I was struck by Gudo’s description of an awareness of the back of the neck and head, and a stretch that is engaged when the chin comes down and in. The stretch, Gudo said, is at the back of the head, and is critical to dropping mind and body. Am I remembering that right?
Now from my research into cranial-sacral osteopathic theory, the stretch he’s referring to is not only from the extensors along the back of the spine and neck to the mandibular bones of the skull (behind the jaw), and thence to the temporal bones, parietals, and occiput, but also to the sphenoid from the same base as the occiput but running forward and upward in the center of the skull finishing as outer portions of the eye sockets. The occiput and the sphenoid flex and extend as the volume of fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord (down to the tailbone) changes, ten to fourteen times a minute. Now the key point is how a stretch from the tailbone to the top of the head (one of Cheng Man-ch’ing’s three preliminary relaxations, by the by) facilitates dropping body and mind.
I would say that this is connected to the fact that the pineal gland sits in the center of the sphenoid, and the pineal is the source of melatonin, affecting the rhythm of sleeping and waking. As John mentioned, there’s a moment when we are falling asleep or when we are waking up when consciousness takes place freely with an equanimous response to sensation. Emphasis on place, there’s a moment consciousness takes place.
The practice I came up with for balancing the two respirations is really a practice connected with the cranial-sacral rhythm, but it’s not possible to realize a hypnogogic state without allowing consciousness to be placed by both respirations. My practice, necessitated by the cross-legged posture, is to set up mindfulness of pitch, roll, and yaw wherever consciousness takes place, allow the weight of the body to rest on the ligaments and fascia that connect the sacrum to the pelvis, and realize activity and feeling out of the place of occurrence of consciousness. The movement of breath comes in because there’s a moment where the breath ceases unless consciousness is allowed place in conjunction with both respirations.
Comes a moment when I notice my state of mind, and I think I will explore “before and behind” with respect to the stretch and activity at the chin (and sphenoid) and at the occiput when the opportunity presents itself. Thanks, Roshi!