People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life.
I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that
what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive,
so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane
will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality,
so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.
— JOSEPH CAMPBELL
In the fall of 1983, when I attended my first CranioSacral Therapy (CST) class with Dr. John Upledger, my body’s signals started full-out yelling at me. At the time of that first class, I lived with daily chronic pain from a car accident in 1980 (not to mention the remnants of neck issues from 1971), and my body’s wisdom somehow recognized that this system of healing held the key to freedom from my pain.
On the last day of class, as I watched Dr. Upledger do this full-body release demonstration, every remaining pain-ridden cell in my body started aching for that healing attention. It went from a low background noise to full-blown pain, as though to say to him, “Over here!” I could not ignore what I felt. It was so palpable it could not be missed.
I had no explanation for how my body knew. Although I may not have explained it this way at the time, I know now that my heart felt deeply inspired, and my gut knew this work was the path to my healing. I knew that I was in the presence of something that could help me.
This is what happens for me when a path opens that I am meant to take. I know that I am not the only one to experience this. I imagine as you are reading this paragraph you may be feeling something in your body that is registering what I am saying, perhaps taking this opportunity to inform you of something you had not noticed until now. If this is occurring for you, please take a moment and acknowledge it.
In the early 1980s, there was not a lot of understanding, much less research, to back up what I was learning and experiencing. I just knew it was right for me. When I finally became one of the initial instructors of CST in 1986, we were just a small group from many disciplines who taught the work with Dr. Upledger.
We were all very well trained, but to a certain degree, we operated on faith in him because, beyond his textbooks, the left-brain understanding and research just was not there yet. And while he loved and appreciated us, he was not the kind of guy who would sit down with us and hash out the details that were still not clear in our heads. Questions like, how do you logically explain cellular intelligence, tissue memory, and bodily wisdom?
What kept us all going were the results, the clinical outcomes we were experiencing with our clients and students — the woman whose sense of smell returned after twenty years from a short CST demo that released her hard palate and ethmoid bone; the male student whose vision cleared after a particularly big release of his sphenoid in a demo; the client whose bite returned to normal in three CST sessions after years of struggle with dental appliances; the back surgery client whose pain was worse after surgery but felt it dissolve in one CST treatment on his dural tube; and the teenage lacrosse player whose three days of head pain dissolved after one treatment.
Then there was my own experience. I began getting CST treatments soon after that initial class, and layer by layer the pain released. In 1987, in an intensive advanced training, the last of my pain disappeared. That was it for me. Dr. Upledger always talked about how the intelligence of our cells is infinite and powerful, but having the experience come home to my own body made it irrefutable.
I didn’t care what anyone else said. I knew CST was effective for me, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my cells held wisdom that was just waiting to be heard. I had actual personal corroboration — the felt sense in my own body. I began listening more closely to all parts of my body. Using my body’s wisdom — listening to and being present in my heart, my gut, my pelvis, and my bones for healing and guidance. I developed Healing from the Core (HFC) to share this knowledge and experience with others.
As I complete this book, I am in residence at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and the exquisiteness of life awakens and deepens in me as I write, despite my looming deadline.
There are moments when I am walking — present in my legs and feet — from my little yurt to the lodge, up and down the steep hills and through the dirt path of the garden, and the parade of scents fills my nostrils. I realize that life is completely full of bursts of joyous experience, which I feel throughout my body but most strongly in my heart.
As I leave my yurt, I am first touched by the smell of the eucalyptus trees overhead, followed soon by the rosemary bushes and then wild fennel. Around the curve is the intoxicating scent of the jasmine vines growing over the laundry-building wall, followed by the roses and the sweet peas and something else that my body loves but cannot identify. This simple walk fills my soul. I enter the lodge for meals with a smile on my face.
And what I am describing is just from my sense of smell!
I can easily expand this experience. There is the tingling coolness on my skin upon crossing the narrow wooden footbridge over the stream of clean, living water — tumbling over rocks and trees on its way to the ocean. In this part of my walk, my ears also get fed — no, drenched — in the soft, strong sounds of this clear, sparkling movement of the water. It demands my attention. It reminds me of the fluid aliveness of my pelvis and my passion for my life. I listen and am filled with the sounds of living, moving water.
Then there is the visual scene, which is beyond anything I have known anywhere else. Hundreds of feet above the ocean, some days are gray and mysterious, hidden by the foggy marine layer; some days are sparkling and dancing with white caps. The vastness of this vista is...majestic and magical. The fingers of fog rolling in, the sunsets each night, the moment when the sun first breaks through in the morning and lights up the treetops — can you see it? I am grateful for my mind, my brain, which allows me to perceive and put into words the beauty of this magical place.
When I turn my eyes to the land, everywhere I look there is color and texture and life. The gardens and grounds are tended with love and are beautiful without looking manicured. There is a “high-definition” visual beauty even in the wildness here, perhaps because of the combination of ocean air and clear sunlight.
I share all of this not to celebrate Esalen in particular, but to emphasize that this direct experience of life can happen anywhere when you are open to it and fully present in your body in the moment.
This is how we can live when we are awakened: mind, body, and spirit. This is what Joseph Campbell was talking about in this chapter’s epigraph when he said: “I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
I have had this quote on a shelf in my office for over four decades. It called to my inner body wisdom then, before I had any clear understanding of it, and it still speaks to me today.
I am so grateful for my healing. I am no longer the little girl traumatized by too early an entry to kindergarten, the churchgoer with no lower-body presence, or the teenager in chronic shock from a physical attack. I have healed by listening to the wisdom of my body.
The rapture of being alive is not something we accomplish, organize, will ourselves into, or experience all the time, yet with full-body presence we can open to it, allow it, and be with it.
Body wisdom can help you heal from trauma and make it possible to awaken to all the cells of your body with more frequency and more depth.
We are not just our body, and yet our bodies are the physical foundation of our experience of being alive, in this incredible universe of streaming energy, which can nourish us, moment to moment, day to day, week in and week out, if only we engage with curiosity, awareness, and trust.
©2017 by Suzanne Scurlock-Durana. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of New World Library.
www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.
Reclaiming Your Body: Healing from Trauma and Awakening to Your Body’s Wisdom
by Suzanne Scurlock-Durana.
Many of us have learned to ignore, deny, or even mistrust the wise messages our bodies give us. The result is that when trauma strikes, a time when we need every aspect of our beings to master the challenge, we may find ourselves disconnected from our greatest strengths.
Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, CMT, CST-D, has taught about conscious awareness and its relationship to the healing process for more than twenty-five years. She is passionate about teaching people practical skills that allow them to feel the joy of being present in each moment of their lives, without burning out. Suzanne's Healing from the Core curriculum, combined with CranioSacral therapy and other bodywork modalities, creates a complete, body-centered guide to awareness, healing, and joy. She is also the author of Full Body Presence. You can learn more at HealingFromTheCore.com.