The Fluid Body: Metaphors of Interrelatedness – Part 1
The Fluid Body: Metaphors of Interrelatedness
I cannot tell you exactly what the fluid body is. This is because the fluid body is a metaphor for a very personal experience of embodied wholeness. The term fluid body was originally coined perhaps two decades ago by James Jealous DO. The term as Jealous used it then, referred to the embryo as described by the embryologist Eric Blechschmidt in Germany. In his work, Blechschmidt describes the embryo as being mostly fluid containing a variety of forces (purposeful movements) that are acting on and within the fluid of the human embryo. It must be remembered that at the same time Dr. Sutherland was discovering organizing forces of healing that were “in the fluids but not of the fluids.” The fluid body could be said to be our original body.
This means that for the first two weeks fertilization there is only a fluid body. There are no other body systems generated until the blood forms in the latter part of the second week post fertilization. This is how the fluid body was conceived of originally. Even after organ differentiation and so forth, the fluid body remains a constant through what Blechschmidt called the three laws of fluids: “The different metabolic movements (along, and through limiting tissue and into inner tissue equals permeation, permeation and infiltration, respectively).” The first and third of these fluid body metabolic movements described by Blechschmidt are none other than longitudinal fluctuation (along) and lateral fluctuation of fluids (into). The term into inner tissue means that fluid moves perpendicular to the plane of tissue. Since the water molecule is the smallest molecule in the human body it can therefore move through any tissue in the human body and thus the term permeation.
We are perpetual embryos because we are never quite done with our human development, no matter what age we are. Whereas all other mammals finish their development through survival specialization at the end of the embryonic period. Survival specialization refers to specialized structures such as claws for digging and protecting, exaggerated noses for sense of smell, exaggerated teeth for ripping and tearing and so forth. There is no such specialized defensive or offense of structure in the human body at the end of the embryonic. Consequently it is possible to say that we are perpetual embryos especially when you consider that it takes many years of training to learn offensive system of human specialization whether that is in athletics or the military. Likewise it takes many years to learn a defensive specialty.
To find the fluid body is to find the embryo, which is our original body still present no matter what age. My first embryology teacher kept asking me if I had found my embryo and I kept thinking that meant to buy more embryology books and read them. It was when I finally experienced less density in my body and a Long Tide moving through me while centered in my heart movement that I experienced a dimension of love and kindness. This is the health that is present in the fluids of the body and represented by the embodied perception of PR. One way to contact the fluid body as it exists in the body at this moment is done with the perception of Primary Respiration (PR), the so-called Long Tide as described by Dr. Sutherland.
PR is such a simple tool to explore our fluid body with, no matter what its composition. PR allows us to sense the fluid body as what Jealous calls “one drop.” This one drop generates a deeper sense of embodied wholeness that can be reparative to the cardiovascular and nervous systems. This is your embryo.
The fluid body operates with its own unique set of movements and principles. These movements and principles are discovered within the context of sensing the whole body and its environment with PR. This represents a paradigm shift in terms of manual therapy of any kind, but especially craniosacral therapy and the biodynamic approaches. There are specific movements called motion present that are both voluntary and involuntary and associated with the various systems of the body, especially the musculoskeletal and myofascial systems. These systems of the body tend to draw the practitioner into a focus on individual parts and the use of mechanical skills to enhance or increase motion present available locally. The fluid body however, constantly dissipates forces acting upon it. It is of note that Dr. Jealous has said that when the fluid body undergoes a stress, it can feel like soft tissue and lose its fluid quality and capacity to dissipate stress. The principle of embodied wholeness gives biodynamic practice one of its more unique foundations as the starting point for clinical practice. The six basic dissipation movements of the fluid body are:
• The longitudinal fluctuation – this is a wave that typically comes from the client and moves through, up and down the entire front of the practitioner’s body before it dissipates.
• Lateral fluctuations – the practitioner will feel as though his or her body is oscillation like a metronome from right to left or left to right as if swinging back and forth on the sits-bones of the pelvis.
• Leaning right or left – this is the sense of the fluid body having more weight and pulling to one side or the other.
• Micro-movement – this is a quality of vibration and minor tremoring or shaking that is subtle.
• The spiral – this is either a local or global sensation of twisting and sheering inside the practitioner’s body.
• Honey – periodically a practitioner can sense PR in the fluid body and the entire fluid body (one drop) will have a very dense slow movement associated with it – it is unmistakable.
Another metaphor for the fluid body is the term protoplasm. The biodynamic community worldwide has been influenced by the 1954 black and white film from the University of Pennsylvania. The botanist narrating the film is Professor Seifritz. It is called The Protoplasm of a Slime Mold. The slime mold is an example of one of nature’s fluid bodies in that it has few cells associated with its structure. The movie however, demonstrates and shows clearly the activity of PR in the fluid body, both locally and globally. I have personally experienced this same phenomenon in the fluid body of my human clients. I put together a few important lessons from the movie for the reader:
• PR is seen changing phases at least ten times and usually during its phase change. Narrator says early in the film: “Note the reversal of flow with a rhythmic period of 50 seconds.”
• PR is later seen breathing three dimensionally as a “heart” according to the narrator. The whole blob of protoplasm being studied can be seen to be breathing in the tempo of PR. This means that PR is both local as shown in the movie but also global as shown through the time lapse photography of the “heart.”
• The motion observed in the flow of the protoplasm in between the phase changes of PR is part of the mid-tide (variable rates between 2-6 CPM) and is called the fluid drive by one biodynamic teacher.
• The fluid body is described as having a range of different tempos all occurring simultaneously. “We made the discovery that the protoplasm has a polyrhythmic harmony.” All movements in the fluid body are occurring simultaneously.
• The fluid body is seen several times accessing a state of stillness when placed under stress while PR continues underneath as noted by the narrator. The fluid body can repair itself while in a self-induced state of stillness. PR does not stop as the narrator mentions, but keeps going on during the phase of reparative stillness as noted on a graph shown by the narrator.
• The fluid body is seen in a startle response that occurs before a shock takes place. “Note the nervous shock that occurs before ….” This phenomenon is seen at least one more time in the movie. In humans this is called the startle reflex mechanism.
• When two fluid bodies meet, one must be receptive to complete the joining together according to the narrator. The fluid bodies must be “synchronized…one or the other must give way for a fully harmonious coming together.” Synchronized in this case is one fluid body being receptive to the other in terms of flow. When a practitioner places their hands on a client they immediately withdraw their attention back to their own body in order to create a receptive flow through the hands.
• The fluid body has different gradients of viscosity and is very elastic.
• A basic movement of PR in the fluid body is that of a spiral shown at the end of the movie. Again, all of these movements attributed to PR are happening simultaneously. This means it depends on the perception of the practitioner to sort out which layer he or she is observing. Thus it is necessary to start the process of observation with the practitioner’s own body as he or she settles into PR and stillness.
• The narrator makes a statement that human beings “are made of protoplasm.” That would also mean cytoplasm.