Last week I did a little experiment with this photo in my office building. I asked 20 random people to look at this photo and tell me what they saw.
Almost everyone said “A red house” or “A house in the woods.” The responses given to me clearly revealed that most people’s attention was first drawn to the one unnatural element in the photo, the red house – even though it occupies a fairly small percentage of the frame. Unsurprisingly, nobody said “A nice forest with beautiful green trees.” Nor did I hear “I see a forest with a house in it.” This simple exercise reinforced a truth about human perceptual tendencies that I believe is an important consideration for practitioners of craniosacral therapy.
The tendency, simply stated, is this: Our attention is strongly drawn to things that stick out or do not fit the surrounding background.
As Craniosacral therapists…the choice we make is to synchronize with health, or to synchronize with disease.
As craniosacral therapists, we make a choice every time we sit with a client in the treatment room. We make a decision, consciously or not, as to what we will recognize … what we will give attention to … what we will see. The choice we make is to synchronize with health, or to synchronize with disease. We can recognize the pervasive continuity of natural incarnate movement, or we can isolate disease with our focus. Over my years of clinical work and teaching I have come to understand that there is a strong tendency to focus on that which does not belong, to focus on aberrant patterns. In the case of craniosacral practice, this means there is a strong tendency to focus on spatial patterning of disease.
This tendency of our awareness to focus on the “odd thing” needs to be carefully considered by the craniosacral therapist. The odd things in our clients are called lesions or inertial fulcrums. I usually call them “lesions” because I have been heavily influenced by Osteopathic literature since my formative years as a therapist.
Lesions are the biological footprint of trauma or other unresolved stress. They can be likened to unresolved karma or sin. They are produced by chance, by actions of the individual or “inherited” from family, culture, or the natural world. They are aspects of the organism that are not in sync with the natural whole. Lesions divert metabolic energy and strain structural continuity. They bring noise to the soul. They stabilize and feed suffering. We all have lesions at varying depths of our being. They call for our attention … and we tend to see them first and examine them with tireless curiosity.
We need to be careful with lesions. They are seductive. They take center stage with surprising ease. They have sneaky ways of attracting our attention. And in modern healthcare settings, they get plenty of it.
Therapeutic training has taught many of us to pounce on lesions in an attempt to contain them or push them out of the system.
Therapeutic training has taught many of us to pounce on lesions in an attempt to contain them or push them out of the system. But in the fluid world of craniosacral work, our efforts to contain lesions usually result in reinforcing their spatial territory. We actually feed the problem by focusing on it. In an attempt to resolve the lesion, we may dig down into the fulcrum maintaining the observed dysfunctional pattern utilizing direct or indirect mechanical techniques with the intention of confronting it or breaking it up. But this usually serves to just tighten the stillness at its core and solidify its presence in the client. It seems that the closer we look at the pattern, the more rigid it becomes. Many years of clinical work have shown me that careful inspection of lesions can help us to understand their origin, borders and purposes, but rarely does it result in dissipation of their potency or influence in the life of the client.
So what are we to do if we wish to avoid reinforcing disease?
Deny the existence of lesions?
At this point in my clinical work, I feel comfortable saying that Primary Respiration is deeper than any lesion I have encountered.
We have help in navigating the lesions we encounter in ourselves and our clients. It comes in the form of Primary Respiration. Primary Respiration is a unique participant in the craniosacral therapy experience. At this point in my clinical work, I feel comfortable saying that Primary Respiration is deeper than any lesion I have encountered. It always seems to have something to offer the negotiation process between freedom and suffering. Its knowledge and understanding are incredibly deep, and it opens doorways that I did not even know were there until after it opened them on behalf of the client. The Tide is very skilled at pointing out our blind spots when we allow it to move and shape our consciousness.
In Primary Respiration we have a palpable, constant source of guidance that continually delivers physical orientation and understanding in a very concrete, sensory way. When the soul and soma yield to the influence of Primary Respiration, tremendous tissue changes may cascade forth. Time and time again I have witnessed the genuine authority that the Tide exercises over the spatial arrangement and consciousness of the client … and the practitioner.
Beneath every lesion is an effort of the soul. It is a hidden effort to become whole again. This is an aspect of the inherent treatment plan. The effort of the soul is better recognized by the practitioner when he/she is synchronized to the movement of the Tide instead of simply focused on the stillness at the heart of the observed lesion or its peripheral compensatory motion. We must look outside of the lesion to dissipate it. Lesions are not self-contained entities. They all answer to a higher power. Primary Respiration is but one of those powers … and thankfully a reliable one. When we are synchronized with the Tide, we see creative possibilities waiting in the moment. We see possibilities of new spatial movement in dimensions we may not have considered previously. And it is the movement of Primary Respiration that frees up the heart of a lesion so that the affected tissues and belief constructs can return to the experience of wholeness.
One exercise that I sometimes do that helps to divert focus from a stubborn or noisy lesion to the underlying Health is to utilize split attention.
So, where should our focus be in the face of the many lesions we encounter in the multitudes of clients that lay on our table seeking relief from suffering?
One exercise that I sometimes do that helps to divert focus from a stubborn or noisy lesion to the underlying Health is to utilize split attention. I begin by holding the lesion under consideration in 50% of my awareness and the movement of Primary Respiration in the other 50%. After a few minutes I will shift more awareness to the Tide, backing off of the lesion and becoming more fully absorbed in natural movement – let’s say a 75%-25% split. As the client’s system begins to yield and “link up” to Primary Respiration more strongly, I often notice that new movement presents itself in the dysfunctional fulcrum. Gentle witnessing may yield enlightening diagnostic information at this point, but evaluation should be brief and neutral. The key is to stay embedded in Primary Respiration. As more time passes and I sink even deeper into the pervasive movement of the Tide, I will leave the lesion in a far-away place in my consciousness, and perhaps forget it all together, placing my curiosity in the most distant spatial aspects of tidal unfoldment. This opening up often invites in larger, more authoritative motion to the client’s body, dissolving inertia and aberrant motion.
So sometimes we see the healing happen, and other times we just see the after-effects when clients report positive change
Some lesions will put on a show as they give ground to healthier motion. Hard potency effects are sometimes unavoidable as systemic intelligence utilizes broad or specific force to correct problems. But many times the dissipation of lesions is gentle and effortless, causing little distress for the client. So sometimes we see the healing happen, and other times we just see the after-effects when clients report positive change. Whatever presents itself, it is good practice to always be looking for natural motion emerging from broader and deeper aspects of spatial re-ordering.
Newer practitioners are often drawn into the fireworks and drama of lesions…But as we mature detailed investigation of lesions becomes less appealing.
Newer practitioners are often drawn into the fireworks and drama of lesions. It can be quite interesting in there! But as we mature, many of us find our fascination with Primary Respiration steadily grows and detailed investigation of lesions becomes less appealing. The “good stuff” lies in tidal movement, not the lesion.
So, where is your focus? How might you move or split your awareness to de-emphasize the lesion and allow new spatial possibilities for the client?
What does it feel like to look at the picture at the top of the page and become absorbed in the forest despite the unnatural presence of the house? What lessons might you glean from this to help you avoid the seductive lure of lesions?
Ryan Hallford is a craniosacral therapist and educator. He offers certification programs in basic and advanced cranial work through the Craniosacral Resource Center in Southlake, TX. www.cranioschool.com