Friday, March 12, 2010

My Lungs Are My Heart

The verdict is in. Between massage, acupuncture and sickness in the last three weeks, it's become apparent to me that the upside-down lobed leaf shape of my lungs is actually the heart here in my body. The heart, more shaped like a tangle of weaving, must be doing something else, because my lungs are doing all of the feeling.

Last night, after a forum at the Overture Center on Miksang, a few of us went out for a drink at Nick's on State. A massage therapist was there, and a couple of the folks had gone to a talk the night before done by a neuroscientist who claimed, amongst other things, that we really are just a skin apart from each other, if that. Our energy is barely contained - hostile or helpful - and we can show this with brain scans for the non-believers who won't get anything out of seeing a psychic or getting Reiki done. The massage therapist mentioned how the body holds memories, how doing work on a person can literally release a memory from the body and one can "feel to heal" through having skillful massage done on them. Someone asked if everyone stores memories in the same places - all childhood trauma in place x, for instance - and she said no, but some trends (and I was thinking in my mind, like chakras) show up similar places - grief in the (no, don't say it) lungs, for instance.

I've known this for a long time. My very first acupuncturist at 19 told me that lungs were the center of grief in the body, since I would come to him again and again with respiratory problems. It often wasn't the sensation my heart breaking, but the clutter of so many losses filling my lungs with phlegm that would finally drive me to get help. My lungs would not lie, since the body does not lie, and even if I ignored the stories, the tears would - and still do - get stuck there, causing me to stop and rest and breathe through it.

A few weeks ago I went to New Mexico for a mega combination trip - two weekends of teaching Miksang in ABQ, one week in Taos with Natalie Goldberg (last of the intensive) and then a week of vacation with Dylan, passing from Taos to Santa Fe and back to ABQ to teach. I was very stressed upon departure - neck and shoulders, which are my pre-lung problem areas, very tense and locked up. I tried to get a massage in ABQ, but it fell through, then didn't schedule one until too late, so it wasn't until I'd been in New Mexico for over a week that someone finally broke up all the muscles (with a small contribution a couple of days before by a retretant friend) and tension. It turned out, as is often the case in Taos, that the masseuse is an energy worker, psychic and massage therapist, so she put all her senses to work, noting my feet were holding something back and that I am "strongly sensitive" (ah, yes). When she got to my lungs and chest, shoulders and neck, she said: "You have a lot of sadness in there," she ended, and she was right.
My body responded and let it all go, which she noted was wonderful but also likely to cause some post-massage messiness.

Did it ever. I spent all of the rest of the weekend, the end of the retreat, crying. By the time we got to Sunday night, the last night of the retreat, I felt feverish and stuffed. By Monday morning I was full-on sick; dizzy, coughing, sore throat and clogged sinuses. Dylan arrived that afternoon and I did my best to keep up with introducing him to everyone and entertaining, but by Tuesday I was totally worn. We did a modified version of the activities we had hoped to do in Taos, and as we went down the mountains into Santa Fe and ABQ, I limited my contribution to the trip to driving. No hiking, no supporting the local businesses or seeing all the art of Santa Fe. Just resting, crying, mourning the loss of my vacation and my inability to process the grief of the ending retreat because I was, ironically, sick. Sick in the lungs, by the next weekend, coughing so hard I woke with well-defined abs after the third night of being up hacking late.

Returning home, where my heart really is the most at ease, even with loving hosts in all three cities in New Mexico, has calmed a lot of the cough. After a week of sleeping a lot but also hurrying to catch up on things the cold left me behind on last week, I finally got to acupuncture today. Cupping and poking, essential oils and some herbs are already helping to thin the last of it and put me back into balance. When I mentioned to the acupuncturist that I have often had respiratory problems in my life, she smiled. "Sensitive people often do," she said, and that's when the image of my lungs being my heart came to mind. Lungs, the inside skin, the way the oxygen that eventually feeds the heart even enters. Lungs are the sleeves of our inner organs, our first defenses and most publicly reached inner place. I wear my heart on my sleeve; breathing in whatever hurts me and whatever helps me almost too easily. At least they are as much a benefit as a cold bug catching grief basket.


  1. I totally get it! all of it.
    body storing memories, lungs as grief nets -- makes sense. Thanks for sharing your last 3 weeks.

  2. Thanks, Ali. I thought you might get it.
    : )

  3. I never thought of the lungs holding grief, miriam, that's really interesting. Over the past few years (notably, since mom died) I've had a variety of chest pains and breathing problems -- mostly this year, actually. Thanks for writing this entry and for detailing your trip for us. Love to you! And we must get together soon! I have next week free except for wed.

  4. Oh man. Hugs! It was good to read this beautiful piece and hear what's been happening to you. I love you!