The Mudra of Zen

Mark Foote

 

 

 

 

(revised letter to the author of "The Mesoamerican Sacrum Bone: Doorway to the Otherworld")

ox and herdsman vanish

 

I was googling "sacrum" and "seat of the soul", and I found your article; I was very excited to find it.

My interest was keyed by a conversation between Mary and Jesus, reported as follows in "The Gospels of Mary" by Marvin Meyer (© 2004, pg 20):

"I said to him, 'Master, how does a person see a vision, with the soul or with the spirit?' The saviour answered and said, 'A person sees neither with the soul nor with the spirit. The mind, which is between the two, sees the vision...'"

What interests me about this statement is not so much that it is the mind that sees the vision, but the assertion that the mind, or consciousness, takes place between two other aspects of being.

I have my own hypothesis concerning consciousness and two aspects of being. In a nutshell, it goes like this:  the pulmonary respiration acknowledged by both allopathic and osteopathic medicine, and the primary respiration acknowledged solely by osteopathic medicine (in cranial-sacral osteopathy), are coordinated through the sense of location in the occurrence of consciousness. Since the word "spirit" translates literally as breath, and the sacrum was considered to be the seat of the soul at some point in Western history (nobody seems to be sure of when or why), I felt I had a strong parallel in the Gnostic text between a teaching attributed to Jesus and my working hypothesis of mind-body kinesthesiology. I was trying to pin down further why the sacrum was considered sacred in Greece and Rome when I came upon your article, and how amazing to discover that some of the indigenous peoples of the Western hemisphere also regarded the sacrum as a sacred bone.

As to why the sacrum was considered sacred, I think the explanation has to do with something I found in "Mechanical Disorders of the Low Back" by H. F. Farfan (B. S.C., M. D., C.M., F.R.C.S. (C)), published by Lea & Febiger,© 1973, pg 183:   "There is another peculiarity of the erector muscles of the spine. Below the level of the fifth lumbar vertebrae, the muscle contracts in a compartment enclosed by bone anteriorly, laterally, and medially. Posteriorly, the compartment is enclosed by the lumbardorsal fascia. When contracted, the diameter of the muscle mass tends to increase. This change in the shape of the muscle may exert a wedging effect between the sacrum and the lumbardorsal fascia, thereby increasing the tension in the fascia. This may be one of the few instances where a muscle can exert a force by pushing."

returning to the source How does this make the sacrum a sacred bone? To make the explanation, I have to mention that the principal mechanism in the effortless maintenance of an upright posture is reciprocal innervation in the agonist-antagonist muscle pairings of the body, including but not limited to the extensor and psoas muscles of the spine. Here's an example of reciprocal innervation John Upledger gave in one of his books, based on an experience he had lying in an isolation tank (on top of saline water):   Upledger observed that when he relaxed completely, his legs swung gently to the left and to the right. Upledger explained that when his legs swung left, it stretched the fascia on the right side of his body, until the fascia generated nerve impulses to the muscles on the right to contract; when the contraction of muscles on the right caused the legs to swing to the right, the fascia on the left side of the body was stretched, and the fascia on the left generated nerve impulses to the muscles on the left to contract. Upledger's legs were continuously in motion from the left to the right and back again, and the same mechanism is constantly at work in the paired muscle groups that maintain an upright posture.

As I explain in more detail on my webpage (www.zenmudra.com), the sense of location in the occurrence of consciousness can lead the balance of the body to effect the reciprocal innervation necessary to open the joints of the body and in particular the joints of the spine, until consciousness and the associated feeling can occur freely throughout the body to the surface of the skin. Of particular importance in this process is the action of the extensors (erectors) from the sacrum to the bones of the skull along the back of the spine; the action of the extensors as they reciprocate with the psoas I believe can affect the space between the bones of the skull along the sagittal suture, and so affect the nerves that control the volume of fluid in the dural sac that surrounds the brain and extends to the tailbone. The changes in pressure in the spinal fluid are instantaneously effected throughout the dural sac (as a closed hydraulic system), and changes in pressure will affect the pivot of the sacrum on the wings of the pelvis (cranial-sacral theory holds that the sacrum pivots forward and back on the wings of the pelvis with the changes in spinal fluid volume). Because the extensors are enclosed by bone on three sides of the sacrum, and have tension from the fascia behind the sacrum, the changes in the pivot of the sacrum on the wings of the pelvis can exert pressure on the sacrum itself to open the sacroiliac joints.

depiction of Aztec warriors resembling sacrum bone The bone is sacred because when the sacroiliac joints are open, the action of the posture can be generated from the stretch effected by the sense of location in consciousness (see "Shunryu Suzuki and the Zen of ordinary activity", at www.zenmudra.com). To realize action as the function of consciousness before intent is to realize the divine in one's life firsthand, and to have a certainty in such realization depends on feeling that can only be experienced when the joints at the sacrum are open.

In the Gospel of Mary, Jesus is reported to have said:  "For where the mind is, the treasure is".  Likewise, the Zen master Yuanwu (circa 1100 C.E.) wrote:  "The subtle wondrous Path of the buddhas and enlightened teachers is nowhere else but in the fundamental basis of each and every person. It is really not apart from the fundamentally pure, wondrously illuminated, uncontrived, unconcerned mind" (from "Zen Letters Teachings of Yuanwu", translated by J. C. Cleary and Thomas Cleary, © 1994 by J. C. Cleary and Thomas Cleary, pg 96).

It occurs to me that the postures and practices of prayer around the world are frameworks to allow the discovery of the relationship between the sense of location in the spontaneous occurrence of consciousness and the two respirations, particularly as it pertains to the generation of feeling and flexibility at the sacrum.

I would take the point of your article in particular to be that the mind that sees the vision was considered to be dependent on the sacrum bone in some respect, in some of the cultures of ancient Mexico and Central America.

 

Mark A. Foote (quoted material copyright as noted, all other material © Mark A. Foote 2008)

 

The Mudra of Zen