This is one example of the kind of guided meditations I lead my patients in during clinical sessions. It is a simple way to begin the settling and embodiment process for those not used to relating to their body. It’s also the place to start when learning to self-regulate.
Self-regulation is a term used by the field of affective neuroscience to describe an individual’s ability to consciously and unconsciously manage and modify arousal states. It describes an the ongoing process of finding an equilibrium of the whole in the face of change. Learning how to self-regulate is fundamental to the manifestation and maintenance of health over time. The foundation of self-regulation is embodiment. The only way to begin learning how to be embodied is by developing a relationship with the body. This is done through finding the body in space and being present with the changes happening on a physiological level without expectation or judgment, but rather with an ever expanding sense of curiosity. Another word for this is mindfulness.
I have read many introductions to biodynamic craniosacral therapy (BCST), participated in hundreds of conversations on the topic, and have been confronted about the “quackery” of BCST from a scientific standpoint. I agree, it is hard to understand what BCST is and how it works based on how my own field tries to explain it.
In studying traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and attending seminars and talks given by medical doctors who are acupuncturists and have decided to lecture on acupuncture to non-TCM health practitioners (some names include Dr. Nadia Volf, Dr. Leslie Smith, and Dr. David Miller), I have realized that the main issue that leads to misunderstanding of the alternative medicine field is communication.
As the western medical paradigm uses a certain language and methodology to explain the physiological cascade leading to illness or health, traditional Chinese medicine and biodynamic craniosacral therapy also use complete different languages and methodologies based on completely different medical traditions and paradigms. Therefore when, for example, TCM tries to explain itself to the western medical world it often translates as being nonsensical and unscientific because of the language barrier. It’s like an American going to China and trying to ask for a sandwich in English. Not only is English not the main language in China, but sandwiches are also not a staple in the Chinese diet.
With this in mind, I have tried to develop an explanation of BCST that would also make sense from a western medical paradigm. The explanation therefore begins with explaining a part of the nervous system, specifically the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and its two branches: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.
The ANS functions at the subconscious level to maintain homeostatic vital functions. It’s in charge of most organ functions that keep us alive moment to moment that we never have to think or worry about. Some examples are blood pressure, blood flow, body temperature, breathing, and digesting and eliminating food. The ANS has two divisions: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic emerges from the middle part of the spine spanning from the level of the shoulders to the level of the belly button and is responsible for what is called the “fight-or-flight” state. If there is a bear chasing you, you’re running fast, furiously, efficiently, and effectively thanks to your sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic is its counterpart. It’s often called the “rest-and-digest” state. It emerges from parts of the brainstem and parts of the sacrum (your “tailbone”). It is responsible for replenishing resources and repairing any part of the body that has suffered during the day, which includes any stress that has burdened the body in some way.
Growth is a physiological gesture, an expression of a visceral and cellular self. Just like a thought, growth is not a tangible object in a linear world but rather a vessel of potential creativity that, when put in sequence, translates into our living physical (health) history. Can we experience our changing bodies as creative gestures of physiological self expression, rather than aging, failing, and disappointing systems?
Inspired by the teachings of Michael Shea:
An alternative definition for healing:
Healing: reviewing (re-view) the past from a different perspective.
Embryo at week 3 or 4. Image from an ectopic pregnancy.
“The curing of disease depends upon the body’s internal powers of resistance and only secondarily on treatment” – (Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Text. 549)
Often we forget that true healing comes from the cellular intelligence within us, not from those that are giving us treatments, whether they are doctors, alternative medicine practitioners, or shamans. The internal physiological world of the body (organs, nervous system, cells, etc.) knows exactly what needs to be done to stay healthy. Your cells, not you, are in charge of keeping your heart beating. This is a good thing because if you had to worry about beating your heart 60-80 times per minute you would probably, unfortunately, do a bad job and end up dying. Trauma, stress, and illness (the natural fluctuations of life) unbalance the body’s state of health, but health is always at the core of the body’s intention.