Shifting with The Tide: Some Thoughts on the Art of Yielding

One of the most difficult things for me to grasp when I began exploring biodynamics was the instruction to “allow your awareness to be shifted by the tide.” I ran into this challenge conceptually in my study of Dr. Jealous’ work and experientially as I deepened into my studies with Michael Shea. The process of yielding one’s awareness really has to be experienced to be understood. Talking about it can point the learner in a general direction, but ultimately it is practice in the chair that makes this beautiful experience come to life.

Today I will discuss a few ideas I have about yielding one’s awareness with the hope that it will help guide the learner into a better understanding of how to effectively relate to Primary Respiration. I will elaborate on finding the proper place for the mind, fleshing out space, and understanding the possible roadblock of internal stillness.

Pushing the Mind

For most clinical practitioners, the mind is utilized as a tool to examine and understand the situation the client brings us, and to formulate a subsequent plan of action. While we are with the client, we think about possible pathologies and their origins, appropriate therapeutic interventions, likely results of therapeutic actions, etc. We leverage our mental activity against our will to initiate lines of inquiry and formulate actions that have the best chance of evoking a meaningful clinical outcome. When I really started paying attention to how I utilized my mind in the treatment room, I began to notice how uni-directional my mental activity really was. I saw that I was literally pushing my mind in unnatural directions as I sought to understand what the client’s body wanted and needed. It was very forceful and tiring!

Make no mistake here, conscienscious clinical work requires that we go through a process to evaluate parameters of safety for the client and lay down a general groundwork of understanding for their health situation. But ultimately I came to understand that a mind driven by my will was limited to my knowledge base, and usually fell short of deep therapeutic understanding. As I began to sit back and hold my mental activity in one space, while simultaneously monitoring the shifting occurring in the client’s field in another space, I saw that pointed mental inquiry usually prohibited me from recognizing the deeper spatial intentions of health arising in the client.

When we actively grip the mind and push it to understand, we introduce an artificiality into our experience that locks us up in our own world and prohibits us from seeing the larger biological patterns trying to emerge – patterns that may be completely outside of our mental framework. One of the biggest (and hardest) steps for me personally was learning to ease up on pointed discursive thought. As an academic and lover of learning, this was difficult. But when I came to a place where I could take linear reasoning and fact-finding off of their pedestal, primary respiration really opened up for me.

It is essential to lift your foot from the mental accelerator if you wish to harness the greater natural forces that Primary Respiration holds in potential. Notice when you feel the need to solve a problem that arises, and notice how your mind reacts to this feeling. More thinking will probably confuse the situation and do little to free up the field of tension causing you concern. The mind is always present, but we need to keep active thinking in proper relationship to listening. Yielding to Primary Respiration is not really about thinking, it is about sensing and witnessing.

Strange is Good

Dr. Jealous speaks of “another mind” that enters the treatment room when we access the grace and wisdom of Primary Respiration. I think that phrase describes the experience well. When we can get the mind to ease up on directionality and move more toward a stance of open witnessing, we are better able to feel the deeper forces at work beneath our mental and perceptual experience. Contact with Primary Respiration opens up a world that is very different from the one we inhabit in our daily lives. Physical laws we have learned to depend upon may become suspended there. Time seems to bend and fold in upon itself. The body occupies a bigger space and engages in movement that cannot be explained with our traditional understanding of anatomy and physiology. It has been explained as being “embryonic.” This is true, but it goes much farther than that.

Learning to “be” with Primary Respiration can be compared to the experience of travelling through a foreign land where you do not know the language at all. Everything is mysterious, the landscape is foreign, customs are different, and you often do not understand what the locals are saying to you. You have to rely on instinct, physical gestures, and careful observation to find your way. So it is when we first enter the perceptual landscape of Primary Respiration and encounter its deep intelligence.

Primary Respiration largely speaks a spatial language. It moves through the wholeness of space and organizes structures within space by forming fields of action. It occupies those fields with biological shapes and the matter required to fulfill its intentions for life. It has great authority and clearly knows what it is doing. When we begin to really yield our will and closely watch how space is moved and organized within and around us, we step further into proper relationship with Primary Respiration and life itself. A natural response is to become very curious about this “other mind” and what it has to teach us about health, disease, natural intelligence, and the intention behind our incarnation.

When students begin to encounter this strata  of experience through exercises in the classroom, words like “strange,” “weird,” and “unusual” are often used – in a positive way! When you encounter refined moving forces of spatial organization that are clearly greater than your understanding, you are on the right track. If you stay curious, open, and humble, more depth will be revealed to you.

Handing over the Reigns of Awareness

When you put the mind in its proper place and open up to spatial movement, it is then easier to understand yielding your awareness so that it can be moved. As the learner deepens into the practice of sensing spatial movement, the value of simply witnessing natural phenomenon becomes obvious. At this point, most students start to really enjoy sitting in the neutrality of witness consciousness. But a common problem here is that learners can lock up their witness consciousness in order to have a stable background to sense from. They find a certain strata of stillness to feel from and may end up limiting their perception because they “stare down” primary respiration from this watch post. Alas, the will is still largely anchored and leveraged against true freedom and the larger forces of health.

To get past this developmental sticking point, it helps to understand that stillness can be of two types: stillness which is generated internally by the will, and stillness that is given to us from external sources. For many, the key to allowing the awareness to be shifted with the Tide lies in working with internally-generated stillness. This requires some self-examination. It involves looking closely at our awareness when we are in witness consciousness and finding the “floor” that we identify with – the internal place around which our experience revolves. Once we find the place of internally-held stillness we can work with that stillness and slowly allow it to be permeated by Primary Respiration. For many, our observer is anchored in this internal stillness, like a sentry atop a watchtower. When we allow the stillness to be permeated by primary respiration, motion is allowed to enter deeply into our sense of self … and it changes us. It reshapes our consciousness and deconstructs our sense of self. When we accept this movement and allow the witness to shift with the Tide, we are freed up to explore and understand broader natural and divine phenomena. Our observer can be moved, and we begin to experience a degree of physical transparency. It is only then that we can truly get out of the way and allow primary respiration to take us on the journey that it knows is appropriate for that sequence of moments.

When our observer is moved, therapy becomes a participatory act where we willingly allow our awareness to be molded and placed in “locations” we could have never accessed on our own. We are led to see and feel life from vantage points that reveal greater wholeness than we previously knew possible, both for ourselves and our clients. Structural puzzles solve themselves and the tightest of biological knots loosen. The mind is healed and clarity moves to the forefront of our experience when we allow Primary Respiration to show us parts of life we have lost contact with. But we have to get out of the way! We have to yield more and more of the self-construct and trust that we will be given experiences of value if we allow the self to be unfolded and reshaped by the ocean in the air around us. We have to give up what we know in order to be moved into an understanding of new realities. Just to clarify, I am not speaking of imagery or symbolism here. This is a sensory experience! It is felt! It is spatial!

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.