My Path Through the World of Craniosacral Therapy

My journey with craniosacral therapy began in 1998 during my first month of massage school. Part of my basic training program included a two-day “Introduction to Craniosacral Therapy.” As I sat in class waiting for the introduction to begin, I wondered what this bodywork modality with such an exotic name would be like. Head massage? Face massage? Sacrum massage? When the teacher arrived to introduce us to the work I quickly realized that this approach was far from anything I had experienced or expected. It was … well … different.

The instructor spoke in slow smooth tones about a gentle rhythm deep in the brain and spinal cord. She said if you really want to feel what is going on in your client's body, then you must use a gentle touch and be very still. She repeatedly said that skilled bodyworkers know how to listen with their hands. In the middle of class she stood up and emphatically announced “I cannot work under these fluorescent lights! We are going outside. We need to be in nature!” So we all walked to the local civic park, where she began to teach us about listening with our hands. I found it rather difficult to be still and rest into listening to my classmate’s body as he lay in the grass. My back and shoulder pain was acting up, my mind was busy, and I had a nagging feeling that I should be “doing” something. I began to feel resentful … like my time was being wasted. When my turn came to lie down in the grass and let my partner (a skilled martial artist) work on me, I welcomed the chance to take a break. That little break would end up being an important turning point in my life.

As I lay on the grassy hillside with my head resting in my partner's hands, I slowly slipped into a gentle dream-like state while I watched the clouds float by overhead. Then something amazing happened. I felt a tremendous sensation of warmth permeate through my entire body in a slow and steady manner. It was followed by a buoyant expansiveness that seemed to lift me off the ground. As it progressed I felt it shift something deep inside my body in a place I had not been aware of for a long time. As this authoritative and transformative force moved through my body, it brought about a strong sense of well-being and “rightness.” When the exercise was over, I sat up and immediately noticed that my vision was crystal clear, my chronic back and shoulder pain had vanished, and freedom and joy had moved to the forefront of my experience. I floated about 12 inches above the ground for three full days while staying fully present and embodied. My partner had barely touched me. I was amazed and confounded. I just had to learn more about craniosacral therapy.

I immediately enrolled in basic courses with the Upledger Institute and began studying biomechanical craniosacral work and somato-emotional release at various workshops in Arizona, California, and Montana. These trainings helped me understand the essential anatomy and structural relationships between the elements of the classical craniosacral system. They also introduced basic skills for working with emotional content that might arise as body physiology shifts. These early trainings helped me grasp the importance of structural freedom and coherence in the maintenance of health and general well-being, and introduced me to many forward-thinking individuals on the leading edge of holistic thought.

Within a year of discovering craniosacral, a colleague introduced me to Michael Shea. Michael took me deeper into the system with biodynamic craniosacral work. Biodynamics opened up to me the fascinating world of the fluid body, embryology, pre and perinatal psychology, and Primary Respiration. At that point I began spending longer periods of time at one listening station on the body, sinking deeper into stillness. I began to observe the self-corrective mechanisms in the body making corrections to the tissues without the aid of my pressure or directional intent. For three years I experientially explored sustained contact with another body in stillness, at times sitting for six hours a day in continuous still contact. This was a time period of tremendous learning for me, as it familiarized me with the fluid and tidal language of Primary Respiration. Clinically, the biodynamic approach was getting results with some very challenging health issues my clients brought to me. I recognized that this form of work allowed me to operate with greater precision than my previous approach, so I moved it to the forefront of my study and practice.

At that point in time, there were no books or websites about Biodynamic Craniosacral. In an effort to learn more, I dove into the classical texts and modern writings of Cranial Osteopathy. My research led me to examine the work of Dr. Sutherland, Dr. Becker, Dr. Still, and other Osteopaths who had learned how to utilize natural movement as a therapeutic force. At this time I discovered Dr. James Jealous, and consumed everything my Osteopathic resources could give me related to his teachings. After several years of work, I earned a 700 hour diploma in Biodynamics and corresponding diplomat status. Michael Shea continues to be a mentor and friend to this day.

Not long after discovering biodynamics, I came across an interesting book at my local bookstore. It was entitled “The Heart of Listening – A Visionary Approach to Craniosacral Work,” and it opened up a whole new world of perception to me. The author was Hugh Milne, a Scottish Osteopath who lives in beautiful Big Sur, California. The moment I heard one of his recorded meditations, I knew Hugh would end up being a big influence on my development as a therapist and teacher. His visionary training program in craniosacral work has greatly enriched my internal world and given me insight into the cross-cultural and spiritual aspects of healing. Hugh challenges his students to explore the vastly underutilized perceptual capabilities built into the human sensory apparatus. My studies with Hugh led me to journey deep into nature on primitive retreats over extended time periods, re-familiarizing myself first-hand with the elemental forces of nature and spirit that have fed indigenous knowledge for eons. He augmented my love for meditation and the timeless practice of shamanism. My training with the Milne Institute is an ongoing endeavour.

Along the way I have studied with other excellent and devoted teachers of craniosacral therapy. Among them is John Chitty from the Colorado School of Energy Studies. John is a patient man with a gift for clearly presenting information. I was fortunate to assist him in a biodynamic foundation training in Austin, Texas which spanned several years. Numerous Osteopaths have also enhanced my understanding of the work through weekend classes and informal discussions.

My own approach to the practice and teaching of craniosacral therapy is, of course, a mixture of my various influences and life experiences. I draw from all of my educational influences, for they each have areas of particular strength. Where one approach to the work may be a little weak, another one surely has something useful to offer. My training curriculum is faithful to the historical heart of the work while allowing for contributions from new influences. Clinical efficacy is a continual concern for my practice and teaching, as I believe theory needs to be grounded in practicality. This is why I choose to teach the grosser aspects of biomechanics along with the more refined work of biodynamics. The most effective clinicians I have encountered have a working knowledge of both.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this craniosacral training, I attended graduate school for acupuncture and oriental medicine. After working in an acupuncture clinic for a year, I realized that my heart was in cranial work. So I put down the needles and returned to the hands as my primary therapeutic tool.



Early on, word spread fast in massage school that I was taking some interesting courses in craniosacral therapy. Other students often had questions about the work, and I found myself frequently elaborating on the principles and giving demonstrations in the classroom. Eventually I put together a curriculum for a craniosacral class at my school and … a teacher was born. For several years I taught a 110 hour craniosacral class that was included as part of a 1000 hour massage diploma program. Continued interest from students resulted in my forming the Craniosacral Resource Center and the development of many weekend seminars on specific topics related to cranial work. I continued teaching at other massage schools in Arizona and developing four-day workshops for interested colleagues. In 2007 I moved operations to Texas to be closer to my extended family.

I have been fortunate to share the classroom with some of the most influential teachers in craniosacral therapy - sometimes for single classes, and sometimes for multi-year certification trainings. I have taken all of these experiences and put together a quality training program consisting of the best elements from multiple schools. I am pleased to offer unique classes to students who wish to add this fascinating work to their understanding of the world.