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Mark Foote

Post title:  Aviation Terms:  A Conversation

(Jul 20 2014 at 07:21 PM)




I get out of balance sometimes because something's not quite comfortable in my posture and I've somehow become numb to it, and over the years I have formed a habit of checking where I left myself physically when things get weird.

That's why I wrote:

'My own practice in response to any "cutting off" of breath is to look to discern pitch, roll, and yaw wherever my awareness takes place ("bite through here"), as a critical aspect for me of letting go of action in favor of a spontaneous experience of sense.'

Indeed, it's doing something, but it is really only the recollection of the latest in a long trail of investigations that grew out of mindfulness. The question is, does anyone else benefit from hearing such a recollection. I think the answer is yes, but I only have one example of it with regard to my recollections.


"pitch, yaw and roll are aviation terms that apply to an aircraft flying through space. How does that apply to humans, who when not ensconced inside of transport vehicles, are always touching the ground and subject to gravity?"


mb, try something for me, please. If you are seated, after you read this close your eyes, and see if you can register where your awareness is in your body.

Ok, now see if you can add a sense of motion forward and backward at the location of awareness. What happened to the location of awareness?

For me this is effective, but I have a lot of training in connection with the induction of trance through relaxation in conjunction with inhalation and exhalation, so I don't know if you will experience what I experience.


Hmm... I tried your suggestion and it had some kind of tangible imaginative effect that's hard to describe. But now I get the sense you are applying these terms more to subtle (energy) body orientation than to physical?


mb, thanks for giving it a shot. I'm always interested to hear.

Right away you will probably come to a relationship between motion at the sacrum, regularly initiated by the psoas rocking the pelvis as it slides over the front corners, and the location of awareness. The action of the obturators to hammock the hips from the pelvis and allow a turning motion in the action of the sartorius, the gluts, the tensors, and the piriformis may cross your mind, the weight of the body "with no part left out" may focus from the lower front of the abdomen across the PC's to the tailbone (and up the spine to the head bones), the surface of the skin may come forward.

Or not.

On some level it's just where I am, and a distinction of the senses that comes of its own accord.


Well, it all seems a bit esoteric, even though I do recognize the muscle names you cite from having looked at several yoga anatomy books and I know their general locations within the body. What are the "PC's"? Are you actually able to recognize and distinguish the actions of these individually-named muscles from each other yourself? If so, that's quite a talent. As to "adding motion" to the "location of awareness", my experience yesterday in that little exercise was that the "location of awareness" kind of expanded in its internally-perceived "size". Beyond that, I'm not sure what you're onto-- I know it has much more meaning and specificity to you. I was just trying to get you to explain what the "pitch, roll and yaw" apply to since we aren't airplanes or boats. And you seem to be referring to those motions in relation to the muscles that come into play around the sacrum and how that affects the "location of awareness". All right, enough for now.


I can see that. What happens if you allow for movement in the sense of location?


Maybe that "sense of location" can be perceived as bobbing around those 3 axes of movement in a kind of quasi-physical sense, just as an airplane moves through air or a boat through water. That's my vague sense of it. I really don't know what your definition of "allow for movement" is. And I don't want to tie my mind in knots trying to come up with some kind of discombobulated intellectual understanding either, so I'll just let it percolate.


What you are describing is what I experience, as well.

Here is something from my notes of December, 2012 that I hope will make sense to you on the basis of your experience; this is "humbleone" from "The Tao Bums", talking about using the exercise to get back to sleep:

"I woke up at 4:30 AM, after a quick drink of water. returned to bed and tried your practice.
I hope I did it correctly, I was somewhat surprised that my mind moved around quite a bit. not fast, but in slow motion the awareness would shift, from left cheek to right side of torso etc. The end result was a light sleep state, but I was glued to the bed and then woke up exactly at 6AM, feeling refreshed like I had a complete 8 hours of sleep."

Clearly the context in that case was falling asleep, humbleone (his pseudo on Tao Bums) was having difficulty waking up and being unable to get back to sleep. He was actually able to get back to sleep consistently with this practice (allowing movement in the sense of location). I asked him to try it in the daytime (with his eyes open), and he discovered what he described as a sense of peace when he did.

What's the significance in zazen? The sense of location and the three motions there help me to discover the stretch I'm in at the moment, so I can relax particular activity. That helps. When I'm relaxed, I fall awake the way humbleone fell asleep, everything enters in with nothing left out and the place where I am sits.


mb, thank you for your feedback. I can use all the help I can get, as far as my communication.

'What are the "PC's"? Are you actually able to recognize and distinguish the actions of these individually-named muscles from each other yourself?'

That would be the pubococcygeus muscles.

A lama who lectured at Shambala Sonoma spoke of how his teacher would show him a card with a mandala on it, then turn the card over and ask him to recreate the mandala in his mind (the lama did not say how the exercise applied in his spiritual training, but the lama who was speaking clearly felt it was important).

That's what I have with regard to the activity of the muscles I mentioned: an image of my body that I have built up in my mind.

Yes I do sometimes isolate the action of what I believe are the muscle groups I named, and sometimes I might even contract a muscle slightly to recall how that action affects the stretch I'm in. So, for example, I'm contracting something between my leg and the upper wing of the pelvis that turns the pelvis ; I'm thinking "sartorius". Is it the sartorius-- "nyah, could be", as the bunny said.

Or under the pelvis to the hip bones in a side-to-side motion, activity pulling on the hips that seems to leverage me into the seat-- obturators? Got that one from "Anatomy in Movement". I tend to forget about psoas, rocking the pelvis as it slips across the pubic bones and stretching open the ilio-sacral joints, but if I relax I do believe it does. Ida Rolf was big on the psoas.

It's a trick, because the action of particular muscles described in the texts varies according to which part is held still, and they're not usually assuming you're sitting cross-legged or doing one of the poses of Tai-Chi. I have taken my best guess at the names but the places and actions have been fairly consistent.

The PC is interesting, because it's not about contraction per se for me (what, no Kegels?)-- it's about the sense of weight and no part of the body left out, and the alignment of the tailbone and spine, that's the way it seems.

I built up an image, maybe the names are right, maybe I feel the piriformis rotating the sacrum opposite the gluts and tensors, maybe I just feel more in general when I think I can feel the piriformis rotating the sacrum and so I assume I have the description right when in fact something else is going on.

I know I'm inspiring confidence (not).


"I tend to forget about psoas, rocking the pelvis as it slips across the pubic bones and stretching open the ilio-sacral joints, but if I relax I do believe it does. Ida Rolf was big on the psoas."

Yes, some anatomy-oriented yoga teachers also emphasize the psoas, so I know where that is (deep paired left right lowest abdominal muscles on the inside of the pelvis).

"The PC is interesting, because it's not about contraction per se for me (what, no Kegels?)-- it's about the sense of weight and no part of the body left out, and the alignment of the tailbone and spine, that's the way it seems."

In yoga, the PC is known as: mula bandha, the perineum. No kegels for guys, but everyone can contract this area. Just as Rolf emphasizes the psoas, Heller body workers emphasize the importance of learning to contract this area. It's strangely related to lower spine support.

And good for you for constructing an artistic approximation of the rest of them. There are probably crazy anatomy-philes out there who have actually learned the feeling and action of each of those other ones...


mb, couple of other things that I think are interesting, you can decide. First is that if you are alert to the three directions of motion where awareness takes place with the eyes open, there can be a sense of continuity; it's a little less of what humbleone described, and a lot more like tan-t'ien with no part left out (usually). I believe this is because of the tight connection between the vestibular organ and the eyes, the eyes can reset the way the vestibular sense is read (in effect).

"Chan Chou asked T'ou Tzu, 'How is it when a man who has died the great death returns to life?'

T'ou Tzu said, 'He must not go by night; he must get there in the daylight.'"

(Blue Cliff Record, case 41, trans. T. Cleary pg 297)

Other thing would be Raymond Richard's assertion in "Lesions of the Sacrum" that the ligaments and fascia that connect the sacrum to the pelvis, and the articulations of the sides of the sacrum and the edges of the pelvis, allow the sacrum to not only pivot forward and back, but on the diagonals and around the vertical plumb line. He further asserts that in the normal course of affairs the sacrum can move to a lower, more open pivot on the pelvis, and in one of my writings I mention that this is fundamental in a slight vertical stretch of the extensors so that action of the sacrum can be carried upward through the three sets of extensors to the head bones.

Is it so? Maybe. I don't really feel the sacrum moving to a different pivot, but if I am mindful of the action of the psoas loosening the fascial connections between the sacrum and pelvis then the weight of the body (in whatever part comes to mind, no part left out) does seem eventually to set me upright, like a dunking Chinese chicken toy.

My favorite quote, of late:

"When you arrive at last at towering up like a wall miles high, you will finally know that there aren't so many things."

(Yuanwu, "Zen Letters", translated by Thomas Cleary, pg 83)

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