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Stories: Health and Healing

An Interview with Terry Kalayjian

Terry Kalayjian is a craniosacral therapist in private practice. She usually works one-on-one with her clients in her office, but occasionally has the opportunity to participate with other therapists doing group training and healing sessions with the Upledger Institute. In the waters of the Caribbean, these therapists work together with the sonic resonance of wild dolphins, affecting amazing healing. In this interview with Renee Levi, Terry describes the context, the feeling, the learning, and the therapeutic results of these occurrences of collective resonance.

RL: Terry, before you tell me about your experience, would you close your eyes and imagine yourself back there – the surroundings, the feelings, the people – just as if you were there again. This will help bring it back up for you and allow me better access.

TK: I think I always have it. Maybe it’s not at the forefront, but always there.

RL: Would you describe it to me?

TK: We were a group of advanced craniosacral therapists doing bio-aquatic work, specifically with dolphins. The day before we started we had actually gone swimming with the dolphins in a semi-controlled environment. We could touch them and feel their cranial rhythm, which was really what this class was about, experiencing their energy. There were two dolphins and six of us at the time, so we got a lot of time with them.

And it’s interesting, because what really came to mind when you started with that visualization is how, in this particular instance, the elements of the environment were very important. It was in the ocean, the Caribbean in particular, which I think is a really powerful place. The energy of the Caribbean, the dolphins that were swimming in the distance, and just the hot, sunny, summer day. I think the elements of the environment profoundly cradled the experience.

So we got to feel their cranial rhythms, feel their energy, swim with them, dive with them, have a real personal dance with them. We really connected. We really got that connection of what they are about and how much of a heart level experience it is. And how they resonate so much in that joy, which is really the emotion of the heart. They truly resonate there. They’re very much about joy, about fun. They’re very much about love and very powerfully connected.

RL: Connected with?

TK: Everything around them. I think it's their sonic resonance, they have this incredible sonic resonance that just permeates and penetrates everything around them in a very powerful way.

RL: So you prepared yourself for the therapy training by really by being with them?

TK: Right.

RL: They were resonating with your heart the day before the training?

TK: Absolutely. This wasn't the first time that I had done this, but it accumulates, it gets bigger and bigger and more profound and deeper every time.

And it's been my experience that nobody escapes that, everyone feels it. The people I was working with, about 60 of them, were craniosacral practitioners and people who had been through the advanced training, but all different kinds of people who experience dolphins in this way feel the resonance. Nobody escapes the dolphin energy.

RL: What happened on the second day?

TK: The second day we went out on a boat, about 30 miles offshore, into a lagoon. The purpose was to do craniosacral therapy - body work - in the water. So we experienced the therapeutic effects of the work, but also of working in the water with the energy of the dolphins.

So automatically we were starting out with that softening and opening of the heart, and then being in the water there’s a protective feeling. Although, I should say that’s not true for everyone, because there are some people who are afraid of the water and it’s a hurdle to their feeling safe and protected, but by the end, they do.

There were twelve of us and we broke up into three groups of four people. One person is the “client”, the person who's being worked on and the other three people are therapists. There's usually one head therapist and the other two people just kind of help by holding the energy. And because you're very buoyant in the water, it's not so much about holding the person up as it is about supporting them in their process.

In the water, it’s not possible to have verbal interaction because, obviously, the water’s in your ears if you’re lying in it and you can’t hear. So it’s all done somatically, all the emotional work is done somatically. On the table in an office, the craniosacral therapy often involves verbal communication – talking – which can’t be done in the water. So there's something to that for people who don't want to talk. In some ways, you can work more privately and very deeply. People are just there supporting you.

Often people cry and scream and do somersaults, and the water provides you this ground of being able to move - turn circles, do somersaults or flips. You can actually physically do acrobatic things. You have people underneath picking you up, so your whole chest is like arched back. So you can get a lot of really great physical stuff that you can't get on a table.

RL: How does this relate to group resonance, Terry?

TK: Well, the group resonance was very powerful, too. First of all, in the group of four people that you're working in there's a tremendous resonance, a melding of energy. There's like this melding of really being present with each other. Without doing. It’s more like total being.

RL: Being present?

TK: Really being present. I mean, holding the space. And everybody's holding the space for each other while at the same time, being supported themselves. So there was this tremendous connection just in that small group working together.

You know, there really are no boundaries. I mean, there are boundaries, but there are no boundaries between a therapist and a patient, per se. Partly because you’re in the water, and water is like the emotion, anyway. The emotion of the Earth is the water, so a lot of emotional work gets done.

And then you're working on trust and surrender, which, I think, is the ultimate thing to work on…for me anyway. In life, if we can totally trust and totally surrender to that trust, that's it. There's nothing else to do.

RL: Nothing else to do…

TK: Nothing else to do, but to be. So you have this support of people, you have the support of the water, you have the sky above you, you have the dolphin energy. So the group really forms and you become a pod, like a pod of dolphins. And as the week progresses - we worked every day for a week - and you change groups, you go deeper and deeper into the work.

At the end of every day, there’s a great sharing. Everyone shares about their experience and you’re really aware of what everyone was working on and going through. So that, along with each person getting worked on each day, you create that feeling of the pod. And then, at the end of the week, it's a tremendous, joyous play, like the dolphins. It's like this tremendous, joyous play that happens with everyone in the whole group.

RL: Sounds wonderful.

TK: And also relating to group resonance, this really interesting thing happened. So you have three groups of four people working, right? Well, what happened is when the person being worked on in one group starts spinning, the people in the other groups begin to do the same thing!

RL: Spinning?

TK: Well, it’s hard to explain, but the body of the patient will often start spinning in the water. Spinning, like on a skewer, but then also sometimes spinning head to toe, like on your back and you spin around like a dime – flat like that. Like a merry-go-round or something.

RL: And where are the other groups?

TK: You can see them. And sometimes you get close, just because of the water, you know? But often you’re so focused on what you’re doing with your group that your focus is not at all on the other groups. And the patient’s eyes are closed, so they don’t know where the other groups are or if the other patient is spinning.

But the phenomenon is – and I think this is part of group resonance – that as one person starts spinning, the same thing happens in the other groups. Simultaneously. The other patients would start spinning too. It doesn’t always happen, but in this particular class, that’s what was happening.

RL: Wow. What do you think is happening, Terry?

TK: I don't know. I don't know. It's just one of those things that you don't know. It often happened when we saw the dolphins, when we saw them jumping in the distance.

RL: So, were the dolphins near you?

TK: They weren't real near. This was in the wild, so they didn't come in, but we saw them on the horizon. We were standing in maybe four feet of water and they were in the distance, swimming and jumping and playing. And that’s when people started spinning and you'd look up and see them jumping in the water.

RL: Hhmm

TK: So that was one of the resonant things, I think. And then another was that by the end of the week, people had really melded into a group. Mostly, these are people who didn’t know each other at first but by the end of the week, everyone's issues are your issues. Whether you've had sexual abuse or not in your life, you still are that person, those issues. You become one. You're not separate.

You're not, like, oh, she's over there and she's got these problems. And he's over there and he has these problems. And I'm over here and I have what I'm working on. It becomes, as a group, kind of a collective. A collective workbook.

RL: A collective workbook, I like that.

TK: Yes. Because it's working…

RL: …together.

TK: Yeah, it's not like, well, we're going to work on Patty's issues about abandonment today. Even though you're working on Patty, the whole group is working on it together. Everyone is part of that healing process. And you're healing something in yourself. You're healing that part of yourself that she is mirroring for all of us, for the group. Whatever that is for you…or humanity. And all of the healing becomes more powerful.

So what happens toward the end of the week is that people become entwined. I almost want to say enmeshed, but that has sort of a negative connotation to it. People become like a beautiful web, they're just connected.

So in this particular instance, what happened was that we would be working in our groups - three groups…separate…working. And the groups would start moving towards each other! The people that were being worked on were reaching out to each other, in a way, like the group was coming closer to the others.

Now, as a therapist, you never guide the person. You never pull them or push them, you just totally are there supporting them. Except, of course, if the person heads out into the deep water where you can’t stand, then you pull them back.

RL: And what about the others in the group?

TK: Well, the patient, or client, would lead us and we’d follow. You're not doing anything. You're not saying, oh, let's go over there and play with them. It's not like that. You're just totally following where they want to go. The people who were lying in the water and being worked on would reach out to the other person and connect, like hook arms or touch in some way. And so all these three groups would come together and they would intertwine

RL: So they would physically touch?

TK: Oh yes, it was physical. Well, one level of it was physical. We were in the water, so they would actually hook arms this way, or hold hands, or touch heads, so that all three groups came together and all the therapists were all just wherever their hands were, on any body, literally, any body. This has happened before in other training sessions, too.

RL: So all three --?

TK: Yeah, it would be like one, big… What's that game that you play?

RL: Twister?

TK: Twister, yes, kind of like that. So it would be like this jumble of people just intertwined. And floating and laughing or crying or being in deep meditation.

RL: How powerful.

TK: Really amazing. It was really wondrous. Really wondrous. And it was that, again, it was that collective, conscious recognition that we're all just one.

RL: We're all just one…

TK: And affirmation of that, too. Recognition and affirmation of the one body. So there were a couple of different types of resonance that were happening and that was like the culmination of it all.

RL: So, first in the small group, then together, and also together with the environment. And that one jumble with everything else - the water, the dolphins, the air, the sun.

TK: Right.

RL: Just a feeling of oneness…

TK: Yes. And connection. Ultimately, connection.

RL: Terry, for you, personally, how did it feel? What got activated? Where in your body did you feel it?

TK: Well, in the heart…definitely. It was definitely heart level, because there was so much of that.

RL: What about your heart? How did it feel?

TK: Joy. Joy is the emotion of the heart and when people have heart attacks, they say that the joy is squeezed out of the heart. And the dolphin is such joy, they're about joy. And they're about heart. So you're going in with your heart already open by having worked one-on-one with the dolphins, and then you’re feeling it amplified in the group.

RL: How do you feel in your heart?

TK: It just felt open, it felt safe, it felt connected, it felt happy, like joy. Like oh, yeah, that's what it's about. Oh, now I remember. Now I remember who I really am. Now I can clearly see all the stuff I do to cover this feeling of joy and why aren't I here all the time, when this is really who I'm meant to be anyway? So it's that remembering of that state of being. Of our birthright. You see how much you bring in to keep yourself from feeling that way in your life. It's very interesting. Like, why do we do that?

RL: Boy, I really don’t know…

TK: I also felt a kind of vibration all over. Very profound, very strong.

RL: You felt vibration?

TK: Oh, yes. It resonates. Your whole body is vibrating at that resonant level of connection. And then the water, the elements that were so much of a part of it. It's the Earth and the mother, so there's that connection to the universe and mother. For me, that's important, that mother connection of safety and trust and surrender.

RL: Wonderful. Terry, I’m curious to know what you think were major things that shifted the group into resonance. You’ve already mentioned some, but would you elaborate?

TK: Well, I think trust was a big thing. It took maybe two days, at least two days, of working, I would say. People started to trust each other more and they started to trust the process and the environment. And as I mentioned before, there were people who really needed to work through their fear of water. They needed to see, okay, now I know what I'm doing. So they were able to know the routine and the people.

RL: So, getting over fear, in some ways.

TK: Yes.

RL: And after a couple of days, that shifted?

TK: Yes, they were able to get over their fears and trust the process. They felt safer, more connected, more willing to let go.

RL: Was there a time in the group’s process when you felt the shift into resonance most strongly?

TK: Yes, toward the end, like on the last day, there was this great release, this great feeling that happened.

RL: Toward the end?

TK: I think at the end, actually. The last day. Because every day there was a group progression but it felt most powerful at the end. In the beginning, people sort of talk about stuff and then in the middle, after working a couple of days, a lot of people's things are coming up, so things are kind of raw and out there, and emotional, and you have a lot of dreams and you want to be off by yourself and you want to -- whatever. And then, okay, we have another two days and you get in the water and you do your work. And then the healing happens, the culmination of it all. You come to a place where you come through it.

RL: A kind of breakthrough?

TK: Yes. And then there's always a lot of laughter.A lot of laughter!

RL: Tell me about the laughter. Tell me what it feels like when you laugh like that.

TK: It's just a lightening. Again, it's that not being so isolated. That feeling of we're all in this drama together and isn't it funny? You know? And aren't our stories ridiculous? Look what we've created to get to where we need to get to laugh. Look at what we had to create in our lives to get to the joy.

RL: That’s beautiful, Terry. And what happens with the group afterwards. Do you stay in touch?

TK: I've stayed in touch with some people. We call it our Dolphin Sisterhood, and when we get together, there's always a remembering. Often, you just never hear from some people, or maybe you hear once or twice a year, and that’s it.

RL: So it was just for that special time? TK: Yeah, but I’ve also had experiences like where a year later I saw the person and there's always that great connection.

RL: Terry, what significance has this experience of collective resonance had for your life or your work?

TK: I think it helps me to do my work. To step back even more from it while I'm working, to really detach and allow the process of trusting…that trust and surrender. I think it really taught me a lot about that. And when I work on people in my office, it really helps me step back from myself even more and really hold more of a pure space.

RL: So it helps you hold the space for your work.

TK: Yes. I call in dolphin energy all the time when I work.

RL: How do you do that?

TK: In my mind – and sometimes out loud, depending on the person - I'll say, well, you know, this is like a really crucial place here and let's call on the energy of the dolphins. Let's just feel what that feels like to [be where that] energy is. And let's just see how we can move through this, with their help. Sometimes I'll do it verbally but most of the time I do it just in my own mind, just saying, I'm calling the energy to remind me of just allowing the joy, allowing whatever it is, to be. And I just allow the sonic energy to permeate.

RL: Then what do you feel?

TK: It's a vibration, a certain vibration.

RL: That you do what with?

TK: I'm just like a conduit for it.

RL: So you really are using your experiences in the water directly in your work?

TK: Oh yes, definitely. When I work with the dolphins, my work is never the same. And it always leaves this craving to go back. I always want to go back.

RL: You feel a craving?

TK: Always. I am the most at home, the most relaxed, the most spiritual, the most spacious and expansive when I'm in the water with a dolphin. It's my work to bring that out into my everyday life. It's very magical. It's a very magical experience.

And I try not to forget that, not to forget how connected we all are. Being with the dolphins is always a big reminder about how many judgmental boundaries I put up in my life. It always reminds me that I’m way off base when I’m judging things constantly.

RL: Terry, what are you feeling right now?

TK: What I’m feeling is, hey, Renee, let's go, let’s take a plane to Bimini!

RL: (Laughter)

TK: I was just remembering back into that experience. I was feeling it again in my body. All it takes is remembering for me to feel that. And then realizing, yet one more time, how far away I let myself get from that joy.

RL: Well, let’s try to hang on to that joy, Terry. It’s such a great reminder for all of us. Thank you for the gift of this amazing story. And I’ll start packing for Bimini.

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