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Masters of the Heart

Written by craniosacral therapist, Etienne Piersman, and published on his website. Etienne is the author of the book 'Craniosacral Therapy for Babies and Small Children'. His work encompasses the evolution from a bio-mechanical (Upledger) to a bio-dynamic approach (Sutherland/Sills). His specialty is the expression of the Heart, the long tide and their connection to meditation and enlightenment. He has said “Drop the word therapy. It is not part of who and what we are. Face it, you are perfect and your heart is perfect”.


Craniosacral Therapy has finally grown up. We have seen different approaches come up, we have seen different schools rising and competing for an audience and that is the ‘suchness’ of ego. All these approaches have one thing in common, they all use more or less the same techniques or non- techniques, as some will claim. When you look at Sutherland’s practice you can observe that after discovering all his techniques, he started to drop all doing and became more and more silent and subtle. In other words he went from bio- mechanical to bio-dynamic and it took him 50 years to do that. It is an evolution and if you leave any of the steps out, that evolution cannot be complete. It is like a child wanting to run before it can crawl. Understanding the mechanics of the tissues and the systems will give you the confidence and intent needed for you to be able to rest in Sutherland’s adage, ‘Be Still and Know’.

As a ‘therapist’ and a teacher, I have always felt that the people who came to me were drawn by their bodies, by their Hearts, to meet me and make that deepest of connections possible, a meeting of the Hearts. The Heart is always empty and the Heart is also always full. ‘Therapy’ can be included in it, but the Heart’s role is always to transcend that which is apparent, ‘therapy’. So to go beyond it, you need to drop the word ‘therapy’, because its nature is inequality. Somebody knows and somebody doesn’t know. Someone is better who meets somebody else less better: ‘therapy’. One school is better, one school is less better. Isn’t it time to say ‘shut up and listen, listen to the Heart?’

Whenever a student is ready, whenever a lover is ready, at exactly the right moment, the Master will appear. This is what Cranio brings to us after we have done the necessary practice. A Cranio student will encounter the Master, who always resides right there in front of you, invisible because of the veil of ‘therapy’, invisible because of the veil of techniques and ego. But once the student or teacher becomes the Mid-line, the Master will reveal itself. Then, one is ready to go beyond that expression, ’Be still and know’.

The appearance of the Master is a truism in every true spiritual search. For us this Master is hidden in the Emptiness of the Mid-line, it is the ‘Light of oneself’. This has happened and will happen over and over again. It is simply called, ‘the practice of Meditation’.

To go beyond ‘therapy’ is to meet Cranio in its essence, the fullness and emptiness that will always be at the Heart of things. You are that Heart. Your client, your student, is that Heart. Your practice will become your practice of Meditation. So for all of you who have arrived exactly in the Mid-line, who realize that we are the center of the universe, lets explore a few words that come out of that Emptiness.

The Master I want to introduce to you today is Tilopa. He lived around 1000 years AD and just like Buddha, was born in the eastern part of India into a royal family. He is known for his six words of advice, called ‘Hitting the nail on the head’. They could come straight out of a Cranio teacher’s deepest understanding, once he/she has gone beyond ‘therapy’. So Tilopa is our first Cranio advisor. His words certainly point the way and hit the nail on the head.

Point One: Don’t recall. Let go of what has passed. 

Here we come to a delicate point because the past is so deeply ingrained in our genes that we actively need to turn them back on. You simply cannot reach fullness and emptiness if some of your possibilities are blocked, from the past. This is where Cranio starts and there are also other methods used with our work: Trauma work, SER, Family Constellations and many more. To let go of what has passed, its energy has to leave the body and the mind so you can become like a child again; innocent, but this innocence is something you have gained. It is non-corruptible.

Point Two: Don’t imagine. Let go of what may come, dreams and fears. 

Once you become empty of the past, there is no need anymore to imagine what may happen in the future. Only then the third point becomes available, and open and possible….

Point Three: Don’t think. Let go of what is happening now. 

Luckily for us Craniosacral practitioners, we found a shortcut, a breakthrough to ‘no-mind’ because of the power of our work with the Mid-line. Once we become the Mid-line we drop the Here and Now, we don’t even have to try for it. It gives us total awareness, right Here and right Now. And with this totality it simply becomes impossible for your mind to think because it cannot be in two places at the same time. If that spot is taken by awareness through the Mid-line, thinking simply can not happen.

This….a thousand times This…. can only be gained with practice, practice and more practice, because the mind is a hard customer. So, yet again, This… (the Master is laughing)

Point Four: Don’t examine. Don’t try to figure anything out. 

The mind simply needs to know all that there is to know. It is just a result of the way our society and education is put together. It is the world of technique, the world of rhythms, the world of the evolution of Cranio and it is the world of mind. Mind needs to know, mind needs to figure out, until you find a method that can put mind at ease. Especially when we approach the Mid-line in our work, which occupies the mind, and becomes a witness in the here and now.

We do have a mind and the mind needs to know. So in order to drop this examining mind, one needs to know all there is to know first. This is one of the contradictions that we encounter throughout our whole life. This is how the body works. We are not born with the ability to walk or to run. Our body needs to figure out how to do that, and then once we know, we can forget and just walk or run or jump, or just sit still. The mind functions similarly when we try to figure something out, we try and try and either we figure it out and then forget about it, or we don’t figure anything out and we also forget about it, unless we are in a position that we need to drop the mind and then these worms start popping up, preventing us from being in the here and now. This is just how the mind works, no way around it, so as a Craniosacral ‘therapist’, you will be more at ease if you figure it all out. If you figured out your own past and were able to drop it, if you figured out how the body works in its totality and if you figured out how your touch influences the mechanics and systems of bodies….great. Now it can be dropped.

Every Craniosacral ‘therapist’ will need years to figure this modality out: the workings of the body in all its aspects. The physical aspects need to be understood, the mental aspects and the emotional aspects all need to be understood and integrated before they can be dropped. It is impossible to get to ‘no thinking’, no mind, if there are still things to figure out. We all know this as those sessions, those brilliant sessions, where you and your client or student were ’one’. There was no time, no mind, just an incredible harmony and lightness. Once you stop figuring out, you become part of the whole again. Then there is no client, no practitioner, no teacher, no method, just emptiness…that is full of doing, but it is not OUR doing, it is just doing, happening by itself.

Point Five: Don’t control. Don’t try to make anything happen. 

Here we come to the essence of ‘ego’, that brilliant contraption of the mind that helped us survive. And there is only one method to make the mind grow up….on the one hand, we need that mind to function in the world, we need to be a Craniosacral teacher or practitioner, and on the other hand, with practice it drops, if it can. However, the ego may enjoy it too much. It verifies our feeling of self worth, acknowledges our identity, and our high self-regard, plus our self-made congratulations of being a ‘therapist’ and helping the world. These are hard to drop.

When you look at Tilopa’s six words of advice, you can see that all of them, except the last, start with ‘Don’t’, like the Ten Commandments: ‘don’t recall, don’t imagine, don’t think, don’t examine, don’t control. But then the last one, and only the last one is refreshing. It simply says, ‘Rest’. What Tilopa means is, you have to recall, examine your past before you can let go of it, before your past becomes clear and you can see lessons to be learned. And what he means about the future is, you have to go through the imagination of the future too. Let the mind exhaust itself and do what it does best, imagining stuff all for the greater good. What he means is, you have to think, right now, that’s what the mind does. What he means is, ‘you have to examine, you have to try to figure it all out, anything, everything, in order to be able to control the future, the past, and the here and now. After all this work, when the mind is satisfied and you finally realize the futility of all of it, only then, point number six becomes possible.

Point Six: Rest

Rest includes all of it, action and non-action. Rest simply means that the mind is at ease and it is resting. Everything else is choiceless. Whatever happens, you are just witnessing it all.

“Sitting silently doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself,” Basho.

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