Of Daggers and Diaphragms

Of Daggers

Many of my afternoon 1A students want to know more about my exploits as a greaser gang member when I was a young teen. I’ve included a memoir excerpt and posted it above under Pages/Memoir/First Waters –  Chapter 2 after the *********, hoping that it communicates the flavor of the life that I lived then. It was a painful time, and I had no idea how to handle the rage that I felt; carrying a switchblade helped me feel less vulnerable. In this way, I was the one in control of the knife for a change.

Rather than join a gang, however, I wish that I could have gotten help. I couldn’t go to my parents with my problems, and therapy was certainly not an option in my working class neighborhood in the 1960’s. I was sent to see the school psychologist for misbehavior, but his sophistication level was low. I took a Rorschach test, which made me feel childish and confused, and another test in which I literally inserted various objects into the appropriately-shaped holes cut into a piece of plywood, another infantilizing activity. So much for adolescent psychology in the mid-20th century.

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Of Diaphragms

I’m thrilled about an image that came to me in meditation yesterday that has helped me understand my Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) more completely. I am shaking out a sheet inside a duck cage, similar to the cage in which my actual ducks sleep at night. I want to unfurl the sheet, but the space is limited. I am unable to shake it to the point where it extends to its full length, but I keep trying. This sheet represents my diaphragm, that muscular tissue stretching between the thoracic and the abdominal cavities that expands on inhale and contracts on exhale.

Years ago when I was having a one-on-one bodywork session with my breath therapist Juerg, he confirmed that as a baby, I probably restricted the expansion of my diaphragm during and after the surgery; I wouldn’t have wanted pressure on my recently-surgeried stomach, for the diaphragm, when breathing naturally, pushes against the stomach and other internal organs. Breathing fully would have been painful.

The meditation taught me that my diaphragm is still limited. In fact, it’s somewhat frozen. Often I find myself holding my breath or barely breathing, especially as I read. (I’ve discussed this in previous posts, such as PTS Strikes.)  Since the meditation, I’ve been much more aware of when I’m holding my breath and when I’m breathing shallowly. As a result, I am able to let go of the tension and breathe more fully. I am excited about my new awareness of this pattern and will keep you posted. The insights keep coming. It’s a special time of illumination and healing. We all have so much to learn from our bodies and from our super-conscious mind.

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