An invitation: What a biodynamic craniosacral session is like

This post is about biodynamic craniosacral therapy (BCST): what a session might be like. I’ve been seriously immersed in studying, training, and practicing this since early 2013— and I’m still learning.

Practicing it brings me much joy. It was a sudden passion: I learned of it and three days later, I was in a four-day training.

I imagine growing old doing this. I love that it’s a form of bodywork I’ll be able to do into my 80s, if God is willing.

Here’s how a session goes: You set up an appointment with me and come to my downtown office (and outcalls may be possible – contact to inquire). We greet each other in the waiting room, and I show you to my studio.

I like to know a little about what’s going on in your life, and I may take a few notes. I explain that I will gently put my hands on your body while you lie on your back. You remain clothed for your session (minus shoes, belt, and anything constricting).  You can choose to lie under the covers and to have the table warmer on, as you wish. I offer bolsters or pillows to help you feel comfortable.

Unless silence is preferred, I play a recording of ocean waves softly in the background to help you relax and also to help mask distracting outside sounds. I may occasionally check in with what you’re experiencing, and you may want to relate things to me during the session, or wait until after.

Other than that, we’re mostly silent. Continue reading

How to have good boundaries: the third energy

In the energy of being grounded, you learned that you have a space, a position on this planet. You fully connected your energy with the earth’s energy and felt the strength and power of that.

Then you learned about being centered in your own energy, further strengthening your felt sense of yourself.

Having boundaries involves knowing where you end and not-you begins, and knowing when and how to protect and defend that space and give others their space. This is the third energy.

Have you ever experienced someone’s bad boundaries? Perhaps they stood too close when they were talking to you. Perhaps they got in your face or stepped on your toes. Or someone touched you inappropriately, or worse. Connect that to how you felt in your body. Uncomfortable, crowded, resistant, fearful, violated, powerless, worthless, what else might someone feel whose boundaries have been crossed?

We’re often not really aware of our boundaries until someone violates them. This can distort our boundaries. Think of all the incest, physical abuse, emotional abuse, rape, molestation, sexual abuse, child abuse, and more-power taking advantage of less-power stories that you’ve heard, seen on TV, or read about. There’s a lot of suffering in this world because of this type of behavior.

When someone’s boundaries have been violated, their sense of their own boundaries can easily become distorted, or maybe it wasn’t that strong to begin with. Part of recovery is restoring those boundaries and strengthening them by learning how to better protect and defend your space. Without doing this, people can suffer for years, by being distant and isolated, by violating others’ boundaries, or both. Having a good sense of boundaries has a positive impact on social and intimate relationships and your trustworthiness in general.

This energy is important for feeling like you can be yourself in the world and be safe, for trusting life. This is a huge component of well-being, and most of us have no real training in it.

Here’s how you begin to experience your boundaries:

The first boundary is your skin. Everything inside is you; everything outside is not you. Stand up and get centered and grounded. With your hands, pat yourself from head to toe and back up again. Feel your skin with your hands, your hands with your skin. Take your time and really notice. Appreciate your skin.

Did your skin notice the rhythm of your hands patting? Did you notice changes in sensation as you patted different areas of your body? What does your skin do for you?

Close your eyes and imagine the distance where you feel comfortable when talking to another person. Imagine them walking up to you. How far away do you want them to stop? (Or if you’re with someone, talk to them and notice the distance.) Notice if the distance is different with different people. Imagine your mother, your best friend, a lover, a stranger.

Next: If a growling wild animal were to slowly walk toward you, and you couldn’t run, how would you set a boundary? Think of the length of your leg. You could kick the animal if you had to. (But hopefully you can avoid hurting any animal.) So the length of your legs creates a boundary.

The length of your arms forms another boundary. You can use your arms to push someone out of your space. If they got even closer, you could bite them to get them out of your space.

This next experiment requires a partner. Stand several feet apart, grounded and centered.  Extend your arms and notice that boundary. You may feel that arm’s-length space as a column that extends from the ground to over your head. This is an important boundary.

Now face your partner and slowly walk toward them, arms extended. Stop with your palms against your partner’s. Notice how you feel. Determine who is Partner A and who is B.

With palms still together, A steps into B’s space and tries to get closer. B pushes A back to the comfort zone. A: Really push! B: Tell A “This is my space. Get out of my space!” as you push them back. Feel the effort.

This is going to feel uncomfortable at first. It’s not so hard for children, so pretend you’re on the playground if that makes it easier. I hope you’re breathless from the effort and laughing when you’ve each done it!

Boundaries are a lot more complex than centering and grounding because they’re relational and situational. Maintaining good boundaries requires your attention, especially in new relationships, when someone’s behavior changes toward you (or yours toward them), in new situations, when meeting people from other cultures.

Being able to say “no” without alienating someone is also part of the art of setting good boundaries. Have you ever been roped into doing something you didn’t want to do? That could be a whole blog post or maybe even a book!

Quickly, here’s how I like to do it: I appreciate the other person’s intent, and then tell them no. I may tell them why, but I don’t have to.

Other person: MaryAnn, we’d love to have you on that committee.

MaryAnn: I appreciate you thinking of me, but I cannot take that on at this time. I have too much on my plate already, and I doubt I could do the job as well as someone with more time. Have you thought of asking Lucy?

You get the idea! That’s the nice way. If someone is persistent, don’t hesitate to get tougher. “Absolutely not!”

Good luck with sensing your boundaries and making them real. Thanks to Brian D. Mahan, SEP, for inspiring me!

How to get centered: the second energy

You’ve heard people say “I’m not feeling centered right now” or “He seems very centered”. If you do not relate to statements about being centered or experience that yourself, you can benefit from increasing your kinesthetic awareness. Being centered is a real aspect of the felt sense that is integral to living a healthy, happy, embodied life.

Like being grounded (my previous post), being centered is a body energy that has a direction:


There are many ways to find your center, and there are different names for it: the literal center, the energetic center, the center of gravity. What’s important is to find one that makes you feel stable in your being.

Here’s how to find your literal center:

Stand up barefooted. Wiggle a little to release tension. Ground yourself.

Locate the plane that divides your body into left and right halves. In the front, your sternum (breastbone), navel, and pubic bone mark it; in the back, your spine (unless you have alignment issues like scoliosis).

Here’s a little trivia: This “line” corresponds to two meridians in Chinese medicine, the conception vessel (front) and governing vessel (back).

Now imagine the plane that divides your body into upper and lower halves. It can help to look in a mirror or even a tape measure to find this. Depending on the relative length of your legs, torso, neck, and head, it will lie between your pubic bone and solar plexus somewhere around your navel.

Now imagine the plane that divides your body into front and back, somewhere in the center of your torso.

The place where those three planes meet (left/right, upper/lower, front/back) is your literal center.

three planes dividing the body into halves

To find your energetic center, send your awareness into your literal center. Move your attention around in that area, and you may notice a slightly stronger sensation marking your energetic center. Practice moving your attention out of your energetic center and back in.

A quick way of finding center is to put your hands in prayer position with shoulders relaxed and forearms parallel to the floor. The place where the bottom of your hands meet or thereabouts marks your center. It is not exactly a pinpoint. I experience my center as being about the size of a tennis ball.

Here’s another way to get centered: Stand with your feet hip width apart, knees relaxed, body slightly loose, and close your eyes. Rock slightly forward, shifting more weight onto the balls of your feet. Rock slightly backward toward your heels. Rock to the left and then to the right.

Now center yourself with your weight evenly distributed front/back and left/right. Are you feeling a sense of stability? Good. You’re centered.

Each body also has a center of gravity, which has to do with the body’s mass. Think of ice skaters spinning. They could not perform safely without keen awareness of their centers of gravity.

Usually women’s center of gravity is a bit lower than men’s, because of how the chest and pelvis are proportioned.

If you already know where your center of gravity is, you probably already know how to be grounded and centered. If you don’t know, it’s discovered through movement, and you can begin to discover it by standing and twisting your torso from side to side, or by whirling/spinning.

Whirling Dervishes

Words indicating the centering energy: being centered, off-kilter, balanced.

I hope these methods have helped you experience first-hand being centered.

Now combine it with being grounded, and notice how being both grounded and centered may differ from how you usually experience life. Does it add a dimension of feeling, sensation, or awareness? Does it add richness to everyday experience?

Thanks to Brian Mahan, SEP, for the inspiration.

How to get grounded: the first energy

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a training program for professionals assisting individuals in trauma recovery that was developed from the work Peter Levine, author of Waking the Tiger and many more books on trauma recovery. You can learn more about Somatic Experiencing here.

If you’ve read much of my blog, you know that reading Waking the Tiger was instrumental in my trauma recovery, that I spontaneously released blocked energy from a major childhood trauma while reading the book decades later, which not only was amazing but initiated a huge paradigm shift toward health and well-being for me.

I’ve been fortunate enough to attend several trainings and workshops with Brian D. Mahan, who’s a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP). Brian teaches SE to help people learn to help others with trauma recovery. Check out his website here: Brian Mahan, Body Centered Therapist.

(I particularly love his blog post When Is Prayer, Yoga, and Meditation No Different Than Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll? Because you and I know people who are addicted to prayer, yoga, and meditation, trying to bliss out while avoiding feeling what they’re actually feeling!  I think I may have been one of them….)

Back to Brian’s workshop. It had the longest title of any workshop I’ve ever attended, and the title conveys the content: Imagine feeling present, grounded, centered, boundaried, embodied, empowered, in the moment, safe and joyful!  It was so much fun! I recommend this if you ever get the chance!

Also, schedule an SE session with him next time he’s in Austin or remotely via Skype. (You can email him at and view his Facebook page. Here’s a link to his YouTube videos. Here’s an offer for a 5-minute meditation video. To set up a session, his phone number is 323-459-1845, and he’s on Skype as SomaticExperience.)

I’m going to write about what attending that workshop brought up for me about some of these energies, with Brian’s artful facilitation in directing our attention to the body and using the “felt” sense. This content is universal (we all have bodies and awareness) and I’m running it  through my personal filters (writing, yoga, NLP, massage).

This felt sense is available to everyone with a nervous system. My NLP training is that we represent the world through visual, auditory, and kinesthetic channels, often favoring one at the expense of another. Therefore many people do not develop the felt sense (kinesthetic awareness for you NLPers), and they don’t know they don’t know—until someone starts talking about something they’re unfamiliar with, like boundaries, energy flowing in a certain direction, internal sensations/emotions (both kinesthetic).

I had a doctor once who had never heard of chakras. You get the idea.

Using and developing this felt sense is actually very significant to your overall well-being, and if you don’t experience much kinesthetic awareness, you can benefit from learning about it and experiencing it. I’ve been there. I know.

Many forces conspire to get us to numb out, to go to sleep, to not know who we really are. Think of TV, food,  alcohol, drugs, work, sex, busy-ness, perfectionism, emotional drama—the things people get addicted to serve the purpose of distracting us from experiencing our real, essential selves and all those feelings.

You know what? You don’t have to give any of those things up, right now or ever. Follow along if you’d like to add a new dimension to your aliveness, to wake up a little more, to put a little more life in your life.

If you are someone who wonders what the heck people are talking about when they say things like “I’m not feeling very grounded right now,” “He’s not his body,” or “Wow, that really threw me off center,” this is for you. If you’ve felt grounded before but feel ungrounded now, this is for you.

Being grounded refers to your body’s energetic connection to the planet, to the earth, to the ground. This energy always flows in the same direction in your body:

To experience this, do an exercise (and you may want to have someone read this to you):

Right where you are, without doing anything else, check in with your body. Scan it from head to toe and notice the sensations and lack of sensations.

Now take your shoes and socks off and stand up. Put your attention on the sensation of your feet against the floor. Take your time and really feel.

Feel the entire weight of your body squishing the skin cells on the soles of your feet into the floor.

Feel your heaviness. Just walk around and feel your weight.

Now stop and feel as if your feet have suction cups on them holding you in place.

Feel as if each leg is a tree, sending roots down deep into the earth. 

Now roll more of your weight onto one foot and feel the strength in that leg. Now lift the other heel ever so slightly. Switch sides and repeat. Now lift each foot higher. You’re rocking from foot to foot!

Do you feel a sticky sensation on the sole of the lifted foot? Can you sense its desire to return to the floor? Can you imagine invisible elastic between each foot and the floor?

Now stand still, evenly on both feet. Imagine the earth’s energy field embracing you, pulling you toward it with a gentle hug. Imagine mother Earth, Terra, Gaia, Pachamama holding you closely like a mother holds her baby. You can even prostrate yourself and surrender to it, hugging the earth back if you like. (If not, that’s okay too.)

Stand back up and imagine there’s an opening in the top of your head that opens to the sky/spirit/God/the cosmos. Imagine this energy flowing into your head and going down through the center of your body and down each leg and out your feet and into the earth.

This is you, fully grounded. Check in again, fully.

End of exercise.

Notice that our language has many ways of describing this energy: being grounded, feeling ungrounded, holding your ground, standing your ground, standing on your own two feet, without a leg to stand on, being sure-footed, steady on your feet, sticking a foot in the door, getting in on the ground floor.

Being grounded gives you a position on this planet, a space, a place that belongs to you and no one else, and it also connects you to this planet. You belong to the earth.

What does it feel like to be grounded? Remember what you felt like before the exercise, and compare that to feeling grounded. How would you describe the difference?

More importantly, when could feeling grounded be useful in your life? When might you particularly want to feel grounded? What ungrounded you?

Just for this moment, bring your attention back to your feet. Notice if you feel any shift of energy in your body.

Realize you can play with this, enjoy this, practice this as often as you like until it comes effortlessly (because the body is attracted to joy and pleasure, even the subtle ones). Then you can forget about it, knowing that whenever you need it, the resource of being grounded belongs to you.

Next: how to get centered.