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Biosphere 02/2024

The Therapeutic Act of Non-Action


by Andy Pike, RCST
Body Intelligence Senior Tutor

Non-action opens the aperture of curiosity

The other day a client asked what I was doing for Christmas and New Year? Before I answered this question I noticed a brief pulse of tingling and subtle tension run through my body. It was the kind of sensation which was a mix between excitement and anxiety - you know the sort I mean. 

All the plans revolving around doing this and that, and being here and there, came to the fore of my mind and reflected as sensations in my body. I thought how wonderful it was to once again have the opportunity to meet up with those close to me for a few days. 

Later, after the client had left, I reflected on this feeling in my body and realised that during the hands on session similar expressions were demonstrated by the clients system. These expressions sometimes preceded notable shifts helping me to feel her system being much less fragmented.

It is evident that the session helped expose various fragmented patterns and release them from their various anchoring points. Yet, I didn’t dig them out, or bury them deeper into obscurity, nor did I need to encourage the client to try to become aware of the patterns or change them. Instead, the inner expressions showed up merely because the aperture of presence/curiosity opened adequately enough to unveil the clients true nature (at this level of expression) resulting in re-establishing a relative state of balance and body intelligence. 

In other words no intentional action was used by me to make the clients body express health. Actually to the contrary, the clients system was able to shift towards the whole in this way by the very act of non-action. 

How is this possible? 

By the practitioner being aware of his/her own essential nature/inherent potency, which in turn acts as a reference for the clients system to be reminded of it’s fluid and potency nature.

Feeling the anti-fragile nature of the fluid field 

Our BCST training and practice put emphasis on the art and science of touch enabling another to find enough safety in their body for it to express health. The word ‘safe’ can conjure an image of a person in hiding, secure from potential danger, like the gold in a vault being protected from the threat of being stolen. 

Or, it could be interpreted as feeling immune to danger, free to function at an optimal capacity with pliant adaptability, like an unfracturable flowing river. 

The first perspective focuses on the threat and being free from it. Whereas the second perspective pertains to the feeling of being ‘okay’ despite potential disruption. This could be referred to being safely-embodied or anti-fragile. 

The feeling of being imbued with safety, therefore, is not the same as being resilient or defended, like a rock or a shield respectively. It is more like the fluidity of a flowing stream and its ability to accommodate and move beyond restrictions. 

This adaptability is a key quality expressed by our our autonomic nervous system. The way the ANS is trained by the mind to respond/react, in a fragile manner (like glass) or a rigid manner (like rock) or a pliant/adaptable manner (like a flowing stream), will also be how it functions and relates to the world. A specific environment, input or person can serve as a potential reference for safety when the individuals system becomes fragmented and/or overwhelmed. 

So, an embodied non-doing (BCST) practitioner helps a client to embody themselves with an anti-fragile felt-sense - enabling the person to reduce their fear based upon previously perceived or potential experience. In this way the BCST practitioner provides a client with the second perspective of feeling safe, either by way of contact, dialogue or both, whilst ensuring there are limited environmental concerns (i.e. the first perspective of feeling safe). 

In the therapeutic setting these two forms of safety are provided by offering a calm, receptive and quiet environment, whilst offering a touch which opens the ability for a client to feel whole, explore and express health without being hindered by unnecessary protective fear. 

Clients are often surprised how mere touch can enable such a radical shift in their wellbeing and many wonder what it is that we are doing. It is often difficult to answer this, yet experience will enable each BCST practitioner to answer according to the type of individual who asks the question. That said your very body will be providing most of the reply, whilst the words will be mostly trying to fill in the gaps. 

Reactive tendencies

An individuals neuroceptivity will greatly appreciate touch which is not agitated, reactive or controlling and will also generally relax within a calm environmental ambience. A factor of particular interest, which is somewhat unique to a BCST practitioners contact, is the ability to provide sensitive openness to whatever presents itself. This non-judgmental, and space enabling openness, encourages the dissipation of a clients subconscious reactions, and promotes his or her body to regulate itself. 

In our primitive past these subconscious reactions were the tendencies sanctioning the body-mind to respond, sustain and optimise the survival of our body in relevant situations. Yet, in the manic contemporary world our physiology gets overstimulated and, as a result, the survival responses have become reactive habits, which are often covered and disguised by other reactive habits culminating in being buried deep into our tissues. 

It is the surfacing and revealing of these habits which provide the opportunity for the tendencies underpinning them to be re-evaluated and the potency they have been storing to be freed and re-integrated into the rest of our functioning system. 

It’s OK

During this process the therapists touch is non-verbally saying “it’s ok to feel these things”… “actually it’s very helpful to feel them”. With this kind of touch we are, therefore, encouraging and indeed empowering the client, not to react to the (now aware) experience, by non-verbally sharing the awareness of their sensate world, with space for the experience to express itself and eventually establish sufficient balance and stillness to help the process of reintegration. 

In other words by acknowledging the potency provided by non-action a therapist enables a clients physiology to reappraise itself and sensation as something fulfilling and enhancing, rather than something to react and/or close off from. Again this enables further, potentially subtler, patterns of experience to surface from deep within the body matrix and again reintegrate as needed. 

BCST practitioners translate this process of surfacing and balancing as the settling and reintegration of patterns of experience and harmonising of the breath of life. 

In effect BCST practitioners reflect calmness by not reacting - like an air steward facing the passengers with a calm disposition during turbulence. In other words we are not reacting to a clients tendencies to react. Put another way, by remaining neutral the BCST practitioner is not doing anything to substantiate the root impressions of a clients surfacing tendencies. We are, on the other hand, providing presence by sensitively sharing in the awareness of a clients impression born patterns of experience. At the same time we are non-verbally implying (via our presence and contact) that it’s okay for there to be awareness of these patterns as they surface. This ‘okaying’ helps a client to become more familiar, rather than avoid, dissociate or identify with the sensations presenting themselves. Once there is awareness/familiarity/safety with what was previously subconscious it is no longer subconscious and is, therefore, no longer a reaction... 

Is this all that we are providing...non reactivity to a clients reactive tendencies? 

Actually no, the bigger part of what we offer is safe contact provided mostly by not reacting to our own reactive tendencies.
This kind of contact has a huge effect on a clients body as it is (unfortunately) rare for most people to be touched in this way. As a consequence to this kind of touch the visceral organs feel like they have been met and the ANS gets a chance to rebalance itself. In other words, by not reinforcing a clients subconscious tendency (to sustain/alter/contract/withdraw from an experience) by witnessing ones own somatic counter transference patterns, the clients previously fragmented system is provided with an opportunity to reorganise and reintegrate. Moreover, awareness of our sensations based on our tendencies to judge, label, categorise, distract, protect, form agendas etc, help establish a relational field which subsequently empowers the client with a feeling of safety, enough for their system to reorganise and/or unfold more deeply held tendencies. 

Relaxing the tension of Intention

Both client and therapist are susceptible to subconsciously react to these tendencies as they have formed because of a habitual desire to affirm identity, at varying levels, and everything which is bound to it (e.g impressions, memories, experience etc). The culmination of this desire is ‘intention’ and the consequence during a session is that a client will, consciously or subconsciously, feel intention in our system, just as we consciously or subconsciously feel it in theirs. 

So, perhaps the most revelational and transformative aspect of our therapy occurs when we realise the desire in ourselves and remain neutral to it (witness it). Not only does this awareness/equanimity cut off the fuel to unnecessary intention, it also opens us up to the calming and vitalising nature of the breath of life, due to feeling the essential/ephemeral nature of our sensations, emotions and thoughts. 

This can be a game changing perspective for treatment sessions! 

Awareness and equanimity of our own reactive tendencies, therefore, facilitate both expression and insight of our original nature (the stillness and vibration of health without the existence of an opposite) by feeling the essence of the ever changing and vibrant quality of sensation, emotion and thought. This insight enables the felt-sense dissolution of our intention to change or sustain something, thereby enabling us to witness and resonate with the nature of change itself. 


The result of witnessing, and not reacting to, our own sensations emotions and thoughts (i.e. perceiving their ephemeral (passing) nature), coaxes the expression of health within a clients system. This culminates in helping the client to feel met, acknowledged and safe (both perspectives) at an essentially subtle level. 

Huh…all that from someone asking me what I was doing for Christmas!

Andy Pike is the author of 'Intention and Non-Doing in Therapeutic Bodywork' published by Singing Dragon

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