A time of learning

The last few months have kept me busy with three very different opportunities for continuing education: Lymph Drainage, Bodhicitta, and CranioSacral Therapy mouth work.

In early September I spent 4 days in San Francisco taking the Level 3 course in Lymph Drainage Therapy as taught by the Chikly Institute. The main difference between this form of lymph drainage to other LDT techniques is the focus on palpation skills. That means therapists learn to feel the minute rhythmic pulses of the lymph just below the skin and the direction of its flow to assist in the body's self-regulation rather than impose their own ideas of what your body "should" be doing. We ask the intelligence of the body how we can assist in optimizing function, and then we use the lightest touch to support any changes that happen spontaneously.

Through such a respectful approach we avoid doing accidental damage to the delicate lymph system, while simultaneously creating a profoundly relaxing experience for our clients. The "touchy-feely stuff", as a good friend and colleague of mine calls palpation, requires a good deal of patience and practice. Fortunately, I have already gained much through my CranioSacral experience.

In October I participated in 5 out of 8 days of a Tibetan Buddhist retreat with our local Khenpo Namchak from the Garden of 1000 Buddhas in Arlee, MT, and Khenpo Sonam from the West Coast. I am not a Buddhist but feel very attracted to this ancient wisdom tradition, the only world religion that actually has created a culture of peace and compassion in a world of constant wars. The retreat was focused on the cultivation of bodhicitta, the most self-less form of compassion. Ordinary compassion has gradients: We naturally tend to feel more towards those closest to and most like us, family, friends, our own community. We tend to feel far less compassion for those we don't know and see as different from us, especially if we perceive them as a threat.

Bodhicitta requires the same whole-hearted compassion for any and all sentient beings, which means all beings that have feelings. Being in the presence of the Khenpos, who truly live and breathe what they teach, was a transformational experience.  I am inspired to learn more about Tibetan culture and traditions, so I can avoid some of my worst blunders of etiquette next time I participate.

Last not least, from October 31 to November 3, I was a teaching assistant for a CranioSacral Therapy Level 2 class here in Missoula, put on by the Upledger Institute. Level 2 CST focuses mainly on the biomechanics of the head, including the base of the skull and the bones of the face. The movement that normally takes place between the different bones of the head are extremely small compared to a knee or shoulder. But if those tiny movements are blocked or irregular for some reason, you may end up with a nasty headache, sinus problems, migraines, ear aches, ringing in the ears, pain behind the eyes, and other unpleasantries.

Occasionally, uneven tension in the base of the skull can get transfered down the spinal cord and may lead to deep tissue strain all the way down the back, causing tingling and pain in arms or legs. Compression of the cranial base has been linked to depression. Reviewing the techniques of level 2 CST as a teaching assistant has been a rewarding experience for me as well as for my patients. They don't seem to mind having my gloved fingers in their mouth for a few minutes as long as it helps to alleviate their headaches.