Biodynamic Meditation posts on Instagram

I started studying craniosacral therapy in 2011 while still a massage student, after receiving it monthly for 3 years and understanding its sometimes-subtle but cumulative benefits to my health and well-being.

I started studying craniosacral biodynamics in 2013. Three days after learning it existed and hearing it described, I was in a class.

It’s a passion of mine. I’ve taken dozens of classes since, in both biodynamic and directive, Upledger-style CST. I’ve taken several classes multiple times and been a teaching assistant.

Craniosacral biodynamics works quite a bit with interoception, the “felt sense” in oneself.

A lot of the language in my classes was highly conceptual even though referring to felt states. There’s a big gap between concept and experience, between the map and the territory. It was frustrating!

What does the Breath of Life feel like? How do you distinguish the different tides? What does a still point feel like? How do you track potency? What about the different stages? What the heck is Dynamic Stillness and how do you get there?

I started experimenting with trying to sense these concepts in my meditation practice and had some pretty profound experiences, such as feeling like I was in the ocean and currents were flowing through and around me, experiencing a me-shaped hole of emptiness surrounded by dense energies holding me in place, the sense of being breathed, and the like.

But they were random experiences and I still didn’t know the names for them or how to get there. Hence pursuing more training.

Sequencing is important in a yoga class. You prepare carefully with easier poses and work up to the harder poses you didn’t think you could do — and then, wow, you’re doing them! It’s important in teaching and learning Craniosacral Biodynamics, too, guided by carefully considered preparation.

All of these states and experiences have helped me become more whole and healthy, wise and compassionate about our common human experience. They help me heal, and I do have experiences to heal from, still.

Samsara can be so rough.

I am an investigator, an Enneagram 5. I am driven by curiosity and learning and compassion. I came into this world to make a difference, and although side-lined by early difficulties, I’m doing it now.

Where I am now is this: I have a private practice in West Lake Hills, an old Austin suburb, where I offer two specialties: Craniosacral Biodynamics and TMJ Relief.

I also offer the same specialties in downtown Austin, at West Holistic Medicine.

And, I’m doing an experiment on Instagram. Every day I do a #biodynamicmeditation and post about it on Instagram. I choose images and music to accompany my words. It’s fun and growing, gaining followers, including teachers of Craniosacral Biodynamics.

If you want to follow me there, I’m @mareynolds. These posts also appear on my Facebook business page and on Tumblr and LinkedIn.

What’s behind this new endeavor? Well, if I could receive a Biodynamic session every day, I would! But I can’t afford it and don’t always have time.

However, I do have time to meditate every day. So do you, most likely, on most days.

So I practice Biodynamic Meditation and post about it, with an eye to eventually teaching it as a recognized form of meditation where the focus is on self-healing and restoring vitality. You can follow my progress.

Whatever we couldn’t process at the time gets contained energetically. Sometimes we experience releases and may or may not be aware of it. We feel more ourselves, more centered, grounded, vibrant, confident, resourceful.

Craniosacral Biodynamics greatly augments the body-mind’s ability to heal itself of dysregulation, stuckness, inertia.

When that energy is released, it returns to our overall vitality and well-being.

It accelerates wellness.

I’ve been practicing Biodynamics in meditation, in classes, and with clients for almost a decade. I am far from enlightened, though I have moments of deep presence and clarity about who I am, why I’m here, and what I want.

I am much healther, grounded, centered, aware, bigger minded, and bigger hearted than I used to be. And people who have known me for that long or longer have noticed.

This is where I am now, and I appreciate you reading about my process. There will be more to come, I’m sure. If you have questions, please ask!

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The three ignitions, plus some great questions

It’s been a good long while since I’ve posted anything here, and I have a free Monday morning, so here goes!

I just got back last night from a 3-day retreat on Biodynamics and Spiritual Embodiment taught by my colleague Christian Current. (If you don’t know already, I practice craniosacral biodynamics in Austin and Taos. Professional website: maryannreynolds.com.)

The setting was a private rural acreage 25 miles away from my home — with only the sounds of birds, wind, wind chimes, and running water from bubbling pools and fountains. No noise from traffic, sirens, planes — lovely. There were cabins, an Airstream, and a Winnebago for sleeping, and a talented young cook provided fresh healthful tasty food for the 12 of us. A pool and hot tub and gardens rounded out the amenities.

The retreat centered around the three energetic ignitions that occur in every living human before and right after birth: the conception ignition, the heart ignition, and the birth ignition.

Please note that the locations of these ignitions correspond to the upper, middle, and lower dantiens in Taoist energy physiology, to the three bony compartments of our bodies, the cranium, rib cage, and pelvis, and to three major energies we experience as humans, the energies of being, of relating, and of autonomy.

I learned a lot! Did you know that there’s a flash of light at conception, and that after the invited sperm embeds in the ovum, the sperm head dissolves and 20 minutes of complete stillness follow?

Maybe that’s why so many meditation guidelines recommend 20 minutes once or twice a day.

Did you know that the place where the sperm enters the egg becomes the third eye/ajna chakra/third ventricle of brain?

Did you know that blood is the first organ (it’s connective tissue) and it forms the heart? Not, as one might think, the container forms first and then fills.

Did you know that when the umbilical cord stops pulsing (on its own — it’s frequently severed too soon) and the first breath is taken, an ignition occurs that where the baby separates as an entity from its mother?

There was so much more. Some of it I’ve learned in previous trainings, but not in this much depth.

Oh, and it was full of great questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I want? What makes me happy?
  • What power(s) do I wield? What effects do I see I make in the world or myself?

I wanted to find the clearest truth possible in each of my answers:

  • I am loving awareness, which is always present as a baseline.
  • What I want and what makes me happy are the same: fulfillment.
  • My greatest power is choice.

How would you answer these questions?

Nearing the end of trauma recovery: confidence and agency

One aspect of recovering from PTSD is not knowing when or if your trauma response will be activated again.

(Some people don’t like the word “triggered” and prefer to say “activated”. I’m using that term now to be more neutral. If a gun was involved in someone’s trauma, to say “triggered” in itself could be activating.)

I recently had an experience that really showed me how much progress I have made in trauma recovery, and I want to share it here in case you or someone you care about is struggling with PTSD recovery. It may give you/them confidence in the healing process.

But first, some background.

I’ve had an extreme stress response activated several times years after doing a lot of work on trauma recovery, which was many years after my childhood trauma.

These stress responses always seemed to happen out of the blue…as once again, the rug was pulled out from under my feet, and I lost my ground and was sent spinning, not knowing which way was up or down.

It’s pretty miserable to be flooded with stress hormones just because something happened in the present that in some way reminded me of the original trauma. The threat seems very real at the time.

However, I’d like to make it clear that each time I went into a stress response, I learned something. I wasn’t entirely helpless.

The most important learning was to check the situation out: just because my body and mind were all jacked up in response to an apparent immediate threat to my safety doesn’t mean there was an actual immediate threat to my safety.

I did some simple critical thinking. Am I safe in this very moment?

I was safe. No one was directly threatening me or my loved ones.

My perceptions played a trick on me because the original trauma was wired into my nervous system. That’s what PTSD is.

Even though I was grateful to be safe, I still had to deal with the cascade of stress chemicals.

When that happened, I tended to hole up by myself because I felt toxic and didn’t want to spread the toxicity. I did more self-nurturing than usual, taking soothing baths, skin brushing, giving myself manicures and pedicures and facials, listening to soothing music or recordings (Pema Chodron is great, also anything funny), taking naps and getting plenty of sleep, wearing soft fabrics, eating healthy, drinking endless cups of camomile tea.

I listened to guided meditations because it was so difficult to calm my monkey mind down when I tried doing my usual silent meditations.

My acupuncturist at the time said I had adrenal fatigue and recommended taking rhodiola and ginseng. After the first few times of being activated, I sought a Somatic Experiencing practitioner who helped me a lot.

My usual behavior was more go-go-go, hmmm, must be nice to have time for that stuff.

Was I addicted to stress? Did that make my stress response worse? I don’t know.

I made time to slow down and nurture myself and came to appreciate these activities when not activated.

I noticed that each time my trauma response was activated, it took less time to return to normal than before. The first time I was activated, it took three full months. The second time, about six weeks. The most recent, about a week.

And then just a few days ago, this happened:

I woke as I often do about 4 am. I laid in bed, in the dark, and my mind made its way back to a memory associated with the original trauma.

I started to feel activated. My back felt prickly and I felt agitated and a little panicky, like I need to do something! Now!

I realized I was at the beginning of a stress response. For the first time, it happened mildly and slowly enough that I was conscious of it beginning.

I did not want to go into a full-blown stress response.

I stopped thinking about the original trauma and brought my attention to my body, curled up safe in my bed, under the covers with my favorite pillow in the dark, in the present moment.

And the agitation and panic and chemical cascade just stopped. It seems like it took less than a minute to feel fully back to my safe and healthy self.

It seemed marvelous to me that I stopped being retraumatized simply by using my mind constructively.

I later told this to my colleague who’s helped me with trauma recovery bodywork, and he said I had agency.

Yes. I was not helpless, which seems to be a hallmark of traumatic experience. I could do something about it because I was conscious of the onset, able to distinguish present from past, able to direct my attention, and I knew what I wanted — safety and peace, not activation.

Also, there may have been some energetic guidance helping, but I don’t know for sure.

I do recall recently voicing what so many trauma survivors experience: How does one ever know that one has fully recovered from a trauma? How can one know there are no more flashbacks, no more activations?

I can’t know for sure, but this feels like a huge step forward in the direction of being free from reactivation.

Craniosacral therapy helps with insomnia

I’ve been giving a lot of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy sessions since returning from some advanced training at the beginning of October.

I’ve also done some trades with other Biodynamics practitioners.

I love this modality of bodywork/energywork. It seems to me to be a natural extension of both bodywork and meditation: it involves light touch, perception, stillness.

I’ve found it is especially helpful for insomnia. I’ve experienced better sleep after I receive a session, and my clients report the same, even those who have difficulty falling asleep as well as difficulty staying asleep.

It helps with both.

One thing we do know about how it works is that it has a calming effect on the central nervous system — the brain and spinal cord — deep in the body.

CST is thought to improve efficiency of biological processes through boosting inherent self-regulation, self-correction and self-healing.

The Cleveland Clinic

By stimulating the rest and recovery systems of the body, the subtle work of CST allows the body to re-source its powers of rehabilitation and revival.

Craniosacral Therapy Association, UK

Craniosacral therapy

Water within, water without

I gave myself a gift, Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening. The subtitle is “having the life you want by being present to the life you have”.

He’s a poet who experienced a major health challenge from which he emerged with this book of inspirations, one for each day of the year.

I’m enjoying it deeply and appreciate that the readings are about one page long. It’s not too wordy, just enough to absorb and integrate easily, early in the day, and coming from a poet, the words are well-chosen.

Today, December 8 (2020), the reading is this:

In the Source-Place

Take a pitcher full of water and set it down in the water — now it has water inside and water outside. We mustn’t give it a name, lest silly people start talking again about the body and the soul.

~ Kabir

We can’t help it. We make much of where we end and where others begin. Yet only after declaring healthy boundaries can we discover and experience the true common water of spirit that Kabir talks about. It can be confusing. But, though we are not always eloquent or clear in what comes out, everyone is clear as water in the source-place where mind and heart start as one.

As Teilhard de Chardin said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Entering our days with this perspective can make a difference. It provides the ocean for our small pitcher of life.

It helps to remember that despite all our struggles for identity, despite the weight of living, there is an irrepressible ounce of spirit in each of us, a wellspring we carry within, that can be blocked but not contained. It emanates through all beings as the longing for love and peace.

When opening our longing, our honest want for love, we open the fountainhead of spirit, and then, like Kabir’s pitcher, we are water living in water, love living in love, a small thing alive in a big thing alive, a breath inside a wind.

  • Sit quietly, and as you breathe, think of yourself as Katir’s small pitcher of water.
  • Breathe deeply and freely, and think of the unseeable world of spirit around you as an ocean that carries you.
  • Breathe slowly and cleanly, and try to feel how you and the life around you are made of the same thing.
Pitcher of water

~~~

I woke this morning feeling the expansion of energies in my feet and my hands and throughout my body. This reading resonates strongly with that.

Outside, inside, all one.

Today is a working day in my office, a day when I offer artful touch to bodywork clients. I have two craniosacral therapy sessions booked for this afternoon that I’m anticipating, and this experience of expanded energy that I experienced on awakening and often experience while giving sessions is similar to water living in water, a breath inside a wind.

A delicious and simple green soup

I did a craniosacral therapy session last week on a friend whom I hadn’t seen since the start of the pandemic. I went to his home since he has a massage table. We wore masks during the session with the window open.

The session was successful. He’d taken a spill on his bike, hit his head, didn’t seem too badly injured, went home…and noticed that he just didn’t feel right for a couple of weeks and called me. He felt shifts and releases throughout the session.

I sent him my Post-Concussion Self Care guidelines. If it was a concussion, it was minor, but any time the brain gets sloshed via head injury, craniosacral therapy can help, after any swelling goes down.

Anyway, he’s a great cook, and he invited me to share a mid-afternoon meal of his homemade green soup outdoors on his patio. Of course I accepted!

It was so delicious, I want to make it myself.

Here’s how he described making it:
1. In a stockpot, sauté an onion in olive oil.
2. Chop 2-3 different bunches of greens and stir into onions and olive oil. Choose from chard, spinach, kale, beet greens, collards, dandelion greens, arugula, or whatever leafy greens you like or have on hand.
3. Add 1 teaspoon salt.
4. Add about 6 cups water, cover, bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.
5. When cool enough to handle, pour into a Vitamix and blend.
6. If purée is too thick, add water to thin to desired consistency.
7. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.

After heating it, he added chunks of avocado, a handful of pumpkin seeds, fresh garlic chives, and salt and pepper to taste. Oh, and bird peppers! I tried one. Too hot for me.

Yum. The amazing thing is how simple this recipe is. Of course, you could fancy it up by adding garlic, herbs, lemon juice or vinegar, and veggie or chicken stock instead of water. You could add a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream or some croutons, or grate Parmesan on top.

I’ve since made it in an Instant Pot. Even quicker! Sauté onions and greens in olive oil. Add water and salt. Use the pressure cooker setting for 5 minutes, then let it naturally release. Season and garnish.

Self-Help for Jaw Pain class on Zoom

Dentists are seeing more people coming in with cracked teeth during this pandemic. People are clenching and grinding because of stress.

Doing manual therapy in people’s mouths is risky at this time.

Here’s an alternative.

I’m offering an online course on Zoom, teaching people what it takes to create lasting relief from jaw pain. (Sadly, it’s rarely a quick fix — it’s more like changing habits and tension patterns.)

Anyway, if you have jaw pain and would rather not, check it out here: maryannreynolds.com.

You have better things to do than suffer.

My advanced integrative bodywork practice

I make my living doing advanced integrative bodywork in Austin, Texas. I use four main techniques: craniosacral therapy, biodynamics, Zero Balancing, and orthopedic massage. As standalone treatments or integrated as needed, depending on my clients’ needs and preferences, these techniques can accomplish the following:

  • reduce stress and deepen relaxation
  • release muscle tension
  • reduce pain
  • improve the flow of fluids
  • align your structure and ease your movement
  • free the flow of energy
  • facilitate healing from injuries
  • harmonize your body’s systems
  • strengthen your body’s innate healing abilities
  • deepen your resilience
  • help you feel expanded and confident

Click here to view my business website.

TMJ Relief

Since 2013, I’ve been developing my skills and expertise in offering relief from jaw tension, pain, and dysfunction. I’ve studied with Ryan Hallford, craniosacral therapist and teacher from Southlake, TX, completed multiple craniosacral courses from the Upledger Institute, and studied with John W. Corry of London, Ontario, long-time massage therapist and teacher specializing in jaw and vocal issues.

My intent when working on jaw issues is to create as little discomfort as possible. This means that any pain experienced should only be productive “hurts-so-good” pain. I check in frequently, and my sessions end with deep relaxation. I can also help you start changing the habits that contribute to jaw discomfort.

I offer several ways to be of service to people with jaw issues:

  • You can join my Facebook group, called Word of Mouth: Resources for Relieving Jaw Pain/Dysfunction, which offers educational units as well as connection with others working on their jaw issues.
  • You may schedule a free 30-minute consultation so I can learn about your jaw issues, do an evaluation, and discover if we’re a good match for successful treatment.
  • You may alternatively schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to answer your questions.
  • You may schedule a 75-minute TMJ Relief session, which can be right after the in-office consultation if that time slot is available on my online scheduling program.
  • You may decide to join my TMJ Relief Program, designed to create long-lasting relief by offering 5 sessions in 4-5 weeks, along with education, exercises, supplement recommendations, links to videos, and more. Many patients try one session and then decide to do the program.

You need to be in Austin to receive a session, unless you arrange my travel elsewhere — please call to discuss if interested. The Facebook group is open to people anywhere who are seeking to address their jaw issues. The educational units (click Units on left panel to view) available for the group include teaching relaxed resting mouth position, jaw exercises, self-massage, relaxation techniques, terminology, sleep positioning, and more.

If you’re interested in joining the group, click this link, answer the three questions, and you’re in!

Improving vagal tone

When do you feel safe? When are you on guard?

If you feel safe except when there is an actual threat to your safety, then you have high vagal tone.

If you feel guarded most or all of the time, even when there is no actual threat to your safety, you have low vagal tone. Low vagal tone can be raised. Continue reading

Treating TMJ issues: a series of posts

I’ve been writing about TMJ pain and dysfunction on my Facebook business page and on my Austin, Texas, USA, private-practice website’s blog. Now I’m sharing an index of these posts here on my “big blog”.

If you have TMJ disorder and want to read any of those posts, here are the links.

I view TMJ issues as not just biomechanics, although it plays a role. This issue has social, emotional, historical, biological, cognitive, and spiritual aspects. I am very aware that some people, especially in the mainstream medical and dental fields, may believe it’s unnecessary or even laughable to provide information on so-called “woo-woo” or “fluffy” topics like essential oils, yoga, and the throat chakra for people who are suffering from jaw pain and dysfunction.

So let me share how I came to write this series of posts. Instead of just going to experts (and I have done that), I also asked women who suffer from this problem what helps, and they told me. And I believe them!

Since nine times more women than men experience severe, chronic TMJ issues, this is super valuable information to share.

I want the world to know that TMJ treatment is available beyond night guards, pain meds, and surgery, and there are so many options for self-care: massage, exercises, training yourself in new habits, reducing stress, improving posture, acupressure, nutrition, stretching, journaling, meditating, and more. I’m working on designing programs to evaluate and treat specific TMJ-related issues. More later!

If you bump into this limited and limiting attitude, please share this post, and please share in the comments your experiences and any other resources you have found helpful.