Trashcans and hurricanes / explaining craniosacral therapy to an 8-year-old

IMG_5378If you are in my line of work, there is a thing that happens at parties and barbecues: Someone asks what you do and as soon as you say the words biodynamic craniosacral therapist, you’ve… lost them. Aren’t you, dear reader, losing a bit of interest even seeing that phrase? Biodynamic craniosacral. It’s such a mouthful that it buries itself.

And then, on the way to school, passing wild turkeys and frozen fields, my daughter asks a question from the backseat that gets to the heart of this problem.

“But what do you really do? When you work it looks like… nothing.”

I started studying craniosacral work in 2012, and just finished a two and a half year deep dive certification in this particular approach. Every day I see how powerful the work is, but I have not cracked this particular code: How to simply explain what it is.

Because an 8 year old? She doesn’t want to hear about the relational field and down regulation, she could care less about cerebrospinal fluid and the sphenobasilar junction. And if you can’t help a kid understand what you do in practical language, can you really explain what you do?

I take a breath. “Well…” How do I convey the idea of energy? 

IMG_5400

“Let’s say there’s a hurricane, and it blows over the trashcan. It just topples over and starts sliding across the street. What would happen if you walked out in the middle of the hurricane and stood it back up?”

“It would knock over again.”

“Right. And again, and again. As long as the hurricane’s blowing, the trashcan’s going over.” I check the rearview mirror to make sure she’s still with me. “But, what if you could talk directly to the hurricane? What if you could understand energy – forces that are everywhere and invisible, but not always as loud as a hurricane – and help the hurricane start to calm. Then what would happen to the trashcan?”

“It would just stay put.” We’re getting somewhere. Energy precedes matter is a fundamental principal of biodynamic. If we talk to the underlying patterns, we influence everything else, trashcans included.

“And what if we zoomed right in – on this steering wheel, or my bag here or your leg. What would we see?”

“Dust.” This is… so true. It’s February after all. I keep going.

“Yes. And if we zoomed in *even* further than that? Just kept zooming in and in?”

“Atoms.”

“Yes!” I’m trying not to get overly excited“Ok, and if we zoom in on the atoms, what do we see?”

“Electrons?”

“Right! We’ve got these electrons spinning round and round protons and neutrons. We’ve actually got – when we get right down to this atomic zoom level – we’ve actually got much more space than stuff. If we focus on the space, we influence the stuff.” We are more space than matter. In cranio, we’re less interested in the conditional adaptations than the health that underlies it all. We focus on what is well, on what organizes health. I think she’s getting this.

IMG_4876

“So, you speak the language of energy? Like, you know the words and sentences to talk to energy?” Kids are quick.

“Yes. But language is a lot about listening. You know how there are certain people you want to talk to and certain people you…don’t?” I parody an awkward adult to show what I mean, “‘Do you like school, little girl?‘ In cranio, we want to listen in a way that makes you comfortable enough to come out of your shell, so that we can have a real conversation, and maybe shift things together.” Establishing resonance. 

So there, in 5 minutes, is a beginner’s guide to Biodynamic Craniosacral therapy: trashcans, hurricanes, dust, listening. Easier to follow, right?

Maybe I’ll try that at the next barbecue.


Two upcoming Root Therapy events:

  • There are still a few available sessions for the lower cost clinic on March 30th (45-minute sessions for $40). Please be in touch if you’d like to schedule one.
  • We’re still buzzing from the wonderful Embodied Writing: Seasons series that wrapped up earlier this month. The next Embodied Writing: Seasons series will run in April – be sure to sign up for the newsletter if you’d like to know when registration opens!

Learning to Float

IMG_3323

A friend asked me recently why I write, and I realized I had no idea.  Which is a funny thing to say, when you’ve been teaching writing workshops all over town.

The thing is, why can be such a small question when it bumps up against processes that are messy and close. Why seeks linearity, explanations. When I go to the page, I have no idea how things will go, what actually lurks beneath the scratchy thing that got me there in the first place. Writing is discovery, trash heap, breezy porch, silver thread. Writing is connection.

Which is how I find myself, with 12 other women, on yoga mats in front of the campus vending machines on a Saturday morning.

We are a sea of spandex and tight cotton, warming up our bodies to tap into our creativity for a short unit I’m teaching on Embodied Writing, a practice I’ve developed that combines movement and breath with writing and (optional) sharing.

IMG_2990

“So,” Claudette turns to me brightly, “Are we ready?” Claudette is one of the directors of In Her Presence, a group she co-founded to “help immigrant women grow their collective empowerment.” Each Saturday women gather in groups according to English language level, each in rich conversation on any number of topics: poetry, job applications, health, or U.S. history. I look out at the group.

“This isn’t school,” I say. “You don’t have to worry about grammar or spelling. We’ll give ourselves permission to play with writing, to see where we go.” Someone says the word “permission” in Arabic.  We talk about listening with reverence. A pause – does this word translate? Someone says in French, “Oui, just the same, révérence.”

We have time for one prompt today: I remember. The room goes quiet with the scribbling of pencils, all of us bent over our notebooks, remembering. When it’s time to share, Olivia (names changed), a grandmother from Iraq in a yellow scarf, declares, “Remember? What is this remember! We come here to FORGET.” Celine, from Burundi, is talking about the contents of her fridge while Aya writes about talking to her mother this morning, still in Damascus. We listen and laugh or nod or sometimes weep, each of us moved, each of us recognizing ourselves in each other’s stories.

IMG_2988There is a spark in these moments. Writing becomes a way of making ourselves known to ourselves and each other. We learn to do what we have always done: to be open and listening, to play and be curious, like children.

I have been doing these workshops all over town. At barns in Freeport and Flamenco Studios in Portland, with intellectually disabled adults at art centers, at yurts in Cumberland.

It doesn’t seem to matter who we are or where we come from or how we think or what we believe. The common denominator is our bodies that contain our stories, and the mercy and exultation of creativity and witness.

So perhaps this is why I write, because it is so much like learning to float.

The swimmer discovers her own buoyancy not by curling and compressing – that posture will sink her – but in opening and releasing. In this tenderest place, we float. The water holds us when we trust it at our backs.

hotel pool

 

 

Repurposing

IMG_6096.JPGThe line at the dump last week went all the way out to the road. Everyone, it seems, had the same idea with the turning of the calendar: Jettison all that old stuff. Clean out the debris. It’s 2016, after all.

And it’s true, many of us live with entirely too much clutter and stuff. I don’t mean just those extra salt and pepper shakers, but the unseen internal clutter that takes up its own space. Our old habits and beliefs have a way of crowding out new experiences. Perhaps we’ve always been the caretaker in our families, or the one who never seems to have it together, or the one who always does. We can get stuck believing that’s just How It Is.

We may try to shove those stories in the back of the closet, but they can be sticky. Not something we can leave at the curb.

Which brings me to this sweater. Or, more accurately, this pile of material that once  was a sweater. It lived in the drawer under the bed for years, daring me to toss it.

IMG_6100Perhaps you have some of these in your closet: hoodies, t-shirts, barely-held-together pants that violate every rule of clutter and cleaning. You don’t wear them, they aren’t beautiful. They take up space as odd, cotton-poly relics of a time or place you can’t quite shake.

This sweater was one of those unshakeable items; grey, holes in the elbows, it was wool but had gone through the wash and so didn’t quite fit right.

But 8 years ago, when I lived between the bathroom and the couch, slogging through a continuous flare of ulcerative colitis, I wore it all the time. And I wore it when I went into the hospital, and stayed for nearly a week. In the waiting area, seeing me hunched over and grimacing, a kind orderly asked if I needed a wheelchair. I was 30.

Things at the time were so threadbare that the sweater became a perfect uniform for the way I felt inside. Dusty, unfixable, fraying. As the years passed, and my health returned, I confess I felt oddly loyal to that sweater. We had been through so much together.

Our old patterns are like this. Yes, we’re totally sick of them, ready to not need or hurt or bend in the way we have. But, then… they were so useful once. They did serve a purpose.

Still, what if we could repurpose those old habits and put them in the service of new choices?  We may have learned that to get by we needed to take care of everyone else. And now, maybe we take our strong empathy and listen to ourselves also. It’s a different kind of space-clearing, one that doesn’t reject any part of us.

Over the holidays, thinking that I wanted to make something for friends and family, I stumbled on the idea of potholders. So practical! So easy! Who doesn’t need them?

Now, potholders have one job: To protect our hands from burning. Without some thick stuffing, they’re just closed up pockets.

IMG_6094

Which is when I remembered that sweater. There was something sublime in cutting it to pieces, in giving it a new job. In saying goodbye to all that.

Florida Scott-Maxwell writes, “You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done…you are fierce with reality.” I love this notion that part of becoming fierce in our lives is to claim the entirety of ourselves.  Even the broken bits.

I have more dump runs in my future. The house is in real need of de-cluttering. But on the inside, I’m curious what those old habits have to offer when they’re not running the show.