the brain as an organ

by julee snyder


We could consider the brain and spinal cord for their neurological function, but for our purposes in the organ course, we will consider the brain as an organ.  We sometimes forget to sense the brain in terms of its size, weight, density and volume.  We occupy ourselves with thinking in a way that sometimes separates the head from the rest of the body, plunging us into mind-body dualities not only in language and concept, but also in embodied experience.

The Beanbag Brain

This exercise can be done solo or in partners.  In preparation, hold a beanbag.  Pass the beanbag slowly from one hand to the other as if you were doing so one bean at a time.  Now translate that sensation to rolling one’s head.

In partners, one partner lies comfortable on the floor or table.  The other partner gently takes their head into their hands.  The resting partner will take a moment to fully give the weight of their head over to their partner.  The active partner will eventually begin to roll their partner’s head ‘bean-by-bean’ from one hand to the other.  Working alone, you can roll your own head slowly from side to side as if one bean falls at a time.

Include the spinal cord in your imagery

Whether working solo or in pairs, after a few rounds, begin to sense where the brain exits the skull and becomes the spinal cord.  Include in your awareness the rotation and length of the spinal cord.  If there are moments of resistance or confusion, pause to give the system and your perception time to organize, re-pattern and respond.

Skull as a Fish Bowl

In standing, imagine for a moment that your skull was a giant fish bowl that opened to the sky above and had a long drain in the bottom that was closed at your sacrum.  Begin to imagine water (or another fluid of greater or lesser density) being poured into the fish bowl and draining into the tube to the sacrum and filling from there all the way to the top.  Imagine closing the top.  Allow the weight of the head to shift through space.  What is your sense of the water shifting inside the bowl?  Begin to roll down bone-by-bone, continuing to use the water image.  And roll up again.  What is your experience?  What if you released the drain?

Skull as Cavern

Imagine for a moment that your skull was an empty, dark cavern filled with dusty cobwebs. Use your mind’s eye to sweep the dust and cobwebs from all of the surfaces, all the nooks and crannies until it is spacious, crisp and clear.  Glistening.  Continue to sweep out the cobwebs down through the spinal canal.  Spend extra time sweeping out the areas that seem especially dark and dusty.  You may have to repeat certain areas more frequently.  Take note of those places to see if there is a trend over repeated practice.

Getting more Specific

Once you have mastered these more general exercises, you can begin to become more articulate in your awareness of the different aspects of the brain.  Can you sense the cerebrum from the cerebellum?  The medulla from the limbic system?  The possibilities are endless.

Happy Practicing!