More Psyche/Somatic Musings

My usual modus operandi is to keep drishti on toes during forward bends. Which means keeping my head (and, consequently, torso) up a bit. This morning, I tried keeping nasagrai drishti and just letting my head fold down to my shins. This seemed to reduce some of the tension in my hamstring inserts, which seemed to offer more chance to meditate (rather than just weathering the pain), and the closer drishti and less painful hammies made for a nice, soft practice.

At the end of my daily backbending session, Volleyball Guy’s modus operandi is to have me kick up into a handstand, then drape me upside down over his back as he bends forward. Like a human backbending rack. Today he disappeared after the upside down draping session. I wondered if he’d gone out back to cry in despair, because I am too darn heavy to pick up at 6:45 every morning, and he does it EVERY freaking day, and will my back and shoulders NEVER open? It’s his Sisyphean task. And I am the stone.


Seriously, my shoulders are stones. I am having a physical education–care of Ashtanga and weekly massage sessions with Koko the magical massage therapist–and what I am learning is the strange emotional geography of my back. Shoulders house all of my ideas about strength. Every moment I spent as a single Mom trying to protect My Gift and make it through the world has congealed into the toughest part of my body: my shoulders. Yeah, I know: cliche. Shouldering the weight of the world and all that.

In the middle of my back, right at the center of the thoracic spine, is grief. Every last bit of any deep grief I’ve ever felt is all balled up right there.

Left sacrum contains my fears about my own mortality. Every time I looked down off a cliff I was climbing and thought about what it would feel like to suffer equipment failure right then; every time I held on by my fingers and had to let go of my feet to climb an overhang–all of those feelings are squeezed into a small space that sleeps in the left sacrum. Around it, all through the lower back, my awareness that I will eventually die.

And in my hips sockets: sadness. Plain old garden variety human sadness. I am digging into this during baddha konasana, which is the pose I am working most diligently these days. Different from grief. Softer and oilier. Kind of a perfect focus during this time of preparing for My Gift to move to her dorm. She was off visiting her Dad’s family this weekend. When she got home last night we talked a bit about her upcoming move. She said she feels excited and scared and sad. I asked her why she feels sad. She said, “Because I won’t wake up here and have breakfast with you.” A very touching comment. I’ve worked long hours and did my second round of grad school as My Gift was growing up. We definitely did not have an All-American routine of family dinners. We did, however, always manage to sit for a few minutes and have breakfast. So I am touched that this is what she feels she will miss.

After all this mapping of the back’s emotions, I’ve gotten to wondering about where my other emotions are. Quite honestly, the emotion that I feel most routinely and most easily, as if it isn’t “stuck,” as if it flows easily, energetically, throughout me, is joy. It’s really easy for me to feel joy when I look at mountains or birds or people. It’s a gift from my Dad, I think, who used to always get up early in the morning before work so he could have his breakfast and sit on the deck and look at the birds and squirrels. Contentment. He cultivated it quite diligently when I was growing up. And he still does.

I wonder what happens when the clotted places in my back loosen up and flow? Maybe I keep it all separate like this because I’m worried it might impinge on my contentment and joy. Not really sure. Very cool to have this opportunity to mess around with it, though. Even if it sounds crazy when I write it all out in words 😉

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5 Responses

  1. Wow, I must say that your post today really struck a chord with me. I think that you’re on to something here. When I read about the shoulders and the middle of the thoracic spine, I got pretty emotional myself.

    I’ve had a similar notion about gaining weight during pregnancy and after having kids. I feel as if all of the anxieties about my kids well being get stored in that extra weight.

  2. Oh wow, that’s a really interesting idea. Yes, there must be places where we keep our fears for our kids–it’s such a strong feeling.

  3. This is really an interesting observation. I wonder if, as a father, I’m storing these feelings in the same place…
    Great post!

  4. Wonderful blog! I just finished weekend workshops with Max Strom, who says grief is located at the bottom of the lungs (really close to the mid-back, incidentally). We did a very active exhalation exercise for what seemed like 8-10 minutes, and several people got in touch with their grief.

    I wrote about it on my blog, I only hope it can help…

    Peace,

    -Richard

  5. Thanks, Richard! Your entry on the workshop is really interesting: “My theory is, our grief and sobbing really taps into abhinivesa, the fear of death, and so we refuse to face our emotions. We bury it in the bottom of our lungs.” I’m always happy to find a good new blog to read! Karen

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