Most folks in the West don’t know who Jizo is; I don’t expect them to. They know even less about how the Buddhist bodhisattva relates to the health of our pelvic floors. Such things are never written about. But the relationship is much closer than even lovers of Jizo may realize. In Sanskrit, Jizo’s name, Ksitigarbha, (kee-shee-tee-gar-bah) translates to Earth Womb or Earth Treasury — our core. It is the archetype for our Center, our Ground.
And what is our internal ground but our pelvic floor?
Generally, Americans ignore their pelvic floor. We go FAST through our lives, ignoring our bodies. Even health conscious achievers do not know how to listen deeply. We nod when we hear the word “kegels” in our 20s and 30s. We may know what they are. We may have tried them once or twice at the ob/gyn’s office. But we don’t know our core. Sounds like a potent metaphor, huh? It is.
In Kundalini, they speak of the base of the spine as She Who Is Coiled. How do we, in the west, as we struggle with body image and getting rid of “belly fat,” how do we walk the pelvic floor? How do we cultivate a mindfulness that engages muscles that are “dirty” to talk about?
How do we find our forbidden ground before it gets sick?
Between years of Pilates, yoga and meditation, weight training, walking, running, studying mind/body therapies, I spent years convinced that I was doing everything I could for my body/mind connection.
Here’s a brief illustration of the pelvic floor, from a popular American website, WebMD. Not a lot of detail.
Here’s an illustration from a health site in the United Kingdom, where speaking of the pelvic floor muscles is less taboo.
Someone I know just had a hysterectomy. She could not find any American support for her pelvic floor health. There is no physical therapy prescribed after the hysterectomy. I am not sure why, but we wait until we are in our 50s, 60s or after surgery or child birth and then we freak out about the health of our pelvic floors. The pain is now screaming and there are precious few physical therapists who work on this part of the body. Luckily, in the UK and Australia (and available to all thanks to YouTube) there is a lot of support and open conversation to help us walk the pelvic floor, mindfully, therapeutically, no shame included.
Amy Stein, MPT, whose diagram of the pelvic floor closely resembles the British one, wrote a book called Heal Pelvic Pain. She has designed a program of eleven exercises that are excellent for a home program of healing. It requires a huge time commitment on behalf of the sufferer; the kind of time someone would only give if the pain were frightening enough.
My wish is that we learn how to speak of the pelvic floor, learn how to walk through the muscles of the unspeakable vagina, rectum, coccyx (tailbone), urethra, levator ani (our what?) and learn to have a relationship with these muscles that go unworked, unacknowledged, growing weaker and weaker as we age. We can work proactively to keep this part of ourselves healthy. Can we open ourselves to awareness of how vulnerable we become when we begin to speak of this part of the body? Can we learn to have a public dialogue with our “private parts,” with each other? Can we find the Jizo nature in the body, the Earth Womb (yes, in men, too) that lives between our pubic bone, coccyx, hip bones?
I hope so.
(Stay tuned for Part 2: the meditation)
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