British practitioner Andrew Stones shares his perspective on Osteopathy and Craniosacral Therapy from over 30 years of study and practice.
Andrew Stones - firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Ryan answers two questions from listeners.
Transcription of answers to the two questions in today's episode:
Okay, so I guess now we can shift over to some questions from listeners today. Let’s start with a question from Niamh in Ireland:
Audio: “Hi Ryan. Thank you so much for this podcast. It’s just perfect for me right now. Niamh Dempsy is my name and I’m based in Ireland. I just completed the Upledger training … did my exam just a few weeks ago. I guess my question is … I am in that phase where I’m like “Upledger, what now?” Things are falling away rapidly - doing and tractioning and inducing. So I’m reading Franklyn Sills at the moment and I’ve just been drawn to any kind of biodynamic teaching that I can find. So I guess I’m asking about that space that’s opening up that’s kind of terrifying. It’s a space of not doing and not knowing. I suppose I’m asking the classic question “How do you do not doing?” I’m just looking to explore how that movement happens in the therapeutic setting. Thank you again. I’ll be listening in.”
Hi Niamh, thanks for speakpiping in with some feedback. I’m really glad you are enjoying the podcast. Just to clarify for everybody, I emailed Niamh and asked her how far she has gone through the Upledger curriculum, and she replied that she has finished the first two classes and qualified as a CST-T, which is the techniques designation. Well, Niamh hit on a really big topic right off the bat here – this concept of doing vs not doing and “doing not-doing.” She left me a lot of room with her question to hit on several topics, so I’ll just kind of set into this question with a loose boundary and we’ll just see what comes out.
Let me start by saying congratulations on your success so far with Upledger Institute training. I tend to call Upledger Institute “UI.” Just to let you guys know, UI for short. So when I say UI, you’ll all know what I mean, that’s Upledger Institute. UI has been around for a long time for a good reason. They have created a path for many practitioners to do this work for a living. There are many great people at UI who have worked very hard to establish CST as a legitimate healthcare modality. I regularly have people come to my office who are seeking out craniosacral care because of past success they have had with Upledger-trained therapists. So I am in debt to them for laying a groundwork that I benefit from and for creating so much good will in the past – all over the world, actually.
So far with UI, Niamh, you’ve had a great introduction to what is often called the biomechanical approach to craniosacral therapy. I’m careful about broadly categorizing UI work as mechanical, because I think that’s a little unfair of a classification, and there’s a little more room in the approach for fluid interaction than that term implies, but overall like you said, there is a lot of doing in that style of craniosacral. If you’ve gone through CST 1 and 2, then you’ve been in the world of sacral traction, medial compression of the ASIS, hard induction of stillpoints at the occiput, propping up c1 to disengage it from the occiput (OCB release), you’ve been doing various lifts (frontal, parietal, ), you’ve been pulling on the temporal bones via the ears, and even when you move into oral work, you are still actively balancing the hard palate, etc. and even the v-spread technique, which is pretty subtle is an active direction of energy. So, there really is a lot of doing in this style of work. And I think that’s an okay place to start. Sutherland himself did a lot of doing via direct and indirect action with tissues for decades while he explored the nature of the matter he was dealing with in the craniosacral system, and I’m sure he helped a lot of people along the way with that approach.
I am really grateful that I started with UI work and spent time utilizing it in the treatment room. I learned a lot form that work, and it still serves me today. I still “do” some of those techniques at times, but much more sparingly than I used to. I believe that anyone who is serious about craniosacral therapy should have an understanding and a proficiency with the more active, mechanical approaches to the work that are often associated with the faster rhythmic expressions of primary respiration. I believe that technique-based work, when explored consciensciously, can actually fortify the therapist’s grounding from working with tissues and sensitize the hands to anatomical subtleties in the tissues. I’ve found many of the direct and indirect techniques taught in a curriculum like Upledger’s to be very practical at times. Actually, over the years I have become increasingly concerned for graduates of biodynamic foundation trainings who are out there in the real world trying to address the wide variety of health issues that are presented to them armed only with the deep passivity of biodynamic work. Mature biodynamic contact is eventually very powerful, but it might take a while moving along the path to reach that maturity, and, the therapists life would at times be much easier if they had an understanding of effective “doing” regarding tissue techniques while they grow into biodynamic work.
Let’s not forget that biodynamics is advanced work. It took a lifetime for Sutherland to walk fully into it. We can indeed benefit from the groundwork done by the forefathers of this work, but to think we can skip completely the basics of “harder-boundaried” touch might not be helpful to some therapists’ development. The pioneers of this work earned their way to the subtle powerful refinement of biodynamic work over decades of practice. So I think a clinical practitioner is best served by having a working knowledge of both classical and bd approaches.
Personally I think it is usually easier to step into biodynamics from a mechanical background than the other way around. We get really spoiled in biodynamics for deep comfort, and this is (of course) not a bad thing at all. But to get worked on with technique based work after experiencing all the innate freedom and spaciousness in biodynamics can be hard. Conversely, the technique oriented students who are in the process of moving into biodynamics, if they possess just a little bit of patience, often find a great sense of growth and freedom from exploring the new space offered them by biodynamics perception and interaction. I think this direction of transition, from mechanical to biodynamics is naturally a little bit easier for most learners.
So Niamh, it seems to me you are at a great place right now. Armed with some understanding and effective tools, but interested in exploring the work at greater depth. I think it is great you are reading biodynamic texts like Franklyn Sills. Reading fuels my understanding as well, but I think it is important to say that nothing can replace experience in the classroom within the group field and guidance of a teacher. The group field of like-minded students is a very powerful resource for the biodynamic learner. So, it seems to me that your next move would be to explore your options for attending a biodynamic training (which I’m guessing you already are) – I encourage you to connect with several different teachers and perhaps even get a feel for their teaching style in an intro class before committing to a full foundation training.
But more directly to the concern you raised about “not doing, not knowing.” I think you said “how do you do not doing?” wow. That’s a biggie, but I’ll go ahead and share a few ideas about that.
Firstly, let me give you a down-to-earth, practical, no BS answer : “Doing not doing” is basically just allowing. I don’t know where you are in Franklyn’s text, but I bet that’s probably what he means. We have to learn how to allow the system to express itself at deeper and deeper levels. We put our efforts into allowing rather than changing things. That’s a basic form of doing not doing.
Now, “Doing not doing” can be also fleshed out in a little more complicated way, a way that points to some of the higher aspects of consciousness. So I’m going to get a little more sophisticated here for a minute to try to honor some of the higher realities of the work. The higher levels of biodynamic work do introduce to us some pretty incredible experiences of awareness similar to those invoked by spiritual practices like, say, Buddhist koans or Christian contemplation. They are experiences that are hard to explain because their nature is illogical to our minds. So we have to resort to logical talk to try to get closer to understanding what to do with this illogical experience we sometimes have in biodynamics.
In order to clarify this, let’s have some logical talk about doing: when you are learning biodynamic perceptual skills, you are indeed doing something. At times, you can be doing many things.
For instance, even though you are not initiating and interjecting willful movement into the body of the client like you would be with a cranial technique, you are still actively exploring varying levels of sensory information that unfold within and around you. There is actually work involved for most newcomers to learn the practice of deep neutrality. For example, you may need to spend time identifying your reflexive urges to respond to stimuli arising in yourself, the client, and the environment, and learn to uncouple from these urges. So there is some activity around identifying and uncoupling. For some learners, this feels like doing. At times it can feel like work.
You may also be active in the sense of directing your awareness to see the client and treatment space from different physical angles and spatial frameworks in order to expand your understanding of the forces of movement in nature. In biodynamics, we don’t just sit there doing nothing. It’s not an absent-minded nothingness. We are looking for an avenue to enter proper relationship with both the client and the natural world - simultaneously. But over time, as we become more familiar with the natural spatial language of PR we exert increasingly smaller amounts of effort to enter into this sweet spot of relationship – and we are able stay there for longer periods of time without exertion. In this sweet spot we can begin to explore the deeper aspects of doing non-doing, of witnessing instantaneous physiological and metaphysical correction arising within the moment, free from our effort. You have plenty of time to work your way into those lands. It takes most practitioners years to really move into doing non-doing. It is about making friends with Primary Respiration.
On that note I think it is important to understand that learning biodynamics requires some discipline – not the kind of discipline that builds pressure in oneself, but the kind that builds stability. Biodynamics also requires patience. It requires new forms of trust for many of us. As we move into a biodynamic space, the work we do is largely upon our own psyche as we cleanse the old ways of our will and cultivate a new willingness to be re-formed in present time, to allow our sense of self to be made anew. The quicker and more thoroughly we can adopt that posture of trust and patience toward the remolding of ourselves, the farther we progress in our understanding of how to effectively partner with the Breath of Life for the sake of therapeutics.
So the initial doing in the process of learning biodynamics is directed toward better understanding our internal world and clarifying our relationship with sensory phenomenon so that we can better understand how to best relate to natural principles. While we aren’t doing to the client, we are doing to ourselves in a sense … gently … gently preparing ourselves for a higher order of experience. This is the work, the doing, as we enter into the biodynamic path.
I know that uninitiated onlookers sometimes think that we just sit there with a head in our hands and hope for the best. And I can see why they would think that based on some of our more visible quotes about the work like “be still and know” or “trust the tide and get out of the way.“ Yes, those sayings make things sound really easy, but it omits a whole strata of disciplined activity and practice that is essential for the learner to pass through before he or she can actually know if they are still, or where they might be still, or if they really are out of the way – at least this is the case for most of us. Occasionally I do meet a person blessed by grace who can step easily into states of clear awareness and transparency within biodynamic sensory phenomenon. But these are rare people indeed. Most of us require some priming before we understand how to effectively become effortless. We are all growing.
But after you’ve laid the groundwork and come to understand yourself better and begin to learn how to let yourself be expanded into what I think you called the “terrifying space that’s opening up” the reality of doing no-doing becomes increasingly clear. It becomes clear because we come to see more and more that the intelligence doing the most accurate work in sessions is not our own. We see this, experience this understanding when we learn to step into the sensory world of Primary Respiration in an increasingly immersive manner, and better understand its true value for human health. From the biodynamic perspective, primary respiration and the Breath of Life are the spatially active elements that initiate and complete therapeutic corrections in tissue, chemistry, fluid dynamics, emotional residue, and at times the structure and contents of the mind. The Breath of Life constantly emits accessible versions of perfection in a vast field of vibrant stillness. This intention for wholeness is delivered to us via primary respiration, the deep breathing of life into form, which largely speaks in a language of movement and shape. One of my favorite quotes of all times is “Man cognizes, God geometizes.” from Dr. Randolph Stone, the Osteopath and founder of Polarity Therapy. Over time we come to see that the ever-arising forces of geometization that shape life give us an opportunity to experience creation at a greater depth than most of us could have imagined. And working from this deeper realm enables us to help many people.
In biodynamics it is primary respiration and the elemental forces of the BOL that do the work and make the decisions so we don’t have to. Once we get proficient at quieting the desires of our will and opening the faculties of awareness to contain a broad field of slow natural action, we really start to experience in a guttural, primordial way what it means to be witness to the arising of life. And, at times, the biodynamic path takes us to a place where we reach an experience of understanding that no movement of our will or mind can add anything to the perfection that permeates each unique moment of creation in a treatment, be it manifest in stillness or motion. Now that is a true experience of “doing not doing.”
So for the beginner, doing not doing is largely just allowing and accepting the movements and shapes that arise in and around the treatment space. But for the advanced practitioner, doing not doing is a favorable peak event that can’t really be earned. We can prepare for it, but can’t grasp it. It must be given to us. And when it is, it is usually accompanied by significant therapeutic progress in the treatment.
Well I'm getting pretty philosophical here, and I'm concerned about getting too far "out there" for some listeners. So I digress … and for the benefit of newcomers who might not have a reference point for understanding some of the ideological points I’ve made so far, let me just list some of the practical things that we, as biodynamic practitioners might be doing at any one time during a session, just to give you some ideas if you are new to this approach:
We stay aware of what we are orienting to – for example we might be asking ourselves:
Am I primarily oriented to motion or stillness in this moment?
How wide or narrow is my perceptual field right now? Might the client be more greatly benefited if I were to change my perceptual field?
Am I orienting to ideas that might be inhibiting a more full physical expression of the potency of the breath of life or primary respiration?
Some of us choose to actively engage in a continual recognition of the presence of love in treatment space or in the universe. This may involve some activity, some doing.
We may be monitoring the autonomic nervous system of the client. A very fundamental skill that involves a little bit of doing ... looking for signs of overwhelm or just simply tracking autonomic shifts to get an idea of how the nervous system is responding to our relationship.
We may be verbally interacting with the client, which is very active in my experience.
We may need to monitor movement in our own will to ensure that we maintain spontaneity to the moment by not anticipating too much.
So that’s just a few things we might be doing. You experienced practitioners out there could add many things to that list.
On the other hand, what are we not doing?
In deep biodynamic experience, we are not attempting to correct anything, for we do not know what really needs correction. No matter how much training you have, you can’t really know the details of what needs to happen for that depth of correction to arise. That information, if important, is given to us when or after the correction occurs. So were not attempting to correct anything.
We are not anticipating anything specific to occur, for anticipating something denies to the moment its inherent freedom. We have no right to do that. We have the ability, but not the right if we want to be of utmost service to the client.
We are not spacing out or fading out of consciousness.
We are not holding judgements about the client’s situation based on our own personal or broader social beliefs or norms. Those will act against the deep service of the client.
These are just a few considerations, but I hope you see that sometimes it requires quite a bit of doing to eventually get to a place where we can truly rest and get out of the way.
So Niamh, I wish you the best on your ongoing journey with the work. I hope that the deeply receptive experience of BD opens up a world of discovery for you about your own depths of health and better enables you to facilitate correction and ease in the lives of your clients. I hope that you come to discover some of the beauty that I and others have found in the primordial flow of life that at times envelopes every aspect of our senses, delivering to us a greater experience of wholeness.
I’d like to respond to one other question that arrived via email from Nadine in New Zealand. Nadine listened to the interview that I did with Judah Lyons (Episode 4 I believe) in which we both shared that we try to limit verbal interaction with clients during a session. She says that she used to take a similar approach, but over the last year she has found it useful to ask questions as shifts occur in the client, especially with clients that appear to be disembodied. She credits Steve Haine’s postgrad training for shifting her perspective on this. She is asking if I have considered this. This is a great point, and honestly I was expecting a question like this because I really didn’t explain myself much during that interview or even some of the interviews that will be following this episode, so let me clarify a little bit about this. Overall, yes, I tend to be conservative with verbal discussion during a treatment, but this does not mean that I don’t check in with the client at times to better understand what their experience is like. There are so many things to discuss here, but let me just make a few points to better explain how I see this.
Some of my training has included learning verbal techniques employing therapeutic imagery in which the therapist takes a pretty active role in soliciting information about the contents of the client’s mind and then examining images and/or beliefs held by the client. While I used to employ lines of inquiry like this, I often found that things got pretty darn complicated and digging through the contents of the mind felt a lot like we were chasing our own tails, frequently ending up in dead ends. While some therapists have a gift for this kind of inquiry, it never really suited me well. Also, I’ve had new clients come to me who had severed their relationship with another cst practitioner because they got tired of being asked what their inner physician or spirit guide wanted to do or being asked to explain the details of their experience ad nauseum. So I tend to avoid those types of verbal interactions.
Where I am at now is that I try to keep things focused on the sensory experience of the client., which I think speaks to what you are talking about, Nadine. The senses are more concrete than the world of ideas, and sensory exploration tends to keep the client in present time.
As far as when I do choose to verbally engage the client, I see it divided into two main situations. Firstly, I will check in with them when I establish the first contact of the session, or when I move to a new contact. This is just good practice and helps to establish good relationship and facilitate comfort. But I will also check in with them if I sense aspects of distress or pressure in the ANS. Some clients are caught up in a very small, intense, challenging sensory world because of past or current events in their lives - they are hyper-somatized. And the other side of this coin is dissociation, which can run along a broad spectrum. If I come to beleive that the client is leaning toward extremes of hyper-somatization or dissociation, then I will engage in inquiry, then listening, and perhaps a little coaching, or resourcing, to help them experience their embodiment in a different way, to maybe bring them back to the middle so to speak. I might do this by leading them through a body-scan or give them an alternative viewpoint for how to be with their felt-sense that hopefully will facilitate some ease in their experience by connecting them with some sensations of comfort.
With that being said, though, I think periods of dissociation in the course of treatment can actually be helpful. Let’s take sleep for example, which is a form of disembodiment. Many people that come to see me are pretty tired in their core. There are a lot of demands placed upon the modern person - most modern people. They are exhausted, and they might quickly fall into a state of sleep as treatment unfolds. I actually find this to be helpful, as it can allow the system to blow out some noise and relieve some internal pressure. At times the consciousness needs to just get out of the way in order for the biology to make much-needed shifts. Coaching the client to stay conscious like some teachers do when they are tired or seeking to be out of the body can be counter-productive at times. So I try to just be aware of this and give them some space to correct at the tempo they present to me. I don’t get overly concerned if people space out at times. Big shifts can occur during those windows. Perhaps later we can then explore their felt-sense with greater clarity after they rested or renegotiated their embodiment a bit.
Thanks for bringing this up, Nadine, and giving me a chance to clarify myself a little. I have put out feelers to get some guests on the show who have developed classes on verbal interaction in a BD setting, so this is a topic that will get more attention and detail in the future. I know I could definitely learn more about this, and I’m sure we could all benefit from learning more about this important part of the practice.
Well that’s about it for today’s episode. I hope you picked up something useful. I will be getting up bright and early tomorrow to teach a 4-day Level 1 training in classical cranial work. I’m super-stoked to introduce this work to some new people. Thank you everybody for listening in today, and thanks for the questions. Next week we will get back to interviews. I’ve got a great one lined up that I think you will really enjoy. Until then, I wish you all rich, rewarding experiences in life and at the treatment table.
A sample meditation from Samantha Lotti's collection, "Embodiment 5"
at CD Baby
From the liner notes:
Personal health management is not an easy task, especially when there are so many conflicting opinions about what that's supposed to look like. Most mainstream solutions are one-size-fits-all and don't fit the long term needs of most people.
Health management becomes personal and very effective when individuals are taught how to take care of themselves with simple, duplicable tools they can use everyday.
Health management begins with interoceptive awareness through embodiment. Interoceptive awareness is an individual's ability to sense and monitor changing internal states of everything from the viscera and bowels to the heartbeat and the breath. Embodiment is the skill needed to develop interoceptive awareness, and is the personal felt sense of wholeness.
Interoceptive awareness learned through simple embodiment techniques is the future of personal health and growth. Samantha has understood the power of teaching embodiment in her alternative health clinic and has developed these unique, guided embodiment techniques in order to teach her patients how to manage their health daily. She is now sharing these techniques globally with the launch of Embodiment 5.
The album Embodiment 5 is built to teach you the stages of embodiment. The first stage, track one through three, is learning to sense your skin. The second stage, track four through six, is learning to sense what is happening on the inside of your body. The third stage, track seven through nine, is learning how to sense and relate to your external environment. If done in this order and repeated regularly, significant body and life transformations will occur.
Samantha Lotti is a certified Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist (BCST, RCST®), a liscensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.), and Board certified herbalist in Chicago, Illinois. For more information: www.biodynamichealth.com
Samantha Lotti of Chicago, IL talks about some basic skills of biodynamic work.
0:00 - 5:10
Ryan’s intro – giving thanks, podcast launch report, going global
5:15 – 9:15
9:20 – 15:00
Sam tells her story (in red pajamas.) Cesar Puello's site is here.
16:30 – 30:00
Being comfortable, favorite contacts, fluid body
30:00 - 45:00
Mental management, self-regulation, empowering the client
45:00 – 57:00
When to change contacts, instinct and intellect
58:00 – 1:16:00
Stillness vs. motion, sensory qualities of Primary Respiration, embodiment
1:17:00 - 1:24:00
Communication with client, establishing safety
1:24:00 - 1:28:00
Value of short meditations for clients
5 Minute meditations available here on CD Baby.
itunes (link to come)
Sam's practice site:
Craniosacral research site:
Ryan's video of the class where he met Samantha is here.
This episode consists of two excerpts from Judah Lyon's DVD series on Craniosacral Biodynamics, Vol I.
The first segment is a commentary on the Crystalline Body: 2:35 - 11:05
The second segment is an elaboration on the mindset and experience of the biodynamic practitioner: 11:40 - 27:00
The Crystalline Body
When Dr. Sutherland was practicing, as the Breath of Life came into the treatment situation to deliver an event of healing, he described it as liquid light. We now know that connective tissue forms a fluid medium. The collagen fibers that make up the matrix are hollow and filled with fluid that is similar to csf. This is a structured network which forms a fluid-liquid–crystalline matrix that is ordered throughout the body. It responds to frequency and vectors of energy. The vectors may be physical, environmental, emotional, etc. History from any of these vectors is still being organized today. So at times, the client will remember a historical event when a held vector in the crystalline field resolves.
So the collagen fiber field is an assemblage of sheets that form a liquid crystal, very much like a geodesic dome. When force enters the dome, it gets deposited and held somewhere else in the framework. Communication in this network can happen at the speed of light. Communication is immediate and pervasive. Mae Wan Ho, in her book The Rainbow and the Worm: The Physics of Organisms explains the liquid crystalline nature of the body.
So Dr. Sutherland’s experience is being justified in scientific circles today. External vectors are held in density and potential and the whole field is rebalanced as the ordering principle coalesces it in the field forming a protective mechanism. Potency gathers and condenses to center the biokinetic force. The fluids and tissues have to now organize around this force. The resulting response of density in the fluid creates increased density in tissues, and until the original biokinetic forces of crystal memory that created the lesions are released back into the biosphere, suffering remains.
Our job is to assist the body in dealing with inertial forces and help resolve them so the tissues can become more resilient and orient back to the midline and original intention. The energy charged with holding inertia can then be released and used for everyday activities or evolutionary processes.
The Practitioner's Mindset:
There is a mindset that accompanies biodynamic work that separates it from the biomechanical approach. We observe three tides in this model, the most powerful being the Long Tide, which is the Divine Ordering Principle. It can be observed as a 50 second movement into flexion and then 50 seconds in extension. It is observable in many forms of life, as illustrated in the slime mold video from Dr. Seifritz.
It is deep, transformational, and meditative. We often experience love and healing as a byproduct of this awareness. The long tide helps us to understand the wisdom inherent in creation through a new felt sense and instinctual understanding. When you become aware of the pauses in the Long Tide, you enter very deep meditative states. In these moments we can synchronize deeply with the client and we move from perceiving long tide movement to being moved by it, with it. It is like learning an ancient language that enables us to communicate with the divine ordering principle. It is very special to experience life this way.
We must “get out of the way” in this model of work. We do not grab onto any strata of experience when we move through different tidal states. We need to be careful of any goals we hold while working with the client. Pointed grasping locks us up and is counterproductive in this work. In the beginning we are busy putting labels on things, but we eventually lose that. We become increasingly interest in space, gaps, and stillness. Encountering these sensory realities changes us. It brings us home, but leaves us in mystery. It is powerful.
We search for the health in the system. We aren’t looking for the problem, we are looking for health. Spend some time exploring what life would be like if you just stopped having to have an answer. We work in a different world, it is related to shamanism, not the cultural quicksand of having to have all the answers and comparing ourselves to others. This path leads us to an understanding that love is really the most powerful therapeutic force. The system communicates this to us.
The pauses in the cycles get longer and longer as we practice. It is a lifetime journey. When the Long tide moves our mind, then we become centered in a different rate. It is where our attention is being moved to. Trust the tide and the tide frees the mind. It can then be a humble servant of creation. It changes us down to a cellular vibration. Spending time in the field each day heals us as practitioners. It takes us through our issues and teaches us about ourselves. We become less interested in our flaws, and more interested in holding the space of deep awareness. We need to let go of egotistical grasping, and allow ourselves to be moved by the phenomenon without being caught up in it.
Enjoy this process. Don’t be hard on yourself. Take your time. This isn’t something that you gain in minutes. This is about practice that lasts a lifetime.
This should give you a sense of Judah's teaching style, which I personally find very comfortable.
Judah and Ryan talk about biodynamic work and the creation of his DVD series.
Judah Lyons - Charlottesville, Virginia
Introductory comments :00 to 6:00
6:20 – 11:45 Judah talks about his history in bodywork and craniosacral therapy
11:45 - 17:40 Some discussion about mechanical vs. biodynamic work
19:00 – 25:30 Judah talks about his educational DVDs
25:30 - 33:00 Working with emotional content
34:00 – 44:30 The experience of Primary Respiration
45:00 – 49:00 Fundamental skills of neutrality
49:30 - 52:00 Verbal interaction with the client
52:30 – 56:00 Introducing cst to your practice
A 16 minute recording of a simple practice in self-regulation.
This is a practice to develop self-regulation skills.
Bring awareness into the body via sensation. Sensation is often simpler than mental activity or emotions.
Check in with things like position of body, breathing, sensation of gravity. Scan from the head down to the feet. Check in again with breathing. Explore Surfaces you are in contact with. Feel textures and temperatures. We are observing the body, with the mind in the background.
Where in your body catches your attention? Maybe one area of your body emits a stronger signal. Focus on that area. Trace the boundary of wherever your attention is drawn to. Within that boundary, is it more on the left or the right? Is it moving or still? Is it shallow or deep? Where is the upper part, the lower part? We are just experiencing cleanly, without judgement or interpretation.
This first location will be the “target” of our attention.
Now, allow your attention to move to the feet or the hands. For example, choose the left foot and feel the details – contact with surface, temperature, texture, density. Wiggle toes in slow motion, count the toes. Press the ball of the foot into the floor, same with the heel. Pretend you have a magic marker and you are tracing around your foot.
Now go back to the “target” and hold some curiosity about any changes in the area. There may be small or large changes, but we hold no judgement about it. Check in with left/right and upper/lower boundaries. Is it moving or still? What color might it be? What sound might it make? Not looking for meaning, just qualities.
Now go to the finger tips and choose a hand to focus on. Make micro movements and feel into every detail that arises. Count the finger tips. Trace the outline of the fingers and hand as if with a marker, paying attention to the contours of the hand.
Now go back to the target area and notice any changes.
John recommends doing this practice at least once a day to remold the ANS, introducing motion where fixation may have appeared.
John Chitty lays out a 5-step sequence for working with babies.
John's website: www.energyschool.com
There is a strong tradition and justification for therapy sessions with newborn babies.
A main inspiration is Robert Fulford, D.O.
Dr. Fulford’s Touch of Life: The Healing Power of the Natural Life Force – Robert Fulford, D.O. - Gallery Books
Are We on the Path? The Collected Works of Robert Fulford, D.O. – Robert Fulford – Cranial Press
Mentioned by Andrew Weil in Spontaneous Healing – Random House
Fulford had good results with many common problems faced by babies. Baby’s problems affect the whole family. Fulford championed cranial base work and ANS health as useful areas for helping babies resolve echoes of the birthing experience. Babies have significant ability to resolve issues when given some support. Fulford helped us see what effective support looks like.
John has been teaching a class about working with babies annually for the last 8 years. The ideas he will lay out today are a summary of what he has incorporated into this class.
He likes Franklyn Sills’ Foundations in Craniosacral Biodynamics, Vol. II. It has several chapters devoted to babies. It is not exactly what John Does, but he likes it overall.
Craniosacral Therapy for Babies and Small Children - Ettiene Piersman North Atlantic Books
Pediatric Manual Medicine: An Osteopathic Approach - Jane Carreiro Churchill Livingstone
Craniosacral Therapy for Children - Daniel Agustoni North Atlantic Books
Ray Castellino – Santa Barbara - clinic pioneered recognition and conversation skills. www.castellinotraining.com
Carrie Conti PhD
APPPAH – Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health
John is working on a book right now about working with babies. Release date TBA.
Many people feel daunted by working with babies, but a little goes a long way and it is better to go ahead and start. There are babies right now who could use your help! Changes made now have a lot of leverage in the life of the child and happiness of the family system.
Armed with only a few steps and some basic knowledge, you can be of significant help. Try it out.
John’s 5 step sequence for working with babies:
Can be useful for many different issues and employed at varying depths.
1) Recognition – we suffer as a culture from over-scientification of ourselves. This misses the reality of the baby’s identity as a newly arriving soul into our realm. This can be approached in a secular manner, with only an acknowledgement that there is an invisible world out there that is not understood by science. Religion or mysticism is not required to work with John’s ideas, just an acknowledgement that the therapist be comfortable with the idea that we cannot measure all of reality, as much of it is invisible.
We need to recognize the Baby. A formula for recognition:
Look baby in the eye with appropriate proximity he/she would have with mom’s eyes (12 inches or so) . and recognize:
I know who you are - a unit of consciousness from another sphere
I know where you came from - the invisible world
I know why you are here - to encounter the resistance of matter for the fulfillment of consciousness.
Recognition alone may bring about positive changes.
2) Tidal Movement
From Craniosacral Biodynamics - simply palpating the Tide seems to stabilize the system, and recognize baby on another level of embodiment. It can be done anywhere on the body. May have one hand on baby, one hand on mom. Babies may have inhibition of the downward phase (exhalation). Our culture contributes to this. We need to be more conscious of caring for the autonomic nervous systems of babies. They are mostly oriented to the social nervous system, and have limited defaulting to sympathetic arousal modes. If that fails, they go into parasympathetic shock and enter a shut down, numbed out, spaced out. We call these babies “good babies” (!) Helping mom is a high order priority for working with babies. Helping her relationship with her husband can be beneficial to the family system, and baby can slide into a healthier ANS state embodied by the parents.
3) Cranial Base disengagement.
Address the strain in the system introduced by natural processes or unnatural interventions. All of the different factors seem to settle in the cranial base (occiput/sphenoid/temporal). Vagus nerve passes through the Jugular foramen in the cranial base. This is a good place to start. A basic way to work with this is light contact on the occiput behind the ears. It does not need to be precise. Hold an intention of space for the system as an inherent emerging principle. Try to establish better range of motion in the cranial base. This often helps with nursing.
4) Birth Story
This does not need to be told “over” the baby. Work with the baby to review the way birth was supposed to be in order to help the body resolve urges for fulfillment. John will give more examples in the book. Too often in therapy the emphasis is on fixing what was bad. We should emphasize resources first. Revisiting stages of birth is done with intention and physical contact. Some resistance followed by release, at feet, shoulders, head, finding way to optimum. It is always good to conclude with baby moving to mom.
5) Polarity Two-Chair Method
Developed by Robert Hall M.D., student of Fritz Perls, Randolph Stone, and Ida Rolf. John holds the baby and lets mom have a conversation with the baby. John does Body Low Slow Loop with mom (a practice from Chapter 9 of John’s book Dancing with Yin and Yang and presented in the next Craniosacral Podcast Episode) to settle mom and then imagine the baby is in the empty chair. Mom is asked to speak to the baby, and even ask questions. Revelation often emerges. Mom is asked to be the baby and even more insight arises. Mom accesses her intuitive information. Issues of the estranged father, if important, can also be addressed. Dad is often left hanging when baby arrives. It is good for the baby if mom and dad can work some of that out (chapter 11 of Dancing with Yin and Yang.)
This is a low-pressure form of therapy, much of the above approach can be done non-verbally.
Follow baby’s gestures. They have meaning!
Our whole healthcare system would benefit greatly from spending more time understanding the state of consciousness of babies and really bringing that understanding into clinical work. The medicalization and scientification of birth overlooks some very important factors. At least we could administer some of our interventions with a higher degree of sensitivity to the baby’s needs. Our insensitivity can contribute to many problems later in life for individuals.
John likes William Emerson’s work, but is not a fan of cathartic methods when working with babies. The baby is not excessively activated during the interaction in his sequence. Looping and pendulation (Peter Levine) is a more skillful way of working. We are always looking for signs of the social nervous system coming back on line.
Stephen Porges - triune nervous system
Ryan Hallford of the Craniosacral Resource Center tells the story of how he came to discover and practice craniosacral therapy. He briefly relates his experience of studying with the Upledger Institute, Michael Shea, Hugh Milne, and others in the fields of classical and biodynamic craniosacral therapy.
Please give feedback and ask questions at www.craniosacralpodcast.com