To support can mean to carry and uphold a burden too in English and it could explain how uncomfortable and unfamiliar seeking support feels for many of us in our individualistic Western societies.

Our baselines have internalised this intergenerational ‘enduring’ which is actually out of tune with our organisms' interdependent support mechanisms where each part assists, protects, connects, and holds the space for optimal expression of the whole community: our liver supports our metabolism and our endocrine system which sync with and support our nervous, immune and reproductive systems... Everything and all is connected and deeply embedded in complex supportive pathways which associate our cells with billions of site-sensitive microbial ‘helpers’.

I wonder whether this confusing rift between a burdened, often anxious modern baseline and our natural, wild, supportively intertwined allowing matrix is behind the rise of autoimmune and metabolic diseases, the rise of allergies and intolerances too. Christine Herbert, herbalist and author of Inflammation, The Source of Chronic Disease, speaks of an “epidemic of chronic inflammatory diseases in the world”. These slower breakdowns of our body’s inherent supportive functions and natural relationships have become the leading cause of mortality in the modern world.

Our organisms mirror dysfunctional, fast-paced lifestyles but they also reflect the disarray and tragedy of multifactorial ecological and social crises affecting our earthly home, our second womb.

The embryo basks in this creative Intelligence supporting and holding all the complex interdependent relationships at play during this essential formative time. In the manner of babies and children constantly attuning and syncing with their surrounds, this sense of being supported and held by forces much bigger than us is what allows us to thrive and feel safe, precisely because of this inner certitude to which Craig Foster refers, a deep knowing that has nothing to do with our cerebral grasping and understanding of knowledge.  A knowing that naturally effortlessly surrenders to Intelligence with a capital ‘I’.

The biodynamic invitation “Allow support to restore you” entices our cells to remember their original language, to track and support our healing Intelligence.

In a world rippling with anxiety, stress, depression, addictions, chronic illnesses… which tear us from this sense of deep inner knowing, biodynamic craniosacral therapy re-ignites an internal connection with the supportive ground of our being so we can fill up our ‘skin suit’, expand into a sense of more anchored and vital presence to participate more consciously and generously in multidirectional relationships with our surrounds. We need this settled inner/outer sense of support to live contented lives integrated within rich webs of living, or to borrow Jon Young's metaphor, to weave threads that become sturdy ropes.

Like a tracker, BCST practitioners listen for cues and clues, for signs of expression. We quieten and ground ourselves and apply wide-angle vision to invite a slowing down that will allow restoration to occur.  In turn, BCST rekindles our bodies’ inherent abilities at tracking as our internal/external awareness grows, our nervous systems switch on the rest/digest/heal mode, and coherence gradually emerges throughout the whole organism. 

Tracking wired and continues to wire us. As a practitioner, I need to nurture this ability to dive beneath the wounds and the contextual noise of deregulation, dysfunction, and tragic breakdowns permeating our daily lives to ‘settle at the bottom of the ocean’ so to speak, and cradle in the support of the original common fabric that wove us all alive.

Irish philosopher John Moriarty writes about ‘bogdeal’, the bottom of the bog, in the first part of his autobiography, Nostos (’homecoming’ in Greek): “ Cutting turf every year in the bog, we worked our way down into a world no human being had ever set foot on. By midday every day for five days we would be uncovering the floor of an ancient pine forest. The preserved tree stumps and trunks we’d uncover we called bogdeal (…) Of one thing we could be sure, and that was that it fell long before even the most mythic of our ancestors walked here. And since Ireland is a country, and since, like every other country, it came into existence with the peoples who came here and settled here, then it followed that the tree stumps we uncovered were older than it.”

He then beautifully encapsulates this digging for turf to the bottom of time as “this sacrament of going down below history”.

There, below history, we can ease the load of unbearable burdens and sit “deeper than” who, when, and where we are.

Craig Foster’s bog is the ocean. He applied the tracking skills learnt from Jon Young to this wild fluid mother of life on earth, asking and answering questions that kept arising when he stumbled upon the enigma of signs he could not resolve.

Like John Moriarty he speaks of situations where he dove beneath history, quietening his conscious mind to let his unconscious take over and resolve the mystery for him.

A reciprocal supportive pathway leads us down to settle to the bottom (John called it Kathodos from the Greek for ‘descent’), so that an older language can arise (John called it Anodos from the Greek for ‘ascent’), “bubble up” to the surface and reveal itself to us. 

Our metabolism mirrors this pattern of breakdown or catabolism and regenerating new forms or anabolism (using the same Greek etymology).

I experience this descent to a primeval holding during a biodynamic craniosacral session, like John’s descent to ‘bogdeal', as a kind of spiritual sacrament. There my body can integrate and regenerate thanks to the support of forces beyond my cerebral understanding to emerge anew, more at one with my essential blueprint, strengthened, bolstered, and so relieved each time to know that such a place exists.

We live in a world where seeking support and reweaving ourselves within a supportive community or practice of some kind has become a luxury when it is our birthright. I also experience this state of quietened mind when I go to the forest and simply take time to sit there, just listening to the birds, smelling the plants and fungi, as my internal fluid rhythms attune to the rhythms of the natural world. 

As Jon Young says, “connection keeps regenerating but so does disconnection”. So how can we foster models that keep supporting our connection to self as an integral part of nature?

I recently completed a super inspiring course led by Jon Young and a great team of supportive guest speakers called Designing with Natural Cycles, or the 8 shields design, an incredibly sophisticated and fluid model of regeneration and cooperation mimicking the complex interweaving and interdependence of our organisms and other ecosystems to map them into directions, times of day, archetypes, actions arranged into acorns, shields, or petals themselves embedded within strands, supported by a culture of allowance and deep listening, where the differentiation of roles and functions orients around each person’s gifts or talents and interconnects with more-than-human webs of living.

This design could be applied in so many contexts and situations to support collective regenerative models of connection with the natural world within and around us.

I also felt that deep sense of internal/external support at the end of each new module, and with it such an elation, such a surging ‘yes’ ignition rekindling my aliveness as the field of permissive possibilities expanded. 

Knowing that collective regenerative practices like these exist and are multiplying also supports my holding beyond the four walls of my craniosacral practice. 

In another inspiring podcast, Krista Tippett of On being was chatting with two amazing women Janine Benyus and Azita Ardakani Walton who specialise in and apply biomimicry, a way of learning from the wisdom of the natural world. “What does nature have to teach us about healing from trauma?” asks Janine.

She says 'healing' “happens in these little islands that then spread out and meet.” To create “welcoming islands”,  “you put a wild diversity of species together because they all need each other. And then you put a post — you could do this in your fields — and that post is where a bird will land. So you welcome in the ones that are going to disperse all of the diversity and you do it the way nature does, in these islands, and then they will coalesce.”

Then she talks about regeneration and “the way life healed” after the massive eruption of Mount St Helens which left hundreds of miles of barren landscape in its wake. She compares the healing pattern of reconnection of such a wounded land to how our organisms heal cuts. The first thing the organism tries to do is to seal the cut to prevent nutrients from leaving.

This containing, alerting, and protecting process implies epithelial cells and inflammation. 

“when you cut yourself literally — you know murmuration of starlings and flocking — your cells, some of your immune cells flock and they come to the site of the cut like a flock of birds. And they get on either side of the cut and they pull the skin together as it’s being, as the fibroids are being formed.  There’s a first thing, and that’s similar to what happens in an ecosystem. The first group comes out — the first group of seeds that get there — and they start holding it down." (Janine Benuys)

As mentioned before, we heal because we remember. Our bodies retrieve from the bottom of time what they've known for eons, just like the seed bank -- maybe because they learned it from the seeds, from the bog oaks and the ocean way back when. As Janine says, ecosystems heal “because they have a memory of what they used to be. And that’s in the seed bank. And those seeds come together and they start to grow and help each other, like I was talking about. And what they’re doing at first is just holding down those nutrients, right? They’re sealing the break.”

The resulting mini scar, a protective little island, gets broken down over time and eventually re-integrates the whole.

Just listening to these enthusiastic women speak revitalises me, I can feel my neural pathways smile with glee as they fire up, question, reflect, and make connections. So then the ecological breakdown we’re experiencing is earth healing itself, and the many “islands’ of alternative living that support rewilding and regenerative restoration projects are all playing their parts in this process. 

I see these “islands” like wombs of creative healing popping up all over the world and I’m fascinated by the layered memories of support that keep sustaining us. Craig’s mother was an avid diver when she was pregnant with him so the ocean was a second womb that supported her and his embryonic/ fetal development. 

Similarly, Azita speaks of her mother’s Sufi practice supporting her pregnancy during the Iran/Irak war. 

She says, “so I’m the beneficiary of atmospheric mysticism and have a cellular experience of the more-than. And then, during the war, we were so — she took me away to a very natural place. And so, even though there was the stories as my brain came online of scary people, scary things, lack of safety, lack of food, all the things that make you scared as a being, there was also this innate remembering of something larger, holding it all. And even if someone doesn’t have a pathway to — I’m not an active Sufi in my own way, but the felt experience of the expanse is something I know.”

Embedded multidirectional support as a form of connection, repair, protection, holding, and sustenance manifests as a crucial primary function of life in all its forms throughout the natural world.

Acknowledging and welcoming support as a natural and even essential part of our lives instead of being stuck in outdated competitive self-centered models of endurance and stigma can turn each of us into islands of collective regeneration we can 'knit' together to fulfill our natural birthright.

All pics by Sophie Rieu unless otherwise credited.


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