Swimming with dolphins was on my bucket list. When I turned 50, I said to myself, “Right this is it. Now or never.” I had talked myself out of going numerous times listing all the reasons why it didn’t make sense to fly to the Bahamas and take the CranioSacral Therapy class I had yearned to take for the last 15 years.
“Enough of all those excuses!” I exclaimed as I called up the Upledger Institute to enroll myself in the class and clicked “book” for my international flight to the Bahamas.
My whole body lit up when I heard about a class where you get to spend time in the water with and without dolphins integrating Craniosacral Therapy (CST) techniques. My love of water has been with me since being a young child. I turn to swimming when navigating hard times in my life. My work as a Physical Therapist had led me to train in this light touch manual therapy that aids the body’s self-corrective mechanism so well. Now I get to combine my life’s two passions: CST and being in the water.
The doubt started to sneak in once everything was booked. Luckily, I had arranged to meet my friend, Miranda, for lunch. She had been attending and now teaching these classes for many years. She was somebody who I respected clinically and really appreciated for her down-to-earth approach to life. We settled into our seats, ordered some healthy salads. Miranda pushed up her reading glasses onto grey hair, her blue eyes shining, ready to talk.
“Miranda, I am going to be honest with you. There is part of me excited about experiencing this class and another part that is skeptical. I have heard these amazing stories about how Dr. Upledger treated clients in the water with dolphins free to move around as they like. Is it true? How much of their behaviors are trained?” I said, a little afraid I might be offending her with my question.
A knowing smile swept across Miranda’s kind face with a little extra twinkle in her eyes.
“Kate, you know as well as anyone that you will have to experience it to put all your doubts to rest. But I will tell you that each time I’m in the Bahamas I see and learn something new from the way the dolphins interact with the clients. Just as each CranioSacral session is unique, so it is in the water with the dolphins. They are not directed by the trainers to interact with the clients in any way, the dolphins are free to choose. I was speechless the first time I watched a dolphin glide up and touch her nostrum on a client’s left hip that had recently been fractured in a bad car accident. And you know that doesn’t happen often to me.”
“I remember how our dog, Mabel, interacted with my clients and our family in ways that were so well-timed and healing for us. I have even been around horses in a therapeutic setting and felt my heart open when a horse came straight up to me and nuzzled the side of my face. But it seems different with dolphins. Do you think they are suffering being under the care of humans? How well do you really think they are being looked after?” I asked with a concerned frown crinkled on my brow.
“The dolphins at the sanctuary are very well taken care of,” Miranda responded right away with a certainty that surprised me.
“But how do you know?” I persisted.
“Okay, so number one,” Miranda was clearly getting into teacher mode here, “these dolphins receive the very best of human care. If only we could look after one another in this way, we would be much better off as a species. These dolphins commonly live longer than they do in the wild. Number two: they are invited to venture out into the ocean regularly, sometimes they actually need to be enticed out. Number three: during the dolphin-assisted therapy time, the dolphins who are in the enclosed area with the clients can and frequently do swim underneath the enclosure to take breaks whenever they want.” Miranda paused to look at me, clearly ready to go on if needed.
“You have eased my mind, Miranda. Now I get to go and experience it for myself before I make any firm opinions about it.” I concluded.
My first trip to the Bahamas to attend a bioaquatic craniosacral class was life-transforming for me in ways that are hard to put into words. I felt even more and inspired and excited about my work and a greater sense of peacefulness within myself. After being there for a third time this past summer, I have even more questions and curiosity than I had on my first visit. While I have no way of proving this, I feel that the dolphins I have interacted with at the sanctuary are happy and, in some way, have agreed to be in a close relationship with caring humans to support us in our own development.