A book review by Margaret Rosenau, MA, RCST®, SEP, APP
This is an exciting time in the field of Somatic Therapies. Many books have been published in the last couple of years that put into words so much of what makes our field indescribable. Some of these books give more access to the process of discovery than others. Some of these books help us to discover for ourselves the stories that our bodies know while giving us the context to understand our discoveries.
Spirit into Form: Exploring Embyrological Potential and Prenatal Psychology by Cherionna Menzam-Sills is such a book. In it, Menzam-Sills shares the depth of her understanding gleaned from her lifetime of study, personal exploration and professional qualification to support clients in a variety of Somatic based therapies including Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Continuum movement. In this book, she not only explains these modalities and how they support healing, but also elucidates with depth and detail the various aspects of the embryonic journey from conception through birth and the perinatal period. Furthermore, using the lens of Pre and Perinatal Psychology, she understands and explains how our earliest experiences can continue to shape our lives.
Whether we are conscious of them or not, our earliest memories are known to our bodies. “When we understand and are aware of the early experiences affecting our lifelong patterns, habits, addictions and tendencies, we can begin to integrate, let go and make new choices. As we practice slowing down, acknowledging, welcoming, and dissolving our hold on our historical patterning, we become more like the sensitive, aware little embryo, with its immense potential to develop. We return to our original embryological potential”. Spirit into Form, p. 27
Even though every single human who has ever lived, began life as an embryo, embryology is not easily understood. Our own embryonic and other early Pre and Perinatal experiences can cloud our comprehension. Embryology is a vast and detailed topic. The basic sequence of development is not easy to grasp or explain, in part because of the simultaneity of human development. For example, while the nervous system and circulatory system both reach important milestones in their development within the same two-week period, books on embryology must decide which system and details go first. Menzam-Sills does her best to make space for the non-linearity of embryology and development in the linear format of the book. Although there are repetitive explanations in places, the repetition supports and by and large succeeds in clarifying the material and increasing the reader’s comprehension of it.
It was such a sigh of relief for me to read this book and its biodynamic orientation and language. The book reaffirms the value of our work as Biodynamic and Somatically-oriented Therapists many times over. Don’t let the size of the book deter you. Menzam-Sills embraced an enormous intention in Spirit Into Form. Making the complex science of embryology and birth accessible and going beyond the traditional scientific understandings to incorporate groundbreaking Pre and Perinatal perspectives. Throughout her detailed descriptions of the material, Menzam-Sills explains the kinds of experiences people can have when they explore the earliest layers of their history. The book includes many somatic-based self-discovery exercises and other effective tools with which to explore. The personal stories from her own journey and her clients’ journeys of discovery really enrich the value and depth of this book. Spirit Into Form builds a remarkable bridge between the verbal and non-verbal, the cognitive and the sensate and the importance of our earliest experiences to the present moment. I highly recommend it!
Also published on Medium.