Saturday, September 24, 2016
Monty usually comes in about once a month, though lately its been more frequently. He has been going through some really rough times, his parents are both sick, his dad terminal. About a month ago Monty was having back pain but we have worked on that and it is much better now. He came in today and talked about how his dad’s health is declining, not much time left. It is clear Monty wants to cry but is also fighting it. I encourage him to let it out (meaning cry) but I know from the past that he won’t.
As he lays on the table and I am holding his diaphragm (in the middle of his chest) I feel him releasing tension, grief and sorrow. Then it strikes me, he is letting it out. He is coming here to let it out, that’s exactly what he is doing on the table. Since he can’t let go with tears or words the release he gets on treatment table time is that much more important. It is his outlet. Sometimes sessions are about getting in touch with the grief, and once a person is able to do that they can go home and have a good cry, letting the grief out on their own. Some people aren’t able to do that.
I suppose the sessions act as a faucet: opening to let the grief, anxiety, anger and sorrow flow out. Monty won’t cry in front of his mom because he feels she is maxed out on her own health issues and her concern for her husband, Monty's father. So he comes here to drain off some of the grief. As the load lightens he gains clarity and strength.
Sofia has been coming in for about 3 years, every two months or so. Occasionally she has physical aches and pains, but most sessions are preventative, to help maintain good mental health. Sofia is one of those people who deals with her difficult childhood by being relentlessly optimistic. Like the character Rob Lowe played on the TV show Parks and Rec, though I never seen Sofia do celebratory lunges.
When she came in the other day she seemed especially happy; feeling healthy, work and home were going well, and her daughter just got into her preferred college. When I came onto her system I felt nothing at first, as if her system were too fatigued to even acknowledge my presence. Then a flash of anger at me which quickly shifted to some deep sadness. Throughout this my hands rested lightly on her feet, then I went underneath her sacrum and the back of her head. I held her without judgement, simply observing the sequence of emotions. As the sadness faded her system began to feel more energetic, her flow feeling more vibrant.
She got up off from the treatment table and we moved back to the chairs. She asked me what I felt. I described the sadness and asked if she knew what it was about.
“Oh yes.” She said quickly. “My cat just died.” I wondered why she hadn’t said anything at check-in but it did explain the sadness. I asked if she had been close to her cat and she described the love and devotion she felt to her cat and how he had been a comfort for her through some rough times. She said had tried talking to her friends about her grief, but they seemed uncomfortable with this relentlessly optimistic person being sad, so they quickly changed the subject.
With the information about her cat dying I could look back at the table time and understand what happened: at first her system was reluctant to share (the sense of nothingness or fatigue), then she feared I would ignore or judge her grief or so became defensive and angry. Once she felt confident I understood the importance of her feelings of loss her system was able to move forward. The flood gates opened and the true feelings, the grief, arose.
This doesn’t mean she wasn’t still sad about losing the cat, nor should it. At the end of our session she was very grateful. She felt heard and respected, and that felt much better.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Years ago I arrived at my therapist's office a bit early. It was cold outside so I waited in the hallway to her home, far away from the therapy room. After our session she informed me that from then on I was to please not come inside until my appointment time, not pull my car into the parking lot till the person before me had left. She wanted her patients to have their privacy. On one hand, I understood—no one wants to be “outed” for seeking help without their permission. On the other hand—was it bad to seek help working through our issues? Were we supposed to feel embarrassed and to skulk around? To not smile or at least nod if we happened to cross paths? This predicament, privacy v. publicly, was irrelevant for my old office. It had a secluded entrance and, since I scheduled time between sessions to write my chart notes, clients rarely crossed paths. Then my lease expired and I had to move. Suddenly, as I looked at possible offices, the privacy v. publicly issue wasn’t irrelevant anymore.
As I was looking for a new space, coincidentally, so was my Pilates teacher. For years we had discussed how sharing a space would mutually support our complementary practices and our clients. This was the opportunity to find a space together. Now we’ve been in the new space for a year.
My office is in a private treatment room in a corner of her Pilates studio. While the craniosacral sessions remain private, my clients may walk past Pilates in progress, single and/or group sessions and may see and be seen by other people. I also practice Pilates at the studio. People may see me clumsy and struggling to follow the should-be-graceful movements of Pilates. I may even be in a Pilates class with a cranial client of mine. Part of me is embarrassed and wishes I could skulk away. But I strive to hold my head up proudly while practicing Pilates. It is only through practicing Pilates that I will improve. I believe being open and accepting our own flaws is an essential step to growing through them.
Whether you believe we are all imperfect beings, or all perfect as we are—we’re all in the same boat (love those water analogies). We all have our strengths, failings, flashes of ugly and moments of beauty and compassion. Letting go of judgement frees up vast caches of energy. Accepting imperfections; our own and other people’s gives us the space and the grace to experiment and explore our own unique way forward. The irony! Exposing our imperfections opens the path to better mental, physical and spiritual health.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
I woke during the middle of the night a few weeks ago, listening to the beeps and swishes of the ICU machines, our second night in the hospital. I wanted to weep with gratitude for those machines that were taking care of my son. The day before started at dawn, with my wonderful, obnoxious son cracking jokes as he drove us to the health clinic for his tonsillectomy. By that evening he was drifting between incoherent and unconscious, an adverse reaction to the post-tonsillectomy prescription painkillers.
The ICU machines were the latest of the rapidly growing list of things I was grateful for: prompt paramedics, a speedy ambulance, and medicine to calm his frantic, frenetic behavior. But without a doubt, the most amazing aspect were the emergency room nurses.
In my cranial practice, when a new client comes in, we follow the basic rules of social etiquette. They arrive at my office and politely, sometimes even pleasantly, discuss their health problems and the concerns that lie within their hearts. As we review their health history, I strive to find some pathway to connect with them; such as books, dogs or kids. This connection helps them relax and me gain perspective on their issues. Since cranial sessions are collaborative between the practitioner and the client, this connection facilitates our teamwork. Having a good connection as we begin is like having a delicious slice of cake after a good meal—not essential, but a lovely bonus.
That first night in the emergency room, the patient those nurses cared for, my son, was either unconscious, thrashing around, or needing the sheets changed, again and again. The nurses were gentle and reassuring, especially impressive considering they were racing from room to room to care for too many patients. They didn’t have the luxury of connection while they worked, as compassionate by the end of the night as they had been at the beginning.
I am grateful for many things from that hospital stay: things returned and things anew. I am grateful for the return of my son back to his wonderful, obnoxious self. I hold a renewed reverence for my clients; their courage at confronting their issues. And I have gained a new appreciation of the work of a nurse; the compassion they show for someone under duress, unknowable but still demanding. I admire their stamina and their skill. I am grateful for their hearts.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
A few year back I made a New Year’s Resolution:
“To bike to work unless I had a reason not to.” Could there exist a more spineless resolution?
But it worked. I bike most days and have noticed, as I ride past the city’s speedometers, that my speed is a little faster than it used to be.
Sometimes the little things are enough.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Few of us live our lives at the optimal pace for our minds and bodies, or take the time to replenish our reserves as we should. If we are going to keep pushing, I wonder what respite, how much downtime, is enough to be worthwhile.
Kit is the CEO of a mid-sized corporation. She is responsible for a large staff and budget. She comes into my office once a month on her way to work and for an hour she lets the world slip away. While she is relaxing her body is resourcing, recharging her batteries. Then she gets up off the table and returns to her life of fast-paced meetings and far-reaching decisions. Sometimes, as we are about to start the session I wonder if would she be better off without the pause. Since she continues to come in it must be worthwhile for her, yet I can't help but question -- Is that brief respite enough?
After last session I had some insights…
Starting in the head and reverberating throughout the body, the cranial rhythm moves vertically through the body, 8-14 waves per minute. The downward phase is called inhalation and the upward phase is exhalation. Between them is a brief pause. This wave pattern is similar to the ocean tides. The back and forth motion of the tides also has a pause, its called slacktide.
Slack water, which used to be known as 'the stand of the tide', is a short period in a body of tidal water when the water is completely unstressed, and therefore no movement either way in the tidal stream, and which occurs before the direction of the tidal stream reverses. Wikipedia
The ocean takes a pause from the tides, and our bodies' internal cranial rhythm takes a pause. Deemed by our own bodies and by nature, I believe the answer is yes, even short breaks are worthwhile.