Three Categories of Experiencing Primary Respiration
I want to share the experience of my perception of Primary Respiration or what is commonly called the Long Tide. I teach several biodynamic sensory awareness principles of Primary Respiration that I want to review before discussing different and variable experiences. The first basic principle of sensing Primary Respiration is: It is the movement of wholeness. Its only interest is to have each of us experience the felt sense of embodied wholeness. This is a very gradual embodied learning. We have forgotten our entire preexisting library of the sensation of wholeness and replaced it with a sensory library of seemingly disconnected parts associated with stress and trauma. Primary Respiration in all of its nuances is the instinct of reunification of the parts. In order to sense the whole as a living breathing moving reality, a ground of awareness must be established through body scans and a variety of mindfulness practices. Primary Respiration is not given as an automatic perception. It is uncovered by the quality of the practitioner’s attention to the whole body and the world of nature as an interconnected continuum.
The second basic principle is: Primary Respiration and dynamic stillness are one thing constantly exchanging places with each other in a perceptual dance. Dr. Becker called it “the rhythmic balanced interchange of Primary Respiration and stillness.” Now with many students and practitioners able to sense it, different nuances are beginning to be expressed in a beautiful way both within the practitioner and the continuity and connection with the client. My personal experience mirrors our collective worldwide community. This essay defines Primary Respiration as a broad category of generative phenomena and sensory experiences. It generates the embodiment of wholeness over time by connecting sensory experience to a continuity of wholeness that is both inside and outside the body.
It is important to state a third basic principle here: Primary Respiration is a polyrhythmic phenomenon. It expresses itself many ways simultaneously. Clearly these perceptions are nonlinear and more wholistically oriented to that expression of Primary Respiration that organizes and allows us to sense the whole.
Bearing in mind those three basic principles, I have noticed three categories of experiencing the therapeutic activity of Primary Respiration. The first being what I call biphasic. This brings into play the discussion of rates. Rates are a favorite topic in any form of craniosacral therapy. Rates involve a perception of at least two phases within one cycle of the rate being observed such as the cranial rhythmic impulse (CRI) or the midtide. Originally, biodynamic osteopaths began talking about Primary Respiration as being six cycles per every 10 minutes (6CP10M). This was the first revelation of a rate associated with primary Respiration starting about 50 years ago. This is precisely 50 seconds to a minute in one phase of a biphasic cycle. With practice and over time this base rate starts to warp and stretch itself into slightly shorter and even much longer rates. Sometimes it seems very precise at 50 seconds and sometimes not. I experience the base rate of 6CP10M as a doorway, a type of entrance into a relatively timeless dimension. Rates are superficial but necessary gates of perception.
It must be remembered that the midtide rate is not on the spectrum of perceiving Primary Respiration. The polyrhythmic harmony of all these rates is occurring at the same time and while all are part of the whole, the midtide and Long Tide function quite differently. The midtide is the potency behind the differentiation of the parts held by stress and trauma. This can be a very necessary component of a client’s healing process. Primary Respiration is the potency of the differentiation of the whole. This is also a necessary component of a client’s healing process. It is simply a question of where to place one’s attention and develop the skills of noticing the embodiment of wholeness. One practitioner said the working with the midtide is like standing on the shoreline of the ocean watching the tide from the solidity of the beach. While exploring the Long Tide is like being in the ocean with the tide permeating the skin.
Traditionally one phase is called Primary inhalation and the other paired phase Primary exhalation. I prefer to call it simply a phase change without an implied direction which leaves open the possibility of variable directions and numerous perceptions. The reunification of the parts on the road to embodiment is unique for everyone. One size does not fit all. However, my experience now includes a spectrum of variable longer rates different but related to the traditional 6CP10M. Scott Zamarut, a teacher in the North American Association has noted a 20 minute experience of Primary Respiration that he is calling the embodiment tide.
Within the biphasic category, there are relational tides in which we are connected to each other through the electromagnetic field of the heart and its capacity to carry the wave of Primary Respiration between each of our hearts. Ray Castellino, in his work with babies, moms and families has found a 2 1/2 minute cycle that he calls the relational tide. Ray also says that this relational tide gives us access to what is called blueprint energy in polarity therapy, “this is the energy that helps and organizes our consciousness. It organizes the way our mind works. It organizes the way our body shapes.” Both the relational tide and the blueprint energy are expressions of Primary Respiration within all of its different faces. The main relational practice I teach is to sense the tide of Primary Respiration moving between the practitioner’s heart and the client’s heart through the interconnected heart fields. The electromagnetic field of the heart is the carrier of Primary Respiration to access safety and trust in the therapeutic relationship.
The second category of Primary Respiration experience is what I call uniphasic. Frequently I experience Primary Respiration only moving in one direction. Sometimes I can feel it moving in both directions at once. This indicates that there is a continuous single phase that can originate from a source inside the body or outside the body or neither. For example, frequently I sense PR moving for about a minute and it fades from my perception. When it returns in about a minute or so, it is moving in the same direction. I used to think that in the gap of perception, Primary Respiration was simply in its opposite phase. I was wrong. There was nothing in my perception that would indicate that. It was a thought and incorrect. Consequently, Primary Respiration is moving continuously in one direction or phase. This is what I call intermittent continued expansion in all directions.
The third category of experiencing Primary Respiration is nonphasic. It is comprised of two subcategories that I call subtle awareness and extrasensory awareness. There are no rates or phases in this nonphasic category just the experience of love, compassion, grace, peace and many more such states. Subtle awareness has an element of duality in that “I am perceiving grace, I am perceiving love flowing, I am mindful of compassion” and so forth. There is the pervasive “I am” perceiving something as if different or unconnected from that which is being perceived. It is not quite whole or interconnected.
However, when Primary Respiration goes through its constant interchange with dynamic stillness (they take turns in arising), we are gradually brought to a very non-dualistic extrasensory state of rest and relaxation mentally and physically. Serenity, quiescence, tranquility, placidness are home base for the instinct of healing the body to be remembered. Dynamic stillness when merged with Primary Respiration as one thing, is a pervasive subtle sensation, a lucid clarity, a panoramic awareness that is therapeutic at a cellular and molecular level. This instinct for healing is rooted in our biology. It is an invitation to completely rest our attention into the space and clarity of dynamic stillness and abide there until Primary Respiration shows itself again as part of the never ending dance of Primary Respiration and dynamic stillness.
Of course there are numerous other possibilities within these three categories but it’s good to look at a map before we plan to head into this territory with our clients and our own personal explorations of our body and mind. It depends on each individual’s ability to rest their attention into space that has no fear, only compassion. Finally, the very last basic principle is this: Who can know how anything is experienced other than the experiencer? Or, as the famous Zen koan says: There is only one koan: you.
3 thoughts on “Three Categories of Experiencing Primary Respiration”
Thank you that was delightful. It reminds me of the great pause before the Big Bang, that dark ,dark blue field with great electrical energy all through and in harmony with all that was about to be. The Primary Pause, as you say. Blessings. OOOMMM
In the last two months I began experiencing inhalation and exhalation occurring simultaneously on opposite sides of my body. I’ve been noticing long-tide’s expression changing in my body and in the relational field with my clients since I was still in foundational training. But I didn’t expect this. I was already familiar with Scott Zamurut’s Emodiment TIde, sought out and had a conversation with him about tide cycles durations outside of 100sec. I began writing a piece about this that I intended to post on the Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy facebook group page. Before I was done I decided to search on “changes in long-tide cycle duration”, or something like that. This article came up. At the end of my written piece I mentioned this article and gave the link to this page. There are so many therapists that know nothing about what you’ve written here. The post received numerous responses expressing thanks and gratefulness for bringing to light the changes to PR’s expression that they themselves had been perceiving in their own system, yet they knew nothing about.
I’m so grateful to have found this writing of yours, so that it could be shared with others.
My written piece is below:
Relational Harmonics: Changes in Long-Tide Cycle Duration and Phase
For several years, I’ve been pursuing an understanding of the perceptual changes in Long-Tide I have experienced ongoingly in both my own body field as well as in the relational field in session with clients.
Toward the end of my foundational training with Franklyn Sills in 2016, I had begun to experience the fluctuation of fluid-tide perception in my own body field. By the time our class graduated, it completely disappeared or rather had become subsumed into an inhalation/exhalation at the long-tide cycle of 50sec./50sec. I became used to tuning in and feeling the slow 50sec./50sec. flexion/extension through my body, most noticeably at the wrists and hands.
Several months ago I woke up early in the morning sometime between 2-3 am and, lying there, I tuned in to find the cycle. I could not find any movement at all, only complete stillness. Not too long after this an inhalation began and continued for several minutes. My phone on the bedside table had a clock app. with a sweep hand on it, so I opened it and began tracking this cycle. At first it was 7 min 5 sec. inhalation / 7 min 5 sec. exhalation. I don’t know how long this continued but at some point the cycle switched to 4 min. 5 sec. at inhalation, followed by a 4 min. 5 sec. exhalation. Sometime during twilight before dawn it returned to a 50sec./50sec. cycle. I have not tracked this yet but my hunch is that Long-Tide cycle duration changes may occur in conjunction with organ circadian and metabolic phase change that occur at different stages of the night.
I recently attended a post-grad training with an elder teacher of BCST and asked her about this. Without hesitation she mentioned harmonics and suggested I track the changes in the cycle times. In an earlier conversation with another BCST teacher about Long-Tide, they spoke of harmonics of many tides. Many of us know of Scott Zamurut’s experience of a 20 min. tide he’s called the Embodiment Tide.
More recently I have begun perceiving Long-Tide inhalation and exhalation occurring simultaneously on opposite sides of my body, one side in inhalation (flexion) and the other in exhalation (extension) at the same time. Many of us have been taught that long-tide is a fixed rate cycle with two phases (inhalation/exhalation) that follow each other linearly.
Then, doing some research for this post, I came across an article written by Michael Shea in 2017 entitled, The Three Categories of Experiencing Primary Respiration. In it he speaks about all of this and much more.
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