Perception, Awareness and Direction of Ease
by Charles Gilliam
I was first attracted to this world of the body via the works of Dr. Randolph Stone, as I was fulfilling my dream of surfing in Hawaii in 1972. In his extensive manuals on Polarity Therapy he wrote of the energy fields of the body and the connections of the body, mind and spirit. He wrote of the illnesses that occur in the human body when these three different vibrational levels were disconnected or out of alignment with each other. Dr. Stone’s works also lead me to a spiritual teacher in India.
The study of Dr. Stone’s work led me to the Lomi School. The developers, Robert Hall, Alyssa Hall, and Richard Heckler, took Dr. Stone’s work and combined it with the structural work of Dr. Ida Rolf and the psychotherapeutic investigations of Dr. Fritz Perls. The Lomi Body Work, as it was called, addressed body, mind, energy and spirit. By addressing the body tissue, one could address trauma, behavioral patterns and karma present in the body and that were shaping not only the body structure, but how we interacted with our world. While this approach of the Lomi School seemed to answer many questions about the human condition, Lomi Body Work was not altogether comfortable for me to do.
Around this time in the early 1980’s, I met two osteopaths, Dr. Fritz Smith and Dr. John Upledger, who opened up for me a new world of touch, connection and awareness. In Dr. Fritz Smith, I learned about touching both structure and energy. Dr. Smith defined energy as movement and that in connecting with both structure and energy simultaneously another level of awareness and healing could be facilitated. Creating a clearer, stronger force field in the body, as a result of this level of touch, was the means to supporting the healing of body, mind and spirit.
What Dr. John Upledger brought to my awareness was perception of the rhythmically moving fluid of the craniosacral system in the body. In perceiving this craniosacral system, one could have access to deeper levels of movement in our human system that show us health and dysfunction. That in the awareness of the motion of fluids in the body, and specifically cerebrospinal fluid, this energy of fluidic motion could be facilitated to move into areas of less motion and bring about healing. He also presented the concept of following the direction of ease of the tissues to assist in their release. That with the internal motion of the craniosacral system and our assistance with the direction of ease of the tissues along with awareness that tissue has memory, one could assist in a profound healing process.
I have passed the last thirty years of my life teaching and practicing the Zero Balancing of Dr. Fritz Smith and the CranioSacral Therapy of Dr. John Upledger. I feel that I know these two approaches inside and out and use both each time I work with an individual. I have also worked with other teachers who have added pieces to my process of learning and working with individuals in their healing process.
My study and continued practice of the martial art, Aikido with Mitsugi Saotome Sensei, Richard Heckler Sensei, and Ria Windcaller Sensei has brought into my awareness another aspect of energy and harmony. I have devoted 40 years of study and teaching Aikido, the way of harmonizing with the universal life force. The object of Aikido is to harmonize with the attacker’s energy and lovingly help him to the ground. The harmonizing and loving intention implies here a sense of the direction of ease. That it is not force that takes him to the ground, it is understanding the imbalances in the attacker and easily directing him onto the ground. I practice this in Aikido and in my healing work. I presented at the Upledger Foundation ‘Beyond the Dura’ conference in 1989 on how the concept of lovingly helping the attacker to the ground is so similar to our facilitation of release of energy cysts in the body. We do this by paying attention to the direction of ease of the tissues and inviting in the energy or potency of the craniosacral rhythm.
More recently my study of martial arts and energy has taken me into the study of Tai Chi with Wolfe Lowenthal(www.longrivertaichi.org). To me Tai Chi is a slow deliberate observation and embodiment of oneself as an energy field moving through this eternal moment. A moving meditation and gathering and focusing of my energy. In push hands, I learn the art of sticking to and observing another’s energy. The sticking is similar to tuning into the rhythms of the client’s body and following the direction of ease. In the case of push hands I lovingly assisting the push hands player in discovering where balance is not. In the case of body work it is assisting the chi to come into the area of least balance, and to fill and balance that area.
Another person who has had a great influence in my work has been Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, creator of Body-Mind Centering(www.bodymindcentering.com). Through Bonnie I have learned of the developmental processes of the first few years of the human life. I have learned to respect the deep intelligence and sensitivity of the newborn and growing child. That the more we respect the newborn’s beingness, the more response and balancing occurs in our interactions with her. That the technique is as much being present and interacting with the child at her level, as it is recognizing what help the child needs to be supported in her developmental process.
From my study with Jean-Pierre Barral, developer of Visceral Manipulation, along with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, I have learned that our organs have as much to do with balance and motion in the body, as the organ’s roles in body physiology.
Listening is an art that includes the perception in touch, the harmonizing of Aikido, the sticking of tai chi, the power of presence and it is learned mostly at home. My introduction to listening goes from listening to what my parents had to say, to listening in school, to listening to a client, to the listening to my wife in our Imago Therapy with June Robbins. The later of which I learned more about being in the moment than any of my other therapies and trainings. We go into relationships unknowing that we chose someone close to a parent’s nature. We leave often because the mirror is unrecognized. Imago Therapy of Harville Hendrix(http://gettingtheloveyouwant.com) creates a safe place to be trained as the mirror for the other, and the validator for the other, and the empathizer for the other. This process is learning the art of listening to one who is seemingly triggering every old pattern that exists in me. I also then, by listening and being in the moment, validate that I may well be acting like a jerk and yet, have the potential to change given I can step into the energy of change and truly see myself. I am grateful for having been through this life changing process for I continue to be in relationship to my wife, Rebecca. We both continue to be the mirrorers, validators, and empathizers for the other. We use this process as best as we can for ourselves and our two beautiful boys. It is this process of listening the blends so deeply in my ability to be present to and aware of my clients and students processes.
From all of my wide range of experiences over these forty years of study, practice, and teaching, I have come to understand a number of key concepts in assisting people into their health. They are presence, awareness, direction of ease and stillness.
Presence is the great state of being that is as beneficial for the practitioner, as it is for the receiver of the healing work. Presence allows one to stay grounded and in the moment, and supports the capacity to be aware of what is moving and not moving in the client’s energy field. Presence is also that which the client’s inner wisdom immediately tunes in to. Presence is what creates safety and sacred space for the client to more easily move into their own healing space. The practice of presence is in itself a deep and profound life practice with much written on the subject. (Power of Now, One Dharma, Power of Intention, Teachings of Rumi, Gene Keys).
Awareness is a part of presence and is the perceptual field of the practitioner of themselves. In being aware of one’s own body and energy, one can become more in the moment and more in touch with one’s needs. This awareness is also crucial to staying grounded and centered in the situations of life, whether a martial arts situation or in the office with a client. Awareness is also part of our perceptual field that allows me to pick up information about those around me and, especially, information about my client’s energy field and potential. Awareness is my ability to listening on all levels to another. I step into the energy field of the client, I put my hands on and allow the information to come through to me. This information that comes through varies so much in people, that I am continually amazed. Several people will use this perceptual awareness to evaluate a client and come up with several different perspectives. And then what we do with it is a whole other thing. I have found some easier ways to work with this awareness over the years and that is why I will so often refer to the direction of ease. Each person has his or her own direction of ease in life. Some call it following one’s heart, although that may not be so easy if one is not aware of one’s heart. Awareness and the practice of presence will lead us to our hearts. Following our hearts assists us in understanding direction of ease, which is the essence of this work. This concept of direction of ease is one of the circles of life. When we go that way, we end up at our selves and then our true selves. We also take that route to assist others.
My intention is of great importance when I move into the field of awareness. That is, what am I looking for when I work with an individual who has come to me for help with some condition or another. Am I looking at structure or function or disease or energy or psyche or spirit? Well, it all depends again on my awareness, and what I am drawn to in the body. What that person shows me and guides me to is what I put my intention on.
For instance in Zero Balancing the focus or intention is on balancing structure and energy. Energy in Zero Balancing is very simply defined as movement. So I put my hands on the body and where I find motion, energy is moving and where I find no motion energy is generally stuck or in an inertial state. By the use of appropriately placed energetic fulcrums along and relative to the vertebral column the clearer, stronger force field of the body becomes activated. The individual becomes more balanced and connected as a result of the clearer, stronger force field of the body becoming more activated and the healing process is begun. It is my awareness that leads me to the lack of motion or energy in certain parts of the body. My presence in the form of a fulcrum in the case of using Zero Balancing brings more presence and energy into that individual and the healing occurs.
In focusing on the craniosacral system I become aware of the rhythmical motion of the inflow and outflow of cerebrospinal fluid, very much like the tides moving in and out in an oceanic tidal basin. Cranial osteopathy’s founder Dr. William Garner Sutherland called this fluidic movement the ‘Breath of Life’. I now feel that when I connect with this cerebrospinal rhythm at its three movement levels, I am working with the innate potency of the universe as it moves in the individual. The understanding of the three tidal motions, craniosacral rhythm, mid tide and long tide, comes from my studies of the Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy approach. When I connect with these tidal motions I am recognizing, as Andrew Taylor Still, founder of modern osteopathy, states, the health in the body. By my awareness of this tidal motion, I acknowledge the health in the body.
Direction of ease is a wonderful phrase that is a basic part of the craniosacral therapeutic approach, as well as a great approach to life. My developed awareness of motion or energy in tissues is what guides me to the direction of ease in those tissues. My personal energy via touch is recognized by the clients tissues. My personal energy represents my present, grounded, safe, sacred and aware state, as I interact with the client. As I move with that direction of ease in the clients tissues, I meet that other most awesome part of the client, the ‘Breath of Life’, the tidal motion that is continuous and is the life and potency of the human being. As I maintain my awareness in the direction of ease, I invite that tidal motion into those tissues. The rhythmic tidal motion moving into and out of the tissues is so much like the tides in the ocean basins and inlets. If a boat is stuck on the sand bar, that tide gently lifts it out. As energy is stuck in the body and the direction of ease is pointing to it, the tidal motion of the craniosacral system washes into the area of inertia or stuck energy and something happens. Usually a stillness comes over the body after which motion occurs in the inertial area.
The stillness is another amazing phenomena. Stillness is a spontaneous occurrence that I understand as the body knowing what to do and doing it. In that stillness the craniosacral rhythm has stopped. When the craniosacral rhythm reappears, the body shows a deeper level of the tidal motion, usually into the mid tide. The mid tide often times manifests as an energetic orientation to the midline of the body. Now remember that energy here is being defined as movement. A balancing of the craniosacral rhythm in the symmetrical perspective is an orientation to midline. What ever terms might be used to describe balance in the body, whether a deepening of the craniosacral rhythm, or orientation to midline, or a clearer, stronger force field, all apply here. This event in the healing process is the manifestation of health in the body. This manifestation of health in the body usually means increased awareness of self. Awareness of who I am in relation to my life and others in my life. My awareness leads me to more understanding of my own energy balances and imbalances. My awareness, given I remain present with it, further assists me in following my own direction of ease or my heart. I then must take responsibility for my life and how I live it. I begin to learn that the ways that I act and think effect my balance and awareness. What I do continue to remember at a deep tissue level is the concept of direction of ease. That when I take that direction of ease, my awareness increases, my sense of presence increases, and my level of ease in life increases. Assisting a person into the direction of ease and into that Breath of Life, is the invitation into a larger field of awareness. I can also say that the invitation is also into the original or authentic consciousness of who that person really is.
My intention in working with an individual is to assist in the manifestation of health in the body. The technique is more a state of being, than a step by step process. It involves my presence in the moment, my awareness of energy balance and imbalance in the individual’s body. It involves my ability to perceive, listen to, and connect to the inherent motions in the individual and assist those motion patterns into the direction of ease. It involves trusting that something will happen and in that process stillness will manifest. It involves being grateful to be able to be a part of such a sacred process as healing is.
A more recent part of my journey has been into the Gene Keys and is spoken of more in the main pages of this website.
Some of the books and people that have guided me over the years
Barks, Coleman, The Essential Rumi, 1995.
Bartlett, Richard, The Physics of Miracles, 2009
Becker, Rollin E., D.O., Life in Motion, Stillness Press, 1997
Cohen, Bonnie Bainbridge, Sensing, Feeling and Action, Contact Editions, Northampton, MA, 1993.
Dyer, Wayne, The Power of Intention, 2004
Goldstein, Joseph, One Dharma, 2002
Heckler, Richard, The Anatomy of Change, 1984.
Hendrix, Harvelle, Getting The Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, 1988.
Hicks, Esther and Jerry, The Law of Attraction, The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham, 2006.
Kern, Michael, Wisdom in the Body, The Craniosacral Approach to Essential Health, Thorsons, 2001.
Lowenthal, Wolfe, There are No Secrets, 1991.
Milne, Hugh, The Heart of LIstening, 1995.
Perls, Fritz, Gestalt Therapy, 1951.
Rudd, Richard, Gene Keys, 2009, GeneKeys.com
Saotome, Mitsugi, Aikido and the Harmony in Nature, 1986.
Smith, Fritz, Inner Bridges, Guide to Energy Movement and Body Structure, 1986.
Stone, Randolf, Polarity Therapy- the complete collected works vol. I, 1954.
Sutherland, William Garner, Teachings in the Science of Osteopathy,
Sutherland Cranial Teaching Foundation, 1990.
Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginners Mind.
Tolle, Eckhart, The Power of Now, 1999.
Upledger and Vredevoogd, CranioSacral Therapy, Eastland Press, 1983.
Windcaller, Alexandria, Leading Chaos: An Essential Guide to Conflict Management, 2010.