Gravity is a Mystery.
For all our wild intelligence and all of our brightest scientific minds, it remains so. Alongside the contributions of Galileo, of Einstein, of Newton, the perspectives of scientific revolution, gravity exists to some of us as a god. Eros. The god of Love, of attraction, the god of desire. Through gravity all things with mass are attracted one to the other. The centre of earth’s mass is drawn to the centre of the sun’s mass. The Eros between them holds us in this spiralling galaxy.
I love that gravity remains a mystery to our human minds and that the invitation of Eros, gravity, its forces and counter-forces, are what we play with as we move about our days. One thing we know is that we must negotiate gravity in our lives on earth. All of our growth and development happen in relation to gravity. The spiralling forms of the vessels, bones, and muscles of our extremities, the vorticial shapes of our organs that sense gravity – are all forged by the dialogue between gravity and the fluid we are formed of and within.
The child in utero develops in a spherical fluid filled envelope. The baby’s form, is itself primarily liquid which gradually becomes more and more condensed. Upon being born, under the directional forces of the earth and the developmental processes of growth, body gradually becomes denser and the internal suspensory processes grow more able to support our uprightness in gravity. These rough and delicate negotiations toward standing become possible in large part through the tiny organs of our inner ears.
In physiological terms, our ears have two distinct sensory functions. The cochlea, as the ear of hearing, equips us to listen to our aural soundscapes. The ear of hearing translates vibrational information from our environment into the spiralling fluid filled cochlea of the internal ear facilitating the metabolism of sound.[iii]
Detecting gravity, being upright, moving, having an experience of ourselves in relation to others is rooted in another structure within the inner vesicle of the ear. The ear of the body or the vestibular organ, facilitates listening for our internal body states.[i][ii] Here, three curving fluid filled semi-circular canals intersect at right angles appearing to have been formed from spiralling movement. This vestibular mechanism or the ear of the body receives information regarding our position in space, our movements, our uprightness as well as the motion of those we are in contact with. The vestibular organ or vestibular mechanism functions via the spiralling motion of its fluid as it passes through these canals to detect horizontal, vertical, and back and forth body motion.[iv] This helps us distinguish velocity and change of direction, working with gravity to identify where we are in space and in establishing the postural tone reflected in the quality of our movement. The vestibular organ helps us listen in on the ongoing dialogue between gravity, the counter-gravity contact forces of the ground and the internal suspensory/tensile forces supporting our bodies in upright standing.
Looking through a neurobiological lens, our vestibular organ or ear of the body receives very specific information. That information is coordinated in our vestibular system – a wider neurobiological network conducting information from; the inner ear, vision, proprioceptive, kinesthetic and touch receptors. Our vestibular system functions to relate the information coming from outside; what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch – with information arising from our internal body; heartbeat, proprioception, sensations of digestion etc. The vestibular system feeds information directly to the cerebellum which helps us to determine whether or not our intended action matches our actual action. It is a foundation for our physical intelligence, contributing to our sense of self and helping to distinguish ourselves from others and our environment.
When people come to see me, more often than not, one of the first thing we address is their relationship with gravity. When someone has a habit of holding themselves up through tension there is limited present moment information available. Moment to moment sensory information is vital if we want to safely navigate our environment, receive pleasure, have choice and agility in movement and expression. Sensing gravity helps people begin find the grounded lightness and vitality they have come to my studio looking for. Typically, in current western culture, most of us must learn to listen for and feel the sensations of gravity in our bodies and to practice resting in gravity regardless of what is happening around us. Gravity can anchor us and offer a sense of home base. In other words, to rest in the eye of the storm rather than being blown around.
To love gravity as our constant and loyal companion is a practice.
One of the most interesting things about osteopathic practice is noticing the common themes and concerns that arise between people who live very different lives from one another. Learning to have a more cooperative relationship with our body in gravity is a big one! This listening practice series is designed in response to what I am learning about your body, needs and curiosities.
It is an invitation to attune to ourselves, each other and our shared world, listening and responding in ways that are co-creative rather than dominating. A practice that invites the organization and coherence of our systems to arise, flow and interact in spontaneous, responsive and adaptive ways. In other words, to access our improvisational intelligence and not be limited to expressing our survival responses only.
In these sessions we will look briefly at some of the current neurobiological research that underlies the practice and invite a quality of internal and inter-relational dialogue wherein we partner with body and Nature, not dictate to it.
Looking forward to listening with you!
LOVING GRAVITY: a listening practice [v]
when: march 16, 23, 30
cost: series of three: $60 + hst,
drop-in: $25 + hst
[i] French otolaryngologist, inventor and doctor of medicine Alfred A. Tomatis coined the term ear of the body to refer to the vestibular mechanism.
[ii] Tomatis & Keeping, 2005
[iii][iii] Schwenk, 1996
[iv] Schwenk, 1996
[v] Loving gravity is a phrase often used by my voice mentor Fides Krucker. Krucker’s philosophy and method deeply informs this practice. https://www.fideskrucker.com/