Shamanism is an ancient belief system, concerned with what goes on beneath the surface of things, peering into the pool of reflection to assess the inner depths of our being – for instance, why certain situations occur in our lives and why we respond the way we do. It addresses the why and how we came to be and offers a path to align oneself with the natural way of the universe so that we can be at peace with all that is.
Shamanism cannot be named or defined in a rigid way because to do so detracts from its essence. It encompasses the long tide and is to do with understanding the nature of all that is, our reality, and our connected place within it. It offers a path to finding our harmonious place within the infinite universe.
We are each, in our own ways, always seeking connection with creation and as Shamanism takes nature as its teacher, it is deeply accessible to us and it is not complicated; many people conduct their life in a shamanistic manner without referring to it in that way. For myself, I repeatedly asked as a child ‘why am I here?’ and have been on a quest to understand my place in the universe for as long as I can remember! Having had a traumatic start to life, it was even more important to me to find sanctuary in the non-human world around me first – in my connection with nature, with the oceans and the wildlife that grace the Blessed Isles that we live upon. From this place of sanctuary, I was then ready for the journey of healing and transformation in trusting the human world.
As one who practices both Shamanism and CST, I find that they complement each other beautifully; there is much commonality and resonance. Both inspire deep listening and connection, presence and stillness – the foundation of all healing work.
In Shamanic terms, we work with the Tree of Life, the Axis Mundi, as the primary gateway between Heaven and Earth and the different dimensions. In craniosacral terms, we work with the midline, the fulcrum of our being-ness, around which everything else orientates. Within both of these systems, the light wheels (chakras) exist as spinning vortexes of energy.
Both systems work with the elements, from which all life is built. From a Shamanic perspective, we would look at how Fire is present in the body – for instance how much creative spark is available, the relationship to sexuality, how anger is held in the body and what the blocks are (for example from past life or present life trauma). In craniosacral terms, this is us perceiving and witnessing the amount of potency in a client.
With regards to Earth - shamanically this could be identifying how present in their Axis Mundi someone is or it could be looking at the client’s relationship to their body, to how well they feel their body and how they treat GrandMother Earth. Whilst craniosacrally, this is about the structure of the body. Both address how at peace someone is in their own skin and will offer openings for something to change.
The body of fluids (water) is very important in craniosacral terms as we all know; in Shamanic terms we would be looking also for the relationship to water and the great river of life. How does the client allow their emotions to flow or do they get stuck? How fearful of change are they? What is the quality of their internal waters – is it stagnant or a deep, fresh well?
The final element of air is one that is key to both traditions: the breath of life. How does it flow through us and connect us to all the worlds around us? With every respiratory breath, we breath in the plant world, the animal world, the unseen worlds around us. William Sutherland, the father of Cranial Osteopathy, stressed that the human system is ordered by a mysterious Presence that he called the Breath of Life. He saw this Breath as a mysterious, larger source beyond the physical body. What a beautiful crossover between Craniosacral and Shamanism!
From the Breath of Life (which can be perceived as the Soul’s breath) we naturally move to the Long Tide, the subtlest manifestation of our life force, expressing our original matrix of health. Accessing a perception of the Long Tide requires a very wide field of perception and a deep stillness.
Shamanism and its offering of connection to all of nature provides a perfect vehicle to access the Long Tide. As Dr James Jealous suggested – it is about letting your awareness breathe right out towards the horizons. For me, I started the shamanic path in 2001 and immediately felt like I’d come home. I could see the connections, feel how I belonged, and see what needed attending to within myself. The craniosacral training came a decade later and added more structure to a world I was already conversant in. Having a name for the place of such an expanded sense of awareness (the Long Tide) helped me to anchor this more in my own life. I had not realised how much my body craved stillness until I added craniosacral to shamanic work….
One of the questions posed to me was how do I work with both my craniosacral and Shamanic hats on? I believe that every practitioner is unique and will bring many tools and experiences to any session with a client. These tools and experiences will of course be present in the field when working in a session as it is not possible (or advisable!) to leave part of yourself outside of the treatment room. However, for me personally, although I will be aware of Shamanic elements in a craniosacral session, I will only offer those insights if a client has specifically requested a shamanic session. I feel that boundaries are important – and will not start offering spirit animals or connections – without the client’s permission. I have such trust in both the craniosacral training and the shamanic training, as separate entities in their own right, that I know the client will benefit no matter which hat I have on. Both craniosacral therapy and shamanic healing touch many levels of our experience yet are firmly grounded in the anatomy of the body.
(as published in The Fulcrum, Issue 78)
Craniosacral sessions are available with Ri in Bristol, Cirencester and Cherington.