Teaching February 2010: Doing Nothing

Teaching February 2010: Doing Nothing

I hope 2010 has got off to a calm start. One of the main purposes behind the lead article this month, is to empower people to be able to work with just what is for them, at that place, in that time, in that particular relationship. I think that so often, we get restricted by looking for what we think, or have been told, we should be looking for.

First off though, do please read the two responses under last month’s Intermezzo, “Awakening.” I think they say more than the piece they refer to!

Teaching Feb 2010. Doing Nothing:

It feels as though I could go on for ever about this subject.

It is so hard in our culture and upbringing to believe that such a thing as doing nothing could be advantageous. We have accepted that we have to be constantly doing and, even more important, know what we are doing.

Time after time, I invite classes to work with each other from a place of not knowing. The instructions go something like this:

  1. Get the information dialogue, the case history, if you will, out of the way first by listening to the problem as the client presents it.
  2. Make sure the client is comfortable on the couch; at least in the physical sense.
  3. Sit down beside the couch or mat or chair; whatever you use.
  4. Centre yourself. Feel for contact with the ground and the sky. Test yourself to be sure you are present. Am I in touch with my chair, with my feet, with my hands, even, with my thinking?
  5. Then, and only then, gently make physical contact, wherever seems comfortable to you. If you prefer not to make physical contact, the energetic contact, an intention, is still a contact.
  6. Then, DO nothing! Just receive without commentary, internal or spoken, anything you are offered. Don’t judge it; don’t analyse it; try not to wonder what it means; just receive what is.
  7. Forms, thoughts, patterns, all concepts, will arise. If you engage with them, you have plateau-ed out and that is where you will stay; which may be very useful; at that level.
  8. If, however, you can just stay in the completely open enquiry, other forms will arise, more and more until you reach a level of inter-being where what is there to be declared, has been declared. There is a settling, a peace, acknowledged, in my experience, on both sides, that the story has been told. The story has been heard. In the telling and the hearing, there is great healing and the work is done. At least for today.

I think it may be clear that this kind of work does not necessarily demand a therapeutic background. If you can meet the suggestions above, you can do the work. Work with the Spirit is not subject to any intellectual capacity but, rather, a complete openness and surrender to what is. That last, is the difficult bit, the surrender.

Now let me introduce a spanner into the works: a comment about the reality of doing nothing; it is not possible! Our very presence is a doing. What we can perhaps do, however, is allow the synergy of the relationship to do the work and we just witness that, without intentional engagement with what arises, just with the revelation.

The custom, in our classes, is that after the “physical contact” session, the group reconvenes in a circle and the experience is discussed; from the point of view of the “practitioner” and the “client”. There is clearly, admittedly, a certain artificiality about these relationships, as both parties are at the same time as whichever role they are playing, in a joint, and peer, practice with each other.

This experience, as it is described, is sometimes apparently similar on both sides. Sometimes it seems to be totally different. I have no difficulty with this, as two people will always have a different experience of any event, simply because they are different people with different sensory mechanisms and different life experiences from which to judge the event. I think I would be quite suspicious, if any group recorded such an event in identical terms, that there were a sort of mass hysteria operating.

What has become clear to many of us, through this process, through this sharing, is the relativity of all experience, that is to say, relative to the time, place, space and the people involved, on the one hand and on the other hand that the most profound life-enhancing experiences have come where the relationship is less of a doing by one to another and more a joint practice between two or more people. I say two or more as, in these circumstances, there are several other pairs in the same room contacting the one energy field. I have no doubt that this magnifies the dynamic.

What is sometimes heard is something like this:

M. I felt like he gave me a gift.
It was one of those sessions where when I sat down I felt like I could just turn myself loose; for the first time since I’d arrived here. Time was still like the medicine bowl, (this refers to a singing bowl that I use to mark the passage of a period if time) yet at the same time there was a different tone to the stillness inside of it. What was beautiful was that everywhere the stillness went and everywhere that my attention was drawn, there were the patterns of his system at that level. It was the first time that there was this crystalline awareness that the patterns are nothing but another faceless form that Jon was wearing.
It just kept unfolding like that. It became every pattern and every thought that might arise in me. Everything that happened in the room was just another face that that stillness was wearing. There was nothing to do but enjoy the ride. When that really started to get big, I was holding his pelvis and suddenly I realised that there was no weight in my hands any more. I thought, ‘Oh my god, J. is becoming so light!’ I looked at him more directly and the whole pelvic area became this beautiful lotus and every petal was one of those experiences; every petal was one of those patterns of life, but it was all the same stillness.
I think I moved to your (he turns to look at the person he has been talking about) head or shoulders. I don’t remember. There, it was the same thing; just watching and moving through this beautiful, liquid moving stillness and watching these patterns and noting again that it got bigger and bigger. I had to look at my body because I felt like I was just warming my hands by this big fire. The fire was just there; the fire that’s in your heart, and the fire that’s in the stars, and the fire that is in the centre of our mother (Earth). It was good.

J. It was a multi-levelled session.
I was aware as M. was perceiving these patterns that I could feel, the experiences held in my body. ‘Oh, that was the time I broke that bone. Oh, that was the time I hurt this.’ All of these images of where the patterns came from kept arising in me. Nuances were coming in, and old dreams were coming in, and it felt like wandering through a house, opening a door, and looking in one room after another. I was familiar with every room in the house but I had never recognised that they were all rooms in the same house before. So as M. was perceiving them as petals – I was seeing the lotus as the larger house. In this stillness I was bigger than this injury or this pain, or this pattern, or this reaction; this is more than all of this and it’s that as well. It’s just another face or part of the house.
I don’t have any more words for it.

This exchange was part of the report of two practitioners working together, where M. was the client and J. was the therapist. They are both men and experienced practitioners.

The following are feedback notes from a demonstration session by me, where I was at a table with one person, the client, and the rest of the group (about 22 people) were sitting or lying, in the room, with the intention of just receiving whatever dynamic arose in them. Not focussing on whatever might or might not be going on, on the plinth, table, and couch, whatever you want to call it. It was meant to be a demonstration of synergy at work in a larger field. I sometimes talk about “letting the work do the work.” I would say that this can only happen when the practitioner is sufficiently out of the way, and not “doing something” himself, (see note on not doing, above) to allow that dynamic of “the work doing the work,” to become apparent. This is some of the feedback from the “audience.”

N. “I was aware of constant change, like moments of being able to be very present. I felt as though I were really embodied and aware of my breath and that felt sense was throughout my whole body.

I could also see how the mind was looking to be entertained, so it would often go off into a story or look for something and then I’d drop it and come back to being present. Then the mind would look for another avenue and I would get drowsy and start dozing off. I needed to shift my body to become present again. It was constantly moving through all these different layers.

X. It felt very much like that for me, too and I could hear my attention shifting to the sound of the birds and the sounds from the road, and then I would let go of these and get quiet again. Then something else would attract me and I would think, ‘Oh, how easily I am distracted,’ and then I’d let go again and just settle. It was a dance. I tried to just be very gentle and not react with, ‘Ahh, what am I doing?!’
Mike: Yes that’s a much kinder way to work.

(note on presence; it is much misunderstood that presence is not just about being aware of being focused on a target but equally aware of not being focused on the object one has set out to focus on-if we keep that in mind, we may have less need to beat ourselves up for not being perfect!)

Y: I felt a little empty. At one point I felt that I had an awareness of the back of my heart and I felt a gentle oscillation like a motor ticking over. I remembered that I am afraid of motors and I wasn’t afraid of this so that was really interesting. I dropped that and then I wanted to lie down, and I thought, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t lie down,’ but anyway, I did. (at this level)

Mike: to A. I think you were going to say something?

A. I got a very physical sensation from the work. I started moving my neck and I could feel something in my heart. When I looked up, I saw this was where your hands were placed. (on the “client”) The main thing I felt throughout was this very deep, sunken feeling in my pelvis.

Mike: Thank you.

Z.: I had a really different experience. As I grounded, I felt myself go down into the mother earth and be nurtured and then I sprouted up. I felt like this shoot of me was coming up and I opened up and this seed fell out onto the ground and I thought, ‘Well, am I the seed? -Just go with it and don’t think about it!’

I felt this seed open up and the shell or the husk of the seed felt like a bowl. (see earlier note on bowl). My head and my heart felt connected and this seed felt like it was splitting open in between the two. There was so much but that was a really deep experience.

Mike: What a lovely image. Thank you.

Mike: to the “client.” How about you, C. I am interested, because we have not worked before, whether you got in touch with anything at all?

C. I was mostly watching and, similarly to X., I noticed this need to be entertained. I shut my eyes and got some stillness. I actually noticed while it was happening that I was moving my neck in different ways. Then I got real still and I felt my core, and at that point I heard your chair move. I looked and you were moving to the heart area. I took a deep breath and went back in and I started hearing the birds sing, and kind of got lost in something and felt sleepy and then I came back and was present again. In and out, all the time.

Mike: So there definitely was something there for you in the field? (this is me being paranoid! “nothing is happening this time! This time I have got egg on my face!”)

C. Yes, there was. (I try to hide the sigh of relief)

X. When you first started the session, I was aware that there was a physical bodily reaction to seeing the table go up and the work beginning. I guess it’s because it’s pretty much what I do all day and my body said, ‘OK, here we are, going to work.’

It was an interesting awareness. There was a layering of things. I have been juggling a lot and so I was watching all of the thoughts fall and I thought, ‘That’s OK,’ and then like everyone else has said there was this settling in to this quiet place. Thoughts would come up and go down. At about the same time, I was able to feel the resonance of when you came up and shifted. (levels?)

Even that sense of the ending was very clear; just this rising up and connecting back. For me it was just an awareness of those current, unconditioned responses.

Mike: Good. What about the fatigue? (that she had spoken of, earlier)

X. Oh, the fatigue is just a clear awareness that there are things that I need to or can let go of. Working hard has been, like you said, a life pattern. A kind of circle of having to work hard, and I am still learning to let that go-it is so engrained.

Mike: Any of you guys?

J. I had a scary dream last night and I didn’t sleep well. I was just aware of that and trying to be with that this morning. I closed my eyes when the work was going on, on the table and I got this really tender feeling in my chest around my heart. It was so tender I felt like I had to put my hand on my heart just to be with it.

When I did that, I felt my heart really expand and I realized that being scared had shrunk this area. It expanded and I feel better now.

Mike: Anybody else?

Y. I am aware not only in this morning’s meditation but again now that this is the largest, gender-mixed group that I have been in, doing this kind of work. I have this really wonderful sense of potency of the larger numbers and the horsepower.

Mike: Maybe that’s the motor ticking over! [Laughter]

Y. I am finding it very interesting. I am trying to let it be rather than getting into that whole thing of an engine starting up, and thinking, ‘Oh, that’s a fast car!’ I don’t have to move fast. I don’t have to do anything with it.

Mike: We don’t have to look for or expect anything special, anything extraordinary. It may help us though just to get in touch with what is there. Most of the time we don’t know what is there.

Mike: G, do you have any comments?

G. Our connection is so deep that there was no boundary and that boundary-less-ness expanded all the way out, so there were no boundaries between me and anything. The clearest example of that was the singing of the morning dove. The morning dove was no longer out there it was in here. There was the comfort of being in an empty place.

Mike: I recognize that. There is no separation between two people or twenty four people. How far can that go? All the people…… but not only people of course.

In other words what we call boundaries-separation-are not there. At this level that is useful. At other levels, particularly the mental/emotional level and certainly the physical level, boundaries are very important. Being aware of levels becomes very important.

Most psychotherapists talk a lot about boundaries but I don’t quite understand how you can have a boundary against the Spirit. Shock-horror-there are no boundaries!

All the comments above represent a certain level of awareness. Other levels of awareness may be there and often are, and they will be reported, from time to time, in the future.. They have equal but different value, as far as I am concerned.

The following are from a different course, in another place, at another time, with different people:

L. When P. was working on my head and working on my ears – I felt something loosen in my stomach and go to my head. And that caused a big smile. I had a very strong tension in my neck as if someone was trying to strangle me. I asked myself “but who is it that wants to strangle me?” And then I realized it was me that wanted to strangle someone else but instead of doing that I would tense all my body and keep the tension in me. But now this also has loosened.
(perhaps just as well!! This does seem to be an important awareness; this time at a psycho-emotional level.

I would hazard a guess that most; the vast majority; of work done by Craniosacral therapists is at a psycho-emotional level. Only a small proportion is the purely physical fixing of something and a very small proportion is, either intentionally or not, Spiritual.

The simple reason for this latter lies in the perceived understanding of what a Craniosacral therapist should be doing. This, incidentally, probably applies to all job descriptions and therefore, inevitably, job limitations! Let that description go and you may not know who you are but you will be able to do unlimited work.

I will talk on another occasion of my understanding of levels. Perhaps at this stage, I can just say that all levels are inter-related, co-dependent, co-emergent; however you want to describe it, and that the difference is largely a matter of perception. All levels are there all the time. Where is the awareness is the interesting question.

Now let’s try to summarize. In essence, what we have been discussing doing is, perhaps, the hardest thing there is, for any of us to do, which is doing nothing. We have said that, in the literal sense, this is almost impossible.

We have further said that to peacefully watch what we are doing, without getting involved with it, and without judgment, is the next best thing.

If Peace arises out of this work; and that is often reported; then it is a successful session, in my view. I personally, know of no more desirable state.

It may be, that in that Peace, Intelligence can unravel some of the not useful habituations that we carry around with us and that we find a better adapted way of Being. I would call that rebirth.

First though, the Peace! as any change that comes out of the thinking, rabbiting, attached, judgmental, mind will be limited by the capacity of the intellect and that really is a limitation.

When you stop being a concept, you cease to be something separate and become a Being not a Doing.

That is what is meant by doing nothing.

We are not here to learn how to do something.  We are not developing more amazing techniques in craniosacral therapy.   We are on a voyage of discovery of who it is that is doing the work, and what it is that separates us from the source of everything.   It is a voyage, first of all, into the Health which is at the core of all of us. And from that place of Health, and I might say beauty, to approach that same place in the other that we may call client, friend, family, or even enemy.  So that they bring to their awareness, the Health that lies at their heart, centre, or core whatever you want to call it.

So that is our journey – I might say it is essentially a journey without end.  Why is it a journey without end?  Because it is a journey to a realisation of that which is infinite.

Print this article in pdf Print this Article

5 thoughts on “Teaching February 2010: Doing Nothing

  1. Thanks for this, Wendy.

    You say in your response, “but where I still get hung up is when I get a thought to move my hands somewhere else.” That is exactly the problem “I get a thought” and because we have had a thought we think we have to pay it a lot of attention. We wrestle with “is it a thought” or ” is it an intuition?” “Shall I move my hands or is it just because nothing is happening right here and I note that there is some sort of stuckness in the right hip, it seems to be a bit contracted. Maybe I ought to mosey on over there. But, oh dear, I am supposed to be doing nothing and here I am thinking about doing something!! ”

    “Now I want to sneeze, there is a terrible draft coming in under the door. I asked Jack to do something about that weeks ago and, by the way, I bet he has forgotten the cat food. Never thinks about any one else, I bet he hasn’t forgotten his DVD.”

    “What patient? Oh! THAT patient. Shit, I can’t stay focussed for more than 5 minutes!!”

    A trickle of lack of self-esteem gradually expands into a torrent of self -denigration until it culminates in a Niagara of self hatred. The Dalai Lama wept when he heard, for the first time, from a panel of western psychotherapists of the western lack of self esteem.

    I like a bit of hyperbole, as you may note and none of this has anything to do with you personally, I know your work too well for that, it is just meant to illustrate from my personal experience the way the brain needs to know, even about not knowing! You may note that I have an intimate, personal, knowledge of these mind games!

    Answer; just note what is, including the what you wish wasn’t and stop getting hooked on it. It just is, right?

    The other thing Wendy, is, thanks for putting this into the pot. I wish more people would join in; it would expand the meaningfulness of this site, for us all and help me to know if we are on track for offering something useful?? Mostly, I don’t know that.



  2. Dear Wendy. just to round out this particular conversation and respond to your question
    “how have you moved to a new spot without getting caught in the mind games?” Its not that easy to answer in a “how to” kind of way. I think it is something like the idea arises of being somewhere else, and I am somewhere else, without any obvious intention and execution and I don’t know which is the chicken and which is the egg. Other times, the thought arises, “oh, I am here, I thought I was there!” The client has been known to express that she thought I was at the feet and at the head with one hand on the heart. That is quite difficult to do, literally. Who is to say that the sensation is wrong, though?

    Thank you for your continuing encouragement.



  3. My mind is still blown by the practice of “doing nothing” – because it is such a paradox – like an attachment to non-attachment… even in the doing nothing, there still seems to be a doing…

    The sticky catch in my mind as I practice work is the desire to please… the desire to have people like me… and all of the mind games that come along with that – since I have no way of knowing the experience of any of my clients, nor do I have any control over the outcome.

    I appreciate the space that you hold for all of us in drawing us back, bit by bit, to this way of being… and I continue to work with my observer… give the observer a bigger voice than the nag!

    Lots of love, Mary

  4. Dear Mary,
    Thank you and I very much resonate with your input. There is always a Doing – I suppose we can say that Being is a doing and there is no way out of this. I suppose what we try to do is to get more and more present to what we are doing and, thereby, open the possibility to being more proactive.

    Attachment to attachment must always be there I think: somehow, the expansion of awareness that allows us to see that that is so, brings us immediately, for that moment, into the present from where we can be less reactive.

    I would say we cannot get rid of attachment, even the words ‘we’ and ‘I’ are attachments, but we can expand awareness.

    Many of us have the desire to please and be liked – I do – and there again, that is neither good nor bad, it is certainly human, we just notice it.

    Thank you.


  5. I thought the following poem from Jon Cassell woud nicely close out this “Doing Nothing” conversation. It is, I think, self explanatory and results from sessions with a frail, elderly lady spread over a substantial period of time.

    “All in a day’s work”.

    She is old and frail,
    Made older by pain and illness.
    She lies, her head cradled in my hands.
    I sit, eyes closed, mind in silence,
    Floating on the Tide.
    Slowly, gently, head and hands both slip away,
    And there is just a globe of light,
    The Grail? A talisman?
    No her. No me.
    Just a ball of light,
    Jon Cassell

Leave a Reply