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Exploring stillness

John Matthew Upledger, CEO of Upledger Institute International, reflects on the recently published The Inner Power of Stillness by Alexander Filmer-Lorch, Caroline Barrow and Maggie Gill. We are delighted to share his Foreword to the book in full here.

‘It is amazing how life happens. As I was reading this book, I realised that I have been an unwitting advocate for better understanding and acceptance of Alternative and Complementary Medicine my whole life.

In one of my earliest childhood memories, I remember running home to take a vitamin. I wanted to take the vitamin because I was about to get into a fight with a neighbourhood kid (Winchester) and I felt I needed some type of an edge. I was about 5-years old and he was 2 years older and much bigger. I’m not sure if I really believed that the vitamin would help me win, or if it was more of an attempt to stall the inevitable beating I was about to face. Either way, I knew I needed to get home and take it. Truth be told, I really did not want to fight Winchester. He was one of my best neighbourhood friends … but I was being egged on to fight in order to defend my family’s honour. You see, Winchester was telling everyone that my Dad was not a real doctor. This was the mid 1960s and my father, Dr. John E. Upledger, was a fully licensed osteopathic Physician and Surgeon who had a private practice in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

I now know that in different parts of the world, an ‘Osteopath’ can have various levels of training and licensure … but in the United States, an Osteopathic Physician attends a fully accredited medical school and receives the same training as a traditional Medical Doctor. The difference is that in addition to the full medical school curriculum, the Osteopathic Physician also receives the Osteopathic Philosophy and Manual Therapy training. And the Osteopathic Physician has a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) after his name instead of the traditional M.D. (Medical Doctor). So I did not understand why a D.O., having had more training than an M.D., would be considered inferior. This did not make any sense to my 5-year-old brain and thus began my unwitting lifelong quest to educate people and professions about the validity of various alternative and complementary therapies, philosophies and ideas.

AFL textbite

I suppose the quest was further fuelled by my father’s unique, open and inquisitive approach to health and healing. Although he was internationally revered by many and was eventually named an Innovator to watch in the new millennium by TIME Magazine for his development of CranioSacral Therapy. And although he spent several years researching and developing his therapies at Michigan State University Department of Biomechanics and teaching his work at their Allopathic and Osteopathic Medical Schools, served on the National Institutes of Health Committee for Alternative Medicine, testified before the United States Congress as an expert witness and received numerous other awards and accolades … there have always been people who were not open to his beliefs and practices.

Luckily for me I am now able to use words, research, patient experiences, science and common sense to educate people rather than my 5-year-old vitamin infused fists. And I am also extremely fortunate that I have not been alone in this mission to broaden the understanding of health and healing. Over the past 50 years, more and more people have contributed greatly to support this quest. So while at times it has seemed frustratingly slow and like reaching for the unreachable star, I do believe we are part of an overall shift in views and understanding about health and wellness which seems to be gaining momentum. It is books like The Inner Power of Stillness that continue to help forge this path.

It was through a hugely challenging personal health experience that Alexander discovered another facet of his own potential hidden within his years of experience of meditation and study of the ancient knowledge. After going into anaphylactic shock during a routine angiogram and nearly dying, he found a place within that he described as ‘stillness’.

Holding on to this place kept him alive. Reflecting on this experience he found that not only did the place of stillness hold much power but it also seemed, somehow, to be familiar. He began exploring the idea of ‘stillness-memory’ being inherent within us all. What he found of course is that the idea of stillness is not at all new, but that there are many ways we can cultivate our connection to it. Doing so is not only beneficial for our own personal journeys but also for our growth as practitioners of any kind – this book is therefore for anyone who works with others.


What you will find in its pages is an exploration of stillness over the centuries and many ideas and ‘experiments’ to help you find and deepen your own connection to your stillness-memory. Extraordinarily, I found the depth of Alexander’s understanding of this can be perceived both from the words and from the space behind and between the words – watch (or feel) for what happens as you read and hear his voice.

For those who also like exploring the scientific research that might add to our understanding of what is happening as we develop these parts of our practice there is an intriguing section written by Caroline Barrow. The importance of this section for the book as a whole is both as a bridge between the ancient knowledge and where we are in today’s world, and as a place from which we can hold the space for the huge potential of future understanding if we can be open minded enough to expand our scientific horizons.

Those who want to deepen the ways they prepare and hold awareness as a practitioner will find the section written by Maggie Gill invaluable, contributed from her own experience, much of which, I am proud to say, has been with CranioSacral Therapy. There is much here that I believe my father would have been honoured to see that his work has contributed to.

There are many of us now walking the path towards a greater understanding of ourselves and we are often also drawn to help others in our own preferred and ultimately unique ways. This book will help us personally, will support an important plane of our development as practitioners and ultimately enable us to better hold a deeply healing space to serve our clients.

John Matthew Upledger, CEO of Upledger Institute International