Not everything will go as you plan, drop expectations and go with the flow of life… Why? Because you are important and you matter.
I saw it first hand and it struck several chords, heartstrings and wove into my being like only life and death can do.
The flow of life and people we meet along the way made this experience possible for me. Without Sue Hitzmann, Arthur Hsu, Michol Dalcourt, Elena Dalcourt, Alok Singh, John Hardy, Annika Kahn, Kim Krausher, Bronwyn Adams-Hooper, Thomas Myers, Todd Garcia, Holly Clemens, and my numerous clients who keep me on my toes, my circle of learning, humility, and curiousity would be closed. Thanks to them, I saw life firsthand and I remain curious and open and inspired!
We see life firsthand every day if we are aware and living consciously. This was different. This was at the Laboratory for Anatomical Enlightenment with Anatomy Trains and the Institute of Motion. This was people who gave their bodies to study and learning. We were honored to learn from University of Utah donor program fresh cadavers. Fresh, as in nothing was changed or removed and we were witnessing their bodies as they were “on their least viable day on the planet” ~ Todd Garcia, director of the laboratory.
“Not everything will go as you plan, drop expectations and go with the flow of life…”
Life, and the silver strand. A group of 40 professionals from around the world and from various health and movement disciplines were instructed on how to use a scalpel and a hemostat. We looked at each other behind our masks and goggles and thought, “am I really going to do this?” Cut into a human body. We were. First we gathered around our tables, again looked into our tablemates eyes and began to remove the plastic, the human form as we know it was exposed. Beautiful, raw, humble. So refreshing in a world of materialism and instant-gratification to see that all that is real is the soul, the light, that glows from within. When the light dims, when the fire goes out, the vessel that housed it remains. There were times we caught ourselves looking into her eyes for something that wasn’t there. Feeling the curl of her fingers for a response. And then reminded that we had to communicate to a higher power to feel the energy of the soul that once resided in the body we were humbly exploring.
We began our incisions, each one of us aware of what a gift this was to study fresh tissue. To feel the skin unfolding into the layers underneath, sometimes revealing a smooth fascia lining. Other times fat cells spilling out, and often, places where the scalpel felt resistance from what I can only describe as “stuck stress”. What was amazing was how each place led to another. There was no one part that was not connected to another. The scalpel guided me into the world we live in, but few of us know. I like to remind my clients and the members who take my classes that it is an honor to have a body that functions well and houses our soul, but what sadness there is to not know how our system operates. If I walk into a store, I hope the person selling the product knows what they are selling. Similarly, if we live in our bodies, I hope we know the potential and the experiences of them. When we moved her toes, we saw the response up her legs. When we moved her arms, we felt the glide in her shoulders. But only in one. In the other arm, there was a disconnect. An interruption in the system that when we tried to move her arm through a range, we witnessed the tightness in the muscles bound by “stuck stress”, fascia that was not smooth, that inhibited the movement. As we peeled away the layers, the muscles were beautiful. They were intact and responsive. The thing that held them back was the “stuff”. Life. Stress. I witnessed the pain that we accumulate, the “things” that we cannot let go of, directly affect our body. Reread the last line. THE THINGS WE CANNOT LET GO OF DIRECTLY AFFECT OUR BODY. No amount of tape, therapy, stretching, manipulation can undo what your mind can do.
I spent a lot of my time by her side at her abdominal wall area. Looking at her lying before we began our incisions, she was small, her abdomen flat, her ribs high, her shoulder lifted, her opposite hip dropped lower than the other. A scar visible running up to her navel. Her hands curled gently, relaxed. Her toes curled unpleasantly, resistant. I gently worked through her scar tissue, uncovering the broad but very thin musculature of her obliques. The crossover patterns were breathtaking and the fascia lining that exists around every structure and set gently gave way to deeper layers. We paused occasionally overwhelmed by the scope of what we were doing. I looked around at the other tables and was struck by the beauty of the colors in the open bodies. The skin that was still visible varied in color, the hair, the eyes, the gender, the ages, but what was the same was what was on the inside. We are all the same on the inside. A rainbow of vibrant colors exists beneath our skin. I got down to a layer that I had to pause in. The lining that would reveal her organs. I had a little help from Thomas Myers (can’t wait to receive the newest edition of his book, Anatomy Trains!) in opening up the organ cavity. What an eye-opener this was. Suddenly visible was everything we feel. I am fascinated by our other brain, our enteric nervous system, the power of the gut. Suddenly, it was in front of me. We had a little help removing her organs. There was more of the sticky stuff, the “stuck stress”, adhesions that kept the peritoneal bag from smoothly revealing one organ from the other. The structures become one another.
The STRUCTURES BECOME ONE ANOTHER led me to this thought process I documented a few days after my experience:
I have been struggling to put this weekend into words, but thanks to gifts from others, I am starting to wrap my head around the experience of life and death and the miracle of our bodies and the thread of our lives.
What I keep coming back to is the simplicity of the human experience if we let it be so. We Become. Inside of us, one structure becomes another. When it is interrupted, it is felt throughout the body. And often results in pain. In nature, in love, in our relationships with others and with ourselves, we are always becoming. When we stop becoming, we stop living. But likely, we will become something else, a legacy, a memory, a lesson, an experience that lends itself to someone else becoming, one of the greatest acts of Love. And so, we can still become. I became something different , something more this weekend in my exploration inside the human body. We were in fresh tissue with an admiration and respect for the souls that allowed us to do this. For the lab that created an environment of learning and understanding, for the men who interpreted it for us, for my fellow professionals of human movement who compassionately shared this experience with me and for my family, Sean and Brendan and Natalie who understood my going, and my The Energy Lab family who give me the gifts that open my eyes on a daily basis!
Things were beginning to make sense. And the less I understood, the further we went and the more we learned. We removed her organs and saw the beauty of the stomach, when held up (still connected to all the other organs) it looked like pizza dough being stretched. You could see through it and observe the lymph vessels that carry the fats, the transport system of the proteins and the miracle of our bodies and each job that every part has. The empty space where the organs once were was the opening that is often referred to in meditation as the “universe that resides within us”. I saw it. It was vast and beautiful and how it could exist in what once looked so small was amazing. We uncovered the pelvic floor muscles. We touched the psoas and saw the distinction in her psoas minor and major. Saw the discrepancy in size in the quadratus lumborum, which explained her bent posture. We saw the beauty of the diaphragm that resembles a jellyfish, attached to the heart.
Our discovery did not end there. Above her heart we were slowly uncovering the mystery of the shoulder. The fine strands of muscles that meet, intersect, cross over and cross under each other. But each defined by the fascia that wraps around them. There was obvious pain associated in the area, but not because the muscles were “wrong” or “bad” or injured. The pain seemed to be because of the interruption in the system that disrupted the flow, the “stuck stress”. At the same time, below her pelvis, we were slowly revealing her femur. The sartorious was lifted from its insertion to begin reflecting away what lies underneath it. One by one, the adductor muscles peeled back and we continued to cut and reflect until her bone was visible. Apparently healthy, firm, white, we lifted and moved her leg out to the side and saw the interaction all the way up through her open abdominal cavity, seeing the movement of the psoas, the pelvic floor, the back muscles. Suddenly, we exposed the acetabullum, the beautiful round head in the hip that looked as big as my fist, pearly white, and heard the slooshing of the synovial fluid in response every time we moved her leg in abduction. It was like watching a miracle of the human body.
All I could think was that we have to move every day. That synovial fluid is a gift only revealed when movement occurs. It is the fountain of life. The fascia which provides the continuous flow through the body and the glide of our structures is the silver strand, which I originally heard as a concept to describe our continuity in the spine, but I now see as a part of all that we are. The foods we eat, the nutrition we provide our bodies, is essential to the functions and the operation of what is inside of us.
There is so much more to be learned, but I am appreciative of the opportunity I had. I hope I can use it to help and to inspire people to move their bodies every day. To fuel their bodies with what it deserves. And to appreciate the effect that our thoughts and our abilities to manage stress have on our bodies. The body wants to be well. It is well-designed. Everything to keep it well is within our grasp. We just have to stay open and connected and live in it well.