Fifty years ago I kept a 20 week standing date with a cadaver. Without fail. Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, eight to noon, scalpel in hand, trusty Gray’s Anatomy propped at my side. My original oft-referenced fifty year old text pictured above. Me and three intrepid lab partners dived in, layer by amazing layer. For sure squeamish-get-me-outta-here on Day One…but then curiosity took the reins. One day all the organs were stealthily removed for the pathology students and on another day the head disappeared, gone in service to dental students. This absence didn’t faze us; our focus was laser-directed on muscle, bone, tendon, joint, ligament, nerve. Plenty remained. If you want to consider moving from squeamish to curious check out YouTube anatomist Gil Headley splaying open the heart basket below. He’s quite the character.
And so began a life-long love affair with this particular aspect of anatomy, a surrender to a working bias for many years. Thirty years to be exact. A good chunk of time to steep, long enough to start making connections, drawing meaning from the physical. What does my body know about spirit? What is the sensation of a feeling arising? Where exactly do thoughts originate and translate to action? Where lives the voice of my soul? The last twenty years have been all about that.
From time to time I love to dive into the organ body those pathology students absconded with. It fascinates me. Last week was one of those times, an exploration from diaphragm to pelvic floor. Heart and lungs will have their turn soon. Here’s what I notice: when we bring our attention to organ body we invite the parasympathetic nervous system to thrive. The sympathetic—in charge of adrenaline-based fight flight freeze—quiets. Focus on the organ body naturally moves us into a field of rest and restore.
Wanna feel? Take a full inhale and exhale in honor of each organ: left thumb resting under rib cage, hand covering stomach. Under stomach the worm of pancreas. Right hand, same place, other side, overlapping left—liver is way bigger. Let hands stroke downward over 22 feet of small intestine taking space all the way to pubic bone. Stroke outward and rest over ascending and descending colon. Make two fists as you move them under last rib back body; two kidneys. Now one hand sacrum, other pubic bone. Rectum rests curled in front of sacrum, bladder nests under pubic bone, womb space reclines in between—the sacred protected lineup. Rest here. Breathe. Summon up gratitude. Restore.
As fate would have it, in the midst of this series of classes, I listened to a Katherine May podcast on how “wintering” replenishes. We are deep in wintering right now. Maybe the deepest wintering many of us have ever experienced. Darkness, rain, cold…it gets under my skin sometimes, feels limiting, depressing, leaves me longing for “summering”. Yet now is when we might follow the lead of rest and restore body wisdom. How do we take in nourishment, gather up what is needed to sustain life, digest? And then what do we do with that? Our miracle vessels know how to convert that nourishment. How to assimilate, incorporate, utilize—create life force. And then? Hah. The body innately knows what and how to eliminate. Release what it does not need. 24/7. Over and over.
Katherine May went on to expound on the power of rest and retreat to remind us that our lives are deeply cyclical. That everything repeats. That nothing lasts. Wintering asks us to wonder what change is coming… because it always does.
Take a deep breath in. Open the window between your rib cage and your pelvis. Feel the deeply cyclical nature of your organ body as it gathers, creates and eliminates. Take a rest. February 5 is the exact middle of winter. We will be Springing in six or seven weeks. Here are a few ways to support your February wintering….
On the mat:
Essentials Thursday/ Friday 10:00am moves into heart basket. All month feeling the unique thoracic spine, how ribs connect it with breast bone. How collar bone delicately marries scapula. The fluid scapula hovering on back body. How diaphragm and lungs and heart team up for aliveness. Loving our journey. Until February 5 you can pre-enroll in all February Thursdays or Fridays to save $, commit and have the ease of a single Zoom link.
Dance Essentials Saturday February 13 —combining mat and dance floor. For sure we’ll be dancing that heart basket somehow.
Essential Recharge Saturday February 27 will summarize, integrate, culminate this heart basket journey.
On the dance floor:
Wednesday Waves 9:00am and 6:30pm…either or both—same link. Loving this one hour double dip whether I teach or take.
Sweat Your Prayers Zoom or live in the garden every Sunday 10:00am. This month’s fundraiser is Valentine’s Day Sunday February 14. All proceeds, Zoom and live in the garden, go right back to the farm land we’ve been moving on since June. Deep gratitude to Ray and Judy Tretheway who have generously offered space where we have been able to safely move outdoors through three seasons. All proceeds will help replace trees being removed for levee restoration. Wanna join us? Eventbrite ticket purchase holds our capacity upper limit at a very safe thirty.
Bottom line? Here’s what we’re up to wherever, whenever you land. Dedicated time to take in some nourishment. Feel how it supports and generates creative life force. Lighten your load, release what’s superfluous.
Let’s keep wintering together.