Mike Boxhall – The Work 2015

Mike Boxhall – The Work 2015

The paper below is addressed to therapists of virtually every hue. It comes out of my work in craniosacral therapy and in psychotherapy, both of which I love. It is not a substitute for whatever it is we practice, it is simply an attempt to examine whether there is a level missing in whatever it is we do and whether there can be a modality for reaching that level.

It goes back a long way but my original inspiration, as I mentioned in The Empty Chair, was W.G. Sutherland who, when talking about various rythmns in the body, which he called tides, said “you can rely upon the tide”.

I have consistently taken this to mean that at a very deep level beyond the scope of the intellect, there is an intelligence that can be totally trusted if only we can f ind a space in our lives – particularly in the therapeutic relationship – where the seperated, individual, egoic and limiting intellect is not predominant.

Developing and maintaining this trust in, what I call, intelligence – you may use another word – can bring remarkable results, in fact, results without limitation.

The work is not easy; it can sometimes seem scary but scary to whom is exactly the question that may get an answer if we persevere.

I should welcome any mindful and experiencial feedback.

Mike Boxhall.

www.theemptychairteachingfoundation.com

 

A Bee in my Bonnet.

Mike Boxhall December 2014

 

There are almost no bees. In spite of planting a variety of insect-attracting plants in the Spring, or at least, Barbara did, there are virtually no insects, apart from some hoverflies, at a time when the garden is a feast of flowers. This, of course, is a potential disaster and probably due to the latest scientific advances in pesticides. The neighbouring fields were sprayed recently, exactly in accordance with Ministry of Agriculture recommendations. To gain larger crops and more money, we risk losing all crops and incidentally, insect and bird life as well. Quality of life goes out the window. These pesticides, neonicotinoids, are possibly more virulent than the DDT which was quite successfully curtailed some years ago. Yesterday we saw one bumble bee with all six legs up in the air, dead, and not a single honey bee. Two cabbage white butterflies, two peacock butterflies and one comma; on a beautiful day; hot weather; the middle of July; in a paradise of flowers!

This is one story.  The other bee in my bonnet just now, a relatively new obsession, is that whilst I have been going on for years and years about how some sciences are exponentially catching up with the intuitions of the mystics, here below is my evidence of some of the the results. Perhaps scientists (some of them) are the new mystics.

I have usually been talking about physics and some of the luminaries of that profession. Now I am extending my obsessive interest to Epigenetics, a relatively recent science, dating from about 1990, which is a joint practice between Biology and Physics.

SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY.

I want to write about what I see as being the congruence between these two subjects.  Spirituality as I experience it, not as a dogmatic truth and Science in the particular form that it is described by the Epigeneticists.

I shall try to weave in thoughts that have grown in me about the Masculine and Feminine principles and how we would be wise to study them, largely, in my case, in their application to therapy, although perhaps, on another scale, to world affairs and indeed, life in general.

The attraction here is that it (the new science) seems to say from the point of view of science and the intellect, exactly what some of us say and experience, from the point of view of intuition and interior examination.  That is very comforting to the ego! As I get old this ceases to be as much of a problem as it was but, yes, it is comforting.

So now, since this discovery, I continue to do whatever it is that I do, or don’t do but it is great to feel the company of some others who reach the same place down different paths.

Part of what I do and what I teach students to do, is to meditate ( they may do so already, of course ) The reason I give is that if we are to work with people at a deep, perhaps very deep level, it is important that we stay  earthed,  grounded and in the present.  We cannot be of use to others if we disassociate whenever a deep level trauma arises. (whether mine or yours ). The main purpose of meditation, in my book, is to come into the present with what is happening, right now, in my mind, acknowledge that and let it go.  If I can’t let it go, then acknowledge that I can’t let it go.  That is what is there right now.  It changes the whole time and I try to be just aware of that, not trying to force my mind to take some other route.  I hear myself.  I do not judge myself or beat myself up. I heal myself. If I use meditation to try to elevate myself to some higher or better state of being, then I have lost the plot, in my opinion, I have gone back to materialism and the limitations of the intellect.

So, in class, we meditate, for half an hour at the beginning and another twenty minutes after lunch.  Or in some countries, after the siesta.

SCIENCE

I get a lot from science and I like to think that, in a small way, there is something to offer back, which is, simply put, a way of embodying, realising, the tentative conclusions we all come to. A truth that is beyond understanding.

I have justification in the form of references for statements that I have attributed to science and as I go along I will credit some of the main influences.  Anything else comes from my own experience or intuition and is not per se, scientific.

It seems such a shame that thinking people despise and put down feeling people and that intuitives are at war with observations that are more rooted in sensation. They are all aspects, equally valuable aspects, of the make-up of the human psyche (C G Jung).

It therefore becomes a pity when “scientific” therapy disparages the alternative and the alternative and traditional, rather pathetically, has to justify itself in pseudo-scientific language.  I can always be right from my point of view as you can from your point iof view; but right from an absolute point of view?  Who can say?  It might actually be useful to ask the recipient how she feels.  That is probably as close as we shall get to the absolute, whatever I or you, think.

We don’t get anywhere by fighting except into more fighting.  I am here specifically talking about the war against suffering and illness rather than that between nations, though much of my argument may be applied to the latter.

The questions we have to ask, when this happens, are, who is the enemy and who is the me that is fighting.  I am not who I think I am.  That I is an accumulation of undigested life experience, in other words the contents of my unconscious mind.

According to psychologists, ninety-five to ninety-nine percent of the time, I am not present but reacting to a replay system which has been laid down over many years, particularly in the first seven years of life (including the prenatal period) during which I absorbed a mass of information about my identity and the world I live in from my immediate environment – parents, siblings the family car, my pet cat and mashed spinach that I was forced to eat.  With this I identified at a subliminal level and to this I continue to respond.  Psychologists reckon that at least seventy percent of the developmental programmes that we download ( or upload, I never quite understand which is which ) are negative and disempowering. Why, is another subject.

This is particularly unfortunate as the conscious mind is the creative and life-enhancing mind and the unconscious is merely a massive storehouse of information which has become our default position adopted from a time, place and conditions which are no longer there.

(my interpretation of Bruce Lipton in “The Biology of Belief”)

I is a strange thing, mostly it is other people!

GENES.

This, of course, is an example of our genes speaking, isn’t it! We are subject to genetic determinism, as we have been told.  At least, those of us who are of a certain vintage have been taught that and it continues to be so taught in very many schools.

Well, no it isn’t. Gene expression is found to be subject to changes in the environment in the greater sense of the word environment, which here includes diet, relationships and stress. Ninety per cent of all illness is a direct response to stress.

If behaviour can be altered by the environment, that behaviour, including even the way I think, which is part of my programming, can be modified.  I do not have to be a victim.  I can fulfil my dreams, wishes and aspirations.  I am not who I think I am.

To be fully in the body at a very deep level, in the present, is to open the door to the possibility of changing the way our genes express; perhaps this can be described as re-birth in the now (this is nothing to do with the concept of re-incarnation), This work can be, at its deepest level, a level beyond the limitations of the intellect, a route to that end.

I have described the work as being, “at its tenderest, a journey taken in company to a level of being where there is no pathology”.

The level of being where there is no pathology is the root or core level of being which supports all of us at a cellular level- the level of the sensory body. In embryology the cell, the blastula, the foetus and the new-born, first experience sensation; then comes feeling and then only later comes thinking and conceptualisation. Pathology has not yet arisen, there is only the experience of sensing what is. Pathology is a concept and at the level of sensation there is no conceptualisation.

CHANGES.

To make changes we need  perhaps, instead of wrestling with the forms which the unconscious mind has produced in its reactivity and which we have labelled pathology or symptomatology, to surrender the disempowering workings of the intellect that conceptualises and labels its view of what is, based on the input of “others” and get back in touch with the truth of our being, at a sensory level. Perhaps from just touching that level, repeatedly touching it in the form of practice, a better adapted and less victimising sense of self could develop.

I do believe this to be possible and a substantial experience of working with groups willing to make the necessary surrender, confirms it.

The problem lies in the intellect, in that the purpose of the intellect is to define, explain and judge (and by so doing to limit!): all these functions of the masculine principle. Other adjectives might include doing, expanding, telling, moving – these could all have positive and negative sides. Perhaps the ultimate negative side of the masculine principle would be explosion. We could say that the concept of genetic determinism was a product of the masculine principle as, indeed, was the Cartesian paradigm. Both these are being discredited or superseded or, at least, modified.

In many cultures, including my own philosophy, there is a view that the whole must include opposites: good is relative to bad, masculine is relative to feminine. Everything has its opposite and nothing is in isolation. So where then is the feminine principle in me?

We could say that adjectives describing the feminine principle would include conservation, receiving, holding, listening – these too have positive and negative sides and the ultimate negative would be collapse.

If, as I said earlier, at least seventy percent of the patterns from which the unconscious mind operates are negative, and if we are acting from the unconscious ninety-five to ninety-nine percent of the time, it sounds as if we are doomed!

Happily this is not so!  Neither in my own clinical experience nor in the model of Epigenetics. I have not suddenly become an academic or a scientist, I have neither the inclination nor the capacity.  What has been encouraging to me and I suppose I must be talking about my ego – it consumes a lot of my energy – is that whatever conclusions, provisional or otherwise, that I have reached in my work, seem to have been reached from the intellect as well as from intuition. If we could all find a joint practice between what I shall loosely call left and right-brain modalities, I do believe that a greater truth could reveal itself, in the search for healing.  To find that balance, we may have to jump off the cliff into trust of the workings of Intelligence itself rather than the specific manifestation of that Intelligence called the Intellect. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate the potential power of the Feminine, which could include Intuition.

To go back to making changes, Epigenetics says that whilst we cannot change our genes, we can alter the, roughly only ten to fifteen percent which is in expression, active, triggered, at any one time. Four ways to make positive changes are posited but they collectively boil down to changing their habits of expression and encouraging a different and better expression. Bruce Lipton The Biology of Belief. Habits are changed, in essence, by putting a new habit in place. Whilst trauma or grace may achieve this purpose involuntarily, the most reliable way, for most of us, will be step by step.  By first being aware that we are habituated, not as we might of hoped, in control and by being prepared to take responsibility for that.

So, the first step is to be aware. As I have said, most of the time we are not.  It can be a slow and painful process to improve the percentage.  The prize however is immeasurable – freedom.  Freedom from the enslavement to habituation. Having become aware of how I am dis-empowering myself by continuing to carry around and operate from the negativity of my unconscious – rather that blaming the relentless universe for this enslavement – I can perhaps begin to set better, more life-enhancing practices in place.

It seems that the left brain can conceptualise about quantum changes, this conceptualisation however, is, by definition, a separation from the changes and a limitation of those changes. , Perhaps a right brain, feminine, approach could lead to a non-separation and rebirth from the electro-magnetic, energetic, level to the manifest level. Intelligent unity could re-emerge from under the intellectual formation of habituated self?

Go to a deeper level of being, or better put, surrender to a deeper level of being that is at our core, and just be aware, with no object.  This is the incredible and difficult thing, let the work do the work lest we limit it. It is not, at first, easy to trust to the extent of not needing to know.  At least not for the differentiated and individual me.  But, when we can and do something changes.  That is all I can say.

The ability to be present to….just present without any analysis or judgement. That is to say just to listen without having to know what is being listened to, as all knowing is, by definition, a limitation.  This is my proposal and practice.

In sum, the essence of the work is to listen.

The Daoist tradition has a take on  listen. If we translate the Chinese pictogram for “listen”, we find it has five parts, namely, 1. Ears,

2. Eyes.  3. You. 4. Full attention. 4. From the heart (not the brain.)  If only we could develop that capacity, the other, be it nation, spouse, friend, lover or patient, might feel heard and to be heard is to be healed.

Although I have been aware of this translation of “listen” for many years, it is interesting and amusing to note that I saw it recently quoted in an United States Department of State advice document on the subject of “Diplomacy in Action!” http://www.state.gov/m/a/os/65759.htm

There are several applications for this work, some psychological states among them.  Trauma, anxiety, depression and others; but what interests me, in particular, for further study, is the possible effect of working from the feminine principle, in the form of embodied listening, in relation to loss of intellectual capacity.  Instead of the masculine structure; regime, telling, organising, feeding, medicating, that is normally offered.  I am proposing that this way of being could be valuable when working with dementia and early (perhaps first and second) stage Alzheimer’s. It is no good attacking collapse with explosion.  Dementia needs to be heard to be healed, if not necessarily, cured. It could be a comparitively low cost research and there is no need to stress the need for a result. It is very rare for people with dementia to be heard.  They are mostly talked over and talked about.  Surely this is crazy?  Where is is no or limited intellect, there surely is the need for a body work that is devoted to hearing and holding, both at the sensory level and both representing the prime needs of the human being – even, perhaps, above food and shelter!

Listening to an intellectually impaired person from the sensory level without judgement or analysis, is a very moving and rewarding experience, for both, or all, parties.

THE WORK.

The work, as I practice it, boils down really to just listening to another’s system without assessment, analysis or judgement of what is being heard. Without actually knowing what is being received. This is the feminine principle at work.  To be received or, putting it slightly differently,  to be heard is, in most societies, to be healed.  To be judged, to be analysed, to be “fixed” is the masculine principle at work and it is not a healing, other than of a symptom, and is dis-empowering.

In this work the hands are used on the fully clothed body – location is not of paramount importance as the connection is with the being rather than the specifics of the anatomy. It is important that the hands are seen as being receptors not transmitters, which is their usual function in medicine of one kind or another. Although that is not necessarily the case, significantly, when it is recognised that just holding is significant, as with babies, who have not developed yet an intellect!.

Being received or heard is rare, as I have suggested above. Much of our perceived suffering in relationship at the personal, societal and international level comes from not being heard. When that rare situation of being heard is encountered there can be a great sea-change in one’s defence mechanisms and as the receiving, being heard, goes deeper so do the changes in the armouring  allow a state of being to emerge that is much closer to the intentions of Intelligence and less a victim of undigested life experience, that is to say, the self-view that is so deeply entrenched in the first few years of life when delta and theta wavelengths are paramount and there is no discrimination. We could put this another way and say that cortisol and adrenalin are suppressed and serotonin and oxytocin are encouraged.

I am not a scientist, I am not even an academic of any kind but I do trust intuition and sensation and I suppose the word trust is absolutely paramount if the suffering, whatever it is, and I am talking rather more about Dementia than in-growing toe nails, is to be heard and healed as not to trust means that the, by definition limiting, intellect is always in play.

People have reported some amazing changes resulting from working this way, which nobody can understand very well, as they are perhaps, past understanding,

What gets heard?  At a very cellularlevel, what gets heard is the suffering, the trauma.  It is not examined conceptually or analytically, just heard and in this lies the possibility at that same level, for a re-evaluation of reaction and the possibility for a different reaction in the same way that the original sufferering or reaction was installed. It is not necessary to know that suffering, that would be a work of the intellect. Just to hear it.

Who hears? The patient hears and the thera[pist hears and they do not even need to know what they are hearing.  It is beyond knowing.The hearing is there because the conceptualising intellect is not.  The process is out of time or rather, fully in the present. (See the quote from Rilke at the foot of this document.)

I remember a particular, very recent, example, that perhaps illustrates what I mean by past understanding. It was during a three day residential course that I was teaching with about 22 students, if I remember correctly. The students ha all completed a 40 minute hands-on session in pairs.

During the feedback in the group it seemed clear to me that Marta was suffering in some kind of way.  I questioned her and she said she had a violent pressure building up “on the top of her head.”  During our little chat it got worse and worse until she say that she could and would bear it but only just.  I asked if I could move closer to her, she agreed and I suggested she lay back down again. – she had been sitting up on the couch that the exchange had taken place on -. I put my hands on her, not doing anything but just “listening” in stillness.  It could be called receiving.  I encouraged the person who had been the practitioner in the practice session to join in.  I asked from time to time whether Marta was still coping?  She was, but the pain was getting more and more excruciating.  I just sat, as still as I could, telling myself not to be paranoid every time I thought “ its not going to work this time.” – a habit of mine is mild paranoia! I just have to sit in stillness with that, as well.

Suddenly, Marta sat up and said “that’s it.  I have just realised how I have been limiting myself all these years. Now I can let it go! Thank you for keeping that safe space that I could explore that in.”  Not thank you for fixing me but rather, thank you for letting me find my own power  (whether again, or for the first time – I suspect the former).

The system finally found a way of, painfully, breaking out of its limitations; from what I know of her history, she probably had them since she was a small girl as she had not been wanted, loved was the way she described it. The pain faded quite quickly and the work of being present to her very lovable self begins.

THE FUTURE

I would like to find a way of getting together with a robustly left brained doctor/scientist, in a hospital environment with the aim of exploring clinically some of the areas which are currently most puzzling and most urgent. I am particularly thinking, of course, of the diseases associated with an exponentially increasing old population; particularly dementia.  The main task might be to find the form in which the work can be presented to make it palatable to those who would have to structure and conduct it. I have worked in several hospitals, including University Hospitals, some times with clients and sometimes with large groups of doctors and nurses. It is not however my main milieu and I do not know how to set up a proper “scientific” trial.

What I bring to the meeting is that on the one side I come from an immersion in Eastern philosophy, Jungian psychology and mystical Osteopathy (if you can imagine such a thing);  in the middle I have forty years of clinical experience and teaching and on the other side I am much influenced by Bruce Lipton, Candace Pert, Rupert Sheldrake, Iain McGilchrist, Albert Einstein and many others especially the Quantum Physicists.  I am trying to make a bridge , in the same way that I struggle to make a bridge between intuition and sensation through thinking or feeling (c.f. C G Jung)

My main teacher remains Mila Repa.  He has been dead some 900 years but in the revered, second half of his life (unlike the first half when he was a bit of a tearaway) he advocated getting to know one’s demons, flattering them, paying them respect, feeding them well and then turning them into disciples to be put to work for the benefit of all. I like that model – let us schmooze! I do believe we can change our being and destiny

Is science prepared to work in the somewhat scary field of not-knowing, at least, not knowing in the intellectual sense?

Scientists tell me that the body, with its 50 trillion cells, is an incredible intelligence. The expression, not he structure, of the genome can alter itself.  Can we envisage a way of letting it do that and repair or restructure itself, without limiting what it can and will do by intervention of the intellect which, like the drugs that are often given and needed in cases of dementia, is not specific enough.

The premise is, that by becoming more fully in the body at the level of sensation (the cellular level), rather than thinking, which embryologically, is far away from the systemic source level, change can take place.  The repairs must be at that level, not from the limiting part- knowledge of the intellect.

Let us look for a moment at what the body does (among other things ).  Food, air, light, water, information, of one kind or another, including speech, sights and sounds, are ingested. All this is processed; we call it digestion.

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