I have not given much attention or thought to my spine, despite it being such an awe-inducing body part. It provides me with strength and support, uprightness and dignity. We get a sense of how important this vertebral column is when we see someone in a wheel-chair as a result of an injury to the spinal cord it protects.
I became more aware of my spine when I discovered I have scoliosis or a curvature of the spine. Looking in a mirror, I noticed that one of my shoulders was higher than the other. Scoliosis is also an indication of aging, a sign of the cumulative wear and tear on the spinal structures.
In literary and religious writings this body part has been seen as a replica of the cosmic tree and as a ladder reaching up to the heaven of the brain. It's a track for kundalini energy to travel upon, the "coiled power" in the Hindu tradition that rests at the base of the spine and when activated can bring about both spiritual and sexual ecstasy or bliss. In the Christian tradition we read the words of Mechthild of Magdeburg who said: "The Holy Spirit flows through us with the marvelous creative power of everlasting joy." So the next time I feel a surge of energy traveling up my spine I will give thanks and be happy!
Besides expressing gratitude to my spinal cord in prayerful body scans, I am looking forward to trying out this ritual from Sobonfu Some, one of our Living Spiritual teachers. In Welcoming Spirit Home, she shares this African "back bonding" ritual:
"They sit back-to-back, usually grandmother to granddaughter and grandfather to grandson, and allow their spine bones to protrude and touch each other's. In this way they are able to deeply communicate. They stay in a meditation posture for as long as needed. Sometimes they sing or tell each other stories. Bones in our culture represent memory; bones carry stories in them. When you sit with your spine touching another person's spine, it is like transferring information from one computer station to another."
It pleases me to think of my spine not only as a cosmic tree but also as a vehicle for downloading to the younger generation some of the stories and wisdom I have accumulated over the years.