The power of the spine/ 3: Feeding the spine

But how do you feed a spine?

When I noticed with horror – and not a little bit of shame –  that my spine was so chronically starved of energetic food. I was fortunate enough to be at the beginning of a wonderful Buddhist retreat with the teacher Rob Preece and his wife Anna. 

They are extremely good at exploring the somatic and embodied aspects of Buddhist practice. Anna particularly kept pointing us back to the state and feelings of our bones and joints and muscles and skin. So I was able to explore the parlous state of my spine within this very nourishing space.

What came to me quite vividly is that my spine  –  my energy body, – had been working without food. It was not being nourished and so was limping on in a very depleted, dangerously unlubricated way. The energetic joints of my being were grinding together as I continued to work and act in the world.

But how do you feed a spine?

Close your eyes and put your awareness to that spot.

You use the top and bottom gateways I mentioned above: the crown and the root.

The crown is strictly speaking, of course, not the top of the spine. That actually peters out at the aptly-named ‘atlas’ bone which holds up the globe of the skull. However, the arrow of the spine running up into the base of the skull seems to point directly up to the sutures at the top of the cranium. Here it touches the space where, once as infants, we had a fontanelle cavity beneath the skin.

It’s this spot about ⅔ back along a line across the top of the skull that is commonly called the ‘crown’. The name doesn’t matter as much as the sensations we feel there. 

Close your eyes and put your awareness to that spot.

It’s the earth that feeds the root, that fuels the fire in the belly, which heats the heart that sings at the throat.

Most of us draw a complete blank. But if you go back to the spinal feelings we explored in the last blog – the gut, the chest, the throat. And then float upwards through brain you might tune into an upward energy that points up through the crown. 

I tend to experience the crown more as a vector than a spot. It’s a clutch of silvery arrows rising up through the top of the head. Reaching up towards something.  You will sense what if you feel into it yourself. 

Something similar but in reverse occurs at the base of the spine. 

The last few vertebrae of the spine run down the back of the pelvis. Fusing with the sacrum bone. And then dropping down into our vestigial tail which again is fused as a chain of little vertebrae, the coccyx. 

We usually have better chances of finding the feeling of the coccyx because we are often sitting on it when we sense down there. There’s a compaction in the base of the spine that can feel more tangible than at the crown. However, the energetic significance of this downward pointing arrow only makes itself clear when we continue along its line and come to the perineum. The very sensitive strip of skin and muscle between the genitals and anus. It’s this secret trap door that opens suddenly downwards like a sand-chute into the space below us. 

Again, it’s hard to find this without some practice.  Better to feel into the throat, chest and belly in front of the spine and then grope downwards. And suddenly open in all directions down. Like the sloping sides of a pyramid running down in the dark gold of the space below. 

It’s the earth that feeds the root, that fuels the fire in the belly, which heats the heart that sings at the throat.

At the very least we see how exhausted our spines are. And feel inspired to do something to help polish them up for longer, healthier lives. 

And its the connection up through the crown that allows fueled from above to shutter down onto the life force and keep it burning.
This might all sound like poppycock to you. But I have found that some kind of opening up and down is an essential aspect of energy-balancing in life. Plugging yourself into something bigger than just your localized spine is the way to keep your 33 personal vertebrae well-nourished.

In the Mindsprings Practice Space sessions this month we’re exploring how we actually go about this in our practice. Even people who have a very rudimentary sense of their inner world can find some inner sustenance from these practices. At the very least we see how exhausted our spines are. And feel inspired to do something to help polish them up for longer, healthier lives. 

At the highest end of a spiration we might recognise without a well-nourished and balanced spine, nothing can be achieved over a sustained period. Neither the long path to enlightenment. Nor the shorter but recursive path of helping others in this exhausting and desiccating world. 

To read more Mind-springs blogs click here 

Mindsprings Practicespace is a lively and friendly online practice community that meets three times a week with Alistair to explore meditation, discuss problems arising and investigate some of the big issues of life. Everyone is very welcome and you can try it out for two weeks for no cost. Just register here for a 2-week trial.

I’d love to know your thoughts about your energy spine. Drop me a message with any thoughts, comments, questions, queries or insights that pop up while reading the blog. I’d love to hear from you!

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  • cathy jackson says:

    Alistair – this powerful stuff thank you – kind of condensed focus, an arrow itself through the spine of so much of the detailed work i have been able to do with you over the courses these last 5 years.

    Sadly there is a reassurance in hearing you say you are depleted – me too – as all of us are? this gives me inspiration to do some more strengthening.
    I’m privileged to work with the kids right now and to be exploring Lear and wonderful poetry and focussing energy on them and the texts but i need to replenish myself too and i don’t always have the energy – this makes clear a place i can start and i hope to join you.
    thank you so much
    p.s. i actually drew a blank at the 17 + 9 – quite extraordinary how marking king lear essays gets you in a very different zone!

    • alistairappleton says:

      I know it’s kind of harsh to expect meditators to do arithmetic… Luckily, I have the secret key so I never have to do any math!

      And yes, I think the acceptance of our tiredness is an important step in doing something about it. We would LOVE to see you at one of the sessions. If I say so myself they’re pretty good at the moment. This spine work is giving me wings!

      Love to you and Lear.


  • Hi Alistair, as a proud member and devotee of the Mindsprings Practicespace that you and your husband ,Daniel, have created, I can’t praise it highly enough. My spiritual path has often been rock strewn but you are helping to smooth out that path. This evening’s practice of working with spine awareness, we lay on our backs and you asked us to gently lift our spines as if we were lifting a necklace, pearl by pearl, from a velvet cushion. Wonderful. It blends in do well with Daniel’s teachings of the Chakras and the sushumna that threads it way up and down the spine. I have never moved my spiritual eye towards the spine before so thank you both so much. I’m still learning, but with the best teachers.
    Sending love and blessings
    Patti. X🙏

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