Animals in the Treatment Room

These days, video calls like Zoom give us windows into each other’s homes. During my distance sessions, this has often meant not only getting to meet my clients’ pets, but also including them as part of the session. And it’s been wonderful.

Clients often apologize for their animal’s presence. They’ve closed the door and told the kids or husband to stay out, but they just can’t shut out the dog or cat. Or sometimes my client doesn’t mention the pet, but then a curious, sniffing dog nose appears at the camera or a cat butt blocks my view. (It’s always a cat.)

No matter how animals show up, I’m always secretly glad to have them. Pets are rarely a disruption. And they add so much to the work.  

Finding our way into settling…

Animals are much like us going into a session. At the start, they can be unsettled. They may be restless, vying for attention, or just trying out different spots on the bed.

I always advise we simply allow the animal to find its own way and focus on you and your body. As you slow down, your companion will too. Animals love the calm of a healing session and typically melt into it.

By the same token, pets can be amazing at helping their people settle. I’ve seen panicked clients hold a paw until they could breathe, dissociated clients cuddle an animal until they could feel their own body, and stressed clients who were stuck in their heads start to ground after the pet left their upper body and curled up at their feet.

Deepening the settling…

As the session progresses, pets usually settle with us and become deeply relaxed. The two nervous systems—animal and other animal (you)—reinforce each other. One system calms, which calms the other, which calms the first more deeply, and so on in a dance of co-regulation.  

Offering an assist…

Once deeper settling occurs, the client’s body often starts healing something specific. I’ve found pets can be instrumental with this, especially if the body’s shifting something stuck or scary.

Many of our animal friends are astute healers. Pets often lie down next to the body part that hurts. They help energetically hold the space. And they sometimes pop into my mind’s eye, showing images of how they’re helping, like the time I found myself “holding” two cat paws that grounded the client enough to resolve a trauma piece.  

The takeaway…

Our pets are incredibly attuned to (and affected by) our stress, emotions, and health. And most often, they truly, deeply love us and will do anything they can to help us heal.

Navigating the Pandemic Anxiety Field

Ever walk into a room full of people and pick up a vibe? Perhaps there’s a pervasive sense of warmth and fun. Or maybe it’s the opposite, everything looks fine on the surface, but feels hostile underneath.  

As humans, we are finely tuned social creatures. We pick up a great deal of information from body language, facial expressions, and yes, from the energetic emotional vibe around you. Even if you don’t consider yourself “sensitive” or “empathic,” you are still affected by the emotional energy signature from others, especially if it’s strong.

Cue the pandemic. Now we have a worldwide energy signature supercharged with anxiety and other painful emotions. For simplicity’s sake, I’m calling it the Pandemic Anxiety Field. And on top of our very real, present-time fears and struggles, it seems to be the extra punch that’s sending people off kilter.

So, if you’re feeling extra off-kilter or in crisis, as so many of my clients are, it might be worth considering whether this feeling is all yours. Try asking yourself this: How much of this is mine and how much am I picking up from others?

To determine what’s yours, you may need to sit with the sensations and feelings you’re having. Just notice them. See if you can differentiate what’s arising within you—and feels like yours—from what’s affecting you from without. Because even just the realization that you’re feeling stuff that’s not yours can bring relief.  

Now, on the flip side, some of what you’re feeling is going to be yours even when it feels foreign. That’s because this pandemic-induced anxiety field is also stirring up a lot of ghosts. By this I mean, your unconscious feelers pick up painful emotions out there, and then that outer “stuff” resonates with and wakes up old emotional wounds and traumas in you, bringing them to the surface.  

Regardless of origin, if you continue to feel unbalanced by an emotional state, it’s time to stop focusing on it. What you need is a counterbalance. For example, if you feel overwhelmed and lightheaded, then you need something grounded. You might walk on the beach, sit on the ground against tree roots, or eat nourishing, protein-rich foods. Likewise, if you’re feeling scared or panicky, then focus most of your attention on something that feels safe, like a warm comforter, a happy memory, or your puppy dog. 

And if you’re still struggling to rebalance or determine what’s yours, then reach out to me for a quick call or a session. It’s often much easier to find yourself when you’re held in clear relationship by someone else.

How Resourced Are You?

Try a thought experiment with me. Take a moment (if you’re up to it) and focus your thoughts on something upsetting. Then notice how your body feels…your emotions, tension level, breathing, stress response.

I’ll wait….

Now switch. Focus on something you enjoy or love. Your dog or cat, your grandchildren, a sip of coffee, the smell of grass, watching the winning goal…anything. Now notice how your body feels. How’s your shoulders, your belly, your breathing? How’s your mood?

Quite different, I’ll bet.

Wherever our thoughts and attention go, so go our bodies. When you purposely direct your attention away from something stressful and toward something you enjoy, your body can calm down. You are resourcing yourself.

Resourcing is not about denial. We still need to acknowledge the painful parts of life, bring healing awareness to the wounds, and look for constructive solutions to problems. But if you’re constantly thinking about stressful things you have no control over or ruminating on the awful, then it’s time to resource. 

The same advice goes for activities that weigh you down. If you’re listening mainly to depressing music, falling into emotionally painful TV holes, or dealing a lot with stressful people, then it’s time to resource.

What does this look in practice? Here are two approaches.

Use this when you’re stressed…

Say you’re stressed about something worrisome (like…a looming election), and at this point, you’ve done all you can and the outcome is beyond your control. How can you calm down?

Pick a powerful resource—something you enjoy or love strongly enough to capture your attention. It may be enough to just think about it. Or you may need to do something. Maybe you actually need to pet your dog. Or watch a comedy show. Or get a hug. 

If your thoughts keep returning to the stressor, then pick a more enjoyable resource—maybe two. Pet your dog while watching comedy. Do this until you feel better.

Use this to buffer against tough times…

The more the stressors pile up, the more resources we need. And in these tumultuous time, we’re dealing with a heap of stressors. So we need to stockpile resources.  

Here’s my pile…

I’m rereading my favorite books from childhood and rewatching Harry Potter movies. In the mornings, I sit in the sunlight. In the evenings, I pet my cat. I cook nourishing foods in my coziest sweater. I’ve planned a Halloween movie marathon with my boyfriend. And I see my therapist (remotely) a lot.

Amidst all this crazy, no one can afford to take their mental health for granted. And if you often feel stressed, anxious, angry, afraid, or any other painful emotion, then that goes doubly for you.

Quantum Entanglement, Quarks, and Healing

Recently, a client asked:

Are you able to explain how your practice works remotely?

Here’s the answer I gave:

I’d be happy to explain, though I’m not sure if you’re asking how I conduct my sessions…or the mechanics of how remote sessions work and are possible. I’ll try to answer both. The first question is easy. The second I can answer up to a point, beyond which I can offer a thoughtful guess.

During a remote session, we would connect over video or phone. We’d check in verbally and then you could lie down or otherwise get comfortable. We’d start to notice and track what’s happening in your body, and when you’re ready, I’d intend to “hold” an area of your body with my hands.

For me, holding you remotely means imagining, for example, your head in my hands and intending to make contact. After a few moments, this connection starts to sync up for me, and it feels like I’m actually holding your head. So, as your self-healing system wakes up and engages, I feel all of the same changes and shifts in my palms that I would in person.  

As to the how of that….

I know this much…I’ve been highly empathic since childhood, so it’s always been easy for me to feel others’ emotions and sensations in my body. And for people I know well or am connected to, distance has never been a factor. For example, I often vividly feel my boyfriend’s hunger if he calls me from work before eating.  

Distance healing feels like an extension of this empathic ability, only now I’m connecting or “logging on” through our phone or video call. When I’m connected in this way, it doesn’t feel like there’s any distance. It feels like I’m right there in the room with you.

Beyond that…we get into quantum mechanics. In quantum entanglement, two particles interact with each other instantly, even at great distances, as if they are somehow communicating. Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance.” My guess is that, on a subatomic level, “distance” is not quite what we think it is—we are not separate. And craniosacral therapy, at its deepest, works on this level of photons and quanta and the space between particles. I think the science explaining what I’m doing has not yet been fully discovered—but it will.

In the meantime, I can say that these distance sessions are going deeper even than my in-person work did. That I can touch things I never could before, like the inside of a spine. And that clients are reporting powerful changes, healing, and shifts.

Learn more about my distance sessions here.

Surrendering to Your Body

In my last article, I looked at how you can let your body move without consciously willing it—and how this can lead to richer movement sessions. Today, I’ll explore how to surrender and let that subconscious, body-based intelligence take control.

But first, let me address the “me” versus “my body” problem. Who exactly am “I” surrendering to? How do I talk about this distinct part of myself without sounding like I have multiple personalities? It’s all me. But it’s different parts of me—often with very different agendas and ideas. So, while I know there’s no me without my body, I have to distinguish between them to write about this. Which, I know, makes it a little weird.

So, to quickly recap…

My morning practice involves putting down a yoga mat and inviting my body to move. Then I wait and listen. I’m tracking my body sensations, noticing when an impulse to move builds, and trying to stay out of the way of the movement.

How “I” interfere

It’s the staying out of the way part that’s tricky. Below are the most common challenges to be mindful of:

Oh, this is what you’re doing. In this pitfall, I think I know what my body’s up to. Let’s say my arm sweeps over my head and I think, “Aha, a side bend!” Then it’s easy to subtly take over the movement, thinking I know where my body’s headed. Now I’m directing rather than witnessing.

Hold it, hold it…. What starts as a nice, body-initiated stretch, can turn into me holding that position—no matter how subtly—determined to “make” some muscle release.

Getting impatient. Sometimes my body pauses to rest and I’m waiting…and waiting. If I get impatient, then rather than wait for a movement, I imagine I feel an impulse and force a move, telling myself it was spontaneous.

Oh, I hope it will…. This one is less invasive and starts as a wish: “I hope we stretch the hamstrings.”  Then maybe 10 minutes later, my body may oblige. This can be a nice dialogue with yourself—if you’re not attached to outcome—or it can be a subtle way of imposing your will.

What should I have for dinner? Here, instead of being too involved, I’m absent. My mind’s wandered off and I’m no longer present with my body. So I’m moving, but I’m not aware. Or the body intelligence simply disengages too, so movement sputters out.

As you practice, notice whether you’re witnessing, conversing, taking over, or absent. And if you’ve left or taken over, how much more might you learn if you witnessed?

Let Your Body Move on Its Own

Did you know your body can move without you consciously willing it? Consciously intended movement often starts with a thought. I want more coffee. Then we pick up our mug, walk to the kitchen, and pour ourselves more coffee. This complex series of motions feels automatic and runs along well-oiled grooves in our gray matter, but we did consciously decide to move.

Yet there’s another intelligence inside us. A subterranean, subconscious, body-based intelligence. And it can decide to move you, too.

Don’t believe me? Ever whip your arm up to block something flying at your head before you had time to think? Or move into a stretch you hadn’t planned to do during yoga? That’s the lizard brain, the spinal cord, and the underlying intelligence moving you. And it can do a lot more if you let it.

Lately, I’ve been playing with letting my body move on its own. But first, I’ve set some parameters. (Picture this as me talking to myself.) I’ve asked:

  • For movements I can do on a yoga mat in a comfortable range
  • To not hold positions uncomfortably long
  • To leave trauma work—frozen, tight, scary places—for another time

With that set, I put down my yoga mat, close my eyes, and invite my body to move. Then I wait. I’m feeling my body sensations, noticing when an inner impulse builds and then…scwhoop…my arm lifts, my hips turn, or something else moves.

I’ve had the most eye-opening “yoga” sessions this way. Who knew how badly the front of my neck wanted to stretch? Or that I needed to spend 30 minutes a day mobilizing my spine. One whole session was dedicated to opening my shoulders. Another to stretching my inner thighs. I could go on and on.

Of course, I’ve been doing this a long time, so my body starts moving easily. If this is all new to you, here are two simple ways to start:

  • Weight shifts: I learned by standing and noticing my weight shifts. Your body automatically does these to keep you upright. If you pay attention, and invite more movement, the motions may get bigger and more complex.
  • Start with your head: Lie face up on a mat and invite your head to slowly move. You might begin by just noticing which way it’s inclined to roll.

See if you can surrender and let your body take control. For some, this is going to be a big challenge. I’ll talk more about that next time in part 2 of this topic. For now, just ask your body how it would like to move.