Finding the Ground

After having to reschedule a couple of sessions due to a wall of snow that descended upon Maine, I finally got in to see Gary for my 2nd treatment. After a quick hello, Gary delivered another koan-like statement.

“Today,” he said, “We’re going to find the ground.”

I got the sense that this was his way of planting the conceptual seed of what we’d be working on today, so rather than bombarding him with questions I began the complicated process of shedding the 30 layers of long underwear I had applied in a half-crazed state of early morning frigidity. As I made static in Gary’s treatment room, I decided that I’d ask him about these koan-like statements at the end of my treatment. (Spoiler alert: I forgot, since I was no longer in my head once the treatment was finished.)

After a brief visual assessment, Gary had me get on to the table, belly up. He picked up my right foot and began his work.

Interlude: One summer, when I was living in Oregon, I went tubing down the Sandy River with some friends. As soon as I cracked a PBR (illegal, but recommended) my tube vaporized beneath me. For a millisecond, I hovered above the water, then plunged beneath. Though I grabbed wildly for the waterproofed sack of treats that I’d tied to my tube, it shot downstream in a blur. My friends thought this was very very funny – so funny that they still laugh about it to this day. Apparently a teeny tiny hole and a poor patch job can really cramp a lady’s style.

I swam to the shore, resigned to walk the 3 miles of beach to our end point. About a quarter mile later, I realized with aching dismay that I was still sporting my winter feet. It had been months since I’d walked without shoes, and though smooth river stones are lovely to photograph, walking on top of them for three miles was about as enjoyable as a ketchup sandwich.

As suspected, I survived. I arrived at my destination and my suffering ended as soon as someone handed me a bottle of water and a cucumber sandwich. Later that night, back in Portland, I was out with some friends when I was overcome with a feeling of total awesomeness. I felt really, really good – connected to everything around me, connected to the friends with whom I was having dinner, connected to my body. As I’m wont to do, I immediately began to search for the reason. Why, why, why was I feeling so euphoric, I asked myself. My feet felt especially good, warm and vibrating at their centers.I realized that the barefoot hike down the river had woken my winter feet, and as a result, woken me. 

Gary held my right foot in his hand and applied deep pressure along the medial arch, then instructed me to make micromotions – plantar flexion, dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, dorsiflexion (imagine pointing your toes, then bringing them to your shin, but make each movement tiny, and do it slowly while someone applies strong pressure into the bottom of your foot with physical and energetic precision). Holy mother of gad, it was intense. Similar to the feeling of walking across river stones with winter feet, yet more pointed and controlled. It was intense enough that I had to make an extra effort to keep my breathing calm.

After two minutes, it felt like thin streams of water were running longitudinally up my foot, lower leg and thigh (as an acupuncturist, I know these longitudinal lines as meridians). Thirty minutes later, when Gary was finished with my feet, ankles, hamstrings, and hips, my entire lower body felt like an open field on a mild spring day. I know I’ve switched analogies here – water to earth. But that’s how it felt. From my navel to my toes, things felt spacious and cool.

The best thing about it? If I think about the sensation, even now, I can reproduce it. My body remembers it. A hallmark of good medicine, in my opinion. Throughout the week, I’ve reapplied this lesson to my lower body, especially when I’m sitting at my computer for too long. I’m hoping that this new body knowledge stays with me.