What is the Tao? It is an ancient Chinese concept, which is most frequently translated as "The Way", as in "the way the world works". Natural order. The law of the Universe. One learns about it through personal experience and observation, not through reasoning and deduction. Lao Tsu proclaimed that the Tao that can be spoken of is not the true Tao. It has no commandments, no dogma, no formulas to apply. It is profoundly personal and universal at the same time.
When one is in harmony with the Tao, life flows effortlessly. When one resists the Tao, there is struggle, discord, suffering inside and out. So what does that have to do with CranioSacral Therapy (CST)?
In CST, we start our training with a tidy, sequential 10 step program. All the steps are biomechanically based, and they build on each other nicely and effectively. So even after taking just one 4-day class, practitioners have a handy new tool to promote health and well being by improving alignment and fascial balance throughout the client's body. The 10 step program promotes optimal flow of cerebrospinal fluid in and around the brain and spinal cord, thereby nurturing and protecting the central nervous system in its manyfold functions. An optimally functioning central nervous system helps the body to self-regulate and self-heal. This is great! But it is only the beginning...
The second level of CST training adds to the biomechanical tools for greater specificity and effectiveness. The third level training goes still deeper into the biomechanics, but it also offers the first glimpses of a journey into the emotional and spiritual aspects of the work. Somato-Emotional Release (SER) is an occurance that may happen spontaneously during a treatment with any form of bodywork. The connective tissue apparently holds information (or memories) that did not get processed completely at a time of emotional distress.
Bodywork may lead to a spontaneous release of the stored emotion or information. SER training enables the therapist to respond skillfully to such an occurance and make the most of it. With more experience, the therapist can also use Therapeutic Imagery and Dialogue skills of the fourth level training to elicit an SER. This can be helpful when physical symptoms are persistent or recurring despite all kinds of treatments. At the Advanced level training, biomechanical skill turns to healing art - and the Tao.
Advanced training is all about personal experience and healing of the practitioners. After all, we cannot take our client where we have not gone ourselves. During an Advanced training, there are 10 students in two groups of 5, working on two tables in the same room under the guidance and with the support of a teacher and at least 2-3 teaching assistants. Every student receives a session from the group every day, 5 days in a row. The treatments last as long as necessary, sometimes deep into the night.
Biomechanical tools get applied as needed, but the course of the session is by no means following any program. "Inner Wisdom" (intuition or the unfathomable Tao) are in charge of the session. Synchronicities abound, releases occur, and previously non-conscious information rises to the mind's surface in just the right sequence. Everything that happens flows together to enhance the growth process of all participants. It is magical!
Like the Tao that cannot be spoken of, an SER experience goes beyond words and concepts. Access to expanded levels of consciousness is direct, holistic, and profoundly personal. Unlike drug-induced altered states of consciousness, the SER experience is entirely safe and in harmony with the conscious mind. It will never take a person beyond her/his ability to integrate new insights.
To reach this level of expanded consciousness, one has to deal with mental resistance. Deep in our psyche, there are usually multiple layers of protection in place. These shields that do their best to keep the non-conscious information buried to avoid unwanted emotional disruptions of daily activities.
For example, even if the boss uses the same abrasive language our parent did decades ago, we cannot allow ourselves to burst into tears right in the office. That makes us much too vulnerable in a place that exploits weakness. So we learn to keep a stiff upper lip and hold back the tears, no matter what. This becomes a habit, even to the detriment of our psychological and physical health. Getting past habits is challenging! Dealing with resistance effectively requires diplomacy and patience.
Most CranioSacral Therapists are not psychotherapists or counsellors. We are not trained to give advice or guide the process of psychological healing. Instead, we are taught to follow what we call the "Inner Treatment Plan" of the Inner Wisdom of the client (or fellow practitioner). What we do is witness the client's journey, rather than directing it. We nudge, encourage, and help to clarify the information that surfaces. We hold the space for the experience to unfold. We trust that it will take both of us beyond the limits of the intellect into a much larger picture. This requires trust, courage, and a great deal of open minded curiosity.
We call the state of mind that has no attachments to means or outcomes "neutrality". In neutrality, we are present with "all that is" without judgment. The rewards are beyond measure. Life is unfathomably rich outside the confines of superficial conventionality.
Letting go of resistance and releasing old emotional burdens frees us to get back into the natural flow of life, aligned with The Way. Stress of daily life diminishes. Pressure is off, and joy grows effortlessly in now empty spaces where trouble was stored. Creativity unfolds. Relationships improve. Synchronicities increase. Life turns into an adventure rather than struggle.
This is not a linear progression, however. The journey includes twists and turns, detours and dirt roads, set backs and quantum leaps. One thing is guaranteed, though: It will never get boring!