(or the Eco-Milling)
Using our own bodies, we learn about our kinship with other life forms, and the debt of gratitude we owe to those who first invented key features of our anatomy.
This process is usually conducted as a Milling (see Chapter 7), which allows it to be lively as well as instructive. At each encounter, when people stop to connect without words, their attention is directed to a particular biological feature that they all share. They are asked to note it in the person before them, to sense the wonder of this gift, and to honor the animal ancestor that bequeathed it. Here are features we tend to take for granted as “our own.” They are really gifts from other and ancient beings.
The blood stream. Can you feel the pulse in your partner’s wrist? Blood is circulating. That capacity common to all life-forms arose with the first multi-celled creatures who devised ways to transfer nutrients to their inside cells. As they developed, some of them invented a muscular pump, a heart. That pulsing you feel is the gift of ancient, great-grandmother worm.
The spinal column. Feel the bones in the neck, the back. Those vertebrae are separate, but ingeniously linked. They cover the central neural cord and, at the same time, allow flexibility of movement. Grandfather fish did the design work, because he couldn’t swim if his backbone were one solid piece. We can thank him for this marvel that now permits us to stand and walk.
The ear. Hum in your partner’s ear; ah, you can hear each other! That’s because tiny bones vibrate in the inner ear, and that is a gift from ancestor fish as well. They were once his jawbones and they migrated into the mammalian ear to carry sound.
The limbic brain. Inside the base of the skull lives the limbic region of the brain, gift from our reptilian grandmothers and grandfathers. It allows deep pleasure. It also allows us to protect ourselves by, fighting, fleeing, or freezing stock still.
Binocular vision. See the eyes are no longer on the sides of the head, as with our fish and reptile cousins, many birds and some mammals. Our tree-climbing primate ancestors moved their eyes around to the front, to function together for three-dimensional vision, so they could know the exact location and distance of a branch to leap for. We thank them for our binocular vision.
Hand. And see how the thumb and fingertips can touch each other; see the size of the space they enclose. That’s just the right size for a branch able to hold your swinging body. Grandmother monkey designed that hand. And the branch was designed by sun and wind and gravity, as well as Grandfather tree himself as he grew high to reach the light, and limber to allow the wind. So we, with these hands, are grandchildren of tree and sun and wind as well.
Variation: For this kind of reflection, people can also use their own bodies– when, for example, they are sitting in a lecture hall.