Years before I went to massage school, I received monthly craniosacral therapy sessions from Nina Davis for 2-3 years. I didn’t know what craniosacral therapy was, exactly, but I figured that between trauma, head injuries, sacrum injuries, and scoliosis in my spine, that any kind of bodywork that focused on the cranium, sacrum, and points in between was going to be good for me. I asked who was good. Nina was recommended.
And it was good for me! I laid on a table with my clothes on, shoes off. Nina was mostly silent, touching my feet or my head or another place on my body with a light hand. I was still and silent, and I’m sure I sometimes dipped into sleep. Afterwards, I’d go to work.
After a while, I’d ask her what she was doing, and she started explaining craniosacral work to me, showing me anatomy pictures, explaining the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. Her knowledge of anatomy was phenomenal. At the time, it seemed almost alien, but something I deeply respected. I realized I was unfamiliar with processes in my own body.
I didn’t know how she was doing it, but she was able to perceive little shifts in my body before I did with more sensitivity than I myself had. It seemed like that was out of reach for me. It seemed superhuman.
I noticed after each session that I felt a little more like I inhabited my own body. I now would call that centering. Life often brings stresses and traumas and shocks that take us out of our centers, and unless we’re lucky, we don’t know how to regain our centers. Craniosacral therapy helps.
I also remember one session in particular where she worked on the locus ceruleus, and I went into a deep state of relaxation, deeper than I ever had been while awake. It was absolutely delicious.
Later, when I was still a massage student at Lauterstein-Conway, I took a six-hour continuing education class on craniosacral therapy. We learned a little theory and practiced various holds on each other. This was classic, Upledger-style craniosacral work, a biomechanics practice working with the sacrum and bones of the neurocranium.
In the afternoon, I was practicing on my partner and thinking to myself that I just didn’t have enough sensory acuity in my hands to do this because I couldn’t even feel the cranial rhythmic impulse (CRI, the rhythm of cerebrospinal fluid).
And then something happened. It was like a veil lifted. My hands suddenly began to recognize that a lot of “information” was coming it. It was like a form of electricity was flowing from my partner’s head into my hands. I couldn’t clearly tell what was me and what was her. It felt electric, like a power surge, but not unpleasant like a shock. It was warm, and it had a buzz and layers to it. It felt like multiple rhythms entwining with her life force.
I didn’t know what to do with it or what it was, but I was hooked. I like it when a veil parts and I get to experience reality more deeply and fully.
And…I was still a student in massage school, getting the education needed to get licensed. It wasn’t something I could pursue just then, so I filed the memory away and forgot about it.
Six months after getting my massage license, I was having dinner with my friend Katie Raver in Central Market South. I notice she was looking over my shoulder at something happening behind me, and then she said,
“Hey, MaryAnn, that guy sitting behind you has a bone.”
“Hey, nice vertebrae!” she said to him.
I turned around and saw a young man sitting by himself contemplating a bone. I knew it wasn’t a vertebrae. He seemed friendly, so we went over to his table and looked at it. I could not identify the unusual bone. I wasn’t sure it was even a human bone.
Finally he told me it was a sphenoid, a bone from inside the human head.
The guy was David Harel, and it turned out he was a craniosacral therapist, and not only that, he shared an office suite with Nina Davis! Small world. Like Jimi Hendrix and his guitar, David carries a sphenoid with him.
Also, he had very good eye contact, which Katie mentioned later.
She left, and David and I started talking, about yoga, meditation, dance, bodywork, healing, nutrition, and more.
At some point, he said to me,
“Why aren’t you a craniosacral therapist?”
And I wondered the same thing myself and found no barriers.
This was on a Monday night. David told me about a four-day training that started on Thursday. I scraped the money together to attend. I swapped shifts and had to leave early a couple of days, but I could not pass up this opportunity to learn craniosacral therapy.
The teacher was Ryan Hallford, and he reminded me a lot of my NLP teacher, Tom Best, with his presence, sense of humor, equanimity, and ability to improvise a guided meditation for giving a craniosacral session. The training was entry-level biodynamic craniosacral therapy. I took extensive notes.
I kept attending trainings with Ryan, including some in classical craniosacral therapy, and reading books, watching videos, and most of all practicing on people.
I am in love with it and plan to do a whole lot more of it over the years to come.
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