A client recently raised the question about doing Continuum when in pain but not doing it to get rid of the pain. How does that work? Her question reminded me of the concept of wu wei wu or doing not doing. I felt inspired to talk about being with as providing nourishment rather than more actively trying to reduce pain. That might be a useful side benefit, but our challenge is to not make that our goal.
It is natural when tested by pain, be it chronic or acute, physical or emotional, to want to get rid of it. Most of us dislike pain. We pursue what feels good and avoid what doesn’t. When pain becomes intense, we naturally seek help. Any technique, medication or practitioner offering hope becomes a beacon, signaling escape from pain.
Health practitioners also usually want to reduce pain. Often, we go into practice knowing what it’s like to hurt. The “wounded healer” desires to diminish or prevent wounding. Although possibly expressing unconscious practitioner needs, we consciously hope to reduce clients’ suffering. Faced with a client in pain, we do everything we can to help; trying every tool in our toolkits, every technique we have learned.
When we enter the realm of being, however, we practice not doing, not trying, not interfering. How can it be helpful to not try to reduce pain? Is that even ethical?
Nourishment or Escape?
The example of a baby crying comes to mind. Would you leave her to cry it out? Or pick her up and try to soothe her, exploring if she was hungry, wet, or had some other needs? In choosing to soothe her, what might motivate you? Would you be trying to get her to be quiet, or have some other intention?
Caregivers wanting to quiet a baby may stuff a pacifier or breast in the little one’s mouth. They might yell at the baby or, even more extremely, put a pillow over the infant’s head. All of these have been known to happen. Babies die of being shaken by distraught parents who cannot tolerate their crying.
While these methods will quiet the baby eventually, perhaps indefinitely, caregivers usually have other motives besides just getting the infant to stop crying. A crying baby can drive a parent to distraction, but most parents care deeply about their children, wanting them to not only be quiet, but to survive, even thrive, growing up happy and healthy. With this intent, they hold the crying baby, perceiving a need. If the baby is hungry, they want to feed her. They desire to nourish and nurture the little one, supporting her growth and well-being. Beyond their own need for quiet, they aim to give their baby what is most supportive and nurturing.
How many of us have such a compassionate attitude towards ourselves when we are in pain? When we practice Continuum, treat clients, or engage in any of the practices we engage in, what is our intention? Often, we want to reduce pain, but we may also have larger intentions, worth acknowledging.
Considering our role as nourishing and supporingt, rather than rescuing and fixing a problem, we may discover ourselves as surprisingly more effective.
I learned this in Biodynamics, where we perceive the fluid body as highly sensitive to external intentions. Even a practitioner’s well meaning desire to change a misalignment causing pain may interfere with the system’s own inherent treatment plan. On the other hand, aligning ourselves with a deep bio-intelligence enhances the potential for that intelligence to effectively express itself. Our practitioner orientation supports the client’s system in accessing the greater nourishment of the Breath of Life. To this aim, we settle under our busy minds and ego-centered needs to do or accomplish or succeed at something.
Our cultural conditioning can get in the way:
What will my client think of me if this pain doesn’t go away? What will my friends and family think if I still have this pain after months, or even years, of trying all kinds of practices and practitioners?
Deepening under such externally imposed goals can be both challenging and rewarding. Returning to the model of the embryo, where nourishment equals environment, can help.
Nourished like an Embryo
Embryos develop according to the context they find themselves in. As cell biologist Bruce Lipton points out, fetuses develop differently when mother perceives her environment as safe and nurturing or as dangerous and threating. Different genes are turned on and off within embryonic cells in preparation for the environment the little one will be born into.
Cells forming the embryo also develop differently according to their immediate environment. They grow, divide and shape shift according to what surrounds them, informed by messages from other cells, growing towards nourishing fluids, and protectively withdrawing from toxic influences.
Regardless of age, perceived safety promotes growth, while threat triggers
protection mode. One of the most helpful things to offer ourselves and our clients is a sense of safety. Safety, and anything that supports our sense of it, is nourishment.
Fluidity is also nourishment. Our embryonic tissues are fluidic and juicy. Embryos consist almost entirely of water, a highly resonant element. Founder of Continuum Movement, Emilie Conrad, notes that our fluids resonate with the rhythms of the both the planet the cosmos.
When our tissues, like those of the embryo, are soft and fluid, they are nourished by receiving information they need through resonance. In injury and dis-ease, they tend to densify, becoming isolated from the whole and losing touch with essential information flow. Cancer cells, for example, seem to dance to a different drummer, indifferent to the rhythms of their host organism.
Health depends upon fluidity and its resonance. As A. T. Still, founder of Osteopathy wrote,
“He who is able to reason will see that this great river of life must be tapped and the withering field irrigated at once, or the harvest of health be forever lost.”
In health, as in the embryo, our tissues and cellular communities dance in resonance with the whole of our body, our being and our larger community. Mother Earth is always there, holding us in her ample lap, while she, in turn, is supported by the whole of the cosmos. We are nourished on all these levels. Simply returning to resonance with these fields within fields waters “the withering field”, often more effectively than applying more active techniques.
Resting into a Larger Whole
In taking care of ourselves and others, we can remember the embryo growing in relationship to its environment. Deepening to orient to the larger whole, pain ceases to be experienced as the whole of us (or our clients). Widening our view, the wound gains access to a larger whole and its resources. Our field of resource and nourishment grows and the problem can more easily be addressed within it.
Widening our perspective supports health and healing, and provides needed nourishment. This is challenging however until we slow down.
Slowing into Being
We are not designed for the speed of the modern world. We undergo constant stimulation from electronics, commuting, and even just from knowing so many more people than we would in a quieter traditional village. Our nervous systems are repeatedly overwhelmed with input and demands for immediate response. Within a world of speed, our sympathetic fight-flight nervous system is on over-drive, while our para-sympathetic system often numbs us. This protection mode contributes to a myriad of modern dis-eases, mostly unknown until recent history.
The simple act of slowing down can benefit and feed us in so many ways! For example, when a cranial client settles on the treatment table their digestive system often begins gurgling.
In sympathetic mode, digestion is relatively shut down. Only those functions essential in emergency mode are active. Slowing down, our bodies can register safety. The saber tooth tiger is gone. Miraculously we were not eaten! Digestion can resume. Other physiological activity supported by the parasympathetic system also returns. We enter rest and rejuvenation mode. Our immune system begins to do its job more effectively once we know we are likely to survive long enough for it to matter. Somatic repair teams return to work. The body begins to mend.
Emotional healing also happens more readily when we slow down. In speed, we tend to function automatically. Lacking time to consider alternatives; we engage the same old patterns repeatedly, unable to perceive the safety of the present moment. When trauma patterns are triggered, we are sucked into them, reinforcing neurological pathways involved. We feel powerless to make significant changes.
Slowing down, we have more possibility of perceiving and accessing the options available for us. We can recognize safety. Our true potential becomes more apparent.
The Path of Least Resistance
In speed, we take the path of least resistance. It’s a bit like moving house and finding yourself
The next time we approach this same spot, we may find ourselves taking the old path because it is easier. Without pausing to evaluate the situation, we might miss the new path, which is still relatively unclear. We walk right past it. Then, realizing at some point we are back on the old path, we wonder, how did we get there? Choosing a new path initially takes awareness and work. Each time we pause and make the choice to take the new path, it becomes clearer, while he old one gradually becomes overgrown.
Slowing down can be a key to creating new pathways, in our bodies, our relationships and our lives. New options become apparent. Nourishment begins to flow. Old patterns may then seem less important or even less relevant. We may be surprised to discover the old pain is gone. Instead, something new is emerging.