First year of medical school, we learn the basics of human anatomy. Bones, muscles, nerves, vessels…we learn the building blocks of what, for the osteopathic physician, are basic components of the masterpiece and symphony, which is the human body.
Just like any new endeavor, we first learn the basics. What is a bone? What is a tendon? What is a ligament? Which muscle is which? What is fascia? What is the difference between an artery and a vein? What nerve branches into what? Things that eventually become second nature to us must begin somewhere.
After memorizing the basics, we begin slowly weaving things together. We learn to integrate the separate segments into a whole living and ever changing organism.
This integration is the key component to Osteopathic medicine; a skill that develops over time. We take extra classes, read extra books, and most importantly use our hands to learn directly from our patients.
Lately, I’ve been watching a lecture series called, “Human Embryology” by Dr. Brian Freeman, PhD. Twelve intense hours of in-depth and step-by-step analysis of human development, from what Dr. Freeman calls a, “biodynamic perspective”.
What does Dr. Freeman mean by “biodynamic perspective”? Simply put, rather than memorizing dates, stages, and structures like you might in a college embryology class, he explains the developing embryo in a functional and integrated way. For example, instead of simply stating, “the myotome develops from the somite” he explains how the development occurs and how one cannot develop without the function of the other.
Don’t worry if you have no idea what a somite or myotome is. My point is the importance of understanding how different parts of our development are affected and influenced by the other. The entire embryo acts as a syncytium; a group of cells clustered together constantly shifting depending on environmental stressors. A beautiful ballet directed by forces science is unable to quantify at this point in time.
I find this information valuable because it gives me a unique perspective into my osteopathic treatments. Who is to say our bodies ever stop operating as the embryo? Who is to say the music has an end? Sorry Don McLean, your song is catchy but I respectfully disagree.
In addition, a lot can be learned about how we function as adults by how we develop as an embryo. For example, nerves supply the nutrients that help form developing muscle cells. Therefore, if I diagnose a dysfunctional muscle in an adult, does it do them any good for me to simply treat the muscle? Or shall I first treat the nerve that innervates that muscle?
If I haven’t lost you by now, you may be thinking, “what on Earth is she talking about?” or alternatively, “wow, that makes a lot of sense”. It all comes back to the basics- “Anatomy, anatomy, anatomy!” as A.T Still would say. Bones. Nerves. Muscles. Vessels. Fascia. Organs. Connections. First year of medical school.
The funny thing about anatomy (and embryology for that matter) is that it is always changing.
What? Yes. Changing.
New discoveries are made all of the time on both the gross and microscopic level. New connections, new structures, new functions…You would think that something like anatomy wouldn’t change over the years but it does. Anatomy is a science and science changes with new discoveries.
Last year, I went to a 4-day conference that focused only on fascia, the spider-webby stuff surrounding all of our muscles, nerves, vessels, bones, and organs. 4 days of nothing but fascia! Some people were saying that fascia is the key to existence. Others were saying it is garbage. Bottom line is it is there. We can see it, touch it, analyze it…there is no manual to tell us why it is there and exactly what it does. We have to study it to find out. Trial. Error. Study. Analyze. Re-analyze. Thus is life right?
I decided on January 1st, 2013 that this year I would learn and integrate into my life the process of forgiveness. Wow, did I just change the topic? Yes. And no. Just bare with me.
I came to this decision based on knowing that when someone hurts me, I tend to not speak to, ignore, and distrust the perpetrator for an in-definite amount of time. Depending on the person, my relationship to them, and how badly they hurt me, the time ranges from weeks to years. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember.
As a woman traveling on an exponential spiritual path, I figured it is about time I tackle this trait of mine once and for all. My growth as a woman and healer will be hindered until I figure it out.
Forgiveness. Easy enough right? One New Year’s resolution…I can handle that.
Handel yes, easy, no.
As I started to ponder forgiveness, I realized that just like anatomy, it becomes a lot more complicated the more you study it.
I knew I had to start with the basics.
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is defined as, “the renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation, or anger as a result of a perceived offense, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution”. Okay…what does that mean?
What is the difference between forgiveness and compassion? Between forgiveness and suppression? Acceptance? When do you know if you have forgiven versus forgotten? In what circumstances is forgiveness essential? And lastly, can you forgive someone and still not trust them?
Too many questions. Too many worries. Not enough basics.
In comparing my thoughts and worries about forgiveness, I realized the ability to forgive comes down to a syncytium of few simple ideas.
Trust. Listening. Confidence. Strength. Acceptance.
Bones. Nerves. Muscles. Vessels. The Whole.
Lets begin with the idea of trust.
The majority of circumstances for which one needs to call upon forgiveness is when trust, the foundation, the backbone of a relationship, is breeched. I’ve talked to a few people about this concept.
One person said that you should never trust anyone because eventually everyone will break your trust. While this idea has some truth behind it, in my mind, a strict following of this rule would not lead to very many close relationships. A fate I would rather not face.
Another person said that whenever she feels betrayed, she thinks of the moment when she betrayed herself first. While this statement seems obscure, it rings with much truth. In my experience, you always know, at some point, the truth in a situation. Whether it is only a flash of a moment or a nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach. “This person is not right for me”, or, “this person will steel from me”, or, “this is not the right place for me to be,” ext… the knowing is always there. The catch is, do you listen to it? Do you permit the nerve to fire the muscle?
Are you confident in your abilities? Do you second-guess yourself? Do you trust yourself? Are you confident enough to listen to your inner truth? Can you move your muscles the way your nerves intend?
Do you have the strength to believe in yourself?
Strength is essential to feed confidence. A muscle cannot contract without energy. Oxygen is essential for energy. Vessels carry blood. Blood carries oxygen. Oxygen is necessary for energy production.
Most important part of forgiveness is acceptance. Accepting yourself, accepting the other person, accepting life’s imperfections, and accepting life’s perfections. Seeing the Whole for what it is. Integrating all components into a working unit of function. A syncytium. Finding the gratitude in learning from others and learning to be who you are no matter what the circumstance is.
And being proud of it.
This is the key component to forgiveness; and for me, the hardest part.
Perhaps it is because I don’t trust myself enough. Perhaps it is because I don’t always listen to myself. Perhaps it is because I am not confident all of the time. Perhaps it is because I haven’t learned to love the things I hate about myself.
That doesn’t mean I will be this way forever.
We all started as an embryo and have grown into the perfect adult system we are today. Most of the time, the parts work together as one, in synchrony. Sometimes we hurt ourselves. Sometimes we get sick. Sometimes we need to give ourselves time to pull ourselves back together. Sometimes we need help.
And that’s okay.
Our anatomy is always changing. We, as whole individuals, are eternally growing and adapting.
And come on… it’s only the end of February and I’ve been able to figure out at least the basics of forgiveness. I’ve got a whole ten months to shift through the details and connections. That’s plenty of time to experiment, analyze and re-analyze.
Then I might have to start all over when the details change…
Again and again…
Life is perfect.