deep in the solar plexus – the pancreas

I love the shape and texture of the pancreas – long, flat, soft and flexible. I’ve drawn it before and wonder why didn’t I note it tucked deep into the solar plexus? This organ carries some energy!

The 6″ organ sits behind the stomach and in front of the spine. The head of the pancreas nuzzles the duodenum while the tail end tapers into the spleen. The organ is gray-pink in color but because I want to emphasize subtle energy, my representation is yellow (golden) dominant.

Pancreas (anterior)

The pancreas plays a role in both the endocrine system and the digestive system.

As part of the endocrine system the pancreas produces hormones (insulin, glucagon, somatostatin and pancreatic polypeptide), secreting them directly into the bloodstream. One of its jobs is to monitor the bloodstream. When the pancreas detects a rise in glucose levels it responds by producing a hormone called insulin. Insulin attaches to cells signaling them to open up and absorb the glucose (basic fuel for the body) from your blood.  Insulin allows cells to receive the energy they need and ensures blood glucose level remains stable.

It also holds an exocrine function involving secretion of digestive enzymes that break down carbohydrates, lipids, and in particular – proteins – aiding in digestion and absorption of nutrients in the small intestine.

Pancreas (posterior) Slight color variation signifies – from left to right – the tail, body, neck and head

Symbolically:
The pancreas is located in the solar plexus, the area representing the center of will.
Connected to it are the energies of stability, instinct and intuition, along with will, courage, choice, action and peace.

Caroline Myss connects the pancreas to the sweetness in our life…ahhh glucose.


I am in the planning with the University of Arizona medical school for a solo exhibition. I hope to include the endocrine system I designed last year. Because the pancreas from that original series found a buyer, I draw another. Returning to it allows more insight.

the wandering nerve, the vagus nerve, the pneumogastric nerve

I have come to the conclusion trust your gut means trust your vagus nerve.  And having  butterflies in the stomach may in fact be saying something about our vagus nerve too.

Otto Loewi, a German physiologist, discovered stimulating the vagus nerve caused a reduction in heart-rate. He suspected a trigger or release of something he called vagusstoff (German for vagus substance). I note Loewi was led to this insights and eventual experiment via a dream, maybe 2 dreams actually (did he trust his gut? his vagus nerve?).  Scientists eventually identify acetylcholine (vagusstoff), a neurotransmitter.

Deep, slow breaths – in through the nose – calms (releases acetylcholine?) the vagus nerve.  I don’t know, I’m an artist….

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I revisit the Vagus Nerve these last few weeks.  I refer to it in an earlier work, now I focus and map it out life-size. I hope to detail and know its route through the organs. This is harder than I can know and it’s a good thing I don’t give it much thought before I outline the general area. General area is short for (all) organs of (entire) torso. I begin the work more realistic than usual, knowing I will loosen up and play with shapes as I move along.

The vagus nerve is one of two long (long, long) cranial nerves also called the wandering nerve. It wanders through many of our organs.  It’s also known as Cranial Nerve X (CNX). I learn it’s also called the pneumogastric nerve (less romantic).

It emerges at the back of the skull and moves down the down the body where it makes its way through the abdomen. On its journey it comes in contact with the ears, voice box, heart, lungs, stomach, liver, spleen, pancreas, the large and especially the small intestine.

The vagus nerve helps regulate heartbeat, control muscle movement, keep a person breathing, as well as transmit chemicals through the body. It also keeps the digestive tract working by contracting the muscles of the stomach and the intestines. Without this crucial nerve we would find it hard to speak, breath, eat and our heartbeat would become irregular.

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I think I read the vagus nerve is the one that makes us throw up….hmmm. And it can cause one to faint. I don’t know. I also don’t know if my drawing is complete. I have more to double-check. This nerve meanders and so does my mind.

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the physical pelvic floor and the subtle mūla bandha

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I’ve never heard of a Urogynecology. Talking with Tara, in my studio, she wonders if I can draw pelvic floor anatomy.  Are you talking about the perineum? That’s part of it, she says as she names muscles of the pelvic floor. I’m impressed. All I know at this point is that she’s in physical therapy. I ask if she’s heard of Mula Bandha (Sanskrit). What’s that? she asks. It’s the root lock, I explain. No, she’s never heard of it.

Mula Bandha is an energetic seel that locks prana (life force) into the body, located at the base of the spine, at the pelvic floor. To practice mula bandha you activate the perineum (muscular body between the anus and the genitals) at its center.  It supports the body by strengthening muscles and supports the mind by creating calmness and stability – primarily through the breath.

I understand (from my Yoga Teacher’s Training) the practice of mula bandha offers people physical as well as emotional benefits. I know a bit about the general muscles in the area though Tara’s work is specialized. She brings me reading material. In conversation she explains the diaphragm is connected to the pelvic floor. How so? I ask. They share the same fascia, she answers. Everything is connected. Of course they do, and yes everything is connected. Breath work too, is a part of the therapy she provides.

I ask about her clients, are they male or female? I assume perhaps they’re females, after giving birth. Yes, I do see women after childbirth but I also see men.  She notes incontinence, constipation as well as various sexual dysfunctions.  She explains tight muscles, loose muscles and other contributing causes to function and/or impairment of the pelvic floor.

I work on these 2 small mixed media works. And I use new materials. I’m not sure if I’m finished. Naturally I want to include all the muscles of the legs and abstract the composition more – but I also want to keep the focus on the pelvic floor. Will see.

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Two weeks ago I drew out the brain and the spinal cord. This week I work on the area at the base of the spine. It feels natural and organic. The more I learn the more I realize there is  much more to learn.

Our intricate body – so completely fascinates me.

today i am a biologist

 

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Growth is a spiral process, doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping. –    Julia Margaret Cameron


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This is the second time I make a map. The first, a few years back, was a map of the city of Phoenix laid out as a living cell. I made it for an invitational exhibition called You Are Here. That summer I saw myself as a cartographer. With this new drawing the cell itself is primary, the city is secondary and I am a biologist mapping out the smallest unit of life.

In esoteric teaching it’s believed there exists a blueprint of the physical body. Changes in the body occur in the blueprint before they appear into its physical form. As I work I think there must be a blueprint for each and every individual cell. Imagine that!

I can probably still call this work You are Here. You think cells are inside you but in fact you are in each cell. Are you the life in each tiny cell? Could you in fact be the maker of each cell?

Am I the maker of the blueprint?  Am I the one who maps out each and every cell? I can only say for certain – today I am.

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Detail shot of the cell.

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The Nucleus controls activities and contains the cells genetic material (DNA). The And the Endoplasmic Reticulum is like a labrynth holding and moving molecules.

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The Golgi Body packages proteins and lipids before they get sent to their destination.


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The Mitochondria is the power plant of the cell and holds its own DNA

I didn’t plan to work this big but in the end it’s allowed for me to really think about the space I fill – the space I live in.

 

cell study and the mitochondria

One source informs me there are over 10 trillion cells in the human body, another says 34 trillion. Discovered by Robert Hooke in 1665, I like that he thought it resembled cells inhabited by Christian monks in a monastery. It brings a little of the sacred into the picture. 34 trillion sacred cells!

I mapped out a living cell a few years ago. And after all I have learned, I return to basics (with new eyes) determined not to place anything into my composition until I have a better grasp of what it does. Slow  -S-L-O-W-  going this week.

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The large circular form ↑ is the Nucleus. The word is Latin in origin and means kernel. It controls cell function. The nucleus holds the DNA.  What I learn about the Nucleolus (dense [purple] area in nucleus) and the Endoplasmic Reticulum (greenish areas) makes me want to ingest high-quality protein as often as possible.

And then there is the Mitochondria ↓ which comes from the Greek,  mitos meaning thread and chondrion meaning granule or grain-like.  They are part of our body’s microcircuitry.  Think power-house. The mitochondria make the physical energy of our cells AND they form subtle energies that connect to meridians. It’s this latter find that causes me to isolate it here.

IMG_7762I heard someone say yesterday that artists don’t present answers, they present questions. I have so many….