Two of the primary tools I use in the pursuit of a deepening sense of aliveness and well-being within myself and others are Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST) and Somatic Experiencing (SE). I became a holistic health practitioner with both these tools equally in my pocket when I first experienced them and began to study them together over twenty years ago. I found them because I was searching for resolution to my own debilitating trauma. These two modalities are happily married for me, walking hand in hand and enhancing each other’s strengths. Like any good marriage, BCST and SE seek ongoing connection and autonomy. They have in common the intention and ability to effectively support the regulation of the autonomic nervous system, a system in the body that is said to be responsible for 80% of disorders. Somatic Experiencing does this by supporting people to track sensation in their bodies primarily using refined and effective verbal skills. Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy does this by tracking fluids and making contact in a way that meets the memory being held in tissues, fluids or bones so that it can settle. Both help clients to recognize the depth and breadth of their memories and contact the places within them that have isolated themselves. SE teaches me verbal skills that BCST cannot; and BCST teaches me touch skills that SE cannot. The goal and gift of both lies in their ability to respond to what the person needs in the moment. Both support the cultivation of presence and the ability to come into the moment more. As a couple, these two rarely fight, though sometimes they step on each other’s toes and can easily take turns outshining the other. The verbal skills that an SE practitioner develops are more visible and often more immediately impactful than the softer, subtler experience of BCST. The language of sensation that SE practitioners speak fluently can take years to master, as can the palpation and perceptual skills of experienced BCST practitioners.
Both also support the resolution of trauma and can reach places in the nervous system that literally freeze when something traumatic happens. Both loss and trauma have a kind of immortality. Trauma can live on for generations unbeknownst to its descendants – and losses can reverberate through generations with equal weight, becoming the suffering of great grandchildren or the pain that gets left in the pocket of the only coat your great grandfather brought to the new world.
Stories curl in tissues, rest in bones…
My main focus as a teacher is on Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy. But for me, the marriage goes on. Somatic Experiencing and all its teachings and tools hold profound relevance and influence in my teaching and work. I am beginning my own process of celebrating this marriage in my own course – Neurodynamics – that I have developed and teach at the School of Inner Health. I expect Neurodynamics to be the first / one of many steps in my attempt to bring the gifts I have received from this marriage into the world, to help turn our collective and individual wounds into tools.
I faced death early and somehow survived. I know the strength and persistence of life. I know that even when we are in pain or endless struggle, life force is still moving us forward.
I have made my life work about aliveness, both a human and beyond human aliveness, the internal and immortal presence of life unfolding. The truth is that life is immutable, that individuals, groups, and species can die, but life goes on and always will. Life keeps on going. It’s not about endings but the endless beginnings of new possibilities. Both Somatic Experiencing and Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy open doors to these new possibilities.
Our trauma can be very much alive within us, and can be more accessible than our inherent ever-unfolding life force.What does it mean to make relationship with the life forces that are always there? Our trauma can obscure these forces, but life force does not leave our bodies until after we die.
How do we approach the life force within ourselves or another? Have you ever considered that the forces that made you originally are still alive within you today? These are the questions I ask my students and myself regularly. And yet I too forgot them. I too am challenged in this fast-paced Western world to see life unfolding – not just movement but aliveness, not just breath but the Breath of Life, as Osteopaths and others have called subtle rhythmic motions which are always occurring within and around us. The pace of these rhythms is immensely slow and sacred, and while not recognized or valued by the modern western world, they are ones which our bodies inherently know.
We can dig under the distractions of the modern world and the roots of our own pain to unearth and reclaim what is here now alive within us. Time is not only linear or sequential. It can spiral and twist into knots. It can catapult us in an instant to a moment decades ago as if that moment were now. And it is, in our nervous systems, in a place that doesn’t forget, and that knows exactly what is needed to reclaim the present moment and feel alive and whole in it.