British practitioner Andrew Stones shares his perspective on Osteopathy and Craniosacral Therapy from over 30 years of study and practice.
Andrew Stones - email@example.com
Interview with Stuart Korth, from the site "1000 Years of Osteopathy"
The following is an excerpt from a piece of writing by Andrew entitled "Osteopathic Adventures." Contact him if you want to read the rest!
SUTHERLAND’S TRADITION TRACKS ME DOWN, KNOCKS ME FOR SIX, AND A LION GETS TICKLED BEHIND ITS EARS…
In the 4th year class I was teaching at the BCNO there was an enthusiastic Canadian student by the name of Carolyne Abrams. Not only was she already well versed in naturopathy to a level beyond that which was being taught at the college, but she was also, in addition to her BCNO studies, simultaneously attending Thomas Attlee’s College of Craniosacral therapy on weekends. She enjoyed my Classical osteopathy lectures, and asked me if I’d ever explored cranial. I said no, but that I would be interested learn it at some point. She offered to show me some. And so it was that I first submitted my system to the tender mercies the Sutherland tradition. Carolyne gave me a treatment. The treatment felt pleasant enough. I found myself drifting off into a pleasant dreamy place. It felt a bit like a very deep sleep, though I was still conscious. At the end of the session, Carolyne said “Ok, you can get up now”. I said “Ok”, and went to get up. But nothing happened. My body felt like lead. Heavier than lead. It actually felt as if it had melted, and melded itself with the earth below. There was no way I was getting up. “Er, is it ok if I just lie here for a bit?”, “Sure”. As I was lying there, Carolyne went on to tell me what she’d felt in my system – that my chest had felt filled with a blackness, which to her had felt like a combination of grief, shock and exhaustion, and that this had started to shift and release through the session. I was stunned. To say that this first session had a large impact on me would be an understatement. It had a massive impact on me, – on my whole world – on my whole way of thinking. The thing was, the things she was saying about my system somehow felt true, even though if you’d asked me about them previously, I’d not have been aware of them. And then there was the fact that my body was literally glued to the couch, refusing to get up. It was as if my body was saying “Andrew, just lie here. You really need to listen to this. This is true. And this is the way ahead…” So I lay there and listened. After a while I asked Carolyne: “You know that part of the treatment when you were on my Solar Plexus; that felt very powerful. What were doing there?”, “I tickled the lion behind its ears.” “I’m sorry?”, “Well, when I was on your Solar Plexus, the image that came was of a lion, and it seemed that he was wanting to be tickled behind his ears, so that’s what I did.” Ok, now I realized it was time to surrender. Time to surrender all that I had thought I knew. This was a new road, upon which I would undoubtedly need some help and guidance, and probably further treatment. Even if my mind had wanted to object (which it didn’t), the body does not lie. I was lying there feeling as if I’d been knocked down by a ten ton truck, or been administered a large dose of morphine. This was undeniable; something very profound was going on.
A NOTE ON SHAMANISM & STILL’S CHICKENS
If one reads through the various cranial texts, such as Magoun’s “Osteopathy in the Cranial Field” or even any of the Craniosacral therapy texts (which can be a bit more whacky) the “tickling the lion behind the ears” technique is no where to be found. There is no such technique. And yet Carolyne was undoubtedly doing cranial on me. So what was going on here? What was and is going on here, is surely that Sutherland’s tradition, be that the tradition of the cranial osteopaths or the craniosacral therapists, can and does act as a gateway for practitioners. A gateway to what? To the unseen worlds of the shaman. Cranial work is based on listening. Listening not only with one’s hands, but also with one’s whole being. Listening from a quiet still place. Given that the unseen worlds of the shaman are undoubtedly real, and can be accessed in quietness and stillness, from a reverent and sacred space, is it any wonder then that they sometimes pop up in the middle of a craniosacral treatment? And when they do pop up, how do we as practitioners, respond? This is an area of great disagreement among cranial practitioners. Some (though not all) cranial osteopaths would say that when curious visions come up, we should ignore them and return our attention to the anatomy, because we are osteopaths. Some (though not all) craniosacral therapists would say that when curious visions come up, we should ignore them and return our attention to the fluid tide, because we are craniosacral therapists. More adventurous and free thinking practitioners of either denomination however, when met with a curious vision such as a being from another dimension, take the view that, if it seems desirous of being interacted with, why not try interacting with it? “Because one might be led astray and get lost!” Some may say. But the question occurs to me: is that not the very nature of life itself?….perhaps the nature of courage….the willingness to explore into the unknown…..and to risk getting lost……to risk venturing into uncharted territory and to try doing things that have not been done before…. Even on occasion, perhaps to try tickling a lion behind its ears?
And in terms of the tradition, I think it is also of note to remember that Andrew Taylor Still himself was very much a shaman. Reading his autobiography it is difficult to come to any other conclusion. He talks unequivocally of instances of clairvoyance that he himself experienced, and he also talks of his skill in the art of reading “signs and omens”. He tells the story of the day he told his wife to set a third place for dinner, even though they were not expecting any guests. On being questioned as to his reasoning, Still replied to her that earlier that morning, he had been watching one of their chickens. The bird had stood in the doorway of the kitchen and it had then suddenly spun around three times in a circle. From this he had known there would be a third person at the table for dinner that night. He was not wrong.
CAROLYNE TAKES MY SYSTEM BY THE HAND,
AND MY BUDDHIST FUNDAMENTALISM BEGINS TO TREMBLE…
Over the next few months, Carolyne took my system by the hand, and helped it on journey of deep therapeutic transformation. She taught me some basic craniosacral methodologies that she had learnt from the CCST course, which were of course interesting, but to be honest, of less significance than the actual treatments she gave. I’ve always experienced good treatments as being deeply educational, as well as deeply therapeutic. As Carolyne helped my system to move into a new state of being, from that new state, new perceptions naturally started arriving, and new abilities began to unfold. I found myself beginning to re-think not only osteopathy, but my whole life.
In terms of osteopathy, Carolyne was the first practitioner who had ever worked on me who seemed to be able to literally see inside my body. Later I was to learn that many cranial practitioners can of course do this, but Carolyne was my first experience of it, and it was a major wow. With her hands on my chest she could “see” exactly what my diaphragm was doing, and describe it, and many other detailed anatomical structures as well. This was impressive. She could see them as they were stuck. And she could see them as they changed. She could of course feel them as well, by more conventional means; but it was as if “seeing” and “feeling” were not exactly separate, as we normally view them; it was more like they were on a continuum, along with a kind of 6th sense “knowing” as well. Now it was no longer just “I feel tightness in your diaphragm”; now it was “I see-feel-know tightness in your diaphragm, and now I see-feel-know it releasing.”
Beyond this there were the visions. Each week Carolyne would see a lion in my Solar Plexus, and each week it would be in a different mood, or a different state of health. Sometimes it would seem sick and needed healing, other times it just wanting a playful tickle behind the ears. Sometimes it was angry. One week she sadly reported that the lion seemed to be dying, and that nothing she had done had seemed to help – all she could do was trust the process. Her trust paid off however, and by the next week the old dying feline had been replaced by young bouncing cub. I did not know what to make of any of this, but it seemed fascinating and delightful – and certainly a fascinating way to work.
I realize that to move from the gentle, physiological, whole-person-osteopathy of the Body Adjustment, straight into visionary shamanic craniosacral weirdness, may seem a bit of a jolt to the reader. I mean, one might have thought I could have at least had the decency to spend some time appreciating the mobility of my Temporal bones perhaps or the cranial meninges, in my introduction to Sutherland’s tradition, before being launched into the outer limits of cranial shamanism. I make no apologies however. This is the way the universe presented the work to me, so this is the story I tell. There would be many years of later study, of such things as the details of cranial anatomy and physiology that only brain surgeons and cranial practitioners really need to know about. For now I just surrendered to this process and went with it as it flowed.
Then there was the challenge to my life philosophy. I could not deny that Carolyne’s treatments seemed to be having a deeply therapeutic effect on me; that at some deep level my heart was being eased. This felt very real. It affected me deeply and made me re-think my whole life. It didn’t seem to quite fit with my buddhist philosophy. The Buddhism that I had studied, and that I had taken as my life path, was very action-oriented. The spiritual path, the path to the overcoming of all suffering according to the Buddha, was spoken of in terms of the “Noble Eight-fold Path”, and described in terms of things one has to do: right livelihood, right meditation, right understanding gleaned through studying the scriptures etc. Meditation itself involved vigorous concentration and effort. There was no talk of just relaxing and receiving. I hadn’t found any scripture in which the Buddha had said that a wonderful way to overcome suffering is just to lie back and receive a lovely treatment. I had therefore previously thought of all bodywork and therapy as being at best palliative, and at worst highly indulgent. It surely could never root out suffering at its core because it didn’t involve vigorous action, and therefore did not transform karma (the patterns of habitual actions and their results) – it was too passive on the part of the recipient, or so I had assumed.
But now I had a problem. This stuff that Carolyne was doing to me didn’t feel palliative; it felt very profound. The effect of it seemed more profound even, than any effect I’d previously experienced through meditation. This made me think. Similarly, Carolyne’s insights into what was going on for me on a personal level seemed more profound and to-the-point than anything any Buddhist teacher had ever said to me. And this was equally confusing for me because she wasn’t even a Buddhist! Though she had told me that she felt a kinship with the native American traditions, she wasn’t really an “ist” of any sort. She was just herself.
Meanwhile my own Buddhist teacher, my “guru”, a man who had been practicing Buddhism for over twenty-five years, did not seem to be doing too well in overcoming suffering himself. Sadly, as each year passed, he seemed to be becoming more and more alienated, isolated, and miserable. From all sides, it seemed to me that the universe was whispering to me “Andrew, time to loosen up your Buddhist fundamentalism a little…” So I did.
PSYCHIC DEVELOPMENT, THE ALREADY-ENLIGHTENED MIND & BECKER’S BIOENERGY FIELD OF HEALTH
Beyond cranial work, Carolyne introduced me to the Psychic Development work of Manuel Schoch, whom she had discovered through Thomas Attlee’s S.S.H.H. (Society of Students of Holistic Health). Manuel was a gifted psychic and healer, who was very practical and pragmatic in his approach. We attended an 18 month “Psychic Development” course with him. Manuel could see auras very clearly, and devised meditations according to the changes he would see occurring in the energy field of those practicing them. He also gave me a new slant on the “Already-Enlightened Mind” doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism. In some Buddhist schools, such as Zen, it is taught that on some level, we are all already fully enlightened; we just haven’t realized it yet. Our “enlightenment” already exists; all we need to do is become aware of it. My own Buddhist teacher told me that this really isn’t true in a literal sense, it’s just a way of saying that all beings have the potential for enlightenment. Manuel, meanwhile, could see something very interesting in people’s auras. When he looked at someone’s aura, anyone’s aura, if he focused his attention on the outer edge of the auric field he noticed a curious thing: it was always very beautiful. And he emphasized that this was as equally true of murderers, deviants, and totally messed up people as it was of saints and masters. He saw this shimmering and amazingly beautiful outer layer to their auric field. The inner auric layers were a different story; messed up people more often than not would have messed up and ugly looking patterns in the inner layers of their aura. But that outer layer, it always seemed pristine, as if untouched by the vicissitudes of life. He called this beautiful outer layer the “Quality Aura” because in it he could see and sense the person’s highest qualities; their particular gifts, if you will. And given that he could see that the person’s highest qualities, their gifts already existed, perfect and shimmering, he figured that the quickest and most efficient way for a therapist to help that person actualize was for the therapist to always maintain part of their focus on this outer layer. Indeed, when he watched as an interaction between two people taking place in which one of them was consciously paying attention to the other’s Quality Aura (as he instructed them to), he could see the other’s Quality Aura shimmering more brightly and start to become more accessible to its owner. This was in contradistinction to problem-focused therapy (the more common variety of psychotherapy in which the therapist pays primary attention to what’s wrong with the client, i.e. their problems) – watching this Manuel often saw the Qualtiy Aura remain inaccessible to the client, and their problems even become more entrenched. Manuel’s work always aimed to help the client get more strongly in touch, more strongly connected to their already-existing wonderful qualities, rather than spend months and years obsessing about their problems and issues (he was actually very much against traditional psychotherapy in this regard). But this wasn’t just a “let’s emphasise the positive to the client” approach to therapy, it was more of a “let’s alter our state of consciousness, alter our own focus, so we can actually perceive the already-existing positive, in a client who may be seeing themselves as totally negative” And it is the ability to perceive this as a visible or at least palpable positivity through changing our internal state and focus of attention, that was Manuel’s quest. Whether one actually spoke to the client about it was of less significance. This was changing-reality-through-changing-perception. To this end he devised special meditations. I liked this whole idea, and I wondered if my Buddhist teacher might be mistaken in his insistence on a non-literal understanding of the Already-Enlightened-Mind doctrine. I practiced Manuel’s meditations assiduously and found them extremely beneficial. I still use his visualizations today, in an adapted form, put into a simple yet powerful practitioner-fulcrum exercise that I teach to all my craniosacral students
With 18 months psychic development, did I become more psychic? Possibly, though it was hard to say. I think I certainly became more grounded, grounded in a new understanding: that everybody already has a spiritual connection, a Quality Aura, a connection to God/Goddess/All that is. My job as a therapist or healer is not to try and create something that isn’t there already. My job is fundamentally to honor that which is already there (their spiritual connection). And with the honoring, that somehow seems to help their personal connection with that part become stronger, and as it does so, that part itself delivers all the healing that is required. This, for me, was a new way of approaching healing work.
I wondered if this way of thinking was unique to Manuel and Mahayana Buddhists, but some years later I read the words of Rollin Becker, that great master of the Sutherland tradition from which so many UK osteopaths drew and continue to draw, great inspiration. I wondered if Dr. Becker was perhaps talking about something similar when he said: “Patients come to us for the reason that their health pattern has gotten clouded over a little bit and it’s raining on them, but that doesn’t change the fact that above the cloud, there’s a sun still shining and health is still available…..our position as a physician is secondary. It is our responsibility as the secondary physician to work with the primary physician [the health pattern, the sunshine]….to bring this health pattern to the surface.” and “The bioenergy field of health is a palpable sensation; it is possible to literally feel the bioenergy of health at work within our patients. It is a quiet rhythmic interchange between the patient’s body and the rest of his biosphere…There is a bioenergy field of wellness for each individual…When the physician can sense that the patient and his biosphere are interchanging harmoniously, he can discharge that patient with the assurance that he is healthy again.”
The Osteopathic tradition is indeed an amazing thing. A.T. Still described the human body as “God’s medicine chest”, but surely his tradition reveals to us also that it is in fact even more than that; it is a treasure chest of spiritual teachings as well.
I believe it was a Tuesday morning in the autumn of 1993 that I found myself walking across the green grass of Cavendish Square, London W1, just around the corner from Oxford Circus. I was heading for the Osteopathic Centre for Children, which at that time was located in the Square, and I was a little nervous.
Carolyne’s tender ministrations had unlocked a doorway within me, and I had stepped through it with gusto. I gave up teaching at the BCNO and immersed myself as much as I could in the study of Sutherland tradition. I first attended a 5 day postgraduate course in cranial work at my old college, the British School of Osteopathy. That was OK, but a bit bewildering. By day 5 we were already doing intra-oral work for the maxillae, and I still hadn’t felt this “cranial rhythm” that they were all talking about. It all seemed too much to take in, in 5 days, so I investigated the College of Craniosacral Therapy. This course seemed to be presenting similar material, but in bite-sized chunks over a whole 2 year period, rather than trying to cram it all into a week, so I enrolled, and was not disappointed. The only problem with the course was that at that time it didn’t offer any clinical work as part of the training (although some years later it was to become the first UK craniosacral college so to do). As I entered the second year of the training, however, another osteopath who was also doing the CCST course told me about a great training establishment she’d just discovered called the “Osteopathic Centre for Children” (O.C.C.). “It’s great!” she said, “You have to work quite hard, for no money, but you get on-the-job training from excellent practitioners. It’s like a sort of apprenticeship.” I felt some trepidation; I still couldn’t feel the cranial rhythm, and hadn’t really any experience of treating children. But as I had pondered the possibility, for the life of me I really couldn’t think of any excuse not to go along to the OCC and see’f they’d have me. Free training by top level cranial osteopaths? How could I ignore that. “Oh, and one other thing…” my colleague had continued, “probably best not to mention you’re doing the CCST course; some of them can be a bit funny about craniosacral therapy.”
And so it was that I nervously climbed the stairs of the rather grand building that was the OCC Cavendish Square, that Tuesday morning. I was ushered in by friendly faces and soon called in to the office of Mr. Stuart Korth, the centre’s co-founder and osteopathic director. The boss. And a most amicable boss he appeared too. After a few short questions, checking that I was a fully qualified osteopath and that I’d completed the BSO’s cranial course, he said he’d be happy to have me come along and attend the OCC one day a week, first provisionally for a few weeks, and then see how we felt it was going. That sounded good to me, and I was ushered in to the general common room. My first day was to begin that very morning!
LIFTING THE VISCERA
The OCC was a bustling and busy place, full of laughter and tears in equal measure, interspersed with the deep healing peace regularly touched upon by practitioners of the Sutherland tradition. A pile of case histories for that day sat at the entrance to the open-plan clinic room, from which the volunteer practitioners would take the top one, read through it, and then get on with it, aided in no small measure by a senior practitioners like Stuart, always on hand to help. Neophytes such as myself and another osteopath who was also new to the OCC that day, were given a wide birth, in that it was understood that neither of us were experts at cranial work, nor working with children, so we would need a lot of help. We were however, as qualified practitioners, naturally expected to be capable at case-history-taking and basic osteopathic examination and diagnosis. And that is what the two of us were assigned to us that first morning – to work together to take a new case history and do the initial examination. We did the best we could to navigate the unfamiliar case history sheet and get all the appropriate details from the anxious mother whose two-year old had a severe case of constipation. We did the examination, identified some spinal lesions, and then called Stuart over for a second opinion (as we’d been instructed to do). Stuart concurred with the lesion patterns we’d found but also added that a key thing we’d missed was the protruding abdomen with visceroptosis – sagging of the abdominal organs. “The key thing we need to attend to today is these viscera – these viscera are sagging. They need to be lifted.” He said as he examined the child. Then our faces fell as continued: “I want you to lift the viscera. Do the best you can, and I’ll be back in a few minutes to see how you’ve done.” And off he went. Lift the viscera? My colleague and I looked at each other in horror. What on earth did he mean? I think my colleague was a recent graduate from the BSO, an institution which at that time had not lifted any viscera for several generations. I myself had familiarity with a technique of that name, but only from my experiences with Mr. Wernham in Maidstone. The old Littlejohn technique of “lifting the viscera” involved a rhythmic deep scooping of the abdominal viscera out of the pelvis – I’d only seen it done on adults and it seemed an inappropriately robust technique to apply to a two-year-old. Besides which, as I looked around the large open-plan treatment room in which all the treatments were taking place, I did not see any deep scooping going on. On the contrary, all the practitioners we could see working, were doing so in a seemingly “cranial” type way, that is, quietly and gently, with little external movement visible. We gulped, and decided “When in Rome…” and placed our hands gently on the little mite’s tummy. And then we prayed. Well, I say “we”; I don’t actually know what my colleague was doing; he might have not been doing anything for all I know; but I was praying: “Please viscera! Please lift! Oh Lord, healing angels, God/Goddess/All That Is, please come and lift this child’s viscera!” Five minutes later, Stuart was back and checking our work. He felt the child’s tummy. He concentrated. He frowned. We gulped. Then he frowned again. Then, after what seemed an age, he solemnly pronounced, “These viscera….” He paused again. “These viscera have been lifted!” There were sighs all round. We congratulated each other. The mother seemed very happy, and the child seemed none-the-worse for the experience. And that was my first client at the OCC.
CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER
The rest of that day was spent primarily shadowing more experienced practitioners, but “shadowing” included putting hands on and feeling as much as one could of the treatment process. I’ve always found that Sutherland’s osteopathy is by far the most sociable and congenial form of osteopathy; two pairs of hands are invariably more efficient than one, and even a relatively uneducated pair of hands such as mine were at that time, can still be put to good use in the treatment process. So much can be learnt by a more experienced practitioner saying to a junior, “can you feel that shift?” – eventually one can feel it! It did take me at least a year to begin to be able to feel anything, but better late than never. And even on that first day, though I certainly couldn’t feel “it”, in terms of the specifics, I could certainly feel instinctively that something deeply therapeutic was going on during the treatments at the OCC.
And then there was the curious Mr. Korth. Whilst all the other practitioners seemed to be peaceful, calm, even serene during the treatment process, Stuart’s work seemed a different kettle of fish altogether. He would be called over to give a second opinion, or to give a hand when a process seemed particularly tricky. To make his diagnosis he would often seem to barely touch the child; it was more like he would hover in the energy field just above the body. Then, with his hands still hovering there he would treat. And that was a very odd thing to watch. From calmly hovering he would suddenly seem to have what in all honesty looked like a small epileptic fit, or electric shock; his hands and is whole body would suddenly tense up for moment quite violently, and then release. Then, after a pause, he would invariably take his hands away beaming with delight, and say to the other practitioner “Now, feel that!”, where upon the other practitioner would concur that the blockage or lesion had been shifted. This reminded me of the story of an american chiropractor my Tai Chi teacher had spoken of, who apparently did all his chiropractic manipulations a few inches off the physical body. When the chiropractor had been asked how he did it, he had just replied “it’s all in the hip action”. I had no idea whether what was happening here was all to do with Stuart’s hip action, but it was all very interesting.
Then there was the rather curious and wonderful “group still point”, a process for the practitioners alone, which was performed as a kind of ritual in the common room to begin and end the day. This would have looked to an outsider, more like a Victorian séance than an osteopathic technique, but it was massively helpful to all our energies. It simply involved all the practitioners sitting holding hands in a circle for a minute or two until a “still point” was felt. At the beginning of the day, it felt like it was joining us, harmonizing us into a single unified practitioner fulcrum for the day’s work. At the end of the day it had a most miraculous effect – we all felt the suffering of all the children we’d seen that day literally “lift” from our shoulders during the still point, so we could go home in peace, not “carrying” our clients’ energies with us.
So this was my first day at the OCC. Eccentric? Possibly. Exciting? Yes. Challenging? Yes. Did I want to go back for more? Absolutely. My fellow newbie and I shoock hands in the street outside the OCC as we prepared to go our separate ways that evening. “See you next week?” I asked him. “No way! They’re all mad!” he replied, and he stomped off down the road, muttering to himself. I never saw him again. For me however, I sensed this could be the beginning of a rather excellent adventure.
There is a Japanese word, “dojo”, which literally means “Way-Place”, or “Place where the Way is practiced”. Though we most commonly come across this term in reference to martial arts training halls, “Place of the Way” is by no means exclusive to the field of martial arts. “The Way” in this context actually means not only “method”, but “path”, as in, “spiritual-path”. In Japan, almost all arts, crafts and skills can regarded as potential spiritual paths. The idea of noble apprentices, devoted to their teacher and to the perfection of their art or craft through years of hard work and service, and through that, eventually achieving a deep sense of meaning, peace, and spiritual fulfillment in their lives, though somewhat lost to us in the west, continues unabated in the East, and is regarded in Japan as one of the bedrocks of society itself. So it is then, that amongst the hundreds of possible examples one could pick, we have such things as “Aiki-do” the Way of energy-harmonizing, “Cha-do”, the Way of tea ceremony, and “Shiatsu-do” the Way of shiatsu. Each of these is regarded a spiritual “way” and is practiced in a “do-jo”, a “Way-place”. More than just a physical place however, the dojo is also an energy field, which is held together and created by the intensity of the teacher, their “ki” (energy), and their devotion to the art, and to the tradition. The spirit of devotion, service and humility is paramount in any place of the Way. Not only do the apprentices serve the teacher, the teacher also serves the apprentices in the form of his or her teaching, and all of them together serve a greater spiritual purpose for society at large. This is said to be presided over by the spirits of ancestors, the forefathers and foremothers of their tradition. When one walks into a true dojo, one feels it in one’s midline; an alignment starts to take place, which may be subtle, almost imperceptible, but none the less profound. Indeed, just being in a dojo, awake, listening, can be transformational in itself. The OCC, in my experience, was an excellent dojo. I can think of no greater complement than that. Built upon love, sustained and maintained by love; a living breathing testament to the great compassion of a man called Still, and those who followed him, the OCC in my opinion, is a true star in the osteopathic firmament. I immediately felt at home there. Stuart, the master, weaves his magic, the spirits dance, and budding osteopaths as if responding to a distant heart-felt call, find there way there, as knights to Camelot.
Many years earlier, in my difficult teenage years, one of my dearest karate instructors had been a gentle old Croatian fisherman called Matko. Once, some students had asked him, “Sensei, why do you practice karate?” He had shrugged, and smiled and then simply said, “When I am in the dojo…. I know I am doing something good. When I’m outside the dojo…(big grin)…I’m not so sure”. We had all laughed, but we knew what he meant. When one is in the dojo, it’s as if one is held in the vibratory field of Dharma (the spiritual tradition); this makes the practicing of the Dharma so much easier. In my early thirties my life was quite emotionally chaotic; a woman I’d fallen deeply in love with had dumped me, I was no longer a Buddhist and had no real idea where my life was heading, nor even what I wanted out of life. All I really knew at that time was….when I was at the OCC I knew I was doing something good….I experienced it as being like a kind of river of light… into which I plunged every week, with gusto.
STUART, SUSIE, GABY, TAJ, et al…
A few words about some of the wonderful senior osteopaths at the OCC with whom I was previlaged to be apprenticed to (for working at the OCC is like being an apprentice) for three years. Firstly, the maestro himself, Mr. Korth:
There’s a wonderful website, www.osteopathy1000.com, in which Steve Sannett DO, interviews a whole host of amazing osteopaths from both sides of the Atlantic. It is a veritable osteopathic “Meetings with remarkable men – and women” (Steve, and his colleague Marcia Hugell who organized the interviews, should definitely get “services to osteopathy” awards for this endeavor). Stuart Korth is one of those interviewed by Steve, and his responses to Steve’s questions are considered, enlightening and profound, as one might expect. What’s particularly interesting to me however, is the effect that Stuart seems to have on the interviewer. Watching through the majority of these wonderful interviews, as I have done, I notice that Steve seems to be a classic number 9 personality type on the Enneagramme. That is to say, he is the archetypal diplomat: measured, empathetic, readily able to sense other people’s points of view and get onto their wave length (ideally suited, in fact, for gathering the views and opinions of different practitioners). He also seems to display another classic number nine quality – he sometimes comes across as a little sleepy, a little slow in his speech rhythms (despite being always intelligent and respectful none-the-less). Not so with Stuart. In his conversation with Mr. Korth, Mr Sannet seems to talk considerably faster than he talks in his other interviews. Not that he talks too fast – he certainly isn’t rude, he just comes across as considerably more “wide awake” and energized, than usual. In my experience, this is a typical effect that Stuart can have on the practitioners around him: a sort of galvanizing, astringent, energizing effect, which I noticed time and time again over the years I studied with him at the OCC. Indeed, he galvanized me, and in many ways woke me up. Stuart is just so passionate, and so thoroughly gleeful and determined, in his enthusiasm for both osteopathy, and the osteopathic quest for the reformation of medicine itself. He is exquisitely sensitive; and at the same time humble, realistic, and very responsible and caring in his approach to both students and patients. In terms of osteopathic technique, if I were forced to choose one thing he taught me above all else, I’d say that Stuart taught me the enormous value of panache in the work. Now at first glance that might sound a little trite, perhaps even flippant. And certainly “panache” is not usually a descriptive term one associates with working with the Involuntary Mechanism (which was Stuart’s primary modus operandi). But none the less, Stuart does all his work with great panache. What is panache? For me, panache is putting so much of your heart into a technique, that your heart energy literally “spills over the edges” and the work becomes firstly, eccentric, that is to say “outside the circle” (the circle of slavish adherence to prescribed classical form), and secondly transcendent for as we carry our heart with us into the heart of the work, at those points of interface, where our passion and compassion meet the heart of the lesion pattern, we are all lifted as one, into another sphere: a sphere of transcendence in which transformation occurs and revelation is at hand. Stuart’s work was eccentric, in that it just looked bloody weird – I’ve never seen anyone else before or since, work like that. But the weirdness was totally authentic: he wasn’t just being weird for the sake of it. He was tuning in and then with all his concentration, all his passion and compassion, all his knowledge and awareness, simply allowing his own system to do what it needed to do, without worrying “this might look a little weird”. This is being willing to put compassion in front of worrying what others might think. It is also allowing the flow of passion – the panache – to be free and integral to the process. His work was transcendent in that he was always open to the mystery. Open to the mystery of what? To the mystery of life, to the mystery of the treatment process, to the mystery of everything. With all his years of study, with all his knowledge gleaned through years studying with the direct students of Sutherland, at any given moment he was always open to the very real possibility that “There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio…”. My spiritual teacher Lazaris once said that it is unwise to seek to be one who knows (who is certain). Unstead we should seek perpetually to be one who is on the brink of knowing, standing teetering on the edge, with all our yearning, opening to mystery and the unknown, for however much we think we know, there is always more. My experience of Stuart was that he stood perpetually in this place, and encouraged others to do so. “If you would be willing to join hands with me as we leap together into the unknown…” I remember him once saying to the group of us, as we held hands prior to a group still point. Another time I remember watching him working with a junior colleague on a patient. Stuart was reeling and writhing as he does, following the twists and turns of the Tide, and things looked like they were coming to a dramatic head. “What do I do now?” cried the concerned junior, as the drama suddenly took an intense turn. “Forget everything you’ve ever learned!” was the only reply, “Hold to the Tide!”. Stuart is a keen yaughtsman, and it certainly shows.
I believe this level of passionate work is available to all of us but we may need to dig deep within ourselves to find that passion. Sometimes when we meet someone who is already working at that level it just may be the wake up call, the inspiration that we need. Panache for me, is also working with elegance and beauty, and in osteopathic terms, with an appreciation for the healing and life-giving significance of elegance and beauty. This was evident at the OCC, not only in the osteopathic techniques, but also in the décor, the Feng Shui, the newsletters, and even the particular children’s books chosen as suitable to have in the waiting room. Through beauty, to health; through attention to detail, to healing. Stuart brings all these qualities to the table.
In addition to Stuart, there were many other shining stars at the OCC, who helped me immeasurably in my development as a practitioner. The first to mention is undoubtedly Sussanah Booth DO, who in many ways was Stuart’s right-hand-woman when I was at the OCC. Susie was so in tune with Stuart and created such a comforting and harmonious energetic space for us all to work in – she was like an angel. She was also a tremendous osteopath in her own right. In her osteopathy Suzie combined the qualities of infinite gentleness with infinite tenacity. She was actually like a small terrier in her tenacity, but it was kind of hidden. All one saw on the outside was exquisite gentleness. In the inner world of the Involuntary Mechanism however, I have never come across someone so tenacious. It was as if she would enter the inner worlds of these children’s physiologies, which were often quite dark and scary – many children came in with histories of severe trauma or abuse, with sometimes the addition of heavy medication on top of that – and in amidst all this darkness, like a little terrier, undeterred, she would search for the light, that glimmer of potency within the child’s system, that would let us know that somewhere, deep down, this child’s positive spirit was still alive. And then she would hold to it with a tenacity that took my breath away, gently but insistently fanning those embers until a flame would once more emerge.
Then there was Gabriella Collangello – Gaby, a delightful Italian osteopath whose enthusiasm and skill were like a dancing flame, and whose Italian accent was sometimes so strong it could lead to humorous consequences (Gaby: “Stuart, please take a look at this child. Ee ‘asa little feet.”, Stuart: “…His feet look normal-sized to me…” Gaby: “No Stuart, ‘ee ‘asa little feet, a little epileptic feet”). And then there was Tajinda Deora, an osteopath whose straightforwardness and positivity always refreshed us – and one of the few practitioners who continued to enjoy crunches and clicks as much as the subtleties of the IVM. She is also the author of the excellent “Healing through Cranial Osteopathy”. Aside from these four, there were so many others that I also learnt from and became friends with. It was a wonderful time.