First of Nine: Tensegrity Blog

Portland, Oregon's Cancer Survivorship and Bodywork Zine by Compassion Arts PDX, LLC

Somatic grieving and the craniosacral rhythm

What falters in your rush? What crumples in your spine? What catches your breath as you lurch in your cries?

The air has a wet crisp, that gives hardship to our immune system. It’s this lovely northwest climate shift; the adaptation to the season can tax the nervous system, especially those new to Stumptown.

We see an increase in death this time of year, as winter looms closer. We see those on their way out. And, those in their gravest states, where every breath may be a struggle.

We see mothers who grieve. We see families who mourn. We see fathers saying goodbye.

Where do you feel the body when in grief? Can you give it a quality? Can you describe the sensation, the somatic phenomenon in the loss?

Bring touch there with a soft palm. Bring breath there with slow intention. Let yourself feel the emotion in every part of your body. Breathe into the sensations… and, breathe here… and, breathe here…

Even when you cry… and, even when you laugh… Return to the breath and feel the emotion in your viscera, in your chest, in your throat… Be present to this and witness the change. The softening, the slowing of breath…

That one big sigh… You’ve probably engaged the autonomic nervous system. Respiration rate, heartbeat, perspiration, organ and metabolic function… Bodywork reaches this.

To be present, to be listening with compassion, to let go of our judgements… We can do that as massage therapists. The grieving process can be felt deep in the core of every being. Watch through the eyes of mindful observation.

It’s difficult work, this. End-of-life care. None of us gets out of this lifetime alive. That’s a given. But, we can be there for someone in their last days; help them breathe a little easier. We can give a little hope. We can offer a little break from the poking and prodding and certainty of the medical care system.

Shall we bring the study of compassion into every health care field? I’ll do my part to get it there. For now, let’s nurture the art in our somatic practices.

Craniosacral therapist and Reiki Master, Karen Hart Asbury, LMT, LMP (OBMT #18003, #MA60205629). Karen practices in both Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon. Photography by Hamid Shibata Bennett

The craniosacral rhythm is a subtle level of touch, that just about anyone, even the medically fragile, can receive. It is a palpable rhythm in the body separate from the breath and heart rate and every bit a contributor to our aliveness. It is the ebb and flow of our portable oceanic tide. The bones of the cranium gently move in a cycle of subtle expansion and contraction with still points at the high and low tide. The vertebral bodies of the spine find a gentle undulation along it’s length. The nutation, or nodding, of the sacrum acts as an aquarium pump, keeping the brain and spinal column bathed in cerebrospinal fluid within the dural tube. The spine unbound should move like the gentle sway of seaweed in the ocean breeze.

“Oh! Have we got a video?!” -Vivian, The Young Ones

I cobbled together a home movie, filmed at the first Myofascial Study Group retreat on the Oregon coast in May of 2011. I set down the iPad 2 for artistic video projects of this scope. I used iMovie on the 24″ iMac for this project. Narration was recorded with a USB mic and it was filmed with the ever-trusty Panasonic GF1. Oh, yeah… You might hear Harlan, my pearled cockatiel chirping away in the background of the narration track. As I’ve been editing, Harlan has been calling back and forth to herself!

This is Ebb and Flow: The Rhythm of Craniosacral. Dig it!

Hamid 🙂

iPad users, tap on the blank space above if the video does not show.

3 comments on “Somatic grieving and the craniosacral rhythm

  1. Ami
    December 4, 2011

    Love lyrical entry. A joy to read.

  2. aisha
    December 28, 2011

    simply beautiful…thanks for the imagery

  3. Pingback: Operation Livecrime, New Year’s Eve, 1991 | First of Nine: Tensegrity Blog

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Compassion Arts PDX, LLC

Hamid Shibata Bennett, LMT, CAMT (OBMT #301)
Advanced massage therapy and bodywork
3810 SE Belmont ST
Portland, Oregon 97214

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