~ Marya Bradley
As I sit down to write, I hear wind sloughing through the fluttering heart-shaped leaves of the Basswood tree and heavy boughs of the Spruce at my windows; it is a soft, shivery, sibilant sound that arrives in a whispered rush and recedes, like the sound of a wandering delicate rain or the break and sprawl of distant surf. And interwoven in this lulling sound, come the intermittent sweet melodic chat and calling of song birds and the less sweet but persistent sounds of traffic on the road that divides the bluff on which I live from the shore of the Lake below and beyond.
I hear and also feel how these sounds touch both my outer ear and then, inside, reach the heart and mind of me and stir within a fluid quiet response, but I choose to loosen, gradually, my attention on them, not to lose them, but to allow them to float in the wider element of air we share, so my listening can descend to a different depth. These familiar sounds slowly become, as they float now around me, a kind of subtle outer net or hammock that sustains my sense of place and the surface air we share -- the way stars or the sun or moon and neighboring planets help us know where we are in the vast fields of the cosmos.
Held so in this subtle way by outer sounds, I begin to listen in a different way: all the fibers of my being become a kind of single instrument of listening, and all that comes to my senses or inner awareness, comes in as a permeating form of touch. It is from here, this “place” of quiet attention, that I turn towards you to offer a reflection on the profound nature of the therapeutic approach I practice, the “work” in which I am engaged to support the healing and healing processes and potentials that can unfold in sessions of what has come to be called, by the somewhat weighty descriptive name, craniosacral biodynamics.
I set the word ‘work’, above, in quotation marks, because the character of what I am doing when I support a person who has come to me for a session can seem to be so little like what we so often take to mean by “work”—that active pursuit of a determined purpose, requiring a high level of exertion, will, concentration and efficiency of means to obtain a desired end. Rather my work with a client requires a kind of suspension of much that belongs to that more conventional or “western” sense of work: it is not my will, not my industry, nor intellect or physical strength, not even, immediately, my knowledge, exactly, either, that are needed foremost; instead, it is my capacity to listen feelingly, to be present with all my being and hold in clear, steady and compassionate relation to the one who has come to find relief, insight and healing; this, and then, of course, the more active capacity to recognize and respond in a skilled, attuned and appropriately supportive way to that which arises in/for the client in that field of mutual listening and being together.
The fundamental elements of this work, its deep drama, touch the mystery of our being. For this kind of work recognizes and relies on the truth that each of us has come into being and evolved always in relationship to at least one other being: to our mother and father, within our mother, and then, too, to the long ancient stream of our ancestors and wider family, to all the life and history of our circumstances and inheritances, our culture and to the ever-expanding circle of influences and relationships, but also, and equally importantly, to the living source of life itself, a portion of whose cosmic river flows within and sustains us. Our experiences of being, in all their differing intensities arise in relation to others as well as to the deep source of life within each and all of us; our potentials and our wounds and, as this therapy recognizes, our healing, all occur ever in our sense of relation to the life/lives around us and within.
When I meet with a client, then, I am, at the same time, meeting a rich and complexly unique stream of life that opens into the oceanic river of being. And as we settle into the session together, I too, set aside what obscures that which in me opens to that vaster reservoir and source of being, so together, the client and I enter into a sacred kind of listening and open attention, wherein the healing intention arises and unfolds.
One of my fairly early and later, periodically recurring experiences of entering into something like this kind of sacred attention in relation to another happened to me when I was quite a young child in a pine forest.
I was alone in what was really not more than a small wood of Eastern White Pine trees, but which was to me a forest; my forest floor was blanketed with layers and layers of the soft brown fallen pine-needles and beds of lily of the valley. It was not far from my home, and I would go there to play and watch the sky through the high branches of the trees and smell the pine sap and perfume of the lilies. There were often times when I may have gone there because I was lonesome, and it may have been one such time when I was there gathering pine cones or making elf houses in the roots, when suddenly I felt something like a stream of warm light reach its silent stream through me; it held me still as I turned to look to its source in the sun looking down through the pine boughs above me. I stood gazing through my eyelashes into the light and held steadily there breathing and drinking in what seemed to me to be the food my heart most needed. I had the feeling that I could not move, that I was called upon to answer that touch with all my heart and all my being, as though I were being spoken to in the language of light, and nothing else mattered in that moment but to listen and respond. It seemed even then to my young self, to be something secret, something special given to me that taught me as I was receiving it, how to respond and how I was responsible to its gift.
As I write this, I can feel even now how that beam’s touch yet lives in me and is a source of restoration and food for my heart and spirit. That sense of being addressed—spoken to by the voice of a living presence –that being touched by the presence of another being, and the subsequent sense of allowing all of one’s being to come in answer to that kind of subtle touch by an act of deep attention, is at the very basis of the “work” I do with a client. And what “happens” in this special kind of meeting and witnessing, is somewhat mysterious; in the resonant field of the relationship of two beings in deep attention and awareness, something that does not “belong” to either being, but is present in both, finds the right condition of safety, compassion, open-hearted and -handed listening and acknowledgement, to begin the unweaving and re-weaving, the recognizing and the letting in and letting go, the remembering and repairing—all the layered and deep process of healing, in the timing that is right for the one who came in search or need of healing.
Always I am moved to respect and admiration for —awe, even-- at the depth and beauty and courage of those I work with as well as for the depth I myself am called to in witness and, finally, ever awaken anew to the mystery of being itself as it is revealed in each of us and in our work together.