Body Image: look at it another way

Blog: What allows you to stand upright? 

Creativity Skill: Looking at it another way 

by Paula Perlman

I recently attended a two-day workshop on experiential anatomy facilitated by Banafsheh Sayyad.  After we were ¾’s of a way through the workshop the leader asked “what allows you to stand upright?” It all depends on  which eyes you are looking through. Some participants answered through the lens of the structure of the body.  Anatomically, there are six structural muscles:  the multifidus that run along the spinal column, the quadratus lumborum which attach from the ribs to the upper pelvic bone (iliac crest of the illium), the pectoralus major in the upper chest,  the sternocleidomastoid in the neck,  the psoas connecting the upper and lower body in abdominal region and the rhomboids which attach the shoulder blade (scapulae) to the spinal column. Some people answered from a spiritual perspective saying that it was the higher powers that keeps us vertical. Artist Ruth Rieffanaugh, with a psychological bent,  put it this way, “it made me think how important our treatment of others can affect their erectness.  Of great importance is who we surround ourselves with to contribute to the deep feeling we carry within us.”   I answered, "it is the feet touching and planted on the ground with an image of roots going downward and the upward pull from just above  the core of the body (that area 3 inches below the navel and 2 inches in, also called the dantien in Chinese medicine) and the soft spot around the dantien that is flexible. It is the body experience of those two things happening at the same time that is so compelling to uprightness, verticality and length in the body." 


I love the question because most of us spend a large portion of the day upright and may never think about what is it that allows and keeps us that way aside from functionally having to accomplish certain tasks that require putting one foot in front of the other.  This  question brings forth the idea that there are many ways to inquire into and reflect upon and experience the body. One of  my teachers, Peggy Hackney, called these ‘inroads’ into the body.  Inroads range from an intellectual understanding of anatomy and how muscles, bones, ligaments and fluids interconnect to make an integrated experience of the parts of the body, to sensorial and emotional inroads in which the emotions, sensations and feelings experienced are identified in different areas of the body, to the just being driven and curious about something and ‘up and forward we go,’ to the  sensory aspect of pain and how pain calls our attention to the body, to using imagery as a tool  to deepen connection with inner life and outer manifestations of it,  to the spiritual inroad and the ‘knowing’ belief that the body is a manifestation of the divine, of the God within us.  When I was studying dance therapy we were taught that movements are either functional or expressive.  I like that  different  inroads also expand our awareness to being present with ourselves in the experience of being one with the body no matter what one’s particular orientation to understanding the body’s experience is.  Being one with anything brings that moment of totality, that heightened

sense of aliveness and captivated in something so magnificent that no matter what happens I could die and it would be alright because I had the feeling of being alive.  There is no right or wrong here. Looking at things from different points of view and becoming so intimate with your subject that you reach a state of oneness speaks directly to the essence of a creative experience.

I invite you to take some time with the question “what allows me to stand upright?”  It could lead you to your values and how you view your body and to explore other ways to be at one with this incredible machine capable of thought,  expressivity, serenity, communication, love, healing, and being with oneself and being with others. 


blog: dec. 13, 2017

ode to now

dedicated to the youth looking for work and purpose

when the days are dark

and the earth is dry,

nothing like art to keep you smart,

you write it, you draw it and you hit the drum,

and you get out and you get some physical exercise

and git off that bum,

and love thyself, believe in you

for, I know, I do too.


creation of a new word


inspired by this holiday card photo

snow with two figures .jpg