A few notes to the Breath of Life Conference (UK) 2017
Mike Boxhall RCST.,FCSTA.
There are many levels........................
I have been practising as a therapist of some kind or another for the last 45 years and what follows is a summary of my experience culled from approximately 30 three or four day courses per year with groups of from 18 to 60 people on a journey to a level of being where there is no pathology. I call this work Embodied Presence.
It is said that to be heard is to be healed and to be heard deeply is to be deeply healed. It is further said that the two great needs of the human psyche are to be heard and to be held. Food, drink and shelter are mechanical needs for survival. I am talking about blossoming to full flower.
The human being models these needs as, indeed, it models the requirements of the Universe itself. He/she, is first held, and the duration varies culturally, from the months of gestation, to around three years, in some cultures, for example Thailand, before he is gradually or suddenly put aside, leaving him, in some cases, to struggle to reclaim connection with self; not to remain the habit he has become, through pre-conceptual upload into the hard drive of the unconscious. Perhaps the ultimate purpose of the human being is to fully embody who he really is rather than continually demonstrating the pathologies he has osmotically absorbed. Epigenetics suggests that as much as 95 – 99% of the time we are not present but simply reactive to what we carry around in the rucksack of our unconscious.
I found this a very sobering statistic. Like most people, I thought I knew who I was. “You may not know who I am, and it often feels like that, but I know who I am, I am an expert in that!” Oh no I’m not, I’m a habit! I am nothing more than a series of habits, I am not, most of the time, present.
This work is substantially about finding presence and the realisation that sensation is present. Sensation is in and of the body. Sensation cannot be anything but present yet we have a very ambivalent relationship with the body. It gives us problems. The problems increase dramatically as we get older. I am 87 and this is no news to me. And yet, presence and wisdom are both inherent in that same body; centred in the heart, if only we could give up accumulating information for a moment from the other centre, which is the brain – the intellect. The brain produces information not wisdom.
Rather than chattering endlessly about the concepts and theories involved that have brought me to the various conclusions discussed above, all of which are well documented in academic books and papers, let me now describe what goes on in a typical session and some of the experiences that arise. The experiences at the end of an approximately 40 minute session are brought back into the group, shared and discussed and then, after a suitable break for digestion and contemplation, the roles are reversed.
The class is split into two halves; practitioners and clients. Most of the instruction is given to the practitioner – I cannot bring myself to tell a client how they should be but I can make suggestions on how a practitioner might perform.
As a matter of technique, I always make a space between one session and the feedback resulting from it and the exchange session to avoid confusion as to whose process is active.
The practitioner is instructed to make the client comfortable then make himself comfortable, whatever that takes, then to centre himself as totally in the present as his practice allows him to be. Having achieved a level of presence that I would call stillness, or, if this is not currently possible, at least a compassionate awareness that he is not still, without judgement, the practitioner extends his hands to get in touch with the client.
The hands are not transmitters, they are not doing anything, they are a symbol of being in touch and convey a felt sense of relationship. Genetic expression is powered by relationship. Love is a relationship.The hands are simply receivers. The practitioner does nothing, he listens; he listens with all his senses in full attention to the client and from the heart, not the analytic brain. There is no diagnosis, prognosis or treatment plan, the practitioner listens and as the trust in the process develops, and the client begins to feel that there is, perhaps for the first time ever, someone fully there for her, then the conditions are present in which she can begin to have the courage to explore her long and deeply buried trauma. There is no treatment as such, the hearing is the healing and the more profound the listening, the deeper the healing.
I have heard enormously experienced practitioners and teachers in various models comment after such a session “I believe that was the first session I have ever had where I have not felt some demand on me from the practitioner”. Medicine is very demanding, most therapy is demanding. People often report that they have never before been held in this way with such tenderness.
The experience is that after some while, be it within a session or spread over multiple sessions, the client gradually deepens in trust, a trust which is ultimately in herself, that she dare, in a company that is safe, walk this path to the bottom of the cave where the treasure is; guarded so closely by the demons that we call neuroses. This exactly is the journey of the hero in Greek mythology.
The treasure turns out to be Peace, a Peace that lies at the core of every human being. It is sometimes called “the peace that passeth understanding,” However long that Peace is experienced, it is a life changing state of being and is, in essence, a rebirth, fully in the present.
A number of people recently – people who know nothing about therapies and people who know lots about therapies – have commented on that Peace that it feels like a love greater than any they have experienced before. It has no object it is just love.
This work is the work of the Feminine Principle. The Masculine and Feminine Principles each have their respective function but, sadly, thinking (masculine) has almost entirely subjugated the feeling (feminine) level and the intellect in the brain has obscured the wisdom in the heart. The work is deeply concerned with facilitating some kind of balance.
I am expecting that there will have been talk at this conference about the respective electromagnetic fields of the brain and the heart. There may well have been talk about Bioenergetics and our ability to modify our hormonal outputs. My task over the last 20 years or so has been to try to balance the conclusions of Eastern philosophy, as I have understood them, with the latest researches in Western science, particularly biology and physics. If I listed all my sources this would have to become a very different document to the informal sharing I am attempting.
So that these thoughts might have some practical value rather than be a speculative theorising, I have presented them as a model for treatment. My experience is that we need a balance of the Masculine and the Feminine and I re-phrase that as a balance between the Intellect and Wisdom and I suggest that the route toward finding that balance is via re-empowerment of the Feminine and some surrender of the Masculine. There is something bizarre to me in being told that I have a syndrome because the machine says so, when I feel perfectly well. Perhaps, something self confirming as well. Could we not spend a little more time connecting with health rather than attacking pathology? There is a level of being in everyone where pathology has not taken form. We don’t need to look for it, we only need to open to it.
Science itself states that 90% of all pathology has its root, prime cause in stress. Let us look for the peace that is under that stress.
The difficulty in trying to describe this way of working is that, by its very nature, it is not logical. It is not scientific. That does not mean it does not work and does not mean that it is not true, it merely means that it is not true from the point of view of science in that it is not clinically proven. It merely experientially works and there is a sublime paradox that the more truly we can get out of the way and trust, the more it works. All knowing is by its very nature a limitation. That’s what knowledge is; very useful and a limitation. “In the beginning was the word” and the word was the first limitation!
Can we learn to simply trust? It works but we have to trust!
There are further musings on these subjects on my various websites in English, Spanish and Italian – the two English ones are www.stillness.co.uk and www.theemptychairteachingfoundation.com On the Stillness website there are two rather pretty short videos of students at work.
Love to you all,
Mike Boxhall RCST.,FCSTA.
Mike is a former Chair of the Craniosacral Therapy Association, former board member of US Craniosacral Therapy Association and member of the Spanish Craniosacral Therapy Association. He no longer practices clinically but teaches full time in UK, USA, South America, Spain, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Denmark and Germany.