Monday, December 7, 2009

Tympanic membrane, anvil, hammer

I am squatting like an Indian, holding a tepid mug of tea in my two hands, rocking forward onto my toes, back on my heels, bouncing off the cushion beneath me, rocking back to my toes… In a flash, my writer’s block is relieved.

Rocking is medicine. Sometime over the summer I learned that any kind of mental congestion, overheat, can be resolved by swinging in a hammock. A lazy push is necessary, simply laying in the hammock isn’t enough.


Most every massage session I’ve ever given began with my rocking my client on the table. It is a convenient way to introduce my body to theirs, an on-again, off-again touch, not an intrusive, immediate laying-on-of-hands. I think it is such an unusual movement for them after a full day of sitting stiff in an office chair, that it breaks their mental tunnel vision and allows them to be present once again in their bodies. It makes my job easier – rather than mowing down ranks of rigid muscles with lethal elbows, I can cajole a body to let go of its own accord.

There’s some science here. I tell my massage students about it, in hopes that they will employ compassionate techniques like these, saving their clients’ and their own bodies from agony. But is there any need, really, to dissect what every mother has known since the her first child drew breath - that gentle movement is grounding, and brings even the most recalcitrant child back to the safe haven of its body?


I would gather and rock in my arms Tony, who slipped from a bridge weighted by deep and inexplicable sadness. I would rock the water from his ears and warm his body, pressed close to mine.

I would gather and rock my mom, with too many maladies to count, in hopes of healing cognitive connections, in prayer for miracles.

I would gather and rock my old friend Erin, rock until all her pieces came back together, sifted into their places, and made her whole again.

I would gather and rock all the people for whom there is nothing else I can do, but give of my body.


In the depths of despair over losing my mother’s mind, I was saved by the love of my boyfriend. The rhythms of our heartbeats, the rise and fall of our breaths, were enough.

In college I sat one night in meditation with some dear friends. In the silence, listening to my heartbeat, I felt a slight rocking caused by the pulse of blood through my body. I was pleased to feel my own rhythm, permeating my entire being.


We are outrageously out of touch with ourselves. In what other place and time have we so skewed the balance between body and mind, thudding heart and intellect, such that our bodies are merely the vehicle for our brains? Asses slung in office chairs, we touch just with the tips of our fingers, while our minds whir away about nothing to do with our being. Our bodies whisk our minds home at the end of the day. The car radio is blasting; maybe we don’t even use our ears – tympanic membrane, anvil, hammer – to hear it.

Or perhaps the music is unexpectedly moving – a holy choir chorusing out into a dark night – and one cannot help but listen, reverberation of another’s throat in ear – and what is that ache in my chest, suddenly, at beauty? The crash backwards into my body is painful. Where have I been? What have I missed, oh body?


A violin string plucked will cause the instrument’s body to resonate for 24, and then 48 hours. After an hour of practice, the instrument will continue its steady, warm hum for two days, before falling silent, growing cold.

What if we are similar? Must we plow the furrows of each others’ fingertips to maintain a healthy resonance? Do we fall silent when we do not rub up against one and other?


I know this – when I do not touch, when all is done for me, I lose the groundedness of being. Shivering in my skin, pouring morning tea, steam billowing toward my face… holy, holy, I am alive.