After viewing The Artistry of Water in the WATERMARK ARTS JOURNAL format above ~ please find the English version in blog form, this can be printed & shared also. The Italian & French web versions will be available soon.
On Craniosacral Therapy, Continuum & Creativity
by Prue Jeffries with Elaine Colandrea.
Water is the medium from which life emerged. It is a mysterious substance that resolves the illusion that intangible and tangible are separate realities.
Water is paradoxical: in one moment it becomes a boundary, in the next it melts into infinity. It is everywhere, within us even when we are not aware of its presence. With its capacity as catalyst, its ubiquity, and its expressions ranging from peaceful stillness to turbulent ferocity, water's nature encompasses the nature of all things. As we come to know water as a multidimensional maestro, we sense that we, too, can become this.
In studying the artistry of water for most of my life -- as a surfer, as an RCST (Registered Craniosacral Therapist), through Body of Wonder, and now in collaboration with Continuum Teacher Elaine Colandrea, Founder and Artistic Director of Watermark Arts -- I am in constant surprise at how water unites, innovates, shape-shifts and serves. Over the course of history, many seekers have delved into the mystery of being, finding in water an evolutionary vessel and metaphor for the experience of wholeness and unity.
Instead of standing on the shore and proving to ourselves that the ocean cannot carry us, let us venture on its waters, just to see?
Within the therapeutic field several disciplines share a focus on the ways of water. Biodynamic Osteopathy and Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy view human beings as fluid in nature and see an individual's health in its expression through the fluid system. Continuum, a somatic movement practice founded by the late Emilie Conrad, similarly teaches fluid movement as a kind of medicine.
The work of Continuum has been a collaborative container for bodywork practitioners, somatic therapists, artists and scientists who share a love of water and delight in exploring the meaning of human existence. Many in the biodynamic community have experienced Continuum, and conversely some teachers of Continuum are also RCST or osteopaths with a Biodynamic orientation.
Emilie Conrad was invited to the Breath of Life Conference in 2013. She was on a panel with Dr. Steven Porges, known for his theory of the polyvagal system, and Dr. Peter Levine, creator of Somatic Experiencing. Also on the panel were Dr. Michael Shea, Suzanne Scurlock-Durana and Dr. Dan Siegel, known for his work in the field of interpersonal neurobiology.
In the spirit of collaboration and innovation, Emilie encouraged Elaine Colandrea, a Continuum Teacher with an MA in Dance from Columbia University as well as a licensed massage therapist for over 30 years, to create Continuum Movement Arts, now known as Watermark Arts (watermarkarts.org).
This endeavor conceives somatic awareness and artistic expression as essential in moving humanity toward a more humane and peaceful expression of itself. We know that awareness of one's bodily integrity enables a felt experience of the interconnection of all living things. Watermark Arts asks, how from such felt experience -- can we create a world permeated by wholeness and interconnection?
What follows is a conversation between Elaine and me, shedding light on the ways Continuum, Craniosacral Therapy and the expressive arts can support one another. Practitioners of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy are committed to listening deeply to our clients within treatment sessions; how can we also listen to ourselves, for self-care and further embodiment? Beyond this, how might we engage the creative processes of art-making and art-experiencing, rooted in our human fluid intelligence, to support wellbeing?
Elaine, can you share with me your background, your entry and history with Continuum and Emile Conrad?
I came into Continuum in 1993 as a very fragile being. My life force was leaving me. During one of my first Continuum explorations, I had the felt sense of my cells being squeezed. I felt deprived of oxygen. I "saw" spirals strangling my cells. Explaining this experience to my medical doctor led him to do a blood test for what, at that time, was a new medical condition which would become rampant in the Hudson Valley of New York State, where I am based. Lyme disease is from a spiral shaped organism. I was off-the-charts positive when the test came back. I now realize how lucky I was to be led to a diagnosis, all stemming from my response to an experience in Continuum. Decades later, I am also so grateful I was able to recover from what was a five-year "black hole" of debilitating illness in my life.
And that led you to become a teacher?
Continuum became my home, my laboratory for healing and self-discovery. Continuum was art and science all in one - an experience of wholeness which created the deepest relief my system had ever known.
I studied intensively with Emilie Conrad and Susan Harper, officially becoming an authorized teacher in 2001, though I began teaching Continuum-inspired classes in 1996 under Emilie and Susan's mentorship. To this day I am indebted to Judi Bachrach, who brought me into the world of Continuum.
As with any practice, there are varying degrees of engagement. What strikes me about you, is that for the decades of your engagement with Continuum, you have been teaching and practicing devotedly, consistently each week. That takes something. Where does this come from in you?
I adore the consistency of teaching weekly and monthly classes in the Hudson Valley for so many years. I am continually inspired by the participants who join me in the circle, many since I first began teaching. The shared discovery keeps me going in what one class participant named, this "sacred investigation." Continuum is based in inquiry; it is not a stagnant or prescribed form so participating in the creative process of developing material is endlessly interesting. I often feel like I am just beginning to comprehend fluidity, the sense of not knowing keeps me going.
Curiosity is at the heart of everything I do, along with collaboration. Breathing and sounding were daunting to me when I began Continuum. I grew up with severe asthma. I had many restricted breathing patterns to unwind. Now I am in love with the marriage of breath, sound and movement and how they inform each other. How can you be bored with a body?
I know your grandparents emigrated from Italy. We have a friend in common in Italy, Simona Arbizzani, who is a Physical Therapist and RCST. Simona studied Biodynamic Craniosacral with Paolo Casertelli, Michael Kern, Michael Shea, Nathalie Barth and Franklyn Sills. As you know, when Simona and I get together we stay up all hours of the night talking "shop." I find her experiences applying Continuum with clients stimulating. You have been carefully and thoughtfully seeding Italy with Continuum for many years. With Simona's assistance, you have taught a number of Biodynamic
Craniosacral and Craniosacral practitioners and teachers there. Could you speak a little about Italy, Continuum and your involvement?
I have been teaching and seeding Continuum in Italy for 10 years. I developed a deep attachment to a cave town in the south of Italy that I found conducive to Continuum exploration and have since brought people from the US there. Simona and I came together in a serendipitous manner. She had heard of Continuum through the Italian cranial community. Searching the internet, she found a weekend workshop in Milan and emailed me with a plan to attend.
Well, I live in Milan, NY not Milan, Italy! Our communication led her to attend my workshops in southern Italy. She continued her study with Emilie and other teachers and became a Continuum practitioner. My relationship with Simona led to teaching invitations in the north of Italy, two years in a row, from ACSI, the Association of Craniosacral Therapists in Italy.
CS therapists and Continuum practitioners speak a common language? there is so much to say about our shared understanding of fluid expression. There are a number of Continuum teachers who are cranial teachers. One of the significant aspects that Continuum offers the cranial community is the time and place to embody fluidity. With Simona and Continuum in Italia, I have been going to Italy twice a year to guide Continuum experiences; many of the participants are from the CS world.
When I have been with you in Italy, art is everywhere. When you originally spoke with me about your inspiration for what is now Watermark Arts, you spoke of the Renaissance as a social movement with a strong connection between art and spirituality. This seems more important than ever in our contemporary disconnected world.
I always danced and made dances. Dante said,
"Beauty inspires the soul to act."
When I am creating beauty, I am in a state of wholeness and connection with all around me. At a certain point, somatic expression and artistic expression became one for me.
In 2014, the last year of Emilie Conrad's life, I received her blessing to create Continuum Movement Arts, which evolved to become Watermark Arts. I am intrigued by the power of art to create social change. The Renaissance was brought about by a very small group of artists, philosophers and scientists who wanted to change the world.
They looked to spiritual texts from all different cultures, and under the radar of the Catholic Church, they encoded their art work with symbolic messages. I realized that many of us, deeply influenced by Continuum as well as other somatic practices, were creating art. We could transmit our experience to others via our creations. Watermark Arts now represents the work of about 50 artists in our virtual galleries and produces live performance and exhibitions.
Watermark Arts, for me, is about moving the world from the original understanding of the Greek word "soma" the fully alive sensate presence of being.
You have mentioned you had conversations with Emilie related to your travels in Italy. Does anything move in you about those conversations?
One time when Emilie was teaching in New York City, we ended up sitting in a department store. I think we were on a search for some skin care product, talking about Italy from which I had just returned. I had brought her some art postcards of Mary giving birth to Jesus in a cave. I talked about the necessity of darkness for the emergence of light. At this time, Emilie had just become obsessed with doing Continuum in the dark. She became really excited about the images and my experience of "golden light" during my cave time.
I have been in a number of your classes and workshops. I am always aware of the container created and the field within them. Could you speak on some of your observations, to Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapists? Is there anything you feel Continuum can offer them? Is there anything that art-making could offer to their work as practitioners?
We are all living art. Our very biology as humans, as organisms, is creative.
Continuum takes us out of everyday functional movement and into movement for itself. It is, we are fluidity in expression. Watermark Arts poet Noelle Adamo, in a poem titled "Octaves", elucidates this aspect of Continuum practice:
Some mechanism makes its way
under the skin of my hands and face,
stringing pearls out of the seconds of my life.
I extend my limbs into days and let my body
set the pace. Infinite in the web
that encompasses me I take up time,
I meander, I linger in this rebellion
of slow. I bend towards delight.
All caretakers need to balance out their work with artistic expression, in particular with the pleasure of being rather than doing. Continuum offers the opportunity to tend every aspect of oneself in a moment-to-moment unfolding of innovation. There is space to self-regulate. There is an experience of freedom.
I most certainly agree with you. Art and creative expression have helped me through some stormy seas in my life. There is a particular work of yours that resonated deeply with me - Morphic Memory. The timing of it floating into my awareness was potent. I had just gone through a spontaneous self-guided birth and incarnation process. A few days afterwards, when I saw an image of Morphic Memory, every cell of my body sung in recognition. I have since experienced a performance of it in 2016 at the Omega Institute. Could you talk about the inspiration behind this dance?
Morphic Memory emerged over time. I did not start out making a dance. I was looking for a way to create more connectivity in students' movement. I created stretch velour fabric sacs to do Continuum in that way when someone moved a limb they would be contained but not restricted. The fabric gave the mover feedback about how moving any one part of the body affected every other part. I discovered I could not get people out of the fabric sacs!
The sacs took on all kinds of imagery and meaning. I found they were great when I was teaching about fascia, perfect when I was working with embryological themes. I loved the aesthetic experience of the sculptural shapes that would emerge as people were moving slowly. Time came for me to head to Italy to teach. The velour sacs were too bulky to pack so I created lightweight sacs from nude-colored stretch lining fabric.
These sacs were "see-through."
As soon as I saw people moving in them, I had the vision for the dance, Morphic Memory: three dancers, in three long tubes of fabric suspended from above, all doing a Continuum exploration based on an embryological theme.
The dance emerged out of somatic exploration. It conveys something primal to everyone because we all incarnated.
I love that you did not set out to make a dance. I experienced this with you in making Wind Dances with Simona Arbizzani and Morena Boschetto in Italy during this past, summer. We had just come outside from being in Continuum all day together. Our senses were refined, the wind and last shimmering light of the day were compelling. You revealed you had a vision while teaching for us to move together and be filmed from our shared experience of the day.
Simona and I are not dancers like yourself but you trusted your vision.
You enlisted Morena, another Continuum mover, to hold the camera and then later you engaged her artistry as a composer to create the score. All of this emerged from the direct experience of Continuum exploration. I just love this capacity and integrity in your process.
A large part of Continuum, and of my own life and your life, takes place in the realm of the imaginal. I find it life-affirming to have inspiration informing my everyday activities. Do you discern a difference between the active "imagination" and the receptive "imaginal"?
Continuum seems to be a container for the creative and healing process that can emerge from imaginal experiences.
For me, the imaginal realm emerges in the space of openly attending to the sensory flow of information rising from the clear and vast space that I often land in during Continuum. In my experience it is different from imagination or fantasy. It is the experience of inner knowing coming from my biological being. The imaginal realm often mysteriously comes to life when I am fully present without an agenda. Access to streams of awareness take form from the unknown, and my guess is, from the unknowable. It is the gift of insight that flows from becoming an open system, even if only for a brief time. This state of being is how I would define what you name as the receptive "imaginal" in your question.
Prue, I think you can speak to this so well with your unique and vast range of experience and ways of moving in life. As a surfer you traveled the world, often to remote natural locations where you experienced indigenous cultures. Besides your visceral experience of having water as a teacher, you have a voracious appetite for knowledge. I experience you as a Renaissance woman yourself - photographer, RCST and creator of Body of Wonder classes and workshops.
Yes, I have been looking at this since a little girl. My views have been broadened with travel into the jungles of Indonesia and the villages of Africa. I feel, in wholeness, our capacity to move through many different faculties in a very natural and integrated manner emerge from the depths of our biology. This knowing of ourselves, what we call form, is actually a process that is inherent and transcendent, a continuum occurring in what David Bohm called "undivided wholeness in flowing movement" or "holoflux". The wholeness is everything moving together in an interconnected process, in flux.
To a quote attributed to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,*
"Matter is spirit moving slowly enough to be seen."
I feel the imaginal is closely aligned with inspiration. The definition of inspiration is the "drawing in of breath", also "divine action or influence". So the transcendent reveals itself as immanent in our process. I feel it as something arriving in me, something that feels paradigm-shifting to my being.
So it's important to allow its arrival, as it may not be something familiar. This emerges from within my biology, yet feels not particularly dependent on my biology or history, as it created and supersedes it. It is revelatory.
I met this wonderful lady recently. As an anthropologist she had lived in the Kalahari with the indigenous peoples there. She shared wisdom that resonated deeply with me, something like
"they don't just shape - shift into an eagle or a lion. They are the eagle, they are the lion, always."
I thought, yes just as we are nature. Nature is imaginal, a creative process of waves, spirals, pulsations, the language of life. Emilie would say this often. It is about creating an openness for direct whole-being perception - I call it "holocreative being". I feel in ways the earth's indigenous peoples are more connected to the awareness of life that Bohm called the "holoflux". They don't speak of being grounded because they are wholly connected with the earth in a way most of us have forgotten.
I think of the concept of "species inclusivity" in Continuum, when we feel a dolphin's tail instead of a leg moving. The language of life is encoded within our biology. Living with day-to-day wonder at our vast interconnection inspires me and helps me express my wholeness. I find this is where creativity and healing are one unified experience, that fullness of presence you speak, Elaine.
I see a relationship between the Biodynamic Craniosacral state of being in fulcrums and deeply listening to the state of open attention in Continuum practice. While not the same, each offers a place of both emptiness and fertile possibility. Can you speak of open attention and art making?
I prepare for art-making with a Continuum exploration with breath, sound and movement followed by a time in open attention. Open attention is a receptive place of being from which anything can emerge. I sometimes think of it a vast place of possibility. Rumi writes,
"Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field, I'll meet you there."
I can envision no better place to meet oneself and others, and to enter the moment of creation, whether it is making art or meeting with a client.
Prue, as a Continuum mover, RCST and photographer, can you speak to how you see these fields informing and supporting each other?
When taking photographs, I prepare as if I am entering a session as a Biodynamic practitioner. I become a primary oscillator and with the Breath of Life connect with what I want to take a photograph of, instead of a person on my treatment table. The vast place of possibility you spoke of is alive in me. I am creating art through presence. I am also collaborating in the creative process with my subject, which leads to the "conceptus moment" where something new is birthed from relationship.
Both Continuum and Biodynamic Craniosacral are paradigm-shifting approaches with broad lenses based in inquiry, which is a fluid process, too. Both approaches create options and therefore, over time, increase a person's capacity for expressing the fullness of presence in their everyday lives.
In both, I experience myself becoming an artist by connecting to the flowing waters of fertility that create life.
Beyond embryological themes or peri-natal work, beyond trauma recovery, beyond evolutionary theory, but incorporating an understanding of all of these potent areas? Continuum looks at the universal movements of life itself. In Biodynamics, we follow the Breath of Life, making way for the unfolding of innovation in each moment.
Surfing taught me how to be still and move at the same time, to focus precisely as well as broadly in the same moment. These same abilities are cultivated in Biodynamic Craniosacral work and in the movement, breath and sound practice of Continuum.
In this article, I have attempted to share how Continuum, Biodynamic Craniosacral and artistic expression can serve each other. Watermark Arts, where I am represented as a somatic artist and where I also am Media Director, promotes artists who are creating from embodied presence, displaying art emerging from and expressing a felt sense of interconnection and somatic experience.
This is a way to move the world towards wholeness
The Watermark Arts Journal Innaugural Issue featuring
"The Artistry of Water"
In Italian & French
Click on images to the left
About the Authors
For more on Elaine visit
For more on Prue Jeffries visit
SOMATIC MOVEMENT SUMMIT
Diving in the Waters of Creation
JULY 1 – 6, 2018
Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, NY