So you want to be a craniosacral therapist? Simple! Take a one or two year training, study some anatomy, read some books and do some client case studies. Right?
Lots of people who want to train in the field of holistic health, where you treat a whole person and their life experiences at a physical, emotional and spiritual level, feel like that's what they'll be doing. And yes, eventually. But the journey through a modality as deep as craniosacral therapy is not for the faint hearted. The first person you learn to treat is yourself. Here's my list of 10 things that nobody tells you when you're embarking on this training journey.
1. You will, at the beginning, and maybe even at the end, have no idea what you're doing.
This is 'normal'. The process is one not of teaching you to do 'stuff' but teaching you to do stuff whilst teaching you to 'undo' what you know. Huh? Sounds confusing? It kind of is. But that's the point. To keep you curious, open and in a field of unknowing. It is within this space that you will be shown the unknowable, the unspoken, the sacred. Most people want to be experts, they want to know how to fix a person and make them feel better. The training teaches you how to know stuff, and then put it aside. This 'stuff' could be technical or anatomical, it could be emotional insights that are arising or intuitions about a person's life experiences. In psychotherapy this is known as bracketing. This allows you to meet a person with an open mind and an open heart. It allows them to feel, unconsciously, like they can tell you their story without you already having a preconceived idea of what they need. This means you are present with them as a human being. This means, you're being human. The training course teaches you to be human, and a lot more.
2. You will, however much self development, introspection, meditation, psychedelic inner work you've done, discover new things about yourself
On the first day of my counseling training the tutor opened the space with 'Welcome. If you're not all seriously disturbed by the end of this training year, you haven't done this right.' I remember wondering 'what on earth is this strange guy talking about' and by the end of the year I knew. My entire perception of the world and human interaction had been turned upside down and inside out. Everyone was me, and I was them? What? The only thing that was real was the present moment and that's just my projection? OK. After my counseling year of realisation I did more personal development and learning. So I went into my craniosacral therapy year, after countless ayahuasca and plant medicine journeys in which I befriended my demons, died and was resurrected and purged giant black beetles into the bucket in front of me, not expecting to be phased much. 'I've done it' I said in my head. I've been disturbed, and I've survived, nothing can phase me now. Oh, how wrong I was. The craniosacral training takes you on a journey that is incredibly difficult to put into a description. It's wild and real. It's a journey through your DNA, through the very fabric of the ancestral choices that made you, you. It's a journey through your organs and everything you've done to hurt and harm yourself without even realising. It's a journey deep into the shadow of your being, and into your highest and brightest potential.
3. You will not make friends. You will make family
I had enough friends. I had friends from back in uni when I studied Economics. I had friends from my banking days, from London and New York. I had friends from the start up scene when I had my own little tech start up. I had friends from the tech sector when I went to work in bigger companies. I had friends from that trip I took to South America for 3 months, my 'traveling crew' I had my artist friends my hippy friends and my spiritual friends. I definitely didn't need more friends! Thankfully I didn't get any. I met a group of people who I watched open up, week by week, into such raw, authentic honesty that my heart craved that connection more and more. I met a group of people who were so willing to challenge their perspectives of reality, to be shown new ways and to embrace new experiences, that I started to get excited whenever another training week would come along because i'd get to see them again. I met a group of people who didn't pretend to be ok when they weren't and who seemed to so fully accept whatever was emerging within a room, with a gentle curiosity that I started to wonder if I could make them my friends. But I couldn't. It was too late. They had become family. Together we clawed each others hearts open, held one another up in the air (literally) whilst our bodies unwound a lifetime of injuries or trauma. Together we looked across the room either confused or in awe at stuff that happened, and convinced one another to keep going when it felt like we could quit and go back to a quiet easy life. I remember the day we came together. It had taken us a few stages and a few people did drop out, but suddenly we had a closing circle after six days of intense training together and all we could feel in the room was an overwhelming love. I think there was about 25 of us left by this point. We knew we had arrived, together. And whether we were shrieking in pain, sobbing in grief or roaring with laughter, we did it together.
4. Amazing things will happen to your body if you stay with the process (the most overused word ever) and drop any expectation to heal or resolve anything
For me, my major edge was in my spine (oh and my throat, and my left hip, and my neck, and my right ankle, and my jaw...I'll stop now). I didn't even realise I had scoliosis until someone on my yoga teacher training course in India pointed at my back and said 'what's going on there.' On such an intense journey into the body it's not a surprise that you'll come up against some difficult areas, some dark corners or some joyful synchronicities. You'll feel things, in other people's bodies and also in your own, that surprise you or scare you. I remember when I felt one of my lower vertebrae move - I almost couldn't believe it, but it happened. I looked up at my practice partner as I lay on the couch, who was a qualified physiotherapist, and asked him if he felt it too. 'Yep, it moved!' he replied. I remember seeing the tutor from across the room and I almost yelled with joy at him because I couldn't have ever imagined a bone could move like that 'I can't believe it, my L3 just MOVED!' He just looked at me calmly, smiled and nodded, as if to say, welcome to the work. In the meantime, I was flushed with joy and sent a 6 minute voice note to my best friend describing all the details. If you stick with whatever your body wants to show you, it will, whether you believe me or not, eventually, show you something very beautiful. Your sensitivity or felt sense will expand to include different ways of knowing, hearing, tasting, feeling more, seeing visions. Yes, you'll see stuff. That takes me to my next point.
5. You will start to believe in angels. You might even see them. Your dreams will get weird and you'll start to wonder if you're psychic.
No it's not just an old Robbie Williams rendition or something on the back of a tarot card. It's real. During what you will soon find are incredibly sacred encounters with someone's body and spirit we naturally start to get a feel for the spirit world. They don't talk about this in the textbook (obviously) or on the course (probably to keep people grounded) but it's in the field. You could call this a deeper attunement. Whether you're spiritually inclined or a staunch materialist, your spiritual views will be challenged through this training as your energy body clears and you start to be able to feel more. This includes, well, everything that is spirit, including spirit guides and angels. So if you didn't believe in angels, when one comes to sit next to you during a treatment and starts telling you what to do, you soon will. Dreams are powerful and they seem to get more vivid and more meaningful on this journey so listen to their messages they they hold for you. Enjoy your telepathic connection with your colleagues and your psychic abilities. This is real too. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise/ Stay grounded though ;) Oh and you'll learn what grounded actually means, which really comes in handy when you're flying out of the room to avoid your own stuff and the growing lump in your throat.
6. You will learn more anatomy in a year than you ever ever thought you could and you'll probably quite enjoy it
I had no anatomy knowledge going into this training course except from my yoga teacher training which was quite basic to say the least and Biology A-Level. I had no idea what to expect for the training until they sold us the first textbook (yes, there's 2 and you'll learn them both inside out) on day 1 of the course. I remember flicking through it and wondering how I would ever understand let along remember all of this information. All I can say is, if I can do it, anyone can. Yes, there is a lot to learn; cranial bones their movement and articulations, fossa's and fissures, cranial nerves, nervous system, organs and much more. Flexion Extension etc. It will boggle or blow your mind. But you will learn more than you ever thought you could in one year, mostly because you have to. There is no time on the 1 year course to procrastinate. You either learn or you don't. Nice and simply really. You're tested frequently (every stage) so learning as you go along is useful and encouraged. Don't read too much into the tests (as I did) they're not trick questions.
7. You will have several or more meltdowns physically and emotionally and have no idea what is happening to your body.
I thought I knew my body quite well. Afterall, I teach yoga. However after every 6 day stage of training, my body would completely reorganise itself. I called it, my meltdowns. The body doesn't operate alone, it operates with emotions and energy. When the body moves, everything else moves. It's something nobody tells you until it actually happens. Yes, it is as intense as it sounds but contrary to what it feels like when it's happening, it won't kill you. The melt downs I came to learn, are again completely normal (as you're realising by now, there is a new normal in the craniosacral therapy world) and they're part of the reconfiguration that needs to take place in order for you to deepen your practice and awareness. Some days I would just sit there staring out of the window at my garden waiting for my body to stop moving. It felt like I was in a washing machine. When I would finally come out of the spin cycle, I would literally feel like a different person. All I can say is let the process happen, don't try to stop it or figure out what is happening. You'll be shown what you need to know, but at deeper levels things remain hidden. Trust the timing and trust the process. You need to be changed to do this sort of work. And as one of my ultimate favourite quotes says, "you need to be willing to die before you die." Letting go of who you think you are and want to be, is part of being put on spin as I call it.
8. You will be triggered by teaching clinics. Embrace it.
That's kind of the point really. You're working with real people. There's a load of stuff that comes up when you're stuck in a room with a tutor, 3 other students and a client, with no break in between except lunch and having just negotiated a day off work and paid to be in the clinic. Some days I felt were a total waste of time. For someone who always wants to be learning something new, sometimes I just felt like I wasn't. So what came up for me? My frustration, my relentless ambition, and my inability to just be with someone without needing to excel myself. Some days were just completely confusing; we all felt different things and it wasn't clear to me how it all fit together to benefit the client. I remember in one clinic where it felt like a client had almost 'flatlined out' everyone there felt the birth trauma of a client but I felt her embryo in the vast void, yet to be created. I remember being confused-why am I feeling something different? Should I agree with the others? Do I need to get this right? (see next point below on learning to speak your truth). In some teaching clinics I'd feel like a hero, as i'd celebrate (quietly inside of course) a brilliant rapport with a client and a treatment well done. Some days something special happened - it felt like we had merged somehow, and become the singular field that we aspire towards, perfectly synchronised and all feeling the exact same tiny details. That's when we would really feel the magic of this work. You never knew what to expect but there was always plenty to reflect on and be triggered into a deeper reflection by.
9. You will learn to speak your truth. Even when it's uncomfortable.
What does this even mean you might be thinking. Of course I speak my truth. Well, you probably don't always. Especially if your truth is vague and blurry and awkward to say out loud, probably uncomfortable or a little confrontational. You probably don't, when you're not sure of what it is that you're feeling and everyone else seems sure, or when the sphenoid had taken off like a flashing spaceship and is heading for the exit door of the room. However, you will learn that whatever is happening, it's better to just describe what you are observing and own your observations rather than try to rationalise or make sense of them. Another aspect of learning to speak your truth is learning an authentic language to communicate your truth in. Yes there is technical terminology to describe particular movements or articulations of bones and joints etc. Anyone and their monkey can learn that stuff. When it comes to speaking your own language, it means the more subtle qualities of a body's expression that need to be translated from the hidden, subtle dimension into the dimension of language and form. You are the translator and therefore you will need to use a language that is true to your heart and your expression. This is not always easy. When you put your hand on someone's sacrum and you feel like someone's switched on a Dyson hoover, or you feel it shaking like jelly on a plate how do you describe that? You will learn that every sensation can be communicated, but rather than trying to find a technical language for a sensation, find a language that is natural and feels true to you. Then the body knows that it's you that's listening. And that's all we are here to do, really. The tutors are amazing and encourage you to stay in your truth and develop your unique practice and approach, rather than trying to 'be' anything you think you need to.
10. You will grow personally as well as professionally. You will grow out of people and grow into your tribe.
Some people feel like doing a craniosacral therapy training will sharpen their existing palpation or massage skills and get them some CPD points. But the real growth is much deeper than that. You will grow as a person, in your heart centre, which is the centre of our deepest knowing and existence. You will come into a new relationship with yourself, with your friends - finding the ones that you really do connect with deeply and authentically, and with your family - seeing the traumas they carry unknowingly, feeling their twisted sacrums and tense TMJ's from across the room perhaps. But also, you will grow in compassion for everything that arises because you will understand the deeper currents of formation and purpose they hold. You will grow out of your old narratives of how hard your childhood was to understand how it made you the warrior you are today. Your inner child will grow up and heal. Nature will open it's infinite doors to you to experience a profound connection. The grounding and earthing you will practice throughout the course will help you to feel natures energies in a more real way. You'll learn that what you put into your body is so critical to how you feel, which sounds obvious but it really comes alive on this training course. You will grow in passion, in embodied truth and authenticity for human kind. And for me, that is the best type of growth I could ever ask for.
Safa Boga is a Cranio in the Community contributer who speaks with depth from her journey as a newly qualified integrated craniosacral therapist. Her piece was originally published on her website and can be found with her other written works.