Monday, May 12, 2014

Love Makes the Lymph (and the World) Go 'Round

Photo credit: Paul Garland

"Lymph moves through loving touch," says yoga instructor Tias Little.

Earlier this year, I assisted him in a workshop that discussed yoga for the immune system. He spoke about the mechanics of the immune system - specifically the lymphatic system which collects and drains waste, as well as provides our blood cells the opportunity to interact with pathogens in order to break them down and build better defenses against them. He also mentioned that the lymphatic system does not have its own pump to move the lymph through the body; it moves when we move, or when we move it. As he showed a slide of the lymphatic system in the head and neck, he began to describe how to help the lymph to move, with gentle caresses.

It resonated with me, and I now use this practice to begin my yoga classes, both as a way to move the lymph, but also as a way to set our intention to be friendly, loving and kind to ourselves.

"Each one teach one"

K is a dedicated student who regularly attends several of my yoga for cancer survivorship classes. We've both been happily surprised at how much her practice has helped her. Recently, she was visiting her mother, and speaking to K's sister, who is their mother's primary caregiver. K's sister was showing signs of stress, so K reached out to help: she offered to massage her shoulders and then showed her the gentle caress that we practice in our classes together. Part of the stress K's sister was dealing with was because their mother was not feeling well. Their mother was in the room during the exchange between her daughters, but shortly after, she excused herself to go lie down. K checked on her a little while later and found her resting comfortably while gently stroking her hands down her face and neck, just as K had shown her sister.

The ripples of the practice extend out and out and find those who need it. As one of my other students quoted me recently, "each one teach one" is the way that we all make the changes that we wish to see in the world.

The Big View

Photo credit: Yahoo Inc

When I was a kid, I would look out the window during long drives and fantasize about what I saw. Often, we would be driving south and I would see cows grazing on rolling hills covered with short brown grass. I imagined that if I could fly up into the air and view the same scene, I would witness a cow grazing on the back of another cow, because the short grain looked a little like the back of a cow. I like to use this perspective tool even now. I don't pretend that I know the secrets of the universe, but I'd like to imagine I could see some of the big patterns, if I'm observant enough.

Here's another pattern I'd like to propose:

the lymphatic system is model for global compassion.

Imagine the feelings of love and friendliness are the lymph in a vast network that supports the entire human race as one big organism. The feelings don't move around unless we take action. They have no "pump" of their own. We move and act with kindness, and the organism as a whole works better, with better efficiency and less illness. It doesn't mean that pathogens don't exist, but it means that we recognize them better and faster and learn from them, rather than simply destroying them. Each time someone's kindness bumps into us, we are moved to act kindly. Each time we show love to someone, they are moved to show love.

I know that lymph moves throughout our bodies at a really slow rate. I don't expect that adopting this model will bring about world peace overnight. I'm committed to working with what I can do: acting with love and sharing what I know, so the ripples continue to spread ever outward.

Maybe the Beatles were right all those decades ago; maybe love is all we need.

Love and action.
Photo credit: marsmettn tallahassee