What is a Body?
RESILIENCY, INTERDEPENDENCE & THE EVOLUTIONARY IMPULSE
This article was originally written for The Cranial Wave 2020, the annual publication for the Biodynamic Craniosacral Association of North America.
The first half of 2020 has been a shock for many of us. I began 2020 arranging my grandmother and aunts’ evacuation from raging fires in Australia. The likes I have not seen in my lifetime, nor had my grandmother in her nine decades. This is an elder who knows resiliency. At four feet seven inches – a survivor of wars, the great depression, poverty, polio, six children, twenty grandchildren, twenty two great-grandchildren, two great great grandchildren and much in ancestral legacies. There is no digging heels in — there are just roots deep into the earth. Ever negotiated with a tree to move? All ended safely for my loved ones.
I breathed for what seemed a second. Then, Covid-19 spread through the world like the Australian wildfires, life and death, health and economic distress became magnified. Some who had prosperity experienced a quick turn around of circumstances, others plunged further into poverty. Some have profited. Then, the ongoing systemic racial violence emerged from the depths of humanities shadows. Mass protests ensued. As humanity collectively exists in this liminal space and looking into the crucible of life with earth. I ask, is humanity on the cusp of a revolution? Or, are we devolving? I will weigh in on the revolutionary side!
I pause. I move to a broader perspective, reminding myself the nature of existence is cyclical. I can sit and observe this every day in my garden. Creating, Sustaining and Destroying. All three are constantly occurring in an alchemical relationship, in what I feel is a greater evolutionary spiral. The unfolding, formlessness emerging into form; the enfolding – form dissolving into formless. The outcomes of new forms created may have a probability, yet, they are also unpredictable. That’s why we talk of this as Intelligence with a capital “I” in Biodynamics! The Intelligence, the Health, an oceanic reflection of the unknowable, orchestrating life. As practitioners, we have the honor of being with this in ourselves and with each other as an intention during Biodynamic Craniosacral sessions. I linger in the Mystery and enjoy the alchemy. Change is our natural state and life calls us forward.
I think of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy as a resiliency and whole restoring practice. In Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy we surrender and listen, which creates space for the Breath of Life to support a movement into a greater expression of Wholeness. In Wholeness new possibilities can emerge. We trust deeply in the Inherent Treatment Plan to unfold what is necessary in each moment, as a function of the Health. The Health that is never lost, that cannot be destroyed nor created. The Health that is beyond the cyclical nature of existence, yet deeply nurturing the cycles of renewal and transformation within each living being. I ask myself. How can I and We, be with the Inherent Treatment Plan for ourselves, for each other, for Humanity, and the Earth?
What is a Body?
The Inherent Treatment Plan is not just a singular isolated process occurring within the physical body. It’s a process occurring in species, in groups, throughout all of life in each moment. What is a Body? Really? I can see Body as an emergent, relational, generative process, unfolding from the vastness of what David Bohm called the Implicit Order – The Ground. Through the lens of each person’s life experience, it is given a context and meaning, in each moment, as it seeks to fold back into Wholeness the conditional influences of our environmental, historical, collective and cultural milieu that converge within the organismic biology of what we commonly call I or Me, a body.
A Body is not an isolated event. Body means to give shape or form. In this, again we can see Body is a process. If it is a process, this also means it is an open system. All biological organisms are open systems. Biological systems exchange energy within themselves, between themselves and their surroundings. Therefore, they are open systems.* In this, we can see our bodies as trying to hold a state of homeodynamic potency, balancing the inner and outer movements, the taking in and giving out. More simply, the constant engagement and ongoing affirmation of life in and surrounding, the body.
Collectively, as an extension of the Earth, and as an ongoing evolutionary life process, humanity is constantly in change at different rates within this time-space continuum. I consider this an Inherent Treatment Plan. Health is orchestrating this.
Who I am – is an evolutionary impulse of creations’ ocean.
What is a Body? My nervous system did not start when I was born. My nervous system started as an answer to my environment. It continued to form over billions of years of evolution with the earth. I am the earth, as are you, as are the trees, the birds and bees. We, the earth formed in relationship with the Sun, within a galaxy spiraling through the universe, as much as the universe is in you and I. I am ancient and I belong to the earth, the sky, the stars, I belong to life. So do you who are reading this with me, all of us. We have forgotten this often with each other. History shows this. The conditioning we carry, the trauma individually, and collectively shows this. What has been occurring in 2020 shows this.
The Breath of Life – the Health, has not once forgotten this. Not once! The Breath of Life is in all that exists. So I come back to the Breath of Life to teach me, to help me, to help us, reclaim our Wholeness.
What is a Body? My cells are my own? Within them, perhaps my mitochondria remember a time they lived elsewhere, or maybe, now, they are everywhere. Everyone of my cells has mitochondria, and everyone of yours, and your family, every human across the planet, every animal and every plant. A network communicating with each other, regardless of wherever or whomever they co-exist with. It is a thought. If I look at mycelium or the roots of Aspen trees or the crowns of trees in a forest communicating with each other – why not think of this? Why not explore seeing myself, or others, in different ways? The different ways to see interconnection and commonality in ourselves and each other. I would quite like to think my mitochondria are enjoying (hopefully) life with me, they are me – and I respect their individuation also. I respect their relationships they may have outside of me in other creatures. What I call my colon – is actually a colon-y. Billions of life forms, that somehow, are mostly agreeable with each other. I have my own sense of who I am – yet there are perhaps trillions of lives blooming inside me – with their own sense also. Maybe I am a steward? Even when I am alone, I am not alone. What is clear; there is not only a Me.
What is a Body? Each time someone comes for a craniosacral session. They stand before you, a confluence of multiple events, impressions, environments and lineages. We can never know which part or parts of their life terrain a person identifies with most. A person brings with them the known, the unknown, the pain, the joy, the events of this lifetime, the effects of their social circles, their environments, and the epigenetics of multiple generations. There are many intersecting conditional forces that make a human beings’ experience of themselves and therefore their experience of others. Some are not named, not seen, maybe pushed away. When over-coupled they can lack context. This is often the case with trauma.
Craniosacral therapists supporting trauma learn when a person is depleted and the stressors of life pile on—equilibrium is harder to maintain. Without equilibrium an open system is fragile. A shutdown, a freeze, activation, agitation, overwhelm, dis-regulation can be triggered by any further stressor in a person’s world. That stressor could even seem innocuous to someone not experiencing it. It is also an opportunity, once safety, containment, settling and so forth occur, to heal the places fragmented. A chance for the person to move into a greater expression of coherency and order from the chaos. This becomes life-affirming, sustains growth and improves the quality of life. Resiliency is developed.
What is a Body? A body is an entire being – one with conditioning, some which is positive for life, and some as in woundings and trauma, arrests life. Emerging and growing into this interdependent existence on earth, with a nervous system that took billions of years to develop, means we also grew within a Trauma Matrix as well as a Health Template. An earth that is breathtaking, coherent, complex, and sublime. An Earth where there has also been wars, famines, extinctions and so forth. When we see this as a part of the common human and life experience, we can begin to grow our capacity for neutrality, understanding, and compassion not only for working with clients, but for our own healing, for our families, friends, communities. We can see how this can impact the larger collective. We can begin to start acknowledging the suffering, the conditional forces involved and move to Health. What is a healthy, full and whole expression of living? For each of us and each other? It does start with each of us, before we can expand to help others.
The Three E’s of Trauma are:
The Event that occurred. The Experience of the Event, and the Effect.
For thousands of years, for generations, between countries, cultures, tribes, peoples, communities, families and individuals. The effects of Trauma have shaped many ways of thinking, feeling and relating. Often people have not realized to the degree this occurs. Individuals from groups of oppressed peoples carry the epigenetic imprints of generations of trauma. Others carry the imprints of oppressive systemic structures, and the thoughts and behaviors that generate them. Some carry a mixture. I only touch on generalities in this article. Events in 2020, may have ignited traumatic dormancies and shadows to be met, as well as the events creating more effects that reverberate in the rhizome of humanity. There is an uncovering of the unconscious collective narratives living within our cells, our tissues, and our fields. We have expended much energy in our collective body, in our own bodies, holding undigested, unintegrated effects from trauma.
Systems deeply impacted by trauma become isolated systems.** When this is extreme, it can manifest with an outright severing of interconnection. We have seen this highlighted in 2020. The insistence of hyper-individualism, a dominator orientation to life. Included is a lack of empathy or care for others. Others are perceived as a threat and/or a means to an end. It is a maladaptive strategy. Isolated, isolating, polarising and in need of great energy, yet moving towards entropy and the destruction of life rather than a greater order and coherency that is supportive of life.**
Some of this behavior dovetails with what neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory calls the neuroception of threat. However, there is an ongoing reaction without context that is co-opted by neocortical interpretations that ratify, normalise and culturalise behaviours based in hyper-individualism. The need to get ahead, to be above has been a primary narrative. How many wars, violence or systemic oppressions have cause from this? As cultural historian and social systems scientist Riane Eisler*** points out – within humanity we have a continuum from dominator to partnership. We and our ancestors have all lived this continuum in some way for millennia. We can become a caregiving, life-affirming, co-operative species expressing the fullness of life. As the fields of trauma therapy, neuroscience, physics, anthropology, and biology cross-pollinate each other ~ it is clear that the true evolutionary, survival thrust of life is conducted by interdependence and cooperation. I pause and center in the Breath of Life coursing through all existence. I go back to Aspen Trees, Mycelium and Mitochondria as way-showers of the revolution!
A way to address fragmentation; the partnership and relational model.
To heal the levels of trauma and fragmentation, inside ourselves and humanity, we need many approaches. The Biodynamic model supports the unfolding of the deep intrinsic living knowledge that is Health. I consider it a relational model close to Martin Bubers’ “Ich und Du”, in English “I and Thou (You)”.**** It supports the necessary pacing, respect of space, self, and otherness, of individuation, as well as the interconnection, compassion, and oneness. It can address trauma and support the integration of fragmented aspects of oneself. One cannot address trauma from the same response or behavior it’s been created from, nor a pattern, or the architecture that caused it. That is why trauma circulates and creates more cycles of violence amongst peoples for generations. However these Imprints, the shadows are still part of the intelligent design of our unfolding. Trauma, imprints, shadows can be transformed, they can be the very seeds that grow into a wise oak tree.
So how do we till the common soil of our humanity and truly start to heal these divides inside ourselves and with each other? It is an ongoing dialogue we can all engage in. To engage brings me back to the concepts of neutrality, safety, self-regulation and co-regulation. Biodynamics is the approach that intends, in order to heal we can go broader. This is where we can go to what nourishes the soil. Or what nourishes the soul! The Breath of Life and Health. Through relationship, we support the nourishment, the Health and trust it.
What is a Body? In Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy we talk a lot, like many methods, about embodiment. I sometimes prefer to conceive of this as integration. Are the many expressions of my being able to relate with each other and others? To what degree is my experience of life cohesive in general? The more cohesive I become, the more I can accept and be with the process of life, that I, and all of the Earth is creating in each moment. I stop looking for the map, I just align with the Inherent Treatment Plan’s unfolding.
What is a Body? A Body does not end at the skin. As open systems we are in an ongoing relationship with the “external” world that affects our internal worlds, and vice-versa. I am in you and you are in me. My mirror neurons are conveying this, my biology knows this as true. By developing the capacity to be neutral, ongoing inquiry into oneself and the development of one’s felt-sense experience, the relational model of Biodynamics supports self-regulation and co-regulation. Through a compassionate holding field, a container for the transpersonal, the space for the Being to Being, I and Thou state to emerge and heal the wounding. This is supportive of the evolutionary imperative.
To be “neutral”……..
To be neutral is the removal of obstacles that inhibit my capacity to be self-regulated. To be neutral is not to dismiss, disengage, disassociate, project, transfer, displace or bypass. To be neutral is one’s capacity to be with the entirety of the moment, in oneself and another. To deeply listen and support, to be engaged with the Health. To the degree we can as therapists be engaged with the Health, we can also acknowledge suffering, in self and others, we can feel, yet we don’t dive into emotional contagion, or need to drive it, or fix anything. We procure a clarity that can discern. For me, neutral is a state of compassion. It is where healing and wholeness show up. We work with presence and the Dynamic Stillness that resides at the heart of all life and existence. This is like the nourishment for the soil, so the seed can find its original intent and expression as an Oak Tree.
During these times of upheaval, look for the Health, look for the cohesiveness.
To get out of bed each day, and to just start. To discover the Health and find coherency, wherever we can, no matter how small, no matter if it is just a whisper, it doesn’t need to be perfect. We may need to find it outside ourselves, in a bird, in the sky, in art, in ancestors – wherever the resource is. We just start and then grow this inside ourselves. Then, some of us can move into supporting each other! This is the heart of biodynamic practice. Relationship. The development of self-regulation and coherency, then expanding into co-regulation and greater coherency with each other. Self-regulation and co-regulation arose together, and cannot be separated out. In every moment, to changing degrees, both are occurring interdependently. Both are at the heart of being human, of being life. When we have self-regulation and can move into co-regulation we can have dialogue and meaningful explorations, grounded in empathy and compassion that can support healing.
I feel we have something to offer in these times, and why I see the Biodynamic Craniosacral approach as a resiliency, if not a vibrancy practice and one of the health based modalities supportive of the evolutionary impulse.
I pause and center in the Breath of Life coursing through all existence.
Written by Prue Jeffries, CMT, RCST, Approved Teacher of BCTA/NA
Copyright Prue Jeffries 2020 Writing and Illustrations.
* Open System has a few meanings here it is used in the sense of the Biological definition.
** Open and Isolated System is used in the sense of an open nonlinear system. This is a metaphor-based on Nobel Laureate and Physical Chemist Ilye Prigorgine’s Theories such as dissipative structures. This is loosely touched on and used as framing for trauma and also for social systems. Many systems theories use this frame. I also studied with Emilie Conrad who brought this into Continuum.
*** Raine Eisler is a Social Systems Scientist, Historian and Author of The Chalice and the Blade. https://rianeeisler.com
**** Martin Buber was a philosopher, he wrote I and Thou, one of the major themes of the book is that human life finds its meaningfulness in relationships.