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What do I want to leave behind with the passing year?

Running in the open field has turned out to be a great way to prepare myself for the transition between 2019 and 2020.

I take each step forward, breathe out, and breathe in – numberless of repetitions takes me to a contemplative state.

What do I want to leave behind with the passing year?

Some heat arises in the left ribcage, that tells me;
I want to leave that bitter feeling!
the heavy feeling!
yuk!
the massive sadness!
eek!
the feeling of needing to put a brake on myself!
sigh!
The answers come up every few steps and every few breaths.

It feels right to have a long exhale from the mouth.
Softly, let it go into the air.

It feels right to pound my feet on the ground.
Surely, release into the mother earth.

And I use the emotions as the fuel.
Let’s burn them, shall we?

I keep running in the drizzle.
The freshness on the skin and the white open space above me welcome us into 2020.

 

Cadavers

What makes the body alive?
Fluidity and movement

What makes each of us alive?
Sensations, feelings and emotions

All these details are lost
in the dead bodies.

Their expressions are
acceptance and willingness
to be looked at, touched, investigated and disturbed.

The ultimate offering.

But the souls are not there any longer.

They are vacant vessels
with memories of
blisters on the toes
fair hair on the skin
and a feeding tube into the stomach.

These people used to feel a lot.

Now the time is frozen for them.

The bodies remain.

And who knows.

The souls may be already on other journeys.

Paradoxical moving and being

The other day, I went for a walk with a friend of mine to Hackney Marshes and encountered this magnificent willow tree. The friend told me that willow trees grew between the land and water, and mythically meant the connection between this world and the underworld.

I have a great fascination with the in-betweenness or coexistence of two or more different qualities.

Water – Land
Fluids in the body – Bones and flesh
Energy and spirit of a person – Physical body as matter
Underworld – This world – Devine
Dream – Here and now
Past – Present – Future

In my work, I get to be in touch with these wonderous paradoxical states through a client’s and my own being and moving.

We are moving – We are being
We control our movement and posture – We relax into our bodies
We fight against ailments – We listen to the ailments
We win health – We invite heath to express itself

I love to embrace the whole experience and I love my journey.

I hope you love yours too.

Contribution to an article on dying by Su Fox

My post Accompanying the dying process has been quoted in an article by Sue Fox ” Retirement and other endings – part 5″ on Fulcrum, Issue 76. Fulcrum is a triannual magazine issued by Craniosacral Therapy Association. Su’s article makes me realise the question of how we can support or be supported in the significant transition is not only my personal issue but also others’. Here is the whole article by Su Fox.

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Su Fox

Retirement and other endings – part 5

In the first of these pieces about retirement and other endings, published in September 2017, I stated my intention for the final one to be about, well, the final one – death.

The more comfortable we are with the idea of our own death, and have addressed issues arising from traumas that bring us into contact with our own mortality, the better we’ll be able to live fully while we are alive and be present in stillness with our clients who are facing the end of life.(1)

Little did I know that one year later my partner’s cancer diagnosis would bring me so much closer to the personal reality of death.  We don’t talk about it because we’re too busy getting on with living, but it’s there.

When it happens, it will be the first time I’ve been there for the event. I’ve had my fair share of bereavements and funerals. I lost grandparents and family pets during my childhood, then a brother-in-law and other friends to AIDS during the crisis years, and my sister’s first baby was stillborn. Two of my previous partners managed to commit suicide within the same month. And more recently, both my parents died, in their own beds in the early hours of the morning, one quietly succumbing to prostate cancer, the other to old age. As the gravestone legend has it, they ‘fell asleep.’


So what actually happens? Unless death is violent or accidental, it appears, like birth, to be a process rather than an event and one that takes an unpredictable length of time, like birth. For every person the process will be unique. No two deaths – like births – are the same, although there are stages that indicate a gradual shutting down as life comes to an end. The individual becomes drowsy and needs to sleep more and talk less, gradually withdrawing from the world. The desire for food and drink lessens and it may become difficult to swallow. The digestive system shuts down as its function in providing energy becomes redundant. Breathing may become erratic, and there may be short periods when it stops. The extremities of the body become cold and the skin may look blue, as the circulation slows.

There are two markers for the end of the process, as far as the physical body is concerned: clinical death, which is when the heart stops beating and respiratory functions cease, and biological death which is when brain activity ceases. Deprived of oxygen, brain cells begin to self-destruct and die within minutes and once brain-dead a person can’t be resuscitated.   Clinical death is a different matter. Patients experiencing open heart surgery are suspended in a state of clinical death for the duration. The person who is lucky enough to be near a first aider trained in CPR when she has a heart attack can come back from the brink and resume living. 

Throughout time and across cultures human kind has evolved belief systems to explain what happens next. Whatever the reasons informing these traditions, they all share a recognition that physical death is not the end of the process.  Depending when and where you died, you might expect to meet hungry ghosts or St Peter, or to see your heart weighed on a golden scale. Your body might be buried with food for the next part of the journey or set alight on a funeral pyre or left on a hilltop for a sky burial. If the rites weren’t performed, if your body could not be found to be buried or you didn’t know you were dead, you’d likely stay to wander the earth as a ghoul or ghost.

Our profession pays a lot of attention to the beginning of life and very little to the end. New graduates have the skills to work with babies. None of the professional trainings mention death in their curricula. A trawl through back copies of The Fulcrum shows that since 1999 only 7 issues have a significant word search for death or dying, and most of these are in obituaries, whereas only 7 of the 75 issues on line do not mention birth or babies. I could speculate on the reasons for this: babies have advocates who believe that CST will help and are willing to pay for it and the dying don’t; the reluctance in our profession to think about death mirrors that of society as a whole; like the medical profession, we are more invested in restoring health than providing palliative care. There’s room for a whole other article here. But it seems obvious to me that cranial contact is the ideal way to be with someone making that final transition. When the Breath of Life stutters and fades who better to accompany the dying person have than someone who can sit in stillness and hold the space with no expectation, who can witness with compassion and assist a dysregulating system to settle?

I found 3 accounts of working with a dying person written by craniosacral therapists. In 2000, Al Pelowski wrote ‘A little slice of Life’ (2) which describes his experience of being with Joy, an elderly family friend as she chose to slip away. In 2005 Vivien Ray offered us ‘Working with Hilary’,(3) an incredibly moving account of her involvement in the dying of her beloved partner. Last year, Katsura Isobe wrote on her website about treating her grandmother in Japan just before she passed(4).

Both Al and Katsura refer to the stages of physical change preceding death.

Al:  It seemed to me that slowly and surely, almost precisely, Joy was living and choosing her dying, in little bits or stages…………… The rhythms of Joy’s physically embodied life become intermittent, unpredictable. Her breathing seemed to stop for seconds, minutes even, but then came back in gasps and sighs. Her heartbeat fluttered and stopped too, at times. But I began to understand that these were merely little steps in the process of leaving, that it wasn’t a case of ‘once and for all’.

Katsura:  My grandmother passed away on 4th June at the age of 93. She admitted to a hospital on the day I arrived in my hometown Tokyo 12 days before, after having stopped eating. During those days, I have witnessed how she was diminishing, and tried to hold the space and support her to process whatever she needed to process so that she could transition with ease.
My first visit was on day 4 for her in the hospital. She was already bedridden and almost non-verbal but I was still able to see some momentary expressions.

On the last day, when my mother and I arrived, she looked very shrunk but calmer. She had been suffering from a breathing difficulty but now calmer. Through touch I felt no more kicks and pulls in the tissue but peaceful. Two hours later, a nurse rushed into the room as she had noticed her breathing stopped on the monitor.

Vivien gives a detailed account of changes she felt as Hilary’s internal organs shut down:

I am drawn to the organs: dry, massed, confused, they lie inert against my hand. I feel confusion, a literal loss
of identity, loss of purpose. I stay there, startled at first. I feel a wave of recognition and grief wash through me as
I realise the reality of this perception: these organs have finished their work forever.

Now the component parts are becoming apparent. Adhesions and a glue-like absence of fluidity. Her old appendix wound rises and falls. The hepatic flexure is kinked tight and that whole corner of bowel is thrust up against the liver. The small intestine is tired, quiet and distant. A bubble of air is struggling through with nowhere to go.

As these sensations come into my hands there begins to be some relief, as if the organs are explaining themselves to themselves. Announcing to themselves the end of their life.

And here they are writing about changes in the energy, in the tides.

Al: There is a light that forms when the heat, when the animation of the body starts to depart. So many people see this, and it is obvious now with Joy……..over the next several hours that evening with Joy, I had the spell-binding experience of holding her, being hands-on with her, throughout the transition we call Death.

Katsura, describing what happened in an early treatment:

As I treated her with my hands gently on her back, I felt quite powerful resentment that made me slightly dizzy. Now looking back, I feel this experience set my intention to support her to process any unhelpful left-over emotions so that she can transition light.

And when her grandmother’s breathing stopped:

I placed my hand again behind her heart, and I was invited to the purest and very wide cellular breathing; expansion and contraction (CS rhythm in Craniosacral Therapy). She did a few little gasps, and then after the last one, the craniosacral system turned to subtler and wider (mid tide in CST).

Vivien, in a treatment in the days leading up to death:

And there is a tide. Stiff and creaky, the familiar rhythm, about two and a half breaths long, starts to drag my two hands with it. Longitudinal, sometimes hovering at an edge, sometimes starting to turn and then finding a new surge of potency.

And at the end:

I was with her as her spirit finally broke free of the clinging body and, floundering at first, began to expand into the dimensionless realms of death. We were in craniosacral communication as she died.

All three were also very certain that the process continued after breathing stopped.

Al: ….it felt right to leave her alone in the contracting bubble of light, in that cool morning air, undisturbed, giving her all the time needed to gather up every last bit of spirit, for that core heat itself to finally leave the body behind. I had to accept that Joy couldn’t feel my hands any longer. That I had to let go too. As far as I could tell, and deep as I could feel, that deepest heat and that softest light disappeared some ten hours later. The body was there of course, but the room was empty

Katsura: A moment later, a doctor came so I left her. He examined and announced her death. After they left, I went back to placing my hand on her back, where I still feel the warmth and mid tide same as just before the doctor came. It was very strange to hear she was dead while this energy was still in the body. I have heard before that Craniosacral system remains for a while after the heart stopped. I guess that’s what it is. But for a person who has been accompanying the transition, it did not make sense to have the definite point of death predominantly defined by the heart function. For me, my grandmother was still alive when the doctor announced her death, and still when we were asked to leave the room while the nurses clean and sort out her. I felt like a new born whose umbilical cord gets clamped while the placenta is still pulsing.
Anyway, after I sat for a while next to her with the face covered with a white handkerchief, I felt she was dead.

Vivian

After her last breath, in the stillness, I became aware of floundering and confusion.

‘She doesn’t know she’s done it,’ I said to her doctor and beloved friend.

‘You must tell her,’ he said.

And I did. ’Well done beloved, you’ve done it; don’t fight anymore; allow yourself to go with the light.’

For the first twenty four hours the energy was also still palpable in her body-directionless like a static buzzing without flow.

Over the next two days I was able to experience that expansion as she let go of the imprint of her bodily existence.

Afterword

I contacted Vivien and Katsura to ask permission to use their material and showed them the draft article.

Vivien: I found it a beautiful introduction to the complex issues around working with death. There is a real need to keep this in our consciousness. I really appreciate your emphasis on the possibilities of working with this profound transition through our CST skills.

Katsura: It is very interesting and also touching to read other people’s experiences. As you say, in the article, death is as important as birth. I really felt so during my experience with my grandmother. I am glad that you have brought this theme forward, and I hope more people support and are supported in the significant transition.

Al Pelowski died in 2009. I hope there was someone in cranial contact with him when he died.

I hope there’ll be someone in cranial contact with me, too, when my time comes.

References:

  1. Fox, Su (2017) Retirement and other endings part 1. Fulcrum, Issue 72
  2. References for the physiological info on dying: Private conversations with Dr. Rik Fox, consultant anaesthetist, Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Jan – Sept 2018; End of Life Care; NHS website and others
  3. Pelowski, Al (2000) A Little Slice of Life. Fulcrum, Issue 20
  4. Ray, Vivien (2005) Working with Hilary. Fulcrum, Issue 35
  5. Isobe, Katsura (July 2017) Accompanying the dying process. katsuraisobe.net

 

Wonders of Craniosacral Therapy

After 3 weeks of absence due to a visit to Japan, I am returning to my Craniosacral Therapy clinic today. This is an occasion that makes me think “what am I doing there?”.

Clearly I know I want to help my clients, to alleviate pains and discomforts and feel better.  To do so, there are many modalities people can choose, from allopathic medicine, physiotherapy, osteopathy, massage, shiatsu, acupuncture to reiki and other healing methods. I wonder what makes Craniosacral Therapy unique?

There is no single answer. I have many answers rooted in my own experiences as a client, and that is why I have been drawn to study this modality deeper. I just say here that Craniosacral Therapy can be amazing but also weird…! It is a magic, in some sense, after passing all the theory bits.

During my stay in Tokyo, I had some opportunities to treat some people I know. I treated my primary school teacher who taught me over 30 years ago. She says she always has had rather frail body since childhood, and now in her 70’s she really feels it is falling apart. So she does look after herself by practicing some gentle yoga and enjoying singing. I touch her body, and immediately realise that she is not that bad. I feel the good life force moving through. Of curse there are some problematic parts and patters that may not be serving the best, but as a whole she is fine. I am very glad to discover my teacher is not as bad as she says.

The similar is my university professor, now at age 86. Her curiosity never cease and she nudges me to give her a quick treatment. It was only 20 minutes, and that was enough. Her system was very clear and responsive. During the 20 minutes, I felt a shift after a shift, and then afterwards her neck pain was gone. I say to her that I picked up some pattern of a hit on the left side of the pelvis. Did you fall? She answers yes. No further explanation. She is just amazed by her experience in the treatment.

The opposite happens too, sadly. My old friend who I met though dance now teaches. It was very difficult treatment for me. I really could not grasp the whole picture of her system. It was floppy and had no particular directions on her outer field and the edge of the body, while deep inside it was held rock hard. Almost no response for long time. Then at some point, I feel a hole of emptiness. Ah thanks for coming out, an emptiness. It starts to make sense to me where she is and how she is. She is an efficient and well-received teacher. She is nice. Not many people would know about this hole in her being. I give the feedback, and she starts slowly telling her feelings.

Each treatment is unique and profound in some ways. These were particularly memorable for me, as I know these people for long time and I had a certain image of each person. The treatment offered me another dimension of the person, and also I felt deeper connection. It really tells me how much a light touch to another person means.

Today in my clinic, what a touch will bring to my clients and me? I don’t know. But I know I want to keep myself open and welcome whatever comes up.

 

 

 

Listen: P-Nidra 3, To Fly

Listen to P-Nidra 3, To Fly (38 mins)

In this visualisation, a beautiful imagery has come up. The heart, scapulae, throat, jaw, temporal bones (around the ears) and parietal bones (top of the head) can work together like a pair of wings of a bird and we can fly…!

P has decided to return to her own country home in a month time, as her conditions have improved. It means an ending of our weekly sessions after 15 months. A departure. A good one. Although she is close to my mother’s age, I feel like a mother bird for her. I am pleased with this imagery that came down in the visualisation. P is expanding and flying out with hope and freedom. I am happy and a little excited.

And do not forget. We can always come back to the midline, the core and the self.

These balance seems to be the key for the healthy self.

Many of us if not all hold some tensions around the heart and shoulders. May the imagery of wings help us to free ourselves, and to fly out into the sky.

Listen: P-Nidra 2, Balloon Body

Listen to P-Nidra 2, Balloon Body (35 minutes)

This is the second recording of P-Nidra (previously Pilates Nidra).

The name P-Nidra comes from yoga nidra, yogic sleep, that “is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, like the “going-to-sleep” stage”(wikipedia). I find this similar to the state I often fall in at a Craniosacral Therapy treatment. It is a deeply relaxing healing space. So please do not feel bad if you think you fell asleep during P-Nidra. The body will do whatever it needs to do.

I have changed the name from Pilates Nidra to P-Nidra, as it is not really Pilates at all. Initially I was called in to work with a client P as a Pilates teacher (Please read the past article for more background). And P-Nidra has been drawn from my wider knowledge of Somatic Movement Therapy and Craniosacral Therapy. P- Nidra is done for the client P, and the sound is cleaned by P’s friend P. What a coincidence. P must stay in the naming of this Somatic meditation as a trace of where it comes from.

As for listening to the recording;

A client P responds well in the prone position (lying on the tummy) on a bed, and I am talking to her in that position. So sometimes what I say may be making sense in the same position. However, it is more important that you feel comfortable so please find a position you feel so, such as lying on the back, on the side or sitting.

It starts slowly… as I am taking my time to tune into her body and my body. Be patient please. And be generous about my Japanese (and whatever) accent… I cannot help.

Hope you enjoy.

Listen: Pilates Nidra 1, Fluid Tissue

Listen to Pilates Nidra 1, Fluid Tissue (30 minutes)

I wrote about Pilates Nidra, that is Somatic visualisation, in past article.

This has been developing since then. It is different every time. I usually spend a half hour or so to listen to my client P’s story about how she has been getting on generally in life and on her body. Each visualisation reflects what she said, how she is, with a consideration on her chronic problems of the knees and the lower back. Here I have no plan or agenda apart from a wish for her to feel better. It is fascinating for me what comes up during a visualisation.

P has decided to record Pilates Nidra, so that she can do it when I am not there. She is happy to share the recording with everyone.

So if you are curious and want to drop into the body, give it a listen.

P responds well in the prone position (lying on the tummy) on a bed, and I am talking to her in the prone position. So sometimes what I say may be making sense in the same position. However, it is more important that you feel comfortable so please find a position you feel so such as lying on the back, on the side or sitting.

It starts slowly… as I am taking my time to tune into her body and my body. Be patient please. And be generous about my Japanese (and whatever) accent… I cannot help.

Hope you enjoy.

 

 

 

2018

2018NY

As I was designing this card, I nearly included a quote by Leonard Cohen,
“There is a crack in everything, and that’s how the light gets in”

I thought this picture I took last summer and the feelings we collectively have nowadays resonate well with these words. During a walk on the Norfolk coast, this magnificent landscape took my breath away. How divine the light was, that was coming through the cracks between clouds. Each element of the light, cloud, water and earth felt necessary for the particular nuance the landscape expressed. I appreciate it as a whole.

Thanks you for sharing your clouds, cracks and lights with me in the past year.

I wish much light comes into your life in 2018.

Much love,
Katsura x

「万事に裂け目がある。だから、光が入り込む」
とはレナード・コーエンの歌の一部で
この年賀状をデザインしていたとき、なんてこの写真と
それから今世界的に私たちが抱いている気持ちに
ぴったり来るのだろうと思いました。

この夏にノーフォークの海岸線を歩いている時にとったこの写真。
雄大な眺めに息をのみ
光の神々しさに目をとらわれました。

雲の裂け目から入り込んでいる光。
この景色独特のニュアンスのためには
光、雲、海、土
どれもが欠かせないもので
丸ごと
全てを一つと捉えてこその
素晴らしさ。

昨年は
あなたと私のお互い様で
雲や、裂け目や、光を
共感して
共感させてくれて
どうもありがとうございました。

2018年
光がたくさん入り込む年となりますように。

Running as conscious movement

What does your mind do when you walk or run? And also when you are standing or sitting to wait for something. Are you listening to music? That can be pleasurable but for me as a body nerd, I often tune into my body and explore the sensations and feelings. Here is an example during my run today. As running, I meditated on my domes in the body. These domes are horizontal shapes you find in the body. The domes give the sense of three dimensional volume (back and front, side to side), that contributes to dispersion and balance of tones. I have learnt about the domes from Patricia Bardi of VMI Somatic Practice.

There are more domes but the ones I thought of today are;
1. arches of the feet
2. abdominal dome- the superior surface of the bladder, uterus and rectum.
3. thoracic diaphragm
4. thoracic inlet
5. roof of the mouth
6. top of the cranium

What do I do with these domes?
I check in if I feel each dome and how they are responding to the running motion. If any of them are not very responsive, I place my attention there and see if I can soften and let go of the inhibited tension. And then I would expand my attention to the relationship between two domes, three or more, towards including the whole body. I may continue to expand my awareness to the surroundings like wind, surface under the feet, trees, people and any presence around me.

It is fun, and pleasurable to feel the body in this way. Running becomes more like the whole body massage rather than torturous exercise. Give it a try 

 

110_Dorsal_Ventral_Body_Cavities