Cranial Teaching Philosophy
Presence and orientation to biodynamic work
Often cranial therapists will ask why my courses emphasize the cultivation of Presence more than anatomy, knowledge and technique. It has been my experience that Presence during a session trumps anatomy, knowledge and technique as a fulcrum for health to express itself.
Fortunately, in recent years, there are many different biodynamic craniosacral training courses available for massage therapists and other health care providers. Many of these courses are presented in 5 to 12 modules or units over the course of a year or two. Some courses emphasize the role and utilization of embryological forces, a range of fluid tidal movements, shamanic and energetic matrices. Each of these lineages offers a wealth of exploration for practitioners who can help clients find new avenues into long term health.
My teaching process for cranial therapy is based upon a different way. This is the approach I have applied and trained in since 1994. I teach only what I know from my own experience. This method emphasizes the cultivation of Presence during treatment. Presence unifies the practitioner with the natural world. Presence helps the client access healing resources. Presence operates unlimited by the boundaries of technique, knowledge and anatomy. When the practitioner finds the right relationship to the present moment, Presence does what is needed, without any effort on the part of the practitioner.
Most cranial trainings direct the student to seek out and connect with a particular part of the craniosacral system; membranes, cranial bones, cerebral spinal fluid, embryological anchors, etc. This traditional model, while helpful in building personal knowledge and experience, trains the awareness to be anchored in concentration-based functioning during treatments.
When we concentrate, by definition, we tell our awareness to track the preferred object and to disregard other data. This isolates and separates that preferred object from everything else in a way that is artificial and exists only in our mind. The object is in relationship to everything all the time, regardless of how we manipulate our awareness when examining it. This concentration based interface with the craniosacral system decreases and limits our Presence. Instead, If we observe the craniosacral system without concentrating upon it, we will palpate, observe and understand a more integrated craniosacral functioning. One which has improved connection to the natural world. One which opens the practitioner and client to profound acceptance and healing. One which mobilizes healing forces in ways unrestrained by our conceptions.
In my workshops, I do not talk about mid-tides, long-tides, embryological initiatives, etc. Students may encounter these elements when working, but we do not seek them out. Rather, our focus is upon what we find in our awareness during the present moment as we palpate in the cranial realm. Students discover that they can let go of what they have read or heard about the cranial system and instead be aware of their personal experience of the cranial system. This cultivates a personal relationship to an unfettered cranial realm, instead of cultivating a relationship to concepts and techniques in the cranial realm. We surrender the preconceived notions and connect directly to what the cranial system reveals to us.
There are a number of advantages to this teaching approach. Students avoid the frustration frequently encountered in cranial trainings when the presented content differs from what their awareness has a natural affinity for perceiving. Each of us has a spectrum of sensitivity within our felt sense. With this approach, students are guided to connect with their most accessible felt sense skills and to interact with what they find there. It’s not ‘what’ is palpated that’s important, rather it’s the relationship to that which is palpated which expands the felt sense, our awareness and Presence. As these elements evolve from continued practice, the cranial system teaches the student directly without a teacher or technique intervening. In this approach, we explore ways to facilitate a more robust relationship to what we are palpating. This improved relationship; this interface, trains us to be more present. With our greater Presence, we do less, we observe more, and the profundity of the cranial system takes care of the client for us.
The orientation we as practitioners take with respect to the client is different in this approach as well. We don’t find something in the cranial system and then tell it to behave according the concept we have in our head. Instead we interface with whatever the cranial system presents to us, accept it completely by simply observing it, and this in turn enables nature to step forward and do what is most appropriate for the client.
Both beginners and practitioners from other cranial lineages are very welcome in my workshops. Even those who’ve trained in other Biodynamic Cranial courses will encounter something very different and deeply enriching here. Each time a Cranial workshop is presented, it is different. Like each session with a client, something unique arises which demands a personalized response. So each workshop is built around those individuals attending. What is presented and how it is presented depends upon what is emerging from the group at that time. Students are encouraged to attend workshops more than once. When studying with my teacher, I attended some workshops 5-7 times, amazed at how each was different and thrilled to discover the unspoken elements presented which I was unable to see or integrate in previous years.
As the student’s proficiency with biodynamic cranial work advances, they are eligible for mentorship. Many of the more profound aspects of cranial work simply cannot be shared via words and workshops. Meeting regularly while working with someone anchored in this work will help you learn what cannot be taught. Those who complete the mentorship are eligible to assist in treating clients to further advance their understanding. The best way to deeply integrate this material is facilitated by one on one training, which is why class sizes are kept small with a very high teacher to student ratio. You want to learn, we want you to be successful.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do you spread out your cranial coursework over time instead of teaching quick modules?
From my experience training people over the years, it takes a consistent practice over a long duration to cultivate the Presence necessary to learn another layer of depth. It also requires that students *receive* cranial work regularly over a long period of time to help resolve the inner processes which sometimes unknowingly thwart their ability to be Present during sessions. There are already many training courses which present content at a rate faster than the student can meaningfully integrate. I’m interested in teaching people who want to get this work at a deep level, with mastery. It takes time. It cannot be rushed if integrity is to be maintained.
Do you teach work with long tides, chakras, embryological forces and past lives?
I strive to let this work remain as it is; grounded and practical without being limited by concentration-based models. Some may find it interesting to talk and theorize about many different cranial perceptions and experiences. I’m more interested in helping you form a relationship to what is happening in this moment, with this client. It doesn’t matter what the content or your mind’s interpretation of the content is. We’re looking to refine and clarify your relationship to the present moment. That may or may not give rise to impressions which relate to the topics above. I do not teach people to go looking for specific structures or forces and make them be different than they are. I teach people how to get out of their own way so they can observe and accept what happens in someone’s cranial system. It has been my experience that this enables a more robust benefit for the client and the practitioner.
I have other cranial training, can I take a Cranial 2 class without taking your Cranial 1 class?
It’s possible. Experienced practitioners have jumped right into a Cranial 2 class previously. We can talk about your cranial background and interests and find the course most appropriate for you.
What is this Presence you keep mentioning?
Presence can be difficult to describe since words, thinking and concentration cannot touch it. It is not a cloaked reference to some facet of spiritual dogma. It is not a romanticized notion of being. It is not a sentimentalized orientation to another being. We can get to know it by letting go of the flickering, fickle modalities of awareness. Our felt sense can give us feedback about our Presence in the moment when working with clients. We, the client, and everything else function in the foreground of Presence. Increasing our Presence during treatments means taking what we consider our own motives and individuality and allowing them to dissolve into the ever present background of Presence.
“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” – Epictetus (c.44-c.135)
“All models are wrong, but some are useful.” – George Box
“Pure giving is your true nature, it is love. When the occasion asks you for help you will spontaneously help, and the help coming from wholeness, from love, will be highly effective. But when you are a professional helper acting on an idea you have of yourself or the world, your help will always remain fractional.” – Jean Klein
“Let the Soul banish all that disturbs;
Let the Body that envelopes it be still,
And all the frettings of the Body,
And all that surrounds it.
Let Earth and Sea and Air be still
And Heaven itself.
And then let the Body think
Of the Spirit as streaming, pouring,
Rushing and shining into it from
All sides while it stands quiet.” – Plotinus, 205ce