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Massage Today
July, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 07

What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Being a "Healer"?

By Sharon Desjarlais, CC

In the 15 years I worked with Dr. John Upledger, few things would make him look down his nose faster than a CranioSacral Therapist who called himself a healer. "Therapists need to check their egos at the treatment room door," he would say.

And anyone who says he's a healer is assuming responsibility for the self-healing mechanism of the client's own body.

But that got me to thinking, when did healers get such a bad rap? Thanks to the Internet and the new worldwide neighborhood we live in, I've seen plenty of down-to-earth, hands-on therapists embrace the word wholeheartedly.

So I asked a few practitioners what they think of when they hear the word "healer." The responses ranged from the academic:

"Princeton defines a healer as a therapist: a person skilled in a particular type of therapy."

...To the touching:

"I've had people use that word about me and the work I do with them. I humbly respond that it is by the Grace of God that I am able to help them, and that I am a conduit and facilitator for them to heal themselves."

...To the downright amusing:

"Kum ba yah my Lord, Kum ba yah ... now where is my crown and scepter? I know I put it right next to my flowy purple dress and my most recent copy of 'self-empowerment is only for me.'"


The term healer, concedes Michael Shea, PhD, author of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, has become a bit tainted in the aftermath of the New Age movement. "Having been around for 30 years, I can see why some people get turned off by the word," writes Shea. However, today's use of the word, writes Shea, can be considered: "A stream of words: like compassion and empathy and renewal and resonance."

Hugh Milne, DO, author of The Heart of Listening: A Visionary Approach to Craniosacral Work, considers a healer to be, quite simply, "a responder." That is: "The client walks in and the therapist who is a healer responds within minutes, if it's appropriate, to what really troubles the client. And that to me is the art of healing."

Milne went on to tell the story of medieval doctors who were also gifted musicians. "They wrote about how you had to perceive the patient's inner music, their cadence, their rhythm, and how they had lost contact with their rhythm and their inner timing. They were sick because they had lost concord with their inner timing. Those physicians were healers in perceiving how the patient lost their rhythm."

"The most gifted healers I meet are the most flexible responders," Milne continued. "They've got big tool bags and they're not fanatics. That is, they're not wedded to one approach being their approach, let alone the best approach."

To Shea, healer also has something of an association with the terms shaman and shamanism. "But shamanism is simply engaging techniques of the ecstatic, and ecstatic simply means extrasensory experience," he said. "Engaging the long tide in Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy or even the craniosacral rhythm is an extrasensory experience, which kind of makes us closet shamans in that sense of the word."

Indeed, one of the hallmarks of light-touch CranioSacral Therapy - and one of the aspects that attracts many therapists to this work - is the practitioner's ability to meld with a client and gain critical information that's generally outside the conventional perceptual channels of the five senses.

"We're dealing with something that has been in our human evolution for a million years," Shea continued. "This capacity to heal, to feel connected to the divine, to feel renewed and connected to one's wholeness in one's life, and to have meaning. I tell people that this trauma story they've been telling for the last 10 years may be the dominant story of their life, but it's not the authentic story of their being. The authentic story of their being is their origin story, their story of renewal that's also imprinted as a function of their conception and birth."

According to Shea, the late William Garner Sutherland, DO, the father of cranial osteopathy, said there's something in the body that's preexisting. "All those old healers had that discovery," Shea said. "That there was something preexisting in the body and all you had to do is synchronize your attention with it. That's what Biodynamic and CranioSacral Therapy in general does. We're trying to focus on the health that's preexisting."

To Shea, the healing process is very different from the therapeutic process. "A healing process has to do with a sense of renewal, a sense of reconnecting with one's wholeness or three-dimensionality." With therapeutic modalities, on the other hand, "standards of practice start defining what a proper course of therapy and the end of the session is going to look like."

In massage, for instance, "you're going to be relaxed at the end of the session. So you'd be able to recognize the therapeutic process as muscles relaxing during the session, a reorganization of the musculoskeletal system, that kind of thing.

"It's more of a temporal dynamic that's not necessarily limited to one session, but it's about that session, whereas healing is something that goes on after the session. It permeates the person's life. It permeates their dream material. And it can go on for weeks."

"Holy is the healer," Shea said. "And the healing process."

I'll add an "Amen" to that.

Click here for more information about Sharon Desjarlais, CC.


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