Greetings Mountaineer Readers, from Lisa Aanonsen the Ministry Coordinator at Snowmass Chapel. I joined the Chapel staff in November 2019, just before the COVID tsunami turned the world on its head. I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with many of you as volunteers through these crazy times, and consider myself so very blessed to have had such special people to navigate this storm with! So, an interesting fact about me that some of you may not know, is that another ‘hat’ I wear professionally is the cap of a Physical Therapist; I’ve worked in the valley for most all of my 19-year career, thus far, helping to put Humpty Dumpty back together after the rivers and mountains take their tolls on our fellow Valley residents’ joints. As Robert and Charla have been diving into the topic of re-alignment through this “COVID Lent”, I couldn’t help but see some metaphors between alignment of our musculoskeletal system and alignment of our lives that I thought might be worth sharing. Sometimes viewing a situation through a different lens can change the ‘landing’ of a particular idea or concept, and it is my prayer that this perspective might offer an opportunity to peel back those onion layers for deeper understanding of alignment as God would have it in our lives.
A brief anatomy and kinesiology lesson here to help describe some ideas on alignment. Many of you likely have had Physical Therapy in the past; if so you probably learned that we are designed with some of our muscles as “stabilizers” and others as “prime movers” or “mobilizers”. Each muscle has a unique role, and in order to move well they each need to do their part. One example of this can be seen in the shoulder – the rotator cuff is a pretty commonly known muscle group (though sometimes it gets called the rotator cup…..). The job of the rotator cuff muscles is to stabilize the arm bone (humerus) in good alignment at the center of the socket (glenoid) as the “mobilizer” muscles (deltoid, biceps) power the arm to move it up and overhead. Those mobilizer muscles are fairly glamorous and get a lot of attention in the gym and day-to-day active life, but in fact, the cuff is the ‘wind beneath their wings’ in that if it isn’t functioning properly, there is 60% more stress borne through the shoulder joint in the process of raising up an arm! That’s a lot of stress! The result of this loss of function of the rotator cuff is a larger-than-tolerated movement of the ball in the socket, and over time it can damage the joint and turn into one painful, inflamed, poorly functioning shoulder.
Now a strong rotator cuff without a functioning deltoid isn’t exactly useful either (though this kind of imbalance is rare in the shoulder). The deltoid and biceps have to be able to do their job of producing adequate power to lift the arm and the load of whatever is in the hand….bicycle, kayak paddle, hammer, what have you. All that attention to develop good “prime mover” arm strength is necessary too, in order to have an arm that can lift heavy weight and control large loads.
This muscular relationship is called a “Force Couple”: the rotator cuff stabilizes the ball in the socket, while the deltoid and biceps produce power to elevate the arm. This idea of a “Force Couple” is the idea I want to dive into to apply how we might look at maintaining alignment in our lives. Each person probably has differing situations in his or her own life that make the “mobilizers” and “stabilizers” somewhat unique to the individual, but one might see career, a rich extracurricular schedule, even volunteer work as ‘mobilizers’….things that provide income, create momentum, and drive progress, whereas perhaps job satisfaction, health, and relationships might represent ‘stabilizers’. Using this scenario, something like a packed schedule of kids’ activities, family camping trips, up-endy work and school schedules might become overly stressful if the underlying relationships, health, or job satisfaction are strained. While some components of the force couple are fixed and not easily adjusted, attention to those things that are within our control can do alot to improve our overall alignment. Using the same scenario above, perhaps intentional efforts towards relationship care will balance the increased demand on a family navigating job and school stresses of COVID times.
Another joint that might give some insight into alignment in our lives is the spine. It has a similar ‘mobilizer’ and ‘stabilizer’ design: the well-known “abs” and “extensors” move the spine, whereas the stabilizer “Multifidus” and “Transversus” provide stability while it moves. A well-balanced force couple of the ‘core’ provides a strong, flexible spine. Interestingly, and different from the shoulder example, imbalance in the spine produces some different symptoms. If an injury compromises the spine’s stability, the ‘mobilizer’ muscles kick in to provide the stability necessary to keep our spinal cord protected. While this serves a purpose of protection of the spinal cord, it is troublesome in the long-run in that this strategy of stabilization is highly compressive, and results in loss of flexibility, painful muscle spasms, and can cause generalized fear of movement. Perhaps call to mind a time when you or someone you’re speaking with has had a neck or back injury; rather than turning the head to talk with others, the whole body turns because the neck or back won’t turn properly due to pain, spasm and stiffness and fear of moving. The metaphor offered here for our lives, is that when we’re feeling compressed/pressured, fearful, or rigid, perhaps this is a symptom of a deeper imbalance or insufficiency of the core ‘stabilizers’ in our lives. God’s action in our lives is a “core” stabilizer, in fact the True stabilizer that has promised to hold us steady thru whatever might come down the pipeline at us. Perhaps if we’re feeling rigid, fearful or compressed then, the healing balm that is needed is time spent with God, and putting trust in the healing power of His sovereign stability.
For me, Centering Prayer is a powerful way to deepen your prayer life and bring much needed calm to a busy world. Snowmass Chapel’s prayer group is led by Deb Johnson, who is a trained facilitator in the tradition of Fr. Thomas Keating’s contemplative prayer. Beginners are always welcome; we meet online at 5:30 on Wednesdays. The Chapel also offers stabilizing resources such as Steven’s Ministry, Bible and book study groups, small groups, and weekly worship, which can serve to bolster stabilization as our ‘prime movers’ are forced to work pretty hard in the storm. We’d love to connect, and invite you to call or visit our website for more information.
This is an invitation for us all to think about what are the mobilizers in our lives, and what are the stabilizers in our lives. The instinctual reaction to stressful times can be to put all efforts into those ‘mobilizing’ forces. If we’re in a pretty solid place, sometimes for very short periods that can be tolerated. It is not a sustainable approach however; if kept up, our stabilization atrophies and those ‘movers’ will cause more harm than good. For good alignment over the long-haul, identifying and investing efforts into our ‘stabilizing’ forces will improve the workability of our mobilizers better even than putting more effort into the mover itself. Intentional nourishment of our stabilizers provides the solid, centered ground needed for those very mobilizers to be productive for good, instead of injurious along our lives’ journey.
That’s it for sitting, from now on I’m praying while doing a plank! Thanks for these great reminders about balance in our physical and spiritual lives.