What is the Subtle Body? I keep asking the question.

According to Mosby’s Dictionary of Complementary and Alternative Medicine I understand it is a network of energy channels that transport energy derived from oxygen, sensory, and food-derived nutrients. The network lies parallel to blood vessels and nerves in the body; it facilitates and coordinates the movement of the flow of blood and neural impulses. It is not an anatomical system such as the cardiovascular or nervous system. It cannot be viewed conventionally. Instead, it is accessed through practice of imagination and visualization that can be accomplished through meditation.*


It cannot be seen conventionally? And only accessed through practice of imagination and visualization?

About this painting:
I already mentioned my shoulders and hands ache and so awareness of the body heightens. I paint a hand a few weeks ago. Now I work on the back body.  How does the body maintain balance, how is equilibrium regained.

IMG_7574Once again I carefully lay out a spinal column, counting out each vertebrae from the base of the skull to the bottom of the pelvis. I ground the form in recognizable anatomy but the goal is to focus on the nervous system. Woven through the center of the study are arteries, veins and the lymphatic system. Extending out from everything are the nerves.

A friend reminds me of the great Cauda Equina, the bundle of nerves that run through the lower part of the lumbar vertebra. I enhance the area. I lay structure down for a few days before I put all reference material away and work without it. 


Cause and effect. Cause. Effect. Balance. Imbalance. Physical. Subtle. Physical. Subtle. The body. Energy.  Flow. Tangle. Flow.

The body, in the short time a human inhabits it – can supply one with the greatest prod for growth. The questions change out a bit with this work –

Who am I? What am I? What is this body and what is my relationship to it?



subtle – this body is a construct



The body is a construct.

I produced a video that shows my working process – how stage above became stage below. I produced 4 versions of the video. The real-time video runs about 30 minutes, it’s long. The first edited version is 22 minutes and it captures what I really like about my working process. It will run next to the original work on paper, at the exhibit.

The final version is about 13 minutes and you can see it on YouTube at the link below. The first part is activity, and the last part shows stages of the composition to completion.

I had to adjust the whole thing numerous times, to be able to finally upload it and share. I  enjoyed most of the process. I learned a few things…

Putting together a quality video is complicated.

There’s text,
there’s random sound caught on the radio as I worked, I learned to lift it and place it where I wanted it (it was weirdly applicable and it starts the video and ends the video),
then there’s the deliberately created sound,
there are transition points …

all layered and as consuming as making a small painting

Most important I learned sharing artist process cannot be captured in its true-scope. Once you start manipulating something…well…it ceases to be what it is and becomes something else, yes it transforms. It’s like it goes from the natural, to the man-made.

Patricia, the friend that commissioned the work – it’s her back body – is going to let me borrow it for the exhibition. That’s what she said anyway. Thanks Pat, timing is everything.

an homage to the back body

The mind is the switchboard for the nervous system of the body.  -LL

Maybe I’m complete with this one work of the posterior view of the torso anatomy. More than likely it’s the first of several. You may recall it all started with researching Nadis. Nadis translates to flow and somewhat connects to the nerves, veins and arteries – and make up what is called the subtle body. There are said to be 72,000 of them. What does that all mean? Hence, one reason for the initial start of the anatomy series.  I went from the parts (the individual organs) in earlier drawings and paintings,  to the whole, in this body of work. At this moment, I might be back to the parts that make up the various systems.  What a door I have opened.  I’ve studied the body for over 20 years. Why only now am I curious with the subtle connections in this very determined and particular way?

I’ve already said I’m not familiar with the back of the body like I am with the front. Why did I not start my study with the visually rhythmic backbone? After-all the vertebrae is the structure that houses, supports and protects  the brain and spinal cord. The whole central nervous system has me so engrossed these days. Once upon a time, I started with the heart, moved to the brain, and it’s inevitable that I find myself going down the spine. Actually – it’s more like – up the spine.

The spine supports the rib cage which protects the heart and lungs. It sets the muscles of the gastrointestinal organs including the stomach, intestine, liver, spleen, pancreas (from this posterior view it’s the first time I’ve really understood how the pancreas fits into the space), kidneys and urinary system. And it holds onto the pelvis which houses the excretory and reproductive organs.

Metaphorically, how do we experience the back of the body? It carries with it emotional, physical, and financial associations. Here are a few that come quickly to mind: support, stability, strength – lack / abundance, out of sight out of mind – carrying issues but not dealing with them, also the back body represents the past – relaxed or tense. And remember Atlas, who carried the world on his shoulders. My friend Maria says the shoulder blades connect to joy.

My yoga instructor Meg says … the legs are the governor of the back. This clarifies for me to stand with a firm foundation. I ask a few friends, who have studied the body through yoga, how they respond to their back body.

Patricia comments first:
The back body for me is a Mystery, that after ten years of [Yoga] Practice, is just now starting to reveal itself to me. Because my back feels so different to me than what it actually looks like, it is the one part of me that I love ( and actually require) having other people’s feedback on. My back body is a spiral, and it has its own loop*. 

Deborah follows with her insight:
Our back body is our “connection” to the Universal, our Self, each other…I see it as connection. if you think about the spinal cord…there’s “connection” to our entire body. So, out of that connection to the Universal…community…comes “support”…and if I think about the spine…it gives us “support”! To tie these together I think about the loops, which all initiate from the back body so we “soften”…especially kidney loop* and opening to grace…when we soften and “lean into it.” There’s “support,” there’s “connection,” and “grace”.

*Loop is an energetic reference in their yoga practice.

How do I engage with the back body?   Obviously it’s highly complex, and visually it’s stimulating and wonderful. Strength and flexibility (rooted in firm foundation) are key. And that’s just the beginning.

In all directness, this work, this drawing and study, serves me to understand that my body is my own.  It’s that simple and that complex.

Despite all the care I’ve set up with the color, I like the de-saturated image. It gives me some odd sense of celebration. And it captures the depth of its mystery.

Do you have a preference? Colorful top image? Or the latter black and white?
How do you experience your back body?