|Another Excerpt from Elizabeth’s Book The Path with Heart: Movement Alchemy to Wake Your Inner Fire Chapter 10: The Power of Wisdom – Living in the Bullseye.
Martin is a delightful, talented, brave jester who has been a dancer, a performance artist and a drag queen. Then he got sober, owned a successful Pilates studio but found it too much to run. It was not his nature. He sees the footprints of the Divine Mother every where.
A lover of magic and a natural reader of signs, Martin told me he knew he was meant to study with me when I started talking about spirals as riding vortexes of energy. We became fast friends.
One day, several years after our first meeting, Martin called me from the emergency room in tears, terrified and all alone. I could barely understand him as he struggled to speak through his sobs. He couldn’t move his legs. Everything was fine when he had gone to bed the night before. Then he woke up in the morning and was paralyzed.
Martin’s second thoracic vertebrae had deteriorated and was pressing on the nerves to his legs. Surgeon’s removed the vertebrae and filled the space with a metal plug, resembling a cigar. Mercifully, his legs and feet regained their feeling and he was able to walk but he was left with permanent nerve damage and searing pain in his feet.
That was three years ago. Since then, Martin, my beloved student and Nature Sprite, a man for whom the cruelty of the mundane is just too harsh, has been living with constant pain and visiting every pain management specialist he can find.
What Story Does the Second Thoracic (T2) Vertebrae Tell?
When we are in the womb, our spine is curled over our organs. These bowl-like curves of the skull, the thorax and the pelvis make up what is known as the primary curves of our body. They form a bony protection around our primitive, vulnerable ‘food body’.
When we are ready to sit, stand and walk, we lead with our eyes and head. We are like little turtles tentatively poking our heads out of our shells to test the world. First, we lift and reach out with the head and neck, then we extend the legs. This is when the secondary curves of the neck and lower back (the ones that go the opposite way) come into play to begin their balance/counterbalance function. These are the places most back problems happen.
T2 lives just below the base of the neck, the axis point of head lifting. It’s intimate with our first movements to expand our little curled up selves into the surrounding world. It’s also where the energy begins to enter the narrows of the neck, another tricky passage, on it’s journey to the crown chakra at the top of the head.
T2 is the first point where your spine connects to your ribs. It’s intimate with your heart and your lungs; with loving, inspiration, playfulness, the natural unfolding of your sweetness, and sharing the gift of your you-ness. It also registers feeling unloved, depressed and contracted. Every time you reach out, embrace or push away, T2 sits as a sentinel, between the upper blades – witnessing, adapting, keeping score by knitting those memories into little layers of fascial padding. If you have a looser structure, your body collapses a bit and the upper thoracics can curve forward into lordosis, the widow’s hump. More tightly wound people, stiffen up and pull back contracting the flow of energy through this point, like you’re being pulled up by the back of your collar. If you jut your chin out or displace your head forward, the energy flow around T2 is also going to suffer. Emphasizing the energetic connection from your pelvic floor to the roof of your mouth helps to reroute your energy arc up toward the higher chakras in the head center instead of stopping at the neck. T2 also has a party line straight down to the bottoms of your feet, rooting you into the stability and negative polarity of Mother Earth.
When he was healthy and coming to class, Martin’s big issue was softening and opening.
He was tough. He had to be. He was growing up as a walk-in, as glittering stardust plopped into a suburban hallucination in Coma Land, Texas. Yet, Martin was unstoppable. He risked. He dared. He was quicksilver warmth and humor. That’s what was required for the survival of his delicate soul.
It took it’s toll on his body though.
He presented with rigidity, like he was holding himself up by the scruff of his neck. He held so much tension in his bound body that when the holding released and his energy began to flow, he shook like a wet dog. Now, shaking during a pose is common and it’s a good thing. It’s a release of an old holding pattern and a discharge of bound energy.
In fact, we encourage shaking. Grounded shaking has a way of resolving into fluid pulsation, motility and energy streaming where it did not flow. The body has a chaotic moment as it seeks a new, more coherent form for itself. If we are all innately gifted with one extraordinary super power, it’s our ability to be Shape Shifters.
Previously believed to be a siddha (advanced yogic power) earned by great masters, the province of dakinis and shamans, shapeshifting is really part of who we are from our earliest, most embryonically-savant selves. If there is one thing for certain that’s happening in the womb, when the embryo is adapting to changes in it’s development from a a worm-shape to a fish-shape to a tadpole-shape it’s shape shifting! It’s shape reflects the internal dynamics of fluids swirling into and around the solids it’s forming. Once you remove the blocks and let the restrictive structures of body and mind go, is never linear or predictable. It’s always a mystery, often ironic and incredibly poetic.
Martin learned how to ‘turn on’ the electric body. He learned how to create enough safety and grounding for himself so that his tremors became pulsations and undulations. Instead of compressing his vertebrae and bracing against gravity, Martin opened himself spherically, like a tensegrity structure. He found support and connection in new places. He explored multidimensional movement.
He listened to his inner rhythms as he harmonized with the contracting-expanding-contracting pulse of the Nad, the cosmic song.
We are basically fluid, dynamic waves spiraling open and closed in three dimensions. We spend our lifetimes being constantly bombarded by cosmic radiation and exposed to all manner of fuckery. But, if we are one thing, it is adaptable. Right down to how we shape ourselves, we adapt to survive or we adapt to win.
This adaptability thing is really our genius.
It means we can reshape ourselves, from the inside out. We can find our blocks, our distortions and our contractions by looking at where life stops us. This is where we stop ourselves. We can use that as a roadmap to our evolution.
By engaging in a practice that calls us to sit in the bullseye and let the energy flow through us, through the central esoteric channels, we can track the multiple levels of of fluctuating structure and streams of energy flow. They participate in an erotic coupling. They create and recreate a homeostasis of membrane and psyche. The bullseye becomes little still pools of energy potent with the fire of creation.
Martin Finds His Homeostasis Again and Again and Again
Martin’s healing journey has come a long way in the five years since his health crisis. Like all of us, he still has a long way to go. You could say that life is a journey that heals us, that ripens us into the fullness of our beauty, if we let it work it’s magic on us.
He recently got married and is now sharing his life with a kind, loving, constant man. Through it all, Martin has never lost his sense of humor, his generous nature, or his welcoming, kinda crushingly-strong, long hugs. That boyish innocent elf with the stars in his eyes is still there.
Oh, and he just came back to class. Sometimes he gets frustrated with how far he has fallen away from his practice but, generally he is gentle with himself. He works and rests, works and rests. He’s coaxing his body to drink the waters of life force. Martin reminds me of Percival. Remember the story of Percival, the compassionate hero? Caring and the action that springs from that is what restored the life to the kingdom. This is the wisdom of the true hero from outside the fold. He comes to restore the flowing river through our center.
The Great Reckoning of Pain
I cannot even presume to imagine living with the challenge of constant pain, as Martin has. My heart goes out to those who do. Pain has a way of taking over every aspect of our lives. It also has the potential to accelerate the soul’s growth dramatically.
There is a fine difference between a poison and a medicine. Working with every belief, facing every fear, battling despair from a fog of exhaustion, it’s all going to rise to the surface. Finding life, flow and an island of peace in that is making fine art out of life.
Mercy helps us manage it. If we learn to work creatively with it, it transfigures us. Meet it and we are comforted by angels of Grace. There is no more powerful alchemy than drinking the elixir of pain.
The Art of Sitting in the Bullseye
Somewhere along the way, Martin learned The Art of Sitting in the Bullseye. He learned how to show up there for himself. As hard as it was, he accepted what is. He showed up for himself in that unbearableness, not to fix or change anything, just to be there caring, loving and constant, for himself. He found out he was not alone there, that life flows there too.