Osteopathy embraces the interplay of structural organizing dynamics and metabolic activities that give rise to form and function. It recognizes the inherent wisdom and intelligence within every cell. It seeks to recover what has been lost; to find the innate self-corrective principles that guide us, maintain us, and restore us. It taps that within us which is all-powerful. Osteopathy is the artful study and practical application of anatomy and physiology.
I am extremely grateful to James Jealous DO for expanding our understanding of the Science of Osteopathy. Dr. Jealous has synthesized and clarified the teachings of many who have come before him. He has provided a powerful spark for insight and understanding; an awakening to a richer and more profound experience of Osteopathy.
CLARIFICATION OF SUTHERLAND’S DISCOVERIES
Dr. Sutherland’s early explorations began with a biomechanical model of Osteopathy. Over his lifetime, Dr. Sutherland’s understanding of Osteopathy evolved into an altogether different form. The last 10 years of Sutherland’s life were devoted to an intense study of intrinsic healing. These healing forces, observed through his diligent study of the “living mechanism,” are known as the “Inherent Therapeutic Process.”
By the late 1940’s, Dr. Sutherland’s writings began to focus on these intrinsic healing forces.* He advised his students to… “Be Still and Know.” And… “Allow physiologic function within to manifest its own unerring potency rather than apply a blind force from without.”
Dr. Sutherland spoke of “Primary Respiration,” “The Breath of Life,” “Transmutation of the Cerebrospinal Fluid,” “The Potency of the Tide,” “Liquid Light,” and “Still Points.” Biodynamics explores the nuanced underpinnings of this inherent therapeutic process. Through passionate study, daily practice, and direct experience, Dr. Jealous has provided definition and distinction to Sutherland’s writings.
EMBRYOLOGY AS A MODEL
Erich Blechschmidt MD, a well established yet unusually progressive embryologist, independently provided significant contributions to the field of osteopathy.
Dr. Blechschmidt carefully observed the cells of the developing embryo, as the embryo grew and changed shape. The cells would appear to migrate (move from one location to another) as they differentiate (change from one form into another), to ultimately become the structures of the adult organism.
Dr. Blechschmidt used the term “Biodynamics” to describe these movements of “metabolic fields” in the developing embryo. He felt that these dynamic fields of activity seemed to arise from the very geometry of the cellular foundations of life, and produced distinct patterns of movement.
These patterns of metabolic field motion within the developing embryo (described by Blechschmidt) appear to be identical to the movement patterns observed and described by William Sutherland in the process of Osteopathic Treatment.
In essence, the “generative” forces of the developing embryo are identical to the “regenerative” forces used for healing in all of us.
On the 14th day after conception a flat plate of tissue forms, known as the “embryonic plate.” On the 19th day, directly in the center of the embryonic plate, a line forms. This line, known as the “primitive streak,” seems to appear out of “nowhere,” and expands towards the head and tail.
This line becomes a tube – the neural tube, which becomes our central nervous system; expanding toward the head end to form the brain. Deep to the neural tube lies another structure know as the “notochord.” This notochord functions as the midline segmental organizer for all of embryologic development.
As adults, only vestigial remnants of this once dynamic notochord remain. A line of function, a midline, a functional midline, persists throughout life, to guide and organize our physiology.
Shamanic rituals are practiced throughout the cultures of all indigenous people. These shamans, men and women, typically live on the outer rims of the village. They are of the village, but not of the village. Their role is to know the rhythms of The Natural World, while at the same time observe the rhythms of the Human Culture.
Disease and Human Suffering are seen as a straying of human activity from its dynamic relationship with the rhythms of The Natural World. Herbal preparations, and ritualistic practices utilized by these shamanic healers are intended to bring the human culture back into relationship with the Natural Order, so that health may be restored.
The rhythms of the Natural World surround us, permeate our very being, and give rise to our very breath. We depend upon these rhythms for our health and well being. These are the same biodynamic forces that move us from a single cell to fully formed adult; the same intrinsic biodynamic forces that heal our wounds, restore our health, and bring us back into relationship with our highest level of function.
Our present civilization, its tempo and tone, numbs us to the natural rhythms around us; rhythms that inherently make sense when we take the time to listen and see.
As living beings, born of the natural world, we reference these innate rhythms in a fundamental way. Our very physiology seeks out relationship with and is nurtured by the rhythms of the natural world.
The entire universe is infused with intelligence and intention. We humans are a mere participant in a much greater dynamic. Cranial Osteopathy defines this greater dynamic as Primary Respiration.
According to biodynamic principles, Primary Respiration is not limited to the boundaries of the human body. The outside presence of Primary Respiration is the invisible ether that gives rise to all that is manifest, living and non-living.
Classical Osteopathy typically attends to the distribution of forces within the human body. There are precedents within the profession, however, that attend to activities beyond the borders of the skin.
Robert Fulford DO would speak of the area immediately surrounding the patients body, and attend to disturbances in this realm during his most profound treatment.
Rollin Becker DO often attended to the ways in which the room itself would organize during a treatment process.
Dr. Jealous refers to the space within the skin as “Zone A.” The space just around our bodies is “Zone B,” and the space within the room is “Zone C.” Dr. Jealous has further expanded this concept to include “Zone D”: The Horizon.
Indigenous people of “primitive cultures” would know who and where they were by their sense of relationship of their midline to the horizon. We, more “advanced” people, have lost this profound sense of relationship. We have lost our bearings. We lack the shamanic guidance that might help us return to a more functional relationship to the Natural World.
When interacting with the forces that organize a living organism, Osteopaths with a biodynamic orientation do not restrict themselves to the boundaries of the patients skin. We pay attention to the immediate area around the patient. We pay attention to the activity in the room itself. And we pay attention to the Horizon. We are not out at the periphery of each zone. It is essential to realize that each of these zones begins in our functional midline and extends to the periphery.
Typical osteopathic diagnosis and treatment focuses on fragmented parts. Areas of “lesion” (reduced motion, inertia in a dynamic system) are evaluated. An interpretation of “normal” is made, and the treatment process is directed to bring about that “normal.”
The practical application of Biodynamic principles gives rise to a very interesting and different treatment process. Instead of focusing upon fragmented parts, we listen to the “whole.” We listen from the depths of our souls, and without imposing our sense of what is “right,” we simply sit and listen. We observe the motion present in the heart of the inertia. No barriers are engaged. Rather than focus on disease, we listen to the HEALTH.
HEALTH is that perfect matrix, present within us from the moment of conception, which precedes the emergence of “form.” Health is more inherent in the geometry than the genetics. (Some underlying geometry must have given rise to the form of DNA itself.)
The HEALTH guides the treatment. We feel Primary Respiration emerge out the Dynamic Stillness. Dynamic Stillness is a reference point, the fulcrum of the therapeutic process. Dynamic Stillness is the presence of the sacred.
Our ultimate teacher is nature itself. The natural world expresses itself in a distinct and ordered manner. Our inherent self healing follows this very same order.
In the wild, moments of Stillness commonly precede transformation:
Deep in the woods… a sudden Stillness… wildlife stops… attentions keen… an entire pond of mosquito larvae hatches… the Stillness passes.
The calm before the storm. The eye of the hurricane.
Through our listening, we connect with The Health. We reference Stillness. We allow the patient to re-establish their relationship to Primary Respiration, the Whole, the Horizon, the Midline. In this way, we touch the miraculous and create the possibility for healing.
Dr. Still said it quite simply: “To find health should be the object of the doctor. Anyone can find disease.”
*As Dr. Sutherland’s understanding evolved, he placed an emerging emphasis on inherent forces, and leaned away from a biomechanical model. This was not easily received by all members of the cranial osteopathic community. The First Edition of “Osteopathy In the Cranial Field” (written while Dr. Sutherland was still alive) emphasizes the presence of these inherent forces. After Sutherland’s death, in response to an overt antagonism toward cranial osteopathy, the First Edition disappeared. For over 30 years, the 2nd & 3rd editions (emphasizing the biomechanical model) were the only texts in print. The First Edition of “Osteopathy In the Cranial Field” was reprinted in 1997, and is now available.