Heart and Spine

“Heart and Spine”
(aka Ode to the Mediastinum)


Heart says, “soften”

Spine says, “stand up”

Heart says, “I am full

of aching waters”

Spine says, “I am tired”

Heart says, “there

is my mother
about to leave”

Spine says, “center

here, with me”

Heart says, “I long for you”

Spine says, “I am unwhole,

and unwell,
without you”

And a wellspring,

emergent web of fascia,

blood and nerves, deep

in the chest and belly,

spanning an inner space,

says, “good thing

you were never
really separate.”


— LB

Body Attitude

That’s the thing we’re getting at with an idea like “relax” or “be careful” or even “be in your power” or anything like that.

And the funny thing about it, that it’s a predisposition we’re talking about, is that it’s a really hard thing to explain well.

Because if we’re talking about shifting a predisposition, then it’s not really about what the predisposition does. It’s about what it is.

And what, exactly, is a predisposition if not something that is but doesn't really exist until something manifest points to its existence by moving along its wood grain? Think about the wind in a silent movie: you'd have no idea unless you saw a leaf or a sailboat.

(This, by the way, is why I like the words “body attitude,” as an attitude is something that affects everything one does. Right? It’s plain as day. And it’s also not anything you can point to in particular; you can only point to how the attitude expresses.)

Those expressions can be tinkered with pretty easily: do this or don’t do that. It’s the attitude that’s much deeper waters.

So why this big build up? One way to build an embodied practice of any sorts is around this nebulous little concept — or really around the actuality of its lived experience in you — and it’s an easy thing to gloss over.

(It’s also an easy thing to get stuck in, so feel more than free to disregard all of this.)

If your mind feels a little hazy reading this, if you’re not sure you’re fully grocking it: great. (Seriously.)

Suggestion from here: drop this concept entirely — nothing else to ruminate on — and if it finds you later today or later this week, have a dance, in your body: the cells of the skin of these words dancing with the cells, bacteria and all, we call [insert your name here].

Awareness (as) Medicine

I worked with three very different clients yesterday, with three very different body dilemmas they wanted resolved.

 

Together, we worked through three different treatment plans, though they all had a common root: bringing awareness somewhere awareness had not been.

(Or, a little more trickily but I think more accurately stated: connecting the presence of “I am aware that I am here, now” with the awareness that already inhabits those tissues ... like an eddy released into the stream, nothing ultimately changes and yet, radically, one’s whole self-construct can change in a very real, physical way, including pain going away, strength returning, etc.)

In one session, the language of the awareness-consciousness thing (see above) was via the dense myofascia. “You’ve been in a trance this way,” I offered with my hands. “Let’s see what’s over here, a whole other aspect of who you are.”

The myofascia, really the whole body, said “yes, ah ... I’d just forgotten.” And it was done. (For now.)


In another session, the entry point / language was the hum of internal fluids — lymph, blood, the whole gamut of interstitial communication — and thin fascial barriers of the dura of the brain and spine, the peritoneum of the guts.

We shone a spotlight, again through bodywork, though this a much lighter, more “subtle” touch. (Subtle in quotes because it’s only subtle using certain, more common roadmaps of experience.)


Another session was a bit of what’s above, and also some connection to the frontal cortex experience of “I am aware that I am aware” ... which can sound like a college dorm room after a big bong rip statement, but is also pointedly true, and deep.

Awareness through “yes, I am here and I am aware of my experience (of this sensation).”


Awareness transforms ... and yes, I think it’s accurate to say, at least to propose, that it’s  only awareness that transforms, so long as we don’t forget bringing awareness to something can take a huge array of languages. Of course this is not limited to the work I do, or bodywork in general or anything like that.

 

Cheers to all the ways we help each other get by 🙏🏽

Yoga Cues to Have a Second Look At

1. “Engage your core (or glutes) to protect your lower back.”

This is another thing that’s often said in a yoga class as a sort of absolute truth that I think is, at its very best, a helpful relative truth, a guide towards something, not a something unto itself.

In this case, it begs the question, for me, protect from what? (Again, I get how it can be a helpful cue. I also think it can easily lead towards a sort of alignment / tone / thinking rigidity that has lots of people trying to set up a home in the middle of a river. It doesn’t work that way; you’ll be disappointed every time.)

Here’s my whole list, when I sat down and jotted the ones that came to mind:

2. “Put your shoulders on your back.” (Or “rounding your shoulders is bad.”)

3. “Hip openers are hard on the knees.”

4. The thinking that if you have tender knees, that’s just the way it is and you should keep doing the same poses but just put padding under your knees. I’m not saying endure unnecessary pain, I’m saying let’s look at that pain with the same kind of rigor that we look at, say, tight hamstrings. Something can likely be done, but it’ll feel like a backwards step to the One Used to Doing Poses a Certain Way.

( ^ same goes for always using knee pads in Contact Improv.)

5. The whole squeezed butt, retracted scapulae, supinated forearms in tadasana (mountain pose) thing. I totally don’t get it. (Willing to learn if someone has a compelling case!) But I think, man, if we’re emulating a mountain here, mountains sure don’t have to work so hard to be mountains. They stand with regality and ease.

6. The cue “start to ______ (listen to your breath, feel your body, whatever).” The teacher has no idea if you’re already doing this or not. So maybe it’s a start, maybe it’s a continuation.


7. And I wrote a whole thing about this one a week ago: “putting your knee past your ankle is bad for your knee.” (Maybe in some cases, but definitely not an absolute truth.)

Okay friends, there’s all that. If one or more of these sparks something for you: wonderful! If you want to share an idea back with me on one or more of these, for real, please do.

I am always learning, modifying what I’m thinking, and overall trying to be less of a grump-ass in my own mind in the back of a class and just enjoy what’s being presented!

I think getting this list out helps me with that ;) Love, LB

A 27-Min Super Gentle Movement Practice

This is 27 min movement practice prob best suited for afternoon or early evening.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYG_u5H_sUQ

It recently, and somewhat embarrassingly, dawned on me that I really don’t teach the stuff I most practice.

It’s a kind of work that feels super close to my heart.

But I haven’t really shared this kind of work in classes because I had fear that everyone would find it too vague, too weird, not enough yang, too boring. (And that’s probably mostly true; I would be amazed if even 1 out of 20 people resonated a lot with this kind of thing.)

But truth is, I don’t know if it’s a service to others because I haven’t really shared it.

So! Here’s this, one afternoon practice.

I’m going to be creating one of these a week for at least a bit, so stayed tuned if you’re into this sort of thing 💜

A Memory of Two Irreconcilable Truths

I remember vividly being a child, in my grade school years, and running against what appeared then as an essential dilemma. I was looking at two apparent opposites; one of them I felt to be true, and the other I knew to be true.

What I knew to be true, at least in a face value sort of way, was that some things were more enjoyable than others. Some people suffered more than others. Some days were better than others.

What I felt to be true was that somehow this all made deep sense and the “winning” and “losing” feel of life wasn’t actually that. It felt like there was a way of seeing that wasn't just like "yeah, it's too bad that bad stuff happens, but good thing it passes, huh?"

I felt in my guts that Something knew those unpleasant experiences as it Self as much as the most wondrous ones.

This "way of seeing" — if we want to call it that — was somehow both a total mystery I couldn’t name and had zero evidence for. It was also, even more mysteriously, already happening — if it existed then it never didn't exist — even though I couldn't name at all how that was true.

And all of that seemed in a most direct conflict with my actual experience that some things were more enjoyable than others.

These two [whatevers] were to me immediately, and obviously, irreconcilable.

*

If there’s some way it’s all an expression of the divine (not at all the language I would’ve had in my head at that age; I just had the feeling then, without language) and if, as indeed appeared true, there is suffering … Then what. Then what? I felt a need to know but also knew there was no doorway into this knowledge. Like it was either plain as day or might as well not exist. Another paradox in my young heart.

*

This memory revisited me recently. Upon diving deeply into a great sadness whereupon, after the tremors have moved through (for now), I feel so deeply changed, and also so deeply normal and like nothing has changed.

Whatever This is, it is nothing new. There is no glitter, there’s not even a thumbtack added to what’s always been plain as day, even to my very young eyes. I have changed a total of zero, using whatever metric of measurement. Nothing has changed.

And yet something is radically different.

*

If I could go back to that little boy with that Impossible Question in His Heart, I’d probably give him a huge hug. That might be it.

When I’m with him (in a sort of vivid, embodied remembering), he doesn’t even have any particular question — I remember so well how he knows words are going to be like throwing pebbles at the moon: maybe a decent way to spend an evening, sure, but if we’re talking about the nature of celestial orbit, it’s not the tool to illuminate the topic at hand.

Any word, any concept, even before it’s thought or spoken is already something else.

Interconnectedness / Darkness

Corazones ~

I’m wrapping up season two of The Body Awake with this episode: a mix of retrospect, looking around and some personal sharing from me.

I mention a poem at the end; that’s below.

With love, LB

Download this episode direct here.

💛

Yellow Paint

💛

When I heard that Van Gough
Drank yellow paint in hopes that
It would brighten his spirits,

I cried and cried, envisioning
Him trying
Anything that might help. 

That desperate sadness. 
They say it goes away but
Sometimes it doesn’t. 

I’ve nearly lost my mind, too, with it,
As I searched but could not find a truth
To undo that truth.

This morning, I am somewhere new,
Writing this poem, hearing 
The sharp cry of the geese

And wondering how and when lightness
Returns, if it is not guaranteed, and why,
When it does, it’s as if it never left, and

What life lives Van Gough now,
And what lives on, his
Deep sadness?

— LB

Ep 43 live

New episode up with Don Hanlon Johnson, who is both

a) interested in exactly where my heart is right now — the intersection of the body, politics and social and environmental care

and

b) someone who's been doing this work for a long, long time.

We covered tons of ground; dive in when you're ready : http://thebodyawake.com/dhj

 🍁 Howdy from the cave (I’ve not been online much)! Hope you’re well, dear listener. 

When Subtle Isn’t Subtle

It’s easy to describe small shifts in a movement as “subtle.” As in, a teeny little tilt of your pelvis this way or that. 

But let’s remember: what’s the point of these shifts unless they’re producing a notable shift in something? That something may be a felt experience; it may be the student just needs to trust the teacher that the shift is the way to go.

Either way, the point isn’t subtlety; it’s the obvious. 

Consider assessing if milk is still okay or if it’s spoiled. It may have shifted color, but just a little bit. If you’re only using your eyes, you’ll describe the shift from fresh to spoiled as subtle.

But if you’re using your nose, it’s obvious. 

Here’s this same thought in a video if you’d prefer:  https://instagram.com/p/BpATvgkBfPK/

What Is "The Body" ?

When we're talking about embodiment, or whatever, what is this "the body" we're talking about?

Because I haven’t found one, and I’ve looked a lot.

I can see the bit of tissue we call an "arm" ... I can feel it, outside and in ... I can close my eyes and feel the sensation there, though there are times when the location of that sensation is seriously in question, or gone altogether.

(Has anyone else experienced that last bit? Like in some ways a felt sensation has a place, a location, but from another perspective it's nowhere in particular. That is to say it's as much everywhere as anywhere. Not in an overwhelming way, just in a way that isn't what I thought it was initially.)

So I can see — and feel, and propriocept and on and on with the variances in types of perception — an arm, an abdomen, thousands of small streams the yogis saw and called "nadis," skin, space outside the skin (or what appears as such, either way an ability to feel what isn't touching me but is close), the experience of a surveillance called "the nervous system" ...

But nowhere have I found a "body."

If I'm sharing about embodiment, you'd think I know what the f it is. But I don't.

My inquiries keep get simpler and simpler.

My best definition right now would have to do something with a *quality of attention.* The body is a word we use to point to a particular way of being, as in: it's *not* being lost in thought; it's something else.

...

I love this, by the way. In case that's not obvious. For me, seeing deeper into the heart of what I'm doing is the ultimate liberation, even as, or perhaps precisely to the degree by which, the ground falls out from beneath my once sturdy (seeming) stance.

North Stars to Find Your Purpose

I wrote this post with anyone beginning a new career, or wanting to, in my heart — and there many of you! and I am as well often in the ranks of starting fresh. Here are six proverbial north stars* to consider in the wild navigation.

1. Take pride in doing what you have to do to pay the bills. I know this may seem antithetical to the title, but if you can really let this in, it can help release so much of the tension that can keep you from feeling what is calling your heart.

Not only is there nothing wrong with feeling called to some great vision but working in a fast food restaurant to get by, but that is so, so beautiful in its own way. I hope you can see that.

2. Whatever you’re doing, do it with all your heart. There’s an old saying that how you do anything is how you do everything, and if you’re not sure if that’s true or not, try it on for the next hour and see what happens.

3. Know that what you love to learn, and what you will share with the world, may not be the same thing. This has been a huge one for me to learn! You might love practicing yoga, but really not be fulfilled by being a yoga teacher. Notice, then, what lights you up in particular when you share it with others.

4. Try quitting something you’re doing now, and let the empty space teach you about your yearnings. That might take a minute, so give it a minute.

5. Address what life is asking of you right now.

You can think of this as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — like you probably won’t contemplate your big vision if you’re struggling to find a roof over your head — but you can also think of it beyond that, that what is before you right now is quite literally the most perfect step can take in the direction of the life you want to live.

You don’t have to produce an intention; the intention is already there in your heart. Let it do its good work while you attend to what life is presenting you with right now.

6. When in doubt: be radically honest, especially in the ways you do not want to be radically honest, and then see what happens.

==

*The north star, Polaris, is a fixed point in the night sky. Because of the earth’s axis, everything appears to revolve around it.

Highly recommended

On Being’s latest episode totally rocked me, and I think you might love it too if you’re not already a regular listener to Krista Tippett’s work.

The episode’s guest, the Reverend angel Kyodo williams, is one of the most sane voices I think I’ve ever heard in my life to date. What’s being spoken to here feels to me at once both deeply familiar and completely new.

“There is something dying in our culture, and there is something dying in is individually. And what is dying, I think, is the willingness to be in denial. And that is extraordinary. The willingness to be in denial is dying in a meaningful number of us.”

^ One of a seemingly infinite number of gems, best listened to in context I think.

Hope you enjoy 🙏🏽

iTunes link here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/on-being-with-krista-tippett/id150892556?mt=2&i=1000409292119

Today

If this were my last breath,

I might regret

 

Not have followed Love back,

all the way in.

 

I may regret not that I became 

reasonable, but that I remained there,

 

this shelter of options, because

it’s true you never know

 

what to do

for sure. 

 

But something else is true

also, and with her scent now

 

in the air, we haven’t a moment

to lose.

 

— LB, 31 August 2018

Source: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?account_...

Try This at Home

This episode of The Body Awake brings in David Fleming of AMNA, and we talk bioelectricity, earthing and natural light, forest bathing and how to bend bones.

Nerds, this one's for you :) But also really, for anyone with a keen ear towards small no-risk, potentially high-benefit experiments like standing barefoot on the earth for a bit each day. (There are alternatives, too. David goes well into those.)

As always, find this anywhere you find podcasts, or right on this site at thebodyawake.com/david

Kirlian-seed-for-blog-e1442956575298.jpg

A Few Complexities in Human Psycho-Biology Worth Noting

1. Part of us is wired* for a fear response. This is the proverbial “lizard brain,” or the limbic structures if you go to brain parties. It’s a “save myself at any cost” instinct. If you think you don’t have it, you’re fooling yourself.

2. Part of us is wired for a love response, or collective care even at the expense of personal well-being. In this sense, our instincts are not towards ourselves as individual birds but as part of a much greater flock.

Our anatomy is such — the social nervous system** is one of a collective survival wherein we are exquisitely tuned to the nuances in another person’s face and voice. It bears repeating that part of our biological instinct is also for a greater good.

👉 So, from a endocrine-neurophysiology perspective, we could ponder some old questions in a new light: Do we respond more to avoiding pain or to moving towards pleasure? Is it a dog-eat-dog world or is there a philanthropy inherent in our bones? Yes.

3. Consciousness in the body exists on many levels.***

This is represented in the brain for sure by adding the brainstem and its very primal instincts to the other two structures listed above, though also, for instance along the spinal cord there are many ganglia and nerve plexi that act as mini-brains, each having their own little decision making dances.

The many millions of nerve cells that comprise the Enteric Nervous System — the brain in your guts — are also an example of this.
 

So when we point to the head and say something about thinking (usually, at least in the circles I hang in, something about how we’re doing it too much), the head-pointing gesture may not be entirely true.

It perhaps depends on how we define “thought.” If we define it as an ability to anticipate, to envision a possible reality and react as such, that is certainly a body-wide phenomenon and not limited to the contents of the cranium.

====

* To say a body is "wired" towards a certain predisposition is clearly a metaphor, tho’ these metaphors are common enough that I’d like to draw a little extra attention to them.

We speak a great deal in, currently, mechanistic and computer-like terms: shut down, triggered, wired. The author Yuval Harari notes that a society tends to speak of the human body in terms of its highest technology of the time. So longer ago someone was “blowing off steam” (like the engine) or had “a screw loose” in the head.

Now that we’re collectively more inclined towards these newer, more computer-like (our highest technology) terms, it's wise of us to remember that they are also, of course, metaphor. As in, while we know of course no one is actually blowing off actual steam like in that old saying, we can lose sight of the fact that 👉 we are not actually wired like a computer, nor is our makeup the same that we get triggered like a binary code 👈 These are helpful metaphors, certainly, but taken too literally (at a gut / cellular level) and we’ll blind ourselves to something vital.

** I first heard this term in preparing for my interview with Stanley Rosenberg.

*** Thanks to Michael Hamm for stating this insight so succinctly, which I heard while we were co-teaching a workshop.

A Good Thing to Know About the Ability to Sense Your Body

A good thing to know is that more isn't necessarily better.

It may be intuitive to many of you and we can leave it at that, though if you're interested, we can talk academically: studies have been done on this. A high degree of interoception — that is, the ability to detect sensation in your body — has been correlated both with decreased pain in some studies, and also increased anxiety disorders.

The "more is better" example: people with low back pain tended to be worse at detecting sensations provoked by a stimulus — think a light pin prick, or the brush of a hand — and their pain lessened as they got better at detecting such signals, though training (mostly, the training of attention to feel what's actually there).

The "more isn't better" example: people who can detect their heartbeats — which is in interoceptive research a bit of a gold standard of subtle interoceptive ability — tend to be more prone to anxiety.

So, what are we left with?

I propose:

1. Interoception, or embodiment, is a multi-layered affair. When we say "I can (or can't) sense my body" we really mean "I can (or can't) sense particular aspects of my body." It's not a uniplanar skill you get better at; it's a variety of tastes in a much bigger dish.

2. Consider taking part in a movement practice that pushes your edges a little bit. If you identify as not being very body aware and, say, you have low back pain, research seems to point that doing a practice like yoga as a means to feel your body is helpful. Note the italicized bit. Stretching is a means to obtain a much bigger prize here.

And similarly, if you have lots of subtle awarenesses going on, you might consider a practice with some more density, reaction, speed, as a supplement to your natural constitution. The point isn't to try to be someone else, of course, but to bask in a kind of grounding that can arise from exteroceptive foci — that is, the focus on stuff outside of yourself, which adding weight and speed, for example, tend to naturally elicit.

3. Let your felt sense of your body, however unaware or exquisitely tuned, be an entry point into the unknown. And not The Unknown as some spiritual concept, but like really: what in your body is unknown as a felt sense? your attention there may have a healing affect. The koan "what am I not feeling?" — and listening for an answer arising as a feeling-knowing, rather than as a thought and certainly not rushing it, as there you are sure to bring in what you already know to seemingly aid in answer — may be a helpful pointer here.

4. Lastly: perhaps anxiety is less of a disorder as in "something's wrong," and more "you're aware that something is wrong." Lord knows our planet is a wild place to live; if you were a caged animal and had more awareness of that, of course you'd be anxious!

And that said ... certainly we all have different paths and dharmas. So we can be thankful not everyone in the metaphorical cage has the same awareness.

We all have our dance to dance; may we dance it all the way through, to its unique completion. Oh and, of course, the score of the dance is being improvised ;)

Source: chrome-extension://laookkfknpbbblfpciffpae...

Start With Science, End With Poetry

"The body relates to poetry more than it does to anatomical directions. The mind likes that sort of clarity ... but the body reacts more to images."

This was a gem of a line from The Body Awake's latest guest, Tatjana Mesar.

Another, when talking about teaching, she related how she'll "start with science, but hopefully end with more of the poetry of the movement."

What a beautiful image!

I came to admire Tatjana's intelligence, poise and kindness in equal measure.

It's live! At http://thebodyawake.com/tatjana

Cheers, love from WA, LB

Source: https://www.facebook.com/thebodyawake/

Dangerous Questions

A bit ago I wrote a post* on dangerous questions.

That topic became the headline of this interview I recently gave on the Fearless Self-Love podcast.

This is a easily a favorite interview I’ve ever given. We get into some really potent territory.

(For a taste, start at the end: 1hr 2m in is probably the most directly stated advice I would share with myself as a struggling 23-year-old.)

Find this interview on the show’s website or search in any podcast app for “fearless self-love”

Thank you, Andrea. Beautiful hosting.

=== LB

*most of what I consider to be my important writing does, indeed, make it onto this blog, but not always so please feel free to follow me on Facebook, which is probably 80% body stuff and 20% personal