The doumentary Oliver Sachs: His Own Life really got my attention the other night. The compelling story of a brilliant man who came into fullness via a challenging childhood, a troubled young adulthood and a struggling middle age. Through every difficult passage, across every divide, faced with each seemingly un-scalable wall, he just kept moving with destiny. Doubting aplenty, murky and flailing at times, his soul kept turning him toward what he needed. Oliver Sachs, age 82, reached the end of his life utterly fulfilled, dying at peace, surrounded by those he loved.
Despite doggedly pursuing his dream of lab-based neuroscience research, destiny had different plans for this human being. Oliver Sachs became a highly skilled clinician in the old school mold. A medicine man spending hours of empathetic time with an incredible array of patients. People with troubled nervous systems that had completely upended their lives. He listened, he documented, he treated. And then he wrote. Ignored, even shunned by a medical community whose respect he longed for, Sachs just kept following his bliss, going where his unflagging interest delivered him.
Toward the end of his life, the incredible volume of books he wrote—books based entirely on medical case histories—garnered him the attention for which he had always longed. And, incidentally, at long last, at the ripe age of 75, he connected with the love of his life. But what delighted this being to no end was that in his sunset years, the newly emerging field of neuroscience exploring the nature of human consciousness, recognized the work of his lifetime. These acclaimed lab-based researchers absolutely needed the clinical stories Sachs had been documenting all his life. The honor and esteem that eluded him, the knowledge that there was wide spread application of his life’s work, the bounty it was reaping in the field of neurology…a destiny fulfilled.
I’ve always understood the practice of medicine to be 50% art/50% science. And the skillful ability to be with a suffering human being and discover what they need by simply listening and feeling…therein lies the art. Watching that creative piece of medicine fade out there over my fifty years in practice has been frustrating and disturbing. I feel the lack of this skill so often when I am myself a patient. And I hear it voiced as discontent and utter exasperation by so many patients that end up in my “slow medicine” studio. Now that my heart-mind-soul is the director of my clinical practice, this artful piece, this attunement to the full humanity of another…well, it has found full flowering. I don’t know any other way to be the medicine woman that has been my destiny as long as I remember.
And the way the teaching weaves into this clinical practice is finally, after so many years in the dream state, finding expression. Now my patients have a weekly practice they can land in and students have an opportunity to come see me (even on line, need be!) to explore and receive support for their particular challenges one-on-one. And that brings us to how Oliver Sachs delivered me to the next round of Friday morning Essentials.
Somewhere back in October 2020 we began a long meandering journey. It started with a foot focused class and then week by week, bone by bone, joint by joint, muscle by muscle we have worked our way up the body. Lingering for long explorations of pelvic bowl, rib cage, spine, shoulder…wherever interest delivered us. Then we took a full two month detour integrating the bandhas into our rolling and stability practice. Two weeks ago we landed in upper cervical spine and the way it meets base of skull. Last week it was how tempomandibular joint figures in that delicate relationship. And so now, to complete this series, it is time to tie it all together. We’ll feel into the anatomical nervous system—brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves—over the next 6-8 weeks. And that will deepen our understanding of how neuroscience illuminates the very nature of human consciousness. After that? I do believe we might just circle back on down and begin again at the feet. I love finding fresh new ways to explore.
Essentials happens on line 90 minutes most Friday mornings. You can drop into any particular class at any time. Explorations always held in the context of loosening up with balls and rollers, subtle core toning, stretching and some asana practice. This video summarizes the three bandhas we detoured into. We practice them in a variety of positions. Give it a watch if you’re new; it has been truly amazing to feel how this delivers us to alignment and stability. But here’s the key thing: the essentials are always there in each class, meaning that you will feel really good at 11:30. And really supported in personal practice during the week. For that support? Or if you want to join in but can’t make this time slot? Recordings always available. Music backdrop always awesome.
So…as the subject line says…”you gotta lot of nerve”. Embodiment is the only way I know for us to fathom and honor the enormous part this nervous system plays in the symphony of our lives. Come feel….❤️Bella