Thursday, June 4, 2009

My New Companion

Part IV of What is my Body Telling Me?

I have acquired a skeletal shadow, a figure that haunts my every step, mirrors my every move…

“Are you all right?” Barbara asked me yesterday on my fifth visit.

I smiled. “How do I look?”

“Not comfortable,” she answered. “I can see your energy body as well as your physical body,” (‘Yes?’ I thought.) “and there is a blockage at your shoulders where the energy is not flowing well.”

She was spot on. All week, whether I was sitting, standing, or walking, I had been aware of my shoulders like never before. I could feel them – high and tense – almost clamped around my ears. I would try to drop them, to relax, only to feel them creeping up a few moments later. I felt as if my centre of gravity was so high that I was struggling to balance.

When I was on the table, Barbara started to work on my back, mostly on my left side. “You’ll feel lopsided after this treatment,” she informed me. “Because I’m only working on one side. Your left side will instruct your right side how to carry itself, and pretty soon your body will balance itself again.”

She worked on my neck, my shoulder, my hip, taking the weight of my limbs, rotating my joints. We talked of cats, of friends present and past, of life in Cyprus.

When I stood up at the end of the session, she looked at me critically. “That’s better. Your centre of gravity has dropped right down and your shoulders look much more powerful. You looked all hyped and ethereal when you came in.”

“But how do I keep myself like this?” I asked. “I feel as if every session I take three steps forward, then by the end of the week I go two back…”

“By integrating your whole body into every movement,” she replied. “What are your most common work actions?” I mimicked the straight-forward chopping movement that I make every day with a hoe.

“Try and use your pelvis more, and don’t lock your head,” she suggested, imitating me, but adding a graceful wiggle and allowing the weight of her head to lead the movement. It looked almost like a dance, but I wondered how it would adapt to a two-kilogram implement being used on somewhat uneven ground. “Remember that if the energy is blocked in any one of the body’s three girdles, the others will be affected. Even if you hold your head, thus,” she stiffened her neck “—or grimace – it locks up the energy.” She continued ‘hoeing’ with a wiggle. “Do you see how my whole body is working together? The vertebrae are opening up, closing. The spine is a unit, curving.” Superimposed on her body, I imagined a medical diagram – skull, shoulders, arms, spine, pelvis, legs. It moved with her physical body; hoed, as she did, with a wiggle.

When I went to put my sandals on, Barbara stopped me with a “No, no, no!” I was standing on one leg. “Your body’s struggling with balance issues at the moment,” she reminded me. “And standing on one leg is way too threatening for it just now. As soon as you do that – a habitual movement – your body goes ‘Ooo-er!’ and reverts to old habits. Once you’re stable and have learned to control your head, by all means stand on one leg, but not for now.”

She bent me over from the hips. “Now, soften your knees. Follow your head and touch the ground. Come up slowly. Drop your shoulders. Lovely! Did you feel your weight go back down?” I had. She touched just below my belly button. “Your centre of gravity’s gone right back to where it should be… When you feel all tight around the shoulders and ungrounded, reach down, let your neck go, touch the ground, then come back up. You can also stamp your feet, or do the tai chi exercise of ‘Rooting through the Toes’ – stand firmly and literally imagine roots growing out from your toes and sinking into the earth. It will reconnect you.”

As she showed me out, she ‘hoed’ again, and I watched the graceful movement, followed it, and tried to commit it to my body’s memory.

I have a shadow companion now. It is my own medical diagram, a skeleton that mirrors my every move. When my children were small, they had a computer game of human anatomy; an animated skeleton, Seymour Skinless, guided them through the body’s magic, discussing bones, digestion, nerves, and other subjects in a friendly, accessible way. His sister has moved in with me, and Seymoura sits beside me in the car, walks me to the field, works in my shadow. I raise a hand and she raises hers. I sit and she sits. To check my position, I slide my glance sideways to see if her spine is working as it should. If it’s not, I correct mine, and her position magically corrects itself.

As I lean forward for my tea mug and take a deep pull, I reflect how glad I am that she is but a figment of my imagination. If not, there’d be a hell of a mess to clean up on the couch!

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