The respiratory and circulation systems are essentially involved in cellular respiration; the ability to take in nourishment and release what we no longer need, through fluid transmissions and gaseous exchange. These fundamental systems underpin basic life processes, but also point to a mysterious interchange between the elements, between self and other, inner and outer.
The lungs occupy a place of interchange, mediating body and breath, form and space, matter and spirit. The breath marks our entry into and out of life, with respiratory patterns laid down in the first breath taken after birth. It may be interesting to know that the total surface area of the lungs are roughly that of a tennis court. But what is our lived experience of lungs and breath? This may be many and varied as we touch into different archetypal expressions throughout life, navigating spaces of transition. Perhaps at times experiencing contraction and restriction, the struggle to occupy the space we need. And at others, touching into spaciousness, expansiveness and freedom.
The branches of the lungs, including trachea, bronchi, bronchioles and alveoli, mirror the branches of a tree. This dynamic correspondence is also present in the process of respiration, as trees release the oxygen we need to breath in, and absorb the carbon dioxide of our exhalation. A sacred dance of symbiosis, interconnection and interdependence, speaking of the imperative to care for the health of our planet’s body as much as for our own, inseparable as they are.
Turning now to the heart, we come to the fluid system of blood. Here we meet the many and varied rhythms of the circulatory system, from the vivacious rush of arterial flow, as oxygenated blood travels from the heart to the organs, to the gentle trickle through venous pathways, as deoxygenated blood is transported back to the heart and lungs, to the subtle and mysterious interexchange at alveoli and cappiliaries. All of this flow guided by the rhythm of the heart. Listening into our experience of this organ, we come to a place clearly much more than a pump. The heart is the organ of relationship, from which we connect with ourselves, others and the world. A place of emotionality and feeling in the body, at times experienced as a shouting din, a rising wave or a quiet murmuration.
The place of the heart within language speaks of our values, passions, longing and desires. What we set our heart on, what lies at the heart of the matter. As we come into an embodied experience of the heart, we can gather the tools to listen to what our heart is expressing in each moment, and in doing so, deepen our capacity for connection. If we include our hands as an extension and expression of heart, we can hold a curiosity around our experience of being able to actualise our hearts desire. When we widen our perception to include others in our heart field, we might connect to the possibility of giving and receiving, generosity and gratitude, as an interconnected flow, speaking of the sacred and mysterious interchange of self and other.
Through the practices of BodyMind Centering we get to know what Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen calls the ‘mind’ of each organ or body system. Witnessing the stories of the body, we can see the uniqueness that distinguishes each part within the whole, and in which each individual aspect comes into relationship within the collective, resting into the mutual support of the whole. Through movement, touch, sounding and breath work, we discover possibilities to repattern, find new pathways for wholeness, health and connection. Each body system as richly diverse, wild and dynamic as the ecosystems of our planet, reminding us of our connection to the wider whole. "Body is our first environment," writes Andrea Olsen. "It is the medium through which we know the earth." May we find the tools needed to individually and collectively inhabit our bodies and our planet with the deep respect, reverence, care and healing needed.