A Buddhist teacher I heard once said, "Blessed are you to be born in interesting times." Holy cow, are we ever blessed, huh??
We all know how the world has changed with a world-wide pandemic, social unrest, gun violence and climate change. The ever present uncertainty of having a job, money for rent, medications and food, deciding if kids should return to school and whether we should/can open our businesses. Fear, anger, resentment, denial and dealing with illness and death have taken a great toll on all of us. The stress of it all has moved people to illness in terms of pain, tension, emotional holding and debilities associated with being in a constant state of alert. And those that have hope for the future are met with the official caution that the fall and flu season may only compound our problems.
With maliciousness politics, cruelty, failure to help those struggling that are food and rent insecure, the assault on information with lies, half truths, blatant racism by calling protesters "anarchists," suppressing voter rights by limiting voting stations and dismantling the postal service just when we need that service for voting in the upcoming election; these are interesting times. All of this causing doubt and questioning if we can even hold a fair, safe election. This is a new day. We will be developing a new normal. We will not be returning to the old normal. We need to change, adapt, be smart, be safe, be kind and BE STILL AND KNOW that the sun will still rise. We can still think and respect each other and find ways to help all of us -- no matter what political party -- get back to a life offering opportunity and happiness for ourselves and others.
CST has a place in helping to convert violence and inner anger and fear into release, forgiveness, quieting and finding peace of mind. Our training and teaching is committed to non-violence, non-judgment and impartiality. We have an obligation to educate about our inner wisdom, mental, physical and spiritual health through CST listening and promoting relaxation, self-awareness, inner peace and compassion towards ourselves and others.
There is no other time in my lifetime, certainly, in my decades-long career that the need for CST teaching and practice has been more apparent. We have discussed opening our clinical practices, but what about our classes and teaching the work so that care giving can go on for the next generation, so they may be of service in such an uncertain changing world?
I think all of us have cancelled classes or cut way back depending on the infection rate and rates of transmission of the virus in areas where we live and work. Many teachers in the manual and holistic touch therapy continuing education fields have just closed and are waiting for next year.
That's fine, but then what? Would it not be better to think, strategize, plan and institute a way forward? The next generation is counting on us and looking to know how to proceed so they can see a way forward. Some of us have gone to distance CST, which gives me concern. Some, including myself, have gone to reaching out by zoom. And some are finding ways to reunite in live, small controlled classes.
In the spirit of light touch, engaging by intention, holding sacred space and intimate communication in person with origins of the body rhythms and the multi-level consciousness of the Inner Wisdom we need to find a humanistic touch way forward in these times. How do we touch safely and compassionately while honoring the trust established with the body and the Inner Wisdom by gentle, well-intended touch in the midst of contagion spread by close contact?
We have discussed creating clinical space and modified methods of treatment, but how do we teach in person, lecture, demonstrate and conduct live, hands-on practice so that this beautiful work may carry on post-pandemic and into a new, current and future world?
This is what we will do at the CSTA:
1.) We will begin to teach again, but the schedule will be fluid based on the progression of transmission of the virus in every proposed teaching geographic area. We will react on the side of safety and caution always. We will cancel classes held in high infection rate states and regions until those rates go down to 1 or 2 percent. If infection rates rise in previously safe areas, we will cancel those classes. We will honor CDC and state guidelines. In all areas the running of classes will still be based on teacher and student willingness to attend.
2.) We will hold only local classes meaning those locations local to the students who can drive to class and do not depend on public transport or as little public transport as possible.
3.) Class size will be limited to only two people seated at a treatment table for lecture and/or trade. In most instances class size will be four to six students unless large, open, safe, natural space is available.
4.) Students will be surveyed and temperature taken prior to class. They also will be contacted prior to class and asked how they are feeling and based on the response, might then be asked to reschedule or get COVID tested before attending.
5.) All teachers and students must be willing to postpone class should someone become sick in class or the teacher becomes sick just before the class is scheduled to begin.
6.) Trading partners will be limited to one partner per day.
7.) All people in class are masked and/or face shielded. In trade session the patient is masked and the therapist is shielded. (Therapist is shielded and masked for proximal face and head work.)
Our mask/shield view is that with prolonged touch time (30 minutes plus), as in a session or trade, a shield prohibits accidental therapist mask touching, self-touching of eyes, scratching one's nose or inadvertent mask adjustments during sessions. The fewer words spoken and the softer the voice the better. Those words from the therapist in a shield fall downward onto therapist’s chest, clothing and floor below the treatment table. Words and breath from the patient move upward and out, partially blocked by their masks, but additionally impeded by therapist's shield inhibiting that air from going into therapist's eyes, nose and forehead. Masks on patients allow better access to hyoid, maxilla and frontal bones. A shield and mask should be worn by the therapist using more dialogue or while close to patient's face with mouth or fascial work.
8.) Teaching environments are to include hand washing to enter or leave the room. Sanitizer wipe all touch surfaces additionally as needed at breaks in lecture or trade. The virus being aerosol in nature means it is broadcast in air. By filtering, redirecting, and exchanging air we dilute the broadcast . This is why outdoor activities and gatherings are better than indoor. So we have gentle air flow going all the time with small floor fans, air filtration and ionizer systems going all the time. We open doors and windows to exchange air as often as time and seasonal temperatures allow.
9.) Students will be encouraged to bring their own water bottles and break food.
10.) Students will maintain mask wearing outside and everywhere in public for the entire length of time of their stay. Students must bring their own masks. One high quality plastic shield will be provided per student by the CSTA.
11.) Our teachings in each class will cover the advertised contents of each class but will also offer the unique and timely modified approaches as outlined in Coronavirus CST Care in previous essays, (3 stage settling in from the social distancing location of the feet and lower legs, stillpoints and arcing and somato-emotional processing from that location, superficial water wheel lymphatic opening at the thoracic inlet, OCB, CV4, Rock and Glide alternative positions and with lymphatic applications, and modified vault techniques from the head of the table. Due to the stress increase in all our lives these days basic somato-emotional processing and simple holding space for emotional expression will be discussed and taught in each class as well as basic home exercises for staying grounded, being calm and facilitating the ability to manage the stress of our times that may present on the table.
As we find new and improved ways for doing things, we will adapt and share. Our goal remains our original mission statement to have small classes, support local teachers and therapists to move generic CST forward. In a world in which we seem to be losing everything, let us preserve compassionate touch and loving kindness so our students, colleagues, children and grandchildren can learn to BE STILL AND KNOW and be able to adapt, cope, and share a new world, with compassion, love, equality, fairness and hope.
The last in this Coronavirus and CST series will include self-help strategies and exercises to be taught, shared and practiced in small outdoor groups and individually for self-sustaining health and well being. That final essay will be coming up soon. Stay safe, stay strong, stay kind and plan to vote your heart.