What is your relationship with your belly? What are the consequences of this relationship for you, those you love, all of humanity?
Friday, May 31, 2013 • 7 to 9 p.m.
Garrett Wellness Center
3020 N. Kimball Ave, Chicago, IL
Everett will discuss the physical, emotional and spiritual implications of women’s “belly issues,” gleaned from more than 22 working with his female clients. His experience includes more than 40 years of training in Asian disciplines focusing on the belly as the source of our connection to spirit and authentic power.
Amy will facilitate discussion and sharing about our experiences of living in our bodies and bellies. Amy is a Jungian psychoanalyst and licensed marriage and family therapist, mother and grandmother, with more than 20 years experience working with girls and women. Like many women, she has struggled with body and belly issues, including eating disorders
A microbiome, a world teeming with single-celled organisms, a.k.a. bacteria.
Consider yourself endowed with a newly-named organ. You’ve got heart, lungs, kidneys. Now add “microbiome” to the inventory.
The population of microbes in your gut is big. The 100 trillion bacteria in your gut represent ten times the number of cells in your body that pack your personal brand of DNA. Of all the cells you tote around, only 10% are genetically you. The rest are bacteria, as many as 1,000 different species flaunting 3.3 million unique genes. That’s 150 times the number of genes coded into your 46 chromosomes. That’s a lot of adjunct bio-programming power.
Although the number of microbes is huge, as individuals they’re tiny. Consequently, your gut microbiome comes in at 1 to 3 percent of your body’s mass. A 125-pound adult, for example, is toting between 1.25 and 3.75 pounds of bacteria.
Do not consider eliminating these bacteria for an easy four-pound weight loss. You need them. They’re essential to your physical health and mental sanity.
The roster of bacteria in your gut — which kinds are present in what proportions — depends on factors such as what you eat, which drugs you’ve taken, and how well your immune system is functioning. Depending on the diversity of and balance among your gut-based bacteria, the microbes are busy promoting digestion, making nutrients, secreting enzymes, eliminating infections, influencing mood and behavior.
Mood and behavior? In the summer 2007 issue of the Belly Bulletin, I featured an excerpt from Gut & Psychology Syndrome, the book in which British neurologist and nutritionist Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride reveals the gut microbiome’s influence on the body-mind, especially in relation to childhood autism. She suggests ways to reestablish a healthy population of gut bacteria, largely through a set of food choices that regulate carbohydrates.
A few months after posting the excerpt, I received this news from a reader:
I bought Gut & Psychology Syndrome for a friend whose four-year-old had been diagnosed with autism. He wasn’t speaking.
Then, after being on the diet the book recommends for less than a month, he started speaking in complete sentences and making marked improvements in other areas.
Autism is only one of several body-mind disorders that scientists are considering in relation to what’s going on in the gut. The status of your belly-based bacteria may, for example, play a key role in obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune diseases, allergies, and metabolic syndrome — the collection of risk factors, including insulin resistance, that increase the likelihood of coronary artery disease, stroke, and diabetes.
The current epidemic of intestinal infection with Clostridium difficile, contributing to more than 110,000 deaths per year, has focused all the more attention on the gut microbiome. Because this pathogen forms drug-resistant spores, treatment with antibiotics is frequently ineffective. In fact, previous use of antibiotics has typically destroyed the beneficial bacteria that, if present, could eliminate the infection.
Fecal microbial transplantation, though, has demonstrated more than a 90% cure rate. A sample of bacteria from the gut of a healthy donor, introduced into the patient’s intestine, restores the patient’s microbiome and its ability to eliminate the Clostridium infection.
Fecal microbial transplantation figures in research regarding behavior as well as immunity. Dr. Mark Lyte’s experiments with mice, for example, show that patterns of anxiety and specific responses to stress can be introduced or eliminated depending on what microbes set up shop in the rodent’s gut. The ways in which the microbiome figures in gut-brain communication remain to be detailed.
Whatever the details may be, fecal microbial transplantation has a long history as a protocol for healing. Perhaps the first documentation in Western literature points to the 17th century Italian anatomist Fabricius Aquapendente and his application of fecal microbial transplantation in veterinary medicine.
According to Dr. Faming Zhang and his colleagues, the record of fecal microbial transplantation in China dates to the 4th century. Described in handbooks of emergency and traditional medicine, the practice “was considered a medical miracle that brought patients back from brink of death” due to food poisoning and severe diarrhea.
The Venus of Lespugue, a six-inch tall statuette discovered in 1922 in the foothills of the Pyrenees, was carved from tusk ivory at some point 26,000 to 24,000 years ago. Some investigators suggest the opening between the buttocks functioned as a vessel for microbial transplantation.
While fecal microbial transplantation may have a long history among traditional cultures in China and elsewhere, so do cuisines that enrich the gut microbiome with fermented foods in the form of pickled vegetables, sour milk beverages, soups, and breads. These foods from cultures on every continent — such as natto, miso, tempeh, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, buttermilk, borscht, and sourdough — restore and fortify the gut’s population of beneficial bacteria, a.k.a probiotics.
Breathing and movement exercises that compress and churn the gut also have a long history, in terms of traditional dance, healing ritual, and spiritual practice. For example, age-old yoga practices such as kapalabhati, agni sara, uddiyana bandha, and nauli (and the power-centering exercises in the Honoring Your Belly practice) mobilize the belly. Doing so, they have the potential to activate the gut microbiome and its healing properties.
Taking the perspective of the Asian healing arts, the body-mind functions according to the flow of life force concentrated in various energy centers and coursing through the body’s meridians. Applying this perspective to the gut microbiome, I wonder how the energetic field of all those bacteria interact with the belly-centered energy field called the hara in Japanese, the lower tan tien in Chinese. Likewise, how does the gut microbiome’s energy field interact with the Large Intestine and Small Intestine meridians? How does the Triple Warmer meridian, linking energy centers in hara, heart, and head, figure in gut-brain communication?
Whatever the details, both Western and Eastern perspectives are illuminating the intricate relationships between the belly and the body-mind. Both suggest that what we put into our bodies, and what comes out of our bodies, is sacred — pertinent to survival.
Susun is an herbalist, teacher, healer. She’s founder of the Wise Woman Center as well as the Wise Woman University. Her books include New Menopausal Years: The Wise Woman Way, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, and Healing Wise.
My article on belly health and news about the course follow Susun’s greetings and her great piece about the cabbage family.
Here’s another take I have on the topic:
Sex, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause. Eating behaviors, food allergies, stomach aches, constipation. How you nourish yourself, how you cope with loss and letting go, how your express your creativity. Core vitality, core issues — so much of your life in a woman’s body revolves around your belly.
When something’s out of balance ― in your body’s center, in your center of being ― what can you do? When your belly’s in distress, how can you restore it to health?
This course is all about how, complementing professional health services for diagnosis and treatment, you can energize your capacity for healing.
I invite you to consider gifting yourself with this course, and gathering friends to join you as well. Enrollment is open, so you can start anytime. Click here for more details!
Catch Eve Ensler, creatix of the Vagina Monologues, in a stunning 14-minute interview on Australian tv.
You’ll hear her prescription for ending violence, her take on the devastating impact of patriarchal culture upon men.
She talks about the City of Joy that V-Day helped create in the Congo, a place supporting women who’ve survived extreme sexual violence — for example, gang rape and genital mutilation as a weapon of war — to heal and providing them with opportunities to develop and express their leadership.
She describes how the first graduates of the City of Joy program demonstrate genuine power, distinct from the manipulations of politics-as-usual.
You’ll see in real-time the bond she creates with the woman who’s interviewing her.
Don’t be fooled by the television station’s title for the interview — “we don’t own our bodies.” Clearly, we do. And okay, I can’t resist spilling the beans: Coming back into our bodies, says Ensler, is key to ending violence and healing the world.
In the company of my sewing machine and a scrap of blue fleece, I recently had one of those earth-to-cosmos moments. Attempting to replace the neckwarmer I’d lost, I was figuring out how to make a three-dimensional ring, a torus, from a rectangle of fabric.
In the process, I felt myself becoming transparent to some kind of Big Secret, as if I were replicating in a small but significant way how the universe takes shape. The whole experience was poem-worthy; you can find the poem (including sewing instructions) here.
So what’s a torus (plural: tori; adjective: toroidal) and where does it live? As Foster Gamble says, a torus is an “energy vortex that you can see everywhere … in atoms, cells, seeds, flowers, trees, animals, humans, hurricanes, planets, suns, galaxies and even the cosmos as a whole.”
Apparently, the torus shapes the flow of energy and the form of matter in every nook and cranny of the universe. Toroidal forms include:
My neck gaiter is a ring torus. The human body may well be described as a spindle torus. Seen in two dimensions as in the image below, we find the body’s center, the hara, in the center of the vesica — the shape defined by the intersection of the circles. “The hara is the energetic centre of body according to Eastern tradition”:
The hara-charging Honoring Your Belly practice includes 23 power-centering movement and breathing exercises. The next-to-last gesture, the 22nd move in the sequence, is Heaven and Earth. With our arms upraised at an angle and legs in a wide stance, we indicate the shape of a torus; our belly’s center is the origin.
Wendy Howard’s article Does It Matter? on matter and gravity in relation to the torus is deep, complex, and illuminating. The article offers an animated illustration of toroidal energy flow as well as a hint on how we manifest our intentions. Here’s an excerpt:
All matter exists in a sea of consciousness which organises itself in multi-dimensional nested toroidal flow patterns around seed ‘ideas’ out of which matter ultimately precipitates, anchoring the ‘idea’, and giving form and expression to the conscious imperative in all its myriad expressions. This creates a universe of infinitely nested looping energy processes from the galactic level to the subatomic within an overall hologram maintained by the consciousness of the universe in its entirety, and which is toroidal in its topology.
As mathematician and cosmologist Arthur Young has said, “The self in a toroidal Universe can be both separate and connected with everything else.”
All I can say is: Enjoy your nest!
I’ve recently reconnected with Lisa Bourdon. Lisa and I met nearly five years ago when I led a workshop called Satisfying Hunger: The Secret Your Body Wants to Tell You. At that time she was designing her own workshops for women … involving chocolate.
Lisa’s now a certified life coach/intuitive eating counselor working with women who struggle with their relationship to food. The healing that begins with food and nourishment often, and in time, leads to resolving body image issues as well.
What’s unique: Lisa comes to coaching after two decades in fashion advertising, styling photo shoots to show off gorgeous models in spectacular locations.
So: Lisa B has the inside scoop. Having been a tip-top creative director, she knows exactly what we’re looking at when we look at an ad and find ourselves wanting.
In a recent conversation, Lisa chuckled at the idea that the media might be taking away our power. On the contrary, she sees women giving our power away every time we compare ourselves to an image and judge ourselves unfavorably. As we return our focus to ourselves — what we truly desire, what truly gives us pleasure — we become more and more self-validating. Then media images become irrelevant: “white noise.”
Directing anger toward fashion advertising, the demon “out there,” is certainly one place to start, she says. Ultimately, though, we need to harness that energy to reclaim the truth, strength, and wholeness already within us and create a luscious life.
Here’s to luscious!