Esalen's First Yoga Teacher — Teaching yoga since 1968

Earth Sky Sandwich

© Pam Walatka
An earth-sky sandwich is when you lie down on the ground. Flat. On the ground, not on a blanket or a beach chair. Touching the earth. Skin-to-grass. The bare parts of your body--arms, hands, fingers, heels--in touch with the earth. The sky is the top piece of bread in the sandwich. The earth is the bottom piece of bread. You are the filling. I think that an earth-sky sandwich resets the orientation sensors in the spinal column. You can consciously use your sensors to orient yourself in your world.

Orientation Sensors

There are many orientation sensors that send information to the spinal cord.

Everyone has a set of sensory receptors whose purpose is to feel vibrations. Chemistry and physics tell us that everything is vibrating. Technically, we should be able to feel the vibes.

The sense of where our limbs are. Position and movement. What is going on inside the body.

What's hot. What's cold. Where is the sun?

What's out there. What's happening?

What does the happening thing sound like?

vestibular portion of the inner ear
Equilibrium and orientation in three-dimensional space. How am I turning, moving in relation to the earth?

How is gravity working on my body? What parts of my body are touching something because of gravity?

Undiscovered Sensors

Here are some other, undocumented, possible sources of sensation. This is purely speculation, to be taken as a joke if you wish.

iron filings in the blood
Suspend some tiny filings of iron in liquid and they will line up toward magnetic north. Why wouldn't the iron in your blood orient itself toward magnetic north? Do we have a sensor that knows how our internal iron is aligned? Has anybody ever looked for it, experimentally?

terminal ventricle
In the bottom tip of the spinal cord, which ends near the waist, there is a tiny cavity called the terminal ventricle. Could that tiny cavity be a sensing chamber for atmospheric pressure? Or something else, something to do with orientation in space?

cauda equina
The spinal nerves that descend from the waist-high tip of the spinal cord are free to move and be moved in the cerebro-spinal fluid that fills the space within the spinal column below the waist. Perhaps their subtle movement conveys information about what is happening now. That area of the spine, especially the hollow inside the sacral bones (between the hips), has long been considered a center of energy and information by students of subtle anatomy and Kundalini yoga.

The Mind in the Spine

There are gray cells in the spine. Gray cells and white cells. The white cells carry info. The gray cells process info.

So What?

With a little practice, you could learn how to orient yourself in the universe. Your spinal gray cells could get used to processing the info coming in from your orientation sensors. With the avalanche of info available to us, it might be nice to have access to the info that tells us what the hell is going on. I wonder if a habit of paying attention to gravity in everyday life would help an astronaut get oriented when gravity is gone? I know it helps around here.

Earth-Sky Sandwich Again

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to what's happening. Letting yourself be still between heaven and earth can reset your orientation sensors.


P. L. Williams and R. Warwick, editors, Gray's Anatomy, 37th American Edition, Churchill Livingston, New York, 1989.

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