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Mindful : April 2019
the solar plexus; the chest as the loca- tion of the metaphorical as well as the physical hear t (we speak, for instance, of being lighthearted, heavyhearted, hard-hear ted, brokenhear ted, warm- hearted, glad-hearted, and of “getting things off our chests”); the huge mobility of the shoulders; the beauty of the hands and arms; the remarkable structures and functions of the larynx, which allow us, in combination with the lungs and the tongue, the lips and the mouth, to express what is in our hearts and on our minds in speech and in song; how hard the face works to convey what we are feeling or hide what we are feeling, and the quiet dignity of the human face in repose; and the remarkable, ever-chang- ing architecture and capacities of the human brain (the most complex arrange- ment of matter in the known-by-us universe, housed right under the vault of the cranium) and nervous system. what is technically called proprioception, which Sacks calls “that vital sixth sense without which a body must remain unreal, unpossessed.” Christina had no muscle or tendon or joint sense whatsoever, and no words to describe her condition. Poignantly, in the same way that we see with people who lack sight or hearing, she could only use analogies derived from her other senses to describe her experiences. “I feel my body is blind and deaf to itself... It has no sense of itself.” In Sacks’s words, “she goes out when she can, she loves open cars, where she can feel the wind on her body and face (superficial sensation, light touch, is only slightly impaired).” “ It’s wonder- ful,” she says. “I feel the wind on my arms and face, and then I know, faintly, I have arms and a face. It’s not the real thing, but it’s something—it lifts this hor- rible dead veil for a while.” LOST IDENTITY Along with the loss of her sense of proprioception came the loss of what Sacks calls the fundamental mooring of identity—that embodied sense of being, of having a corporeal iden- tity. “ For Christina there is this general feeling—this ‘deficiency in the egoistic sentiment of individuality’— which has become less with accommodation, with the passage of time.” Amazingly, she found her senses of sight and → From Falling Awake: How to Practice Mindfulness in Everday Life, by Jon Kabat- Zinn, published by Hachette. Copyright © 2018 by Jon Kabat-Zinn. April 2019 mindful 67 body awareness