Norman Allan
  science and philosophy        gallery          blog 
   writings  poetry   alternatve medicine 

a personal biography
written as
a letter to brenda


 Chapter Five: Doctoring (draft) 
Decades down the road, in the 21st century, Rosamunda said I should write about what I do. It's been a problem to write about the doctoring I've been doing twenty years now. Where to start? I could start with the startling, the brashest story...

  I was in the middle of a cranialsacral therapy session, just gently following a patient's subtle movements - cranialsacral is very mellow. There was a knock on the door. I went over and opened it to a woman in her thirties who announced, "I am the face of horror. I'm channeling Christ, and I need an adjustment." ( I do chiropract.)
     I stepped outside and closed the door. "I can see you in fifteen minutes," I said.
     "I need an adjustments now," said the woman.
     I put my hand gently to her shoulder and began to steer her towards the outer door. "Ask Jesus," I said.
     "I'll wait," she replied
To begin with I saw Sally three times a week. There is a point right at the top of the head, the "vertex",midway between all the hairlines, called Baihui (the "hundred meetings" or Governor 20) that is profoundly relaxing when needled. Jayasauria calls it the "valium point".
     In three weeks Sally was down from her mania. Over months I learned about her childhood... monsterous abuse. Over time Sally's sort of put her life together. I've seen her less and less.

 Note, I have changed genders in these stories wherever it is possible.


So there's a startling incidence, but where do to go from that?

Last October Jill, from my meditation group, invited me to submit a paper for a conference on "dialoguing with the body". That was something I could write about...

The Dialogue between Mind and Body in the Clinical Setting

Sister Catherine pointed out to me once, apropos of body, mind and spirit, "It's not a third part mind, a third part body, a third part spirit. It's a hundred percent mind, a hundred percent body, a hundred percent spirit." She also noted that spirit is intrinsically mysterious. Then again, so is mind - many scientists feel they can reduce consciousness and experience to a pattern of electrical charge and that, to me, is pretty mysterious. And that leaves us the body. We've learnt lots about the body, except in that it is alive and there too is a mystery. We are doomed then, and blessed, to walk and work in this mystery.
     When I was studying Barral's Visceral Manipulation (with Frank Lowen), I was feeling the sigmoid colon, pulling on the tension in the sigmoid mesocolon of one of my class mate and there was this "knot", this tension in Lee's mesocolon that wouldn't release with breath or through simple intentional exercises (like asking, "How would this energy like to release?" and then inviting the patient to visualize that release). So we did a "scenario". "Scenario" work is what I call variants on going inside, taking whatever resources you need to feel safe, saying what you want to, doing what you want, and having it turn out the way you want; that is, moving the scenario towards resolution.


     "Go inside. Into this spot…" I was tugging on Lee's abdomen, lower left quadrant, on this fascial locus of tension, contraction? that I identified and labeled as the sigmoid mesocolon. "What do you see?"
     "I see a door," Lee said. He visualizes easily.
     "Can you open the door?"
     Lee laughed, "Yes." (Nowadays I'd ask first, "Is it safe to open the door?")
     Lee opened the door on to his childhood front yard, the path leading to the gate. Down by the gate was a German Sheppard that had bit him when he was twelve years old. "He gave me this scar," Lee said pointing to his brow.
     Lee "went inside". He reported after that he told the dog to stay; the dog stayed. He told the dog to sit; the dog sat. Meanwhile, I was pulling gently on the mesocolon and at some point the tension just dissolved, like butter, and with this there was a little blast of heat!

Now, this underlines and/or suggests the following: that we store our traumas in the body, and in particular in the belly; that with trauma there may be a tightening in the gut, and we anchor events, and reactions, constellations of experience, in the viscera, first as a contraction of smooth muscle, a cramp or a spasm in the mesentery or mesocolon, for example, and that as that knot or tension is held the collagen changes its conformation, coils, shortens; and then, that contracture holds a memory, as it were, or rather it is a key to an "association", to a constellation, a pattern of event and issues. So, we have here a mechanism for repression: store it in the belly and ignore it.
     Why in the belly? Well, the felling in the guts is part of the experience and… we can make these anchors, these contractures there and… the belly is a convenient place to ignore, and hence repress. Perhaps we simply use this mechanism because it's available. Like so much else, it may be fortuitous.
     The amazing thing, to me, in the incident I described, was that the collagen would release like that, in an instant, as Lee revisited and re-wrote his drama. The collagen unwound releasing the energy, the heat, that that change of conformation, that that coiling had held these years. Our collagen, our fascia, is alive. It is responsive.
     One might ask, is this the only mechanism, or the main mechanism for repression? It is part of the picture. Accompanying a trauma the muscles in the gut contract, the collagen conforms, contracts, and takes up a contracted posture, position. And if you multiply these contractions you can get constrictures of surgical proportions.

Cynthia had a contracture in her gut, in the later third of her ileum, five centimeters long on the barium swallow. She had not eaten, or passed stool, for eight days and was scheduled for surgery. I was asked to visited her in hospital on the eve of her operation. We talked, some about white flowers, her mother and white funereal flowers. We also did some CranioSacral hands on "unwinding" over and under that contractured spot in her gut along with "visualizing". Cyn saw a prawn-like pink embryo, in her gut.
     Did it have a name? I asked.
     "Maybe Cynthia." (The patient's name was not Cynthia.)
     Did Maybe Cynthia have a message?
     "Yes. The message is "No"."
     "No, I don't have to die." And with this ideation, realization, there was a "release" and my hands seemed to move three inches laterally (back towards me) and, after a pause, a second "release". My hands followed the tissue and now they seemed to travel three inches superior (cephalad). And Cynthia and I "knew" that the problem had resolved, that the constricture had released.
     She was radiant.
     In the morning Cynthia passed stool and she was hungry, so instead of surgery, she had breakfast. The hospital served her bacon and eggs!

Ah! the "three inch" movement of my hands that appeared to accompany the "unwinding", the release of the constriction? It had to be in some sense symbolic - a ritual that I had unconsciously devised - or at the very least it was a gross amplification. And the vectors, the direction was "wrong". The release, very likely, was radial, of sphincter like muscles, not lateral.
     And that brings to mind another unworldly aspect of this sort of bodywork, this dialoguing. In the Barral's visceral work, to work with the kidneys we lay our palms, our hypothenars, on the abdominal wall at the level of the bottom pole of the "kidneys" and we follow the movement. But the kidneys are three or more inches away (at the back of the abdomen)! So I often say to the patient that the contact is like a Star Trek tractor beam. Similarly we can "stretch" the ureters by placing a thumb down near the pubis to pin down the bottom of the ureter, down near the bladder, while placing the other hand on the inferior pole of the kidney, as described above, and pushing it, encouraging the kidney in a cephalad, a head-ward, direction to stretch the ureter. And patients will usually report that they can feel the stretching of the ureter, though it's physically far from our contact on the anterior wall of the abdomen. More tractor beams, but it leaves us with the question as to whether this manipulation of the abdomen is mechanical, "energetic", or symbolic? And, of course, the answer is probably all of these.

John Upledger, of CranioSacral Therapy, believes that we store our "repressions" in the viscera because of a relative stability there, and the striate muscles of the musculoskeletal system, the muscles of movement (and their fascia) move about too much to act as storehouses. Yet there certainly can be restriction in the locomotary fascia and these, like the tension in the visci, can be released through intention "energetically". They will interact (as determinants and products) with posture and attitude.
     Upledger sees symptoms as a way that we get the body to talk to the self: - vehicles of Freud's return of the repressed. Sometimes we can see them as metaphors. (Michael Vertolli, my herb teacher, says symptoms are simply the body's best way of dealing with a problem. Suppress a symptoms and the body will find the next best way.)

Another tangent: there's a "clever" thought I had about the gut long ago when I was young which I've never written down anywhere, and it's almost relevant here. As a child, and infant, like many I suffered on occasion quite nasty "stomach" pains, cramps. And from the age of twelve I was in therapy. I was raised a "Freudian". The thought was this: that the gut is experienced more as a sequence of events in time than as a spatial structure. The gut's rather randomly there inside in our somewhat amorphous bellies. So, I thought, what the intestines represent is sequence and consequence and that it is the archetypal snake, serpent, and dragon.

We should talk, at least briefly, about safety, and about projection, and boundaries, and "copping out".
     Safety: remember to ask the patient about safety whenever you suspect it might be an issue. Of course, resistance grows as we approach the repressed. One way of dealing with this is to dialogue with the higher self. In CranioSacral work, Upledger often get his patients to initiate such a dialogue. Dialogue with "higher self", be that spirit of intuition or whatever, can be employed to help look after safety, and indeed, to help with almost anything.
     Projection: when we leave the therapy to the patient we can minimize our projections, but when we contribute there is always a risk. I try to stay aware of how prone I am to project and I often preface my contributions with a caveat warning about projection. But, how much should the facilitator contribute? When I was studying "dialoguing and imaging" at the Upledger Institute, there was one T.A. who pulled virtually all her patients off the table to try and rebirth them. She tried to make everyone conform to her conception.
     How can we make sure we stay with the patient's agenda if we contribute? And should we contribute?

Marsha came to my office for chiropractic for low back pain, which we helped, but she liked the CranioSacral work and she returned for more. So I was sitting with my hands over and under her right thigh when a thought arrived which I felt called to voice. (I've never said anything like this before or since.) I said, "It's as though there's a microfilm embedded in your thigh."
     "Oh my God!" said Marsha. "I dreamed last night I was in a submarine. I was a spy and they were looking for the microfilm. It was hidden in my left thigh. They tied me to the periscope.'
     Marsha had forgotten her dream after waking and during the day, but she had never repressed what it alluded to. She told me that from the age of three till she was five her mother used to take her down into the basement, tie her up to a round pillar, a cylindrical floor support, and whip her thighs with electrical wire. From the age of three Marsha knew that her mother was mad, crazy. She was still looking after her mother, at twenty-five, but about leave home to travel east. She sent me a happy postcard from Katmandu. She had never forgotten the abuse, but she had never spoken of it (so spirit engineered a dream and some telepathy so that she would speak).
     Mind, body, spirit overlap and the boundaries between them are not really understood. Contemplating the question I get tongue tied and boggled.
     And "boundaries"? I'm left with the New Ager's dedication to the "highest good".

We might also have segued from "projection", to how often we may be "missing the point" and from this to the danger of "copping out". My friend Vanessa practiced a variety of mind body dialogue out in B.C. She had a male patient with a pelvic cancer. He visualized the tumor as having five tentacles. After surgery the tentacles were still there. Vanessa and he dealt with three of them - they disappeared from Frank's image - but then they got into a bind. Frank had abused his teenage stepdaughter. Vanessa and he felt that one of the remaining tentacles related to this, however, when they came to address this issue, the patient started acting out very suggestively in a manner Vanessa found she didn't want to handle. The eminent innovator of the therapy Vanessa practiced was about to lead a large seminar in Toronto. Vanessa raised donations in her clinic to fly her patient to Toronto so the Eminent could work with him. The Eminent choose to work with him in public session where the cancer told the patient that the issue was around creativity. That what he needed to do was to give up his hack day-job, editing, and work on his novel. Vanessa felt strongly that this was a huge cop out. She felt let down.
     How do we guard against copping out? Ah. We can return to the feel in the body. Phil Walsh, in his scenario work, which he calls Autosomatic Training, uses feeling - feeling are usually located in the body - and we can use feeling as a guide towards truth and towards completeness.

I feel I should tell you about Gorginski's mice: Greg Gorginski was a colleague of David Ader, the author of psychoneuroimmunology. They were working with tumor-prone mice and wondering why tumors manifested in some mice and not other. Using an "Open Field Test" they found that the tumors manifested in the "emotional" mice (the scored of micturation and defecation in the first five minutes of a stressful experience, the open field, and probably a measure of autonomic sympathetic tone). So Greg bred the most "emotional" and the least "emotional" mice, for eight generations, till he had some very emotional and some very calm mice indeed. Then in the ninth generation he cross-foster the mice: he gave the "emotional" pups to calm mothers to raise, to suckle and the calm pups to "emotional" mothers, and it's who gives you suck that determines your emotional tone!
     Now I assume it's the "vibe" of your mother that sets your tone, but I was telling this story to an eminent doctor, a pain specialist, and she assumed it would be some factor in the milk. And indeed we might expect more adrenaline and adrenaline derivatives in the "emotional" milk. So is this body or mind, and where are the boundaries? The dialogues between us are usually of both mind (verbal) and body-talk… and what else?

Finally, I'd like to tell you about Michael's liver flukes. After returning from the south Michael was determined that he had parasites (though stool sample were negative). In my office Michael visualized and dialogued with his flukes. They saw his liver as a golden sun. There were dark patched in his liver. The liver flukes ate and cleaned up the dark parts. They worship his liver and tended it, and if Michael would give up junk food and coffee they would agree to pass on (through their eggs, their progeny) to another host.
     Sometimes our symptoms are more concerned about our well being then we are, even parasites from a distant phyla, and even if it is all just in our minds. Sometimes our symptoms are metaphors, though looking too hard for metaphor can sometimes be another cop out. Sometimes our dialogue may be completely off point: stuff and nonsense.

Mind, body, spirit, where is the divide? I had another clever thought the other day, though probably one that's as old as the hills: -
     There is more to the mind than the body. Though the mind embraces the body, the body is only a small part of the mind. And one can say the same of spirit and mind: spirit embraces the mind, but mind is only a small part of spirit. So we walk and work in the mysterious.

 and there is another stort here, though Jay thought it was negative

Meeting Marion Woodman

In October 2006 Jill Lazenby suggested I submit a paper for the conference she was working on, on Mind Body Dialogue, a conference at Toronto University’s OISE given in honor of Marian Woodman, who would be the principle speaker and receive a “lifetime achievement award”. The conference would be held in June 2007.
     Oh wow! Have I got some things to say about “dialoguing”?
     I spent November writing and rewriting - I usually need to tweak and tweak for weeks and weeks - and by December I had a paper I was proud of. And it was accepted! The paper was little long. It’s most of what I know about “dialoging with the body” in 10 pages, but if I really motored I could deliver it in 20 minutes. Twenty years in twenty minutes.

As the conference approached I looked at the schedule on-line. Ooh oh. Apart form the keynote speakers, all the other papers would be delivered in divided up “paper sessions”, eight at a time, in separate rooms. I had had visions of standing on a podium lecturing a full hall. Never mind. I was going to make the best of this.
     This reminded me of a “trade show” a year before when I hadn’t “make the best…”.
     My friend John worked as the “Wellness Coordinator” for a very large concern just down the street from my office. John, from the time he met me, spoke about organizing a little wellness trade show (for me?) at his institution. He took him a year, and when it happened it was a triumph, for the most part. He had about 18 exhibitors in a small hall in the cooperation’s home office. He put aside a special place for me at the back of the hall so that I could consult and treat. And then he arranged tables in front of me in a separate row so that nobody could get to me. I suggested the row needed some rearranging, but that didn’t happen. Perhaps a third of the people who came into the hall walked past my table. Two thirds never even saw me. No biggie, maybe, but I didn’t grin from ear to ear. I made due.
     At the end of the conference I congratulated John, I thought, very warmly, for his event, all in all, was a great success.
     I didn’t speak to John for a few weeks and when I did he told he that I was the only one to complain at the event and the only person who did not phone him, as a follow up, to thank him. Up until this time John and I used to lunch together every other week, and I visited his country haunt not infrequently. After this, though, we’ve met twice in the year and only on my initiation. Ho hum. “So it goes.”
     So at the mind body conference I was not going to repeat these mistakes. I was going to make the best of it I was going to be a real “half full glass” guy.

Now, my story, my paper is awesome, I think. Take a look, I say laughing. So it was a quite a let down to find I wasn’t going to deliver it to a throng. And then the first keynote speaker talked in circles about very little. And the first paper session, tiny audiences and in the session I chose, one guy talking about a project on “talking circles” in the native tradition and he did a study, focus groups. He got to talk to three, three! people, and generalize from that. (Stop being so negative, Norman. It was a good intent. Nice people. The second paper was a study with just as small a population, unfinished work, and empty… but I listened, I listened , I was present. And I talked to people. And I had a good time, virtue being it's own reward and all.)
     That first day, Monday, the conference started late - the subway wasn’t running for a while in the morning - so after another, for me, empty plenium session paper (the professor sang and played guitar! with modest talent), I missed the workshop session (divided again, eight to choose from) to go home walk and feed the dogs before going to try and catch Marion Woodman’s address to the conference that evening in the auditorium. But, it was my birthday and I had another engagement, so I couldn’t stay long.
     First a head of a department delivered a eulogy and biography - fascinating, yes, but a flat delivery and thirty five minutes.
     Marion Woodman, at 45, decided to go to Zurick to study to become a Jungian analyst. She went on to become an icon to the new age with her work on the unconscious and, particularly, her work on the feminine. I’ve not (yet) read Woodman, and I’d not yet seen her ever, but knew of her and her work. If someone says “Joseph Campbell” (the grandmaster of myth), I’d probably think, “and Marion Woodman”. She was a luminary figure in certain sections of the counter-culture. But before she got to the stage there was a presenter to present the lifetime achievement award - another five minutes, and my time was running out, but I was cool. Making the best.

Marion Woodman is 81. Dignified, but no hard edges. It’s all these privilege words that come to me: aristocratic, noble.. Marion started by thanking the presenters, and, two minutes in, it was time for me to leave. Still I felt filled just to see this presence!

Tuesday I arrived early, again, to make the most... Through the long window I saw Marion Woodman arriving. I went to the foyer. Found her free. Offered her a copy of my poetry chapbook, “Incarnations”. A pleasant, but not significant, meeting.
     That morning Ms. Woodman was to lead a workshop. Move the chairs, she said. Lie on the floor. Find a dream image.
Now, I couldn’t find a decent recent dream image, but a childhood nightmare came to mind. A ten, an impressive dream about a great hole, and I’m on a ledge inside it, to deep to escape… and then I drifted off. (I’ll have to ask Jill about the workshop!)

So to my paper delivery. An audience of six! And it didn’t take 22 minutes. It only took 18. I could have gone slower. Oh. Anticlimax. But I have the paper to post on my website where who, where who will read it? (Drop me a line.)
     My co-deliverer in this session had some interesting things to say about consciousness from Yogic-psychology perspective. I’ll blog it later.
     And in a little workshop in the afternoon it was pointed out that in speech vowels carry a lot of the emotion.
     So I learned stuff, a bit. And I met people, a few. And it was a good conference. But now it was over. My incisive paper unheard, virtually. I’d read to half a dozen and the wind, but I was making a much better go of it. I was making the best.

So finally I’m in the foyer - time to go home - and I think I’ll just take one last look in the library where all the plenium session were. .

Marion Woodman was sitting in an armchair, in the library, talking to a middle-aged follower or protégé, who was gushing and saying good-bye. Two younger enthusiasts, whom I knew from the conference, warm people, sat near. Their was space on the sofa opposite Marion, so I sat. The leave-taker finished and left and Ms. Woodman turned to me. “You wanted to talk to me?”

“Well yes, but I have no context,” I said.

She beckoned me over. “So what brings you here,” she asked.

I told her of my friend’s invitation and my paper on mind body dialogue. “That’s an important subject,” said Marion. “Do you have a spare copy.”

Yes! Instant karma for my (relatively) good attitude. I had to glow. What better audience could I ask for?

We talked for five, ten minutes. Mostly I talked, trying to elaborate very briefly on my thought that spirit is actively suppressing “scientific investigation” into the fringes of science and the paranormal (I will write of this at more length). And then Marion Woodman said to me, with just a little pomp (perhaps she introduced it with, “I’ve something to tell you”). “In any meeting,” she said, “the most powerful presence there is the unconscious.”

In any meeting, the most powerful presence there is the unconscious.
     “Yes,” I said, having my own little flash of insight, “because it connects to spirit.”
     And I had another insight. The snippet of a dream, the big trench, the big hole, it was “the unconscious”.
(I was telling this story to my counselor/therapist, Phil Walsh, about being stuck on the ledge in this pit above the unconscious: Phil says he would advise me to jump in.
     “Into all that shit and fire?” I demurred.
     “You can flick off the shit,” Phil mimed, “and fire purifies.”)

That's the story of my meeting with Marion Woodman. What a blessing. Thank you.

 chapter six  
 a personal biography