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!

“I’m just the little one. Please help me.”

Sometimes life can be overwhelming. Trauma is an obvious example. So is simply having too much to manage coming at you all at once.

Right now, in early November 2022, politics and prospects for the future of the U.S. are in our faces, as well as our individual prospects for the future. Personal finances for those depending on Social Security and Medicare, civil liberties for (it seems) everyone but the “Christian” far-right, changes in how we work, the polarization of information sources, the influence of commerce and materialism, disasters from global warming, and so many loud, angry voices, often with guns.

We are living in what currently looks like a post-pandemic world, and we are trying to reorganize amidst a lot of uncertainty. There’s too much unease if you’re sensitive…and if you’re not sensitive, bless your heart and wake up.

I’ve been practicing something new to me. I ask for help. Every day. Sometimes multiple times a day.

I added a line I learned from constellation work to precede my plea. It refers to the innocent, vulnerable child inside all of us — no matter how big or old we are — who is given too much to deal with.

”I’m just the little one.

Please help me.”

You could call it a form of prayer, although I’m not particularly religious. It’s a message and a plea and an acknowledgment that this world of some sorrow is troubling.

I send this message out to whatever unseen power it is that is bigger than me. A higher power. God-Universe-Spirit (GUS), as some friends say. The planets.

I don’t know if there will be an answer that I can understand.

I open my heart and my mind when I make this request. It does seem to help me to at least feel less alone with my struggles.

I don’t know how help will show up. I just trust that it will.

Your help me come in the form of an inspiration to vote, if you’re registered but not in the habit, because this election could be the last election, in which case you will lose that right. Democracy requires participation. No choice means someone else makes decisions that affect you, your family and friends and community, your finances, your future, your freedom.

You may be inspired to become a poll watcher (or watch the poll watchers to be sure they don’t interfere with those voting).

You may be inspired to give people rides to the polls if you can.

You may be inspired to avoid the news until at least a week after the election, since that’s how long it takes just to count all the votes. Or even longer, since the courts will probably decide in some cases.

I hope you vote for peaceful and reasonable solutions to our problems and help stop the chaos.

Jittery about the election? Here are some simple things you can do to reduce stress

I recently completed a 4-hour continuing education class in Ethics, Communication, and Boundaries through the Lens of the Nervous System. The instructor based this course around applying polyvagal theory in a massage therapy practice.

I want to share some simple things that anyone can use to reduce stress, because many of us may be feeling jumpy and tense, especially with an election approaching. 

Experiment with these and find your favorites — and use them as needed when your stress response is activated! 

  • Making your exhalations longer than your inhalations for a couple of minutes.
  • Singing and humming. 
  • Orienting to the space you’re in by slowly gazing all around you. 
  • Lifting your gaze and imagining the sun shining on your face, neck, and shoulders. 
  • Finding something that’s pleasing and telling yourself “I am safe and happy”. 
  • Making micro movements, dancing, doing yoga. 
  • Listening to calming music. 

Do you find yourself doing any of these without a thought? My mother often hummed when she was washing dishes.

Music and dancing are important parts of my life. I created a playlist of happy music with the help of numerous friends on Facebook who made recommendations. I’m capping it at 100 songs and will post a link to it on Apple Music when I’ve finished listening to everything…a lot of it was new to me.

I have noticed already that some of the happiest-making songs are about dancing!

 

10 years after she died, a tribute to Gabrielle Roth

One of my practices is ecstatic dance. I discovered it in 1995 in Austin, and it became part of my life. Gabrielle was my primary teacher, through teachers she trained and also in person.

Gabrielle was, well, not the inventor of ecstatic dance, since I’m pretty sure it was happening the moment humans began creating rhythm, perhaps even before then in response to nature’s rhythms, shapes, sounds.

She named these rhythms and sequenced them: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, stillness. A wave.

If you’re not familiar with it, ecstatic dance is not performative. It is about connecting with your own body, moving from the inside out. We dance like nobody is watching.

I have danced with several of the people in this video: Kathy, Lori, Andrea, Vincent, Ya’acov, Jo, Michael, Amara, and I met Robert.

Watch Gabrielle move at the end.

and then I met Gabrielle | memories of Gabrielle Roth, 1941-2012

Most of my ecstatic dancing has been here in Austin, which offers many choices now, though we started as Sweat Your Prayers, dancing the 5 rhythms.

I’ve danced in Dallas, Santa Fe, Taos, Mill Valley, Santa Cruz, Maui, London, Montreal, and DC.

My primary teachers have been Claire Alexander, Lisa DeLand, and Oscar Madera.

Ecstatic dance helped me get into my body and move in an authentic and pleasurable way, challenging myself to find all the movements, developing finer coordination and balance, being able to hold my space in a room full of dancers, connecting, becoming part of a community.

Over these many years through this practice, I developed an auditory-kinesthetic synesthesia, in which sound and movement are one. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to tune into my body and let what wants to move, move.

Dancers enjoy the fun of dancing. It’s not intellectual. It’s not serious. We are present and full of vitality, aware and responsive. We show up with who we are. We communicate nonverbally, inviting another to move with us, or moving into our own solo dance, with eye contact (or lack of it), using prayer hands, touch (with consent), bows, moving toward or away, expressing with body language.

We tend to hug a lot, and we’re pretty good at it.

I’m so grateful to have found ecstatic dance and to have practiced it for nearly 30 years. I believe it’s helping to keep me young, and the older I get, the younger I get!

👣💚🙏🏽

For more of Gabrielle herself, she spoke at length at the Breath of Life Conference in London in 2009, to practitioners of another one of my practices, Craniosacral Biodynamics.

Here’s the video.

Whole grain bowls are healthy and creative!

A local food trailer that serves wonderfully healthy vegan food has inspired me. The food trailer is called ATX Food, and it’s parked just outside Bicycle Sports Shop on South Lamar, just south of the McDonald’s on Barton Springs and Lamar (which appears to be closed).

ATX Food makes fabulous quinoa bowls! There are several varieties. Each bowl on their menu includes toasted quinoa, half a perfectly ripe avocado, pickled red cabbage, and a generous dusting of sesame seeds. These bowls are colorful as well as healthy!

The photo below is their Chickpea Power Bowl. Other ingredients include wild mushrooms and fresh field greens (hiding under everything else). A green goddess dressing tops it off.

You can get bowls with squash, tomatoes, kale…and there’s even version with barbecued tempeh.

One of these bowls is more than enough food for me. And they are $12. I thought I would try my hand making them at home.

I like to improvise, and I went to town on my homemade grain bowls! Every day I concoct something different. like a variety of colors and textures and tastes. I like my bowls to serve my health as well as my eyes and tastebuds and mouth-feel.

So far I’ve used quinoa and wild rice, both hearty grain-like seeds. In the future I may use brown rice, black rice, buckwheat.

I could also replace the grains/seeds with legumes, and if I want more protein, I can add baked tofu, nuts, seeds, a jammy egg, feta, a sardine. (I’m not vegan, but I am making my diet more plant-based.)

I typically add spring mix but I could use any other kind of lettuce. Other raw veggies: those colorful mini-bell peppers, mixed colors of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, snap peas, green onions, chopped cauliflower, broccoli, or kale will all make a more salad-like bowl.

Possibilities for cooked veggies include asparagus, carrots, celery, green beans, mushrooms, spinach, sweet potatoes, squash, kale, chard, collards, beets. It’s good to research which veggies have more nutrients cooked, versus raw. (Not everyone agrees.) It’s a good way to use leftovers, too.

I enjoy the taste of pickled veggies, and I’ve pickled red cabbage at home…it’s easy, adds a pop of color and taste, and is a lot faster than making kraut. Pickled beets, okra, or ginger add nice pops of flavor, too.

Fermenting food is one of my favorite ways to prepare food. How much should you eat in a day? Short answer: as many types as you can, to strengthen your immune system and improve digestion.

Right now I have kombucha in my cupboard, going through a second fermentation with pomegranate juice. A two-quart jar of beet kvass sits on my counter. My refrigerator holds two jars of homemade kim chi.

I’ll soon be making kraut from a big beautiful red cabbage and salt. Kombucha, kvass, kim chi, and kraut are the big 4 Ks in my kitchen.

I also fermented soy beans, inoculating them with store-bought frozen natto. I now have lots of sticky, stringy natto that is so good with kim chi, and so good for getting calcium into your bones.

Wow, where am I? I really went off on a tangent there! I add kim chi or kraut to my bowls.

There are lots of ways to garnish a bowl: fresh sprouts, microgreens, pepitas, pistachios, chopped walnuts or almonds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, pomegranate seeds, blueberries!

I like Bragg’s dressings made with olive oil. I love a good sesame-ginger dressing too. There’s a delicious miso dressing sold at H-E-B (Oka’s) that I want to replicate with healthy oil. Salsa, tahini, and yogurt are other possibilities.

The opportunities to create beautiful food that tastes great are many. These bowls are balanced, colorful, textured, and nutrient-dense. I like to eat one for my main meal of the day. If I’m hungry in the evening, I eat lightly.

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?

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.

New offering: Self-Help for Jaw Pain, an online course, starts soon!

Besides blogging here, I have had a private bodywork practice in Austin, Texas, USA, for years.

One area that I specialized in was relieving jaw pain. I developed a 5-session protocol (done over 4-6 weeks) that helped hundreds of people over the years. That work included working in people’s open mouths to release tension in the small, hard-to-access internal jaw muscles.

Well, COVID put an end to working in people’s open mouths in a small room, in a office suite that treats medically vulnerable people.

I thought about giving it up.

But when I thought about all I’d learned over the years about treating jaw pain, and how much pleasure I got when people felt the difference between tense jaw muscles and spacious ones, I looked for a way to continue to offer the revelation of a spacious jaw that so many patients experienced.

Plus, at this unusual time in history, stress levels are high, which translates to more clenching, grinding, tooth damage, and pain.

So I put together a 5-class course, Self-Help for Jaw Pain, that I will teach over Zoom.

The first class starts Thursday, Sept. 24, and will be a small class. A few spaces are left.

If you’re interested, please check out my business website. There are multiple options available for your participation:

  • A jaw pain quiz
  • A Facebook group for people with jaw pain (and those who treat it), Word of Mouth
  • A free phone consultation
  • Sign up for the class

Half a shade safer

Anxiety. It’s more contagious than the coronavirus. Are you feeling it? I am.

I came up with a strategy to relieve it.

And it’s working.

Because anxiety, which I think of as prolonged, low-level fear, isn’t healthy for human beings like you and me.

There’s a sort of warp in our evolution as human beings.

Once upon a time, our autonomic nervous systems sent us into fight-or-flight mode when we perceived danger — often before our conscious minds were even aware of a predator. Because there’s part of our brain that’s always scanning for danger. It’s there to help us survive. It’s instinctive.

On perceiving a threat, our bodies would tense up. Our vision would narrow. Our hearts would pound. Our blood would flow to our limbs. We would fight or we would flee.

And when we weren’t in danger, we felt safe. We relaxed. Our hearts slowed down. Our breathing slowed. We could see widely again. Our blood flowed to our organs. We rejoined the tribe.

Our bodies then had the resources to recover, repair damage, restore our metabolisms to healing mode.

I don’t recall the source, but I read somewhere that the early members of our species spent about 4 hours a day hunting and gathering. The rest of the time, they were hanging out in groups or tribes, playing, talking, taming wolves, preparing food, making clothing, making weapons, watching the clouds and the stars, praying, doing rituals, bonding with their community on whom they all depended.

Yet their lifespans were shorter. Many more infants and children died than now. They faced floods and famines, as well as predators and warring tribes.

Their lives were filled with more uncertainties and threats to survival than ours.

I have a hunch that people who were that close to survival felt gratitude for each new day. Gratitude for having food and fire and a good hunt and each other. Gratitude for the times when they were safe, for peace.

Fast forward to today’s times. We’re not out in the sunshine all day, walking around and soaking up Vitamin D. We’re breathing conditioned air inside buildings, looking out windows. We work twice as many hours as our early ancestors. We have a money economy, modern medicine, cars, Social Security.

The threats to our survival are not hungry predators any more. (Well, except when they are angry or terrified or numb human predators, especially those with guns.)

Our nervous systems weren’t built for prolonged fear, a constant sense of not being at ease, anxiety. This leads to adrenal exhaustion, which saps our energy and is exhausting without any truly restorative rest.

Maybe what we teach ourselves now about managing our own anxiety will help our species as a whole evolve past fear-based reactivity and toward a caring kind of responsibility, for our own well-being and that of others.

What makes you feel anxious? The virus? The economy? The wildfires? The election? Conspiracy theories? Race-based violence? Armed white supremacists? Antifa? The news? Karens and Chads? Maskless people? People whose anxieties have gotten the better of them? People who don’t see we’re all part of one tribe, humanity? People so anxious they can’t listen or reason?

There’s a lot OUT THERE to feel anxious about. And anxiety means we experience it IN HERE.

Take a moment to check in. Where are you? What are your surroundings at this very moment?

Are you actually SAFE in this moment?

If you have the leisure to read this, I’m guessing you are.

How does being SAFE feel in your body?

Here’s what I notice in my body.

I feel my body weight sinking into the mattress. I feel my back and legs pressing the mattress, and the top part of my body feeling cooler air. Also, that one foot that’s outside the sheets feels cooler.

I notice my chest and abdomen rising and falling as I breathe.

I hear my fingers on the keyboard.

I see my hands, the iPad keyboard and screen, the pillow they are sitting on, the tangled sheets and foot beyond that.

I see windows on either side of me, a mirror and shelf across the room, and an open closet door, and my tea on the nightstand.

I hear cicadas droning, cardinals chirping, keyboard sounds, and distant traffic.

I feel safe.

~~

The other night, I woke multiple times. My mind was thinking anxious thoughts. It was hard to get back to sleep.

Some nights are like that. Maybe it was the caffeinated tea I drank in the afternoon.

It’s not like I live in a bubble. I take precautions to prevent getting and spreading the virus. One of my family members had it — thankfully, it turned out to be a very mild case. I’m on social media. I check the news. I abhor the violence and hatred I learn about. I worry about the presidential campaign, the election, the aftermath, climate change, the possibility of a really bad economic crash.

These times are filled with uncertainty.

And a good night’s sleep means so very much in terms of having the ability to manage well.

So I tried something different. When an anxious thought arose, I said to myself, “This is just an anxious thought.”

I’d feel how it felt in my body. The tension, the unpleasantness.

Then I’d take a deep breath and let my THINKING mind take a little break by turning my attention to SENSING.

I’d feel my bodyweight pressing into the mattress and pillow. I’d feel the rhythm of breathing. I’d recognize that I was in my home, in my bed, and that there were no immanent threats to my safety. (Except those anxious thoughts.)

And I’d tell myself, “I AM SAFE.”

A few rounds of this every time an anxious thought arose, and I finally went back to sleep.

Since that experience, I’ve really been honing in on what it’s like to feel safe.

It feels good.

I am grateful.

(Apologies to David Whyte for a play on the title of his latest series, Half a Shade Braver.)

Testimonial for a distance healing session

Another review after a distance healing session. This woman was the first recipient I’d never met before. She lives in Indiana and was referred to me by a former client who moved there from the Austin area.

Before this session, I had a strong hunch that the distance apart doesn’t really matter, nor does having met someone in person. This confirmed it.

“I am fairly new to energy work and had been in a good amount of pain when I contacted Mary Ann. Through a distance energy healing session, she guided me through a process of understanding my pain and communicating with it in a way that brought me a lot of relief. She also taught me how to continue using these techniques on my own. Because it was a distance session, Mary Ann and I communicated throughout the process and she brought me into the experience in a way that was extremely empowering!” ~ N.V., 5/6/2020

For more of what people are saying, check out this page on my website.

To schedule a session with me, click here.

Thank you for your interest. 🙏🏽