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Don Ash
Craniosacral Therapy Alliance
CST Education and Training
therapists and teachers working together
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Don's Circle
An Online CST Classroom Discussion
In our CST Alliance classes we spend a lot of time asking and answering questions about CST and related topics, including definitions, intentions, hand placements, clinical considerations/applications, etc. We also spend time sharing how we feel and how we experience the work as student, therapist and teacher.

I have found a lot of learning coming from this collective sharing process and have always wanted to be a vehicle for an on-going process. Our upper level class seating is arranged in a circle to promote just such a dialogue.

In the past year my teaching and writing colleagues and I have had a chance to research and explore like never before and have found new and interesting dynamics of cranial work that we want to share in the form of new classes and new forums like the CST Alliance Retreat and this Cranial Circle.

I invite you to join us and comment when you feel so moved or you think of a question pertaining to the topic presented. I request you do not advertise on this forum. The CST Alliance will refer to our classes and books only as references and if germane to the topic being discussed. I also request that participants in this Circle classroom be reserved for active students, practicing therapists, assistants and teachers. We welcome these participants from any craniosacral program or curriculum.

We will use the CST Alliance Facebook “Notes” page to publish topics for discussion and use the “Comment” format rather than instant message so folks can think about the topic, read others' comments and then contribute if desired. Remember questions are wonderful comments.

I promised Dr. John I would dedicate the remainder of my professional life to moving the field of craniosacral forward. Our first topic and maiden voyage is "Vulnerability" which can be seen below.

Don Ash, PT, CSTA-CP
We welcome your feedback.
Facebook Users:
To comment on the above topic or view the ongoing discussion about any Circle topics, login to your Facebook account and then visit the CST Alliance Facebook page and click on "Notes." Underneath the topic click "Comment." Don't use Facebook, but want to join the discussion? Please send Don an email at AshPT@aol.com
To see contributing comments and Don's summaries, visit the CSTAlliance Facebook Page, Click on "Notes"
Don Ash, PT, CSTA-CP
Don's "Cranial Circle" archive is shown below with links to complete
Circle articles on the CST Alliance Facebook page.
Cranial Circle No. 38
September 19, 2016
I am so encouraged by the increase in general interest and scientific research in brain function and anatomy recently. I am proud to say there are new developments in CST with focus on glial and neuronal parenchyma, psychoneuroimmunology and existential awareness in aging, stress management processing and end-of-life care. Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 31
October 22, 2015
I feel really blessed living in New Hampshire. It has been 35+ years now. We built our home, our businesses, raised our kids, sheep and chickens and now are just coming into another season of our lives. The land and weather express themselves in seasons. The nature of seasons is that they are here for the moment then gone. Dictionary definitions of seasons include: form equal divisions of the year, to enhance flavor by adding salt, to add zest or interest to, to make fit through experience. The definitions that speak to me are "natural" change, life cycle, birth, death, gain, loss, beginning and end. I love New Hampshire so much because the seasons are so distinctive. Read more.
Copyright 2017 Craniosacral Therapy Alliance, All Rights Reserved

The Craniosacral Therapy Alliance (CST Alliance) is a continuing education provider with the National Certification 
Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) #451232-10 and awards CEUs for all CST Alliance Curriculum classes.
Visa/MC Accepted
Cranial Circle No. 32
November 6, 2015
"On Being SPACEous"
You know when you have a window seat on a plane and sip lemon tea and watch the setting sun from the top of the horizon something happens, at least to me. I move out of my body and into the play of the light amongst the ever changing and evolving shapes and forms of water. I know each of us is so filled with this stuff we must be here for reasons greater than ourselves. Read more.
I know all of us have been in the position of explaining to our patient, referring practitioner, student, family member or other about what we do. After we define CST, we might be asked, "what does CST do?"

And I have heard myself say, "Well, I put my hands on you, (or your patient), feel the rhythm and then gently stop the rhythm, and the body (releases). Releases come in characteristic ways; heat, softening, spreading, eyes flicker, muscles twitch, breath changes, borborygmus (visceral sounds) occur, emotions rise and or there may be a therapeutic pulse." Read more
Cranial Circle No. 3
February 8, 2013
"What is Release?"
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
Have you ever really considered your hands? I mean we are engaged in a hands-on profession, a gentle manual therapy, a light touch treatment. Who doesn't earn a living with their hands in some way?

What about these appendages at the ends of our arms? What about the pure symmetry of the things, the balance of the digits? Spread them out, the thumb on one side, the little finger on the other, and three utility digits in between, what beauty! Suppose our hands are not like that and not beautiful, what is that like? Read more
Two beautiful comments came along last week from Brian and Karen.

Brian realized sometimes one can work so hard at maintaining light touch that you can deny yourself the chance to just be, trust and follow. He now matches his touch with the pressure presented by the tissues, Inner Wisdom and intention. Please read his full comment it's great. Thanks, Brian. Read more

Cranial Circle No. 2
January 18, 2013
"Your Hands"
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
Cranial Circle No. 1
January 4, 2013
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
I have been pondering lately about attitudes, intentions, roles, beliefs and characteristic points of view around CST. I think a valuable understanding around a CST session is in considering the mental posture participants take in any given session.

For the patient, they come from a place of need and are willing to place themselves in the hands of another person. They come from a place of pain, dysfunction or loss that brings them to the conclusion that they cannot fix themselves and must submit to the help of another. Read more
Cranial Circle No. 4
March 10, 2013
"5 Grams, Really?"
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
One of the unique aspects of a CST session is timing. Timing has many meanings and values here, don't you think?

The time it takes to connect with the patient is something!

We place our hands on the patient, take a breath and focus our intention on feeling the craniosacral rhythm. It takes time to find landmarks, adjust our palpation pressure to the weight of a coin, tune out breath and heart rate and then check in with the CSR. Read more
I remember being in a neighborhood where all the kids got together to play kickball in the street. We rode our bikes around the block by ourselves without fear. My parents could provide for us and we felt safe and happy living in our country. Most recently we have all experienced feeling less than safe and witnessing forms of fear (terror) in neighborhoods, cities and small towns, both here and around the world. I feel compelled to write about this because we, as fellow world citizens, must begin to create a change. Terrorist and Therapist, I write to you both. Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 35
January 26, 2016
Cranial Circle No. 5
March 22, 2013
"Timing in CST"
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
Cranial Circle No. 6
May 7, 2013
"CST and Life Moments"
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
One of the most interesting aspects of CST for me in my little clinic and during our classes we teach is how CST has evolved from a 1930s osteopathic structural hands-on treatment method to a beautiful, subtle, sacred witness space enabling the participants to find meaning in the transitional moments of life. Even difficult moments like the pain of divorce, death of a pet, loss of a job, a leg or other transitional moments can create physical and emotional manifestations in the body creating pain and dysfunction that bring people to your clinic. What to do?? Read more
The topic of CST has roots (that I can find) that go back to Emmanuel Swedenborg of the 18th century, A.T. Still of the 19th century and Sutherland, Milne, Shea, Upledger of the 20th century. All of whom make significant contributions to the therapeutics we know of as Craniosacral.

Clearly Dr. John wanted to be an osteopath who did surgery and other allopathic interventions until he met his famous teacher and patient "Delbert." Delbert opened his world of healing to include the cranial rhythm and the notion of cranial and spinal intrinsic movement. He learned Sutherland's work in manual approaches to suture mobility and the structural work of Still and carried it forward. He brought the ideas of A.T. Still forward that the body is a unit, is self-regulating and those of R. Paul Lee about the "Physician Within" enabling the body to heal itself. Read more

Other than settling, listening, engaging and being present, the term self-regulation should be high on the motivations for awareness list for everyone in session and in life. We self-regulate every moment. Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 34
January 3, 2016
Moving Forward "Ubuntu"
Cranial Circle No. 7
June 3, 2013
"CST and SER"
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
Have you ever held someone in session and they suddenly and spontaneously go into deep stillness? As Dr. John would say, that means "the Significance Detector is on, which means the craniosacral rhythm is off." The significance is that the position the patient is in and/or what the person is thinking is sometimes significant to the healing process of that person. I have been in session myself and the rhythm suddenly stops and I get a feeling. It may be an emotion, a pulsing or vibrational toning erupting from somewhere in the body. Sometimes I get a sense something important is happening for the patient. Sometimes I can even see an image, a scene, a person, or an animal. I even can feel an emotion welling up in me and I get a suggestion of father, mother, brother or someone else. Oftentimes there is an accompanying energetic charge that is fairly breathtaking. Read more
Cranial Circle No. 8
July 2, 2013
"The Land of Igot"
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
The new year is moving us forward in time. Our mission statement for the CSTA is to move CST forward. Whether we like it or not we all are moving forward with our lives. What does “moving forward” really mean?
Moving forward can be both good and bad. On the one hand it is an adventure, today when we got up. It is a fresh start, new ground in living, loving, learning, expanding, growing and change. Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 9
July 27, 2013
"Conscio - Non-Conscio"
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
I think one of the most wonderful teachings Upledger brings to CST is the idea of the CSR being a communication tool for integration of awareness for patient and therapist. He does this exquisitely in his model of Conscious - Non-conscious defined in his last edition of "Cell Talk." I write today about the model because it is a continuation of method of practice once you enter the area of utilization of the stillpoint potential, and our last Circle entry around "Igot."

I did my first Brain Speaks class in 2003 in Venice, Italy to all Italian students and my sponsor arranged for me to conduct the class at a neurologic hospital and use real patients as demo and practice subjects. It was such a profound learning for the class, the patients and me. So whenever I write about the model, I use the Italian title (as above). I have a chapter of the same name in my book, "Body of Water, Ocean of Mind." Read more
I have heard it said "there is nothing new under the sun," "What has been has been," "What is, is!" In an Earth time way this natural environment has been spinning, moving, pulsing in ebb and flow wave forms since this blue orb formed in outer space. If John Upledger had thought everything had been done in CST and there was no other way to move CST forward, we never would have had SER, vectors, dialogue, cell talk, etc.

Someone recently wrote and asked me,"what is new in CST?" Well the answer for me is multifaceted. There is the craniosacral rhythm and that has always been there but when we take a new moment to look and feel the rhythm based on Sutherland's notion of reciprocal tension mechanism, what is new for me is that, "With flexion the head fills, with extension the sacrum fills." Anatomy seems to be there for that to happen. With that perception it causes me to have a new awareness in the way I treat. That's new for me. Read more
Cranial Circle No. 10
August 12, 2013
"What's NEW in CST?"
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
I have passed an interesting time in my career these past two years. I have gone from an advanced multi-class teacher, multi-level examiner, international speaker, author and presenter, to a founder of a fledgling teaching group trying to promote generic CST. I have studied and found wonderful things around CST I never was exposed to. I have met new teachers, some centuries old and some still alive (Pollay), who have excited me. I have found new anatomy discoveries shedding new and wonderful light (for me) on CST. I have found new hand placements and order of technique based on anatomy that makes theoretical sense and when applied in the clinic, produces great results, a natural unfolding. I have thought of old models and looked at them in new ways, that from a universal understanding of the body (yin and yang), seem to have simplistic but natural advantage in treatment application. Understanding the ebb and flow of the rhythm and the nature of cranial VS sacral concept, it is not VS, it is in unity of the two ends of a beautiful innate system that is key. Read more
Cranial Circle No. 11
September 20, 2013
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
Cranial Circle No. 12
October 9, 2013
"Real World Cranial"
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
I don't know about you, but I see the real world we live in getting more crazy by the week. People are being laid off. Unemployment in Europe among young adults fresh out of college ranges from 18 to 25 percent. Homes are being foreclosed. A recent announcement on National Public Radio said home foreclosures are down nationally to 15 percent of all mortgages. That's three out of every 20 homes, with mortgages, still being foreclosed upon. Funding for government programs and particularly special needs services for kids are being cut back as government offices close. I had a cerebral palsy patient of mine ask me today in a worried state, if I would continue to see her even if the government stopped paying. I said I would. Who could not? Not allowing government programs to continue affects Head Start for little kids to Meals on Wheels for the elderly. Everyone is affected by this. Read more
Cranial Circle No. 36
April 20, 2016
Cranial Circle No. 14
February 4, 2014
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
One large source of somato-emotional holding in our present day society comes in the form of bullying. Wikipedia defines Bullying: "The use of force, threat or coercion to abuse, intimidate or aggressively impose domination over others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual."

Do we not see the effects of bullying with patients exhibiting somato-emotional holding on our tables? Examples that come immediately to mind include child abuse, sexual abuse, date rape, demeaning behaviors by select groups of students in high school and college, spousal issues, workplace bullying by the superior or administrator. Read more
Cranial Circle No. 13
November 21, 2013
"Bullying and CST"
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
There are few words in CST more important than intention. Intention is the discerning difference in our work from allopathic modalities where treatment is delivered as just a standard dosage of some standard measure. That is not always the case in allopathic care. I need to add my family was a direct witness to life saving allopathic medical intervention recently and it was the treatment delivered with kind compassionate intention that saved my family member's life. I am truly grateful for the healing kind intention of the ICU physicians and staff. The fundamental reason any medical treatment works, I believe, is because of intention. The placebo is a prime example. (See the Chapter "Is Intention Placebo" in Body of Water, Ocean of Mind by Don Ash) Read more
​Cranial Circle No. 15
April 11, 2014
"Listening Witness"
Don Ash, PT, CST-D
Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is a field unto itself in many ways. I suppose the advanced forms of other manual therapies all come to a deep place of understanding. I know I speak for myself when I say I have come to a deeper place of understanding in the work called CST the farther down the road I go. I am blessed to have been ushered down this road by great teachers throughout my life. Read more
Cranial Circle No. 16
May 4, 2014
"Listening to the Body: Somato-Emotional Processing"
We just wrapped up a great small class today in Rochester, New Hampshire, SE1 (Somato-Emotional Processing One: Listening). It was the fourth in our seven-class basic curriculum. The first three classes are structural classes and this class is the first in our basic four class series in Somato-Emotional Processing. We view the term Somato-Emotional Release as an adjective for the process of understanding emotional holding in the body that can be facilitated by working with the craniosacral rhythm and holding space for the body to decide when and how to vacate emotions from the body. Our goal is for the patient to process that experience as a point of understanding of life events that result from acquiring emotions/stresses/traumas, in the first place. Read more
Cranial Circle No. 17
June 1, 2014
"Aging is Not a Disease"
Here at the CST Alliance we pride ourselves in always looking at new ways to bring CST into standard manual therapy practice. And in teaching CST we have tried to teach simplicity. We keep it real, but also based on anatomy, new science and current issues of time constraints and cultural needs, we adjust. Read more.
My teacher said, "CST helps completes the biological process with the patient." This is a very important concept in many ways. First it implies (with resounding truth) that the process is not about the therapist and their success in making the patient feel better from treatment but rather the progressive understanding of the life process for the person owning the life, namely the patient. Sometimes pain is a gift and a great motivator for change. Read more
Cranial Circle No. 18
June 19, 2014
"The Blue Light Syndrome"
I want to talk about a phenomena that I see as influencing the physical and emotional bodies of us all. It is a sea change in our lives that has been unbelievable in the past 25 years. And in the past five years it has caused amazing effects to the human body and the society as a whole. People who are younger than 20 don't even know any different and think of today's life as normal. It is one of the leading causes of traffic fatalities and accidents on the highways today. It is one of the leading causes of hypertensive disorders. Read more
Cranial Circle No. 19
July 24, 2014
Dedication is a term used to describe committed effort, to commit oneself fully. It implies work and sometimes one stands back a little when the contemplation of a commitment to work is considered. Sometimes it is a commitment to some kind of work, concept, principle, belief, idea, theory or method that is contrary to public opinion or goes against a societal norm or current standard. I recall reading that Albert Einstein's university thesis was originally rejected as being too fanciful and unrealistic. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team for not being good enough. Thomas Edison said genius was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. What is it that motivates a person to be dedicated? Read more
Cranial Circle No. 37
August 11, 2016
"Just Listening"
Cranial Circle No. 20
August 23, 2014
"Ethics and Compassionate Touch"
This is the theme of the 4th Annual CST Retreat being held October, 3-5, 2014 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This writing is designed to make you think. I will be offering more questions than answers in this Circle. I hope it moves you. Please share your thoughts, if you feel you want to. -- Don

Sheryl McGavin and I have been working with the theme of ethics in CST for some time now. She came up with the title "Ethics and Compassionate Touch." We believe it is time to explore elements of touch and ethics in the delivery of CST and all forms of touch since we come from such divergent touch fields. We, who practice CST, describe the work as light touch, good intention and encouraging the body to change and heal. When that happens, there are all sorts of ethical considerations that come up. The AMTA, the NCBTMB and even individual states as well as other licensing boards have codes of ethical standards of practice. A modern version of the Hippocratic Oath, was written by Louis Lasagna, the Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University in 1964. He defined one of the Oath statements; "I will remember that there is an art to medicine as well as science and that warmth, sympathy and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife and the chemist's drug." Spoken like a true holistic practitioner, yes? Read more
Anchors are interesting. Metaphorically, they help keep us grounded and attached to something firm; they're something stable to hold us in place and keep us from getting lost and adrift. On a boat when we set the anchor we attach to the earth from an otherwise floating position on the water. From this anchorage we feel safe, we can rest, relax, get our bearings and decide how to move forward. Read more
Cranial Circle No. 21
September 10, 2014
"The Metaphorical Anchor"
I want to express my gratitude to Musaru Emoto. I understand he transitioned today. I have been enthralled with his work for many years. He was the one who said that water had intention and a consciousness. He was asked one time, "Are all snowflakes alike?" He didn't know so he set up an experiment where by he took a water sample and froze it and then as it thawed he took pictures. He readily found different water samples had different thawing crystals. He pondered on the reasons for that. Read more
Cranial Circle No. 22
October 17, 2014
One of the clinical expressions we speak about often in our structural classes and in somato-emotional processing relates to how we first engage the rhythm with our intention and touch. We use the term "settling in." So, I thought I would speak about the concept here and ask that you try it next time you begin a session. Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 23
November 17, 2014
"Settling In"
In the spirit of the season I would like to offer an analogy that is both physical and spiritual. Western culture celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and the gift of his birth to the world. Our ritual is that we symbolize the birth of Christ with the evergreen tree, meaning life ever after. The gift of that belief is so precious we have a tradition of giving a gift to those we love as a reminder of the gift of ever lasting life Christ gives to us. Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 24
December 5, 2014
"Liquid Light"
I thought it would be fruitful to try to set the tone for our CST community at the first of the year. I hope all practitioners can share our collective wealth of research, new method ideas and clinical practical experience. We remain open and welcoming to CST practitioners of all trainings and experience. In this way we can get off to a united start for ourselves, our clients and CST in general. Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 25
January 2, 2015
​Post: after
Concussion: shock or agitation of the brain
Syndrome: a group of symptoms that collectively indicate or characterize a disease or 
other abnormal condition
(This is a long one but I hope you find it useful) Comments welcome!!! Read more.

Cranial Circle No. 26
February 3, 2015
"Post Concussion Syndrome"
This post is dedicated to Maggie Gliksten, a well-loved practitioner from Ireland whose study in 2007 we remember here.

Colleague, curriculum co-developer, teacher and friend Sheryl McGavin presented at the 2014 CST Alliance Retreat on CST Research. We both feel it is so important to move this topic forward. I'm sure all of us have experienced the classic conversation with an allopathic practitioner about CST. Read more.

Cranial Circle No. 33
November 24, 2015
"To Terrorists and Therapists"
Cranial Circle No. 27
March 12, 2015
"Sharing Research in CST"
This is a very personal entry for me. As you may know, I developed the class entitled: "Craniosacral Therapy Around Death and Dying" (CADD) in 2009. It is a unique class because it helps therapist, client and survivor deal with life. It is a class to celebrate life. We all have suffering and loss in life as we complete our biological process. Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 28
April 4, 2015
"Coming Home"
I love the way listening pertains to CST. What is Listening anyway? It’s just listening right? Defined by Webster’s dictionary, Listen: to make conscious effort to hear, to give heed, take advice. Heed: to pay close attention. Conscious: having an awareness, able to feel and think, awaken. Read more.
"Cultivate your thoughts my friends, particularly in session." -- Don

Thought is the result of the act of thinking and includes physical, metaphysical, sentience, cognition, consciousness and imagination. Studies of thought are found in biology, psychology and philosophy among other fields. Planning, evaluating, imagining, processing and understanding are forms and functions of thought.  Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 30
August 27, 2015
"Clinical Thoughts"
The Buddhists say everything is impermanent. Nothing stays the same. An example for me is the natural history of my home state of New Hampshire, USA. In 1860 ninety percent of the state was field, pasture and farmland. By 1960 ninety percent of the land was forested. We pride ourselves as living near the great White Mountain National Forest today. Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 29
June 4, 2015
Cranial Circle No. 39
November 11, 2016
"Celebrating Lineage"
I have mentioned many times my training was with the Upledger Institute and I have tried to be a reflection of my main teacher, Dr. John. I graduated from there in 2011 and went out on my own with a new curriculum. In writing those classes with colleagues I researched the topic of CST and found some wonderful things. Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 40
February 11, 2017
"The Craniosacral Lymphatic Connection"
Lymphatics play a significant role in the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Bruno Chikly has known this for a long time. In his book “Silent Waves” there is a quote from the writings of A.T. Still, “your patient had better save his life and money by passing you by as a failure until you are by knowledge qualified to deal with the lymphatics.”
Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 41
March 12, 2017
I was reminded recently in session about the significance of sleep in our lives. “Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body characterized by altered consciousness, relatively uninhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles and reduced interactions with surroundings.” healthysleep.med.harvard.edu
Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 44
July 31, 2017
"Cranial Meditation"
Meditation essentially means being occupied in thought. One could say I’m concentrating. I am really focused on something. It is a practice of inducing a mode of consciousness. As you may be aware, there are practices which create the opportunity of becoming aware of content without becoming identified with the content. Lots of CST applications here right? It can be a form of self-regulation inducing relaxation, peace, happiness, compassion and it can be a practice in being at ease in dealing with anxiety, depression, stress or some form of illness.
Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 42
April 24, 2017
"Integrating Intention"
How many times have we all said, “intention” is the most powerful and important tool in manual therapy? A keystone to the CSTA teaching is to set your intention as a therapist to be impartial, non-judgmental, ego-subordinated and unconditionally present. 
Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 43
June 5, 2017
"Life and Death Moments"
“Letting go into a new beginning” -- Don Ash
Sometimes in living our lives there are moments in which we think we are going to die. “I was embarrassed to death; It hurt so bad I thought I would die; It killed me to hear that; My life ended when that happened.” 
Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 45
September 2, 2017
"Celebrating Swedenborg"
On November 3, 1719 Emanuel Swedenborg wrote to his brother-in-law saying in part, “I have made myself thoroughly acquainted with the anatomy of the nerves and the membranes and I have proved the harmony which exists between that and the interesting geometry of tremulations.” Read more.
Cranial Circle No. 46
September 25, 2017
We are most definitely in the information age. With the advent of the smart phone the world is in your pocket. The more information one has at one’s fingertips the more connected and informed we are. As science in the study of the human body and the interconnectedness of mind-body-spirit moves into healthcare -- the more information manual therapists have -- the more connected, in touch and effective they become. Read more.