Post Berlin – Part 1

I flew home from my trip to Berlin on October 4th. Right now it is just after 6 am on my birthday, October 6th. I have been awake for some time now, as jet lag is being adjusted to. I thought I would use this wakeful interlude to begin my writings on my multifold experiences before during and since the journey to Germany.

Firstly, about the conference I attended.

The conference I attended in Potsdam, near Berlin was an historic one for my profession as an osteopath. It is the first time, anywhere in the world, that the two streams of Osteopathy have jointly hosted a conference that officially encouraged dialogue and creative vision for co-operation between osteopaths and osteopathic physicians. The part of the two-fold conference with which I was more directly involved was the Open Forum 2011: Teaching Palpation hosted by the Osteopathic European Academic Network (OsEAN). Here is a quote from Raimund Engel, the president of OsEAN, and one of the visionaries who worked very hard to organise and manifest this joint conference:

In September 2011 OsEAN is holding another “Open Forum for Osteopathic Education” conference. This year’s topic will be “Teaching palpation” with presentations and workshops revolving around this osteopathic core-competence. The conference will be held on Thursday 29th and Friday 30th September in Potsdam, near Berlin/Germany, as part of the annual general meeting of the Osteopathic International Alliance (OIA). The OIA will have its formal business meeting of the afternoon of Friday 30th.

Our host in Berlin will be the Verband der Osteopathen Deutschlands (VOD) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Osteopathische Medizin (DGOM) which are organizing a joint osteopathic conference from Friday 30th September to Sunday 2nd October.

The the above-mentioned jointly hosted osteopathic conference in Potsdam, was the 2011 International Congress of Osteopathic Medicine: Thorax – Movement, Breathing, Life. Here is a quote from the welcome page for that conference (

Dear osteopaths and osteopathic physicians, and dear congressional participants,

for the first time in the young history of osteopathic medicine in Germany both leading professional organizations of osteopathy met the challenge launched a common congress – truly historical event.

Our goal is to make clear that osteopaths and osteopathic physicians in Germany can and want to work together productively in different fields.

The level of recognition in osteopathy has constantly increased in the last years, which on the one hand resulted in dedicated public services and on the other hand increased experience and acceptance within the population.

In this congress we want to provide for this change. We will show together that the development in osteopathic medicine as a complementary method within the medical system has its place and has continually be expanded.

The worldwide cooperation between osteopaths and osteopathic physicians will be shown that the OIA as an association of osteopaths and osteopathic physicians will hold their yearly conference during the congress in Potsdam.  Also we would like to welcome the European organizations, OSEAN and FORE, which will get together at the same time for their educational forum and osteopathic research forum.

I wanted to attend this conference for two main reasons:

1. To share my work regarding the “Presence Project” (see earlier posts here about that work) and the usefulness of that work when teaching osteopaths palpation and practice skills.

2. To participate in the dialogue around how both streams of osteopathy can cooperate, mutually develop and enliven. I am part of an External Affairs Committee reporting to the Osteopathic International Alliance (OIA) – an association of national and regional osteopathic associations all over the world. As mentioned in the second quote above, the OIA had their annual general meeting in Potsdam during the this joint conference.

So, after that lengthy intro, what the conference was and how it came about, I want to tell you of HOW it was for me, and what impressions and insights I am left with.

Well it was very encouraging to me on both points.

Having listened to some stimulating talks about what some of my colleagues see as important and progressive approaches to Teaching Palpation, and the many issues and perspectives associated with diagnosing and treating somatic dysfunctions in, or related to, the Thorax, I got a chance to confer with a few colleagues from Germany and the US, about Presence and The Will to Heal in osteopathy. (See the previous couple of posts in this blog.) I would contend that the “space” from which the osteopath/osteopathic physician offers their assessment and treatment possibility to the person they are working with, matters. By “space” in this instance I mean how present to him or herself the osteopath can be, without that self-awareness interfering with or reducing (but rather, actually enhancing) their availability to the client, and the possibility of healing that can be supported in that interaction.  I believe that it is very important to recognise that even with all of the inspired and inspiring work shared at the conference, that a whole new expanded therapeutic possibility arises when there is seen to be a dynamic interchange between the practitioner and patient – and that this dynamic interchange can become a more mutually conscious flow.

To say this another way, as important as the technical expertise of the osteopath is, the quality of presence brought to the treatment session is even more so. This is perhaps particularly the case (or perhaps just more possible) when the practitioner has been in practice for five years or more. For many people it seems that in the first few years of practice there is a need to be putting a great deal of attention on mastering the skills and learning the anatomy and functional bio-dynamics that are going on. And while Still’s words on the need to study “anatomy, anatomy, anatomy” for the rest of one’s life as an osteopath hold as true as they ever did, I think there comes a point when the role of expert must be abandoned. Abandoned in service to the realisation that even the most expert of osteopathic work never heals the patient. Whatever healing takes place does so as a naturally occurring phenomenon arising from within. I am not then saying that the osteopath can rest on his/her laurels and let healing simply happen. Rather, my own experience is that when I fully accepted the need to give up all identification with being responsible for fixing anything is when a much greater depth and richness of vocation as osteopath became evident to me. It was from that point that I needed to commit to showing up in a real and honest way.

I am interested to hear from colleagues, osteopathic and otherwise, about what responses arise for you as you read these ramblings.

Part 2 of this Post-Berlin thread will address my sense of what is to come and what work is needed to further the encouraging trend toward cooperation amongst osteopaths and osteopathic physicians in the aftermath of this historic conference.

Thanks for reading….

About Howard Dieno

I am very interested in dialectic inquiry, and in any and all avenues to enhance communication and co-operation amongst people and groups. I am in private practice as an osteopathic practitioner in Victoria, BC, Canada
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