Stillness of the Fluids

“Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it.
The soft overcomes the hard; the gentle overcomes the rigid.”

Lao Tzu  –  Tao Te Ching

“…A successful response from the cerebrospinal fluid
is an intensified interchange between all the fluids of the body
It is definitely evident that the reaction is systemic and includes the whole body
even within the bones.”

Anne Wales DO


Fluid Exchange is vital to normal physiology. All the processes of life occur because fluids flow: Through channels, across membranes, and within open spaces. Should the flow of fluids stagnate, all of life becomes diminished… and health is compromised. Human Beings are comprised mostly of water. Bones are 20% water. As newborns, water comprises a significant proportion of our bodies (75-80%). As Adults our total body water decreases to about 60%. By the age of 60 years the our total body water (TBW) decreases to about 50%. As we age, we dry out.

Ventricles within the Brain

Ventricles within the Brain

Cerebro-Spinal Fluid (CSF) surrounds our brain and spinal cord. A mere 140 ml of fluid bathes the brain and fills the ventricles (internal cavities of the brain). This Cerebro-Spinal Fluid replenishes itself 3-4 times each day. Once thought only to provide buoyancy, CSF has now been discovered to provide important nutrient functions. Not only are essential substances made available, but harmful substances are cleared away. CSF establishes a stable and specialized fluid environment for nerve cells.

Lymphatic vessels have only recently been found within the Dural Membranes of the Central Nervous System. The brain and spinal cord are constantly cleansed by the rapid creation and absorption of the Cerebro-Spinal Fluid. This circulation of CSF was once thought be a “closed” system.  Recent studies, however, reveal that CSF is in direct communication with the lymphatic system of the rest of the body.


“There is no drop of water in the ocean, not even in the deepest parts of the abyss, that does not know and respond to the mysterious forces that create the tide.”

Rachel Carlson-The Sea Around Us

Water moves. It is lively, constantly changing. Water has a close affinity with all of life. It is a primal substance. Water allows for growth, propagation and metamorphosis. Water embraces everything; a universal element shared by all. Water is nature’s regulator. It is balanced and water balances all it comes into contact with. Water has the power to cleanse, purify, and heal.

Water, itself, is considered to be unformed… taking on the shape of the vessels that contain it. Yet water has potency, and as counter-intuitive as this may seem, water actually determines the shape of things. Layered vortices create form.

Fluids move in nature. Fluids shape the world we live in. Consider spiral vortices that precede and give rise to solid form…

Water Vortex                                Shell Vortex

Consider the laminar flow through a bent pipe… resembling the striations of musculature… or even the trabecular of  bone… Live Liquid Bone. (Remember bone is 20% water):

Pipe                     Muscle                      Bone

Even complex forms arise from simple fluid dynamics. These pictures represent water flowing through a small opening into a large tank filled with water. The configurations of the flowing water as it expands into the tank demonstrate how complexity arises from simplicity.

Fluid Injected into Fluid

Fluid Injected into Fluid

DNA does not shape us. Something came before (something even gave rise to the shape of DNA). Note how this final fluid form resembles a 40 day old embryo… (consisting mostly of fluid):

Fluid Injected                     Fluid Embryo

Other fluid injection studies give rise to these complex forms:

Jim Jealous DO, who brought us biodynamics, states clearly:

“The geometric configuration of the human body, as well as the metabolic processes, are present before the central nervous system develops…. The innate wisdom is not contained within cellular structure…. The Original design and function is in the fluids of the embryo….The forces of embryogenesis become the forces of healing in adults.”


Fluid Exchange is essential to Heath. The practical application of this principle in daily practice is fundamental to Osteopathy. 100 years before today’s research confirmed his understanding, Dr. Still knew:

“The rule of artery and vein is universal in all living beings, and the osteopath must know that and abide by its rulings, or he will not succeed as a healer.”

“We suffer from two causes—want of supply and the burdens of dead deposits.”

“The cerebrospinal fluid is the highest known element that is contained in the human body, and unless the brain furnishes this fluid in abundance, a disabled condition of the body will remain. He who is able to reason will see that this great river of life must be tapped and the withering fields irrigated at once, or the harvest of health be forever lost.”

“The lymphatics consume more of the finer fluids of the brain than the whole viscera combined… The lymphatics are universally connected with the spinal chord and all the other nerves… and all drink from the waters of the brain.”

“The soul of man with all its streams of pure living water seems to dwell in the fascia of his body.”

The experience of “The Fluid Body” as a single unit of function emerges as a relevant tool in clinical practice. Though perhaps initially elusive, this Fluid Body is actually not so difficult to perceive. In fact this perception is so natural one commonly remains unaware of its presence while in its midst.

We know the fluids of the body comprise 60-70% of the total body weight. We know these fluids inhabit multiple compartments. How then can we speak of a single “Fluid Body?” These fluids are in a continuous state of communication. There is constant interchange and renewal.

One of Dr. Sutherland’s main contributions was the discovery of the fluctuant nature of Cerebro-Spinal Fluid. The CSF is not simply circulating. The CSF fluctuates. Fluctuation is defined in Websters dictionary as: “The motion of a Fluid contained within a natural or artificial cavity, observed by palpation or percussion.”

Dr. Sutherland liked to speak about the “juices” in the tissues… The very word “juices” conveyed a meaning of perfusion and continuity. He liked the word “juices” because it described his perception and understanding…

Dr. Still spoke of the lymphatics drinking from the waters of the brain. We know that Cerebro-Spinal Fluid renews itself 3.5 times per day. This is a system that is constantly flushing itself out.

Dr. Rollin Becker spoke about the fluctuation of the Cerebro-Spinal Fluid being perceived as a total body fluctuation because the Cerebro-Spinal Fluid perfuses the lymphatics.

It is with this understanding… almost a poetic appreciation of anatomy and physiology that we can begin to place our hands upon our patients and perceive a single unit of function: A Fluid Body.

This Fluid Body has shape and texture. It is alive. It is filled with potency: A power to heal and transform. Becoming familiar with “normal” is essential. The quality of the fluctuation is far more important than the rate. In health there is a palpatory sense of full amplitude, a sense of vitality, and living dynamics. As a practitioner, we ask ourselves: “Does this mechanism feel alive or tired? …and ultimately, what is the quality of the primary function of life within this given patient?”

Within the osteopathic literature The Fluids are described with terminology that is difficult to define. The meanings intertwine, and become interdependent:




The following quotes from osteopathic literature are commonly sited. Fluid terminology is utilized. With time, practice and thoughtful consideration, these words communicate the wisdom of our elders… understanding emerges:


“The arterial stream is supreme but the cerebrospinal fluid is in command . . .”

W. G. Sutherland DO

“I am making a special effort to stress the point that I consider the fluctuation of the cerebrospinal fluid to be the fundamental principle in the cranial concept.”

W. G. Sutherland DO

“Cerebrospinal Fluid fluctuates rhythmically within a natural cavity, the neurocranium, and it can be observed by palpation. Because the body is basically fluid in composition, and in addition, cerebrospinal fluid is absorbed, in part, into the lymphatic system of the body, the fluctuation of cerebrospinal fluid can be observed throughout the body.”

Rollin Becker DO

“Where is that cerebrospinal fluid? Is it only in my body? No. It is in each and every one of your bodies. There is an ocean of cerebrospinal fluid in this room… The Breath of Life is within each.”

W. G. Sutherland DO

“The first principle in the primary respiratory mechanism, the fluctuation of the cerebrospinal fluid, has a potency with an Intelligence…”

W. G. Sutherland DO

“There is no way to separate this mechanism into separate units of function… It has 5 divisions… but it works as a single unit of function… It is a fluid drive, it fluctuates and shifts, and it doesn’t require coiling and uncoiling of the CNS to make it fluctuate. It fluctuates, period.”

Rollin Becker DO

“Within that cerebrospinal fluid there is an invisible element that I refer to as the “Breath of Life.” I want you to visualize this Breath of Life as a fluid within this fluid, something that does not mix, something that has potency as the thing that makes it move. Is it necessary to know what makes the fluid move? Visualize a potency, an intelligent potency, that is more intelligent than your own human mentality.”

W. G. Sutherland DO

“The fluctuation of the CSF is like the tides of the ocean- not the waves, but the tides. In order to have a tide, there has to be an incoming tide, a pause-rest point, an outgoing tide, a pause-rest point, an incoming tide, and so on. At the fulcrum point – at the point where this tide changes from one direction to the other – is the point at which the Breath of Life interchanges with the CSF. It then, in turn, is transmuted into the lower energies that the body needs.”

Rollin Becker DO

“The CSF receives and is endowed with the ‘the breath of life.’ As long as life exists this highest known element is the abiding place of that mysterious spark which cannot be explained but is none the less present… an intelligent physiological functioning that transcends all others in the body… this intelligence, this ‘unerring potency’ [is used] in the diagnosis and correction of cranial membranous articular lesions.”

“Because of this dynamic relationship between the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and the physiological function of every cell in the body, and particularly those of the Central Nervous System, the CSF is the initiating and controlling factor in the Primary Respiratory Mechanism. Here as elsewhere the CSF is in command.”

Osteopathy in the Cranial Field – Original Edition

“Allow physiologic function to express its own unerring potency rather than apply blind forces from without.”

W. G. Sutherland DO

“The knowledge of potency within tissues begins with this statement [above]. These words state the principle upon which we will develop our understanding of what potency is. The body has the capacity to express health through this inherent potency. At the very core of total health there is a potency with the human body manifesting it in health. At the very core of every trauma or disease condition within the human body there is a potency manifesting its relationship with the body in trauma or disease. It is up to us to learn to feel this potency. It is relatively easy to feel the tensions and stresses of trauma and disease as they are manifesting their patterns. But within these manifesting elements there is a potency that is able ‘to control or influence, having authority or power.’ It centers the disturbance. It can be sensed and read by a feeling touch.”

Rollin Becker DO

“The key to understanding the CSF is that it can be used by the physician for both diagnosis and treatment by way of its fluctuation patterns and, more importantly, as an anatomico-physiological entity within a living body in integrated function with the whole body.”

Rollin Becker DO

“…A successful response from the cerebrospinal fluid… is an intensified interchange between all the fluids of the body… It is definitely evident that the reaction is systemic and includes the whole body even within the bones.”

Anne Wales DO

“One might say that through the understanding of CSF and its fluctuant patterns, one is dealing with the rechargeable battery of life and health in human physiology.”

Rollin Becker DO

“To find Health should be the object of the physician. Anyone can find disease.”

AT Still MD

“It is the stillness of the tide, not the stormy waves that bound upon the shore.”

W. G. Sutherland DO