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The Purpose of Your Skin Is Connection

Connection, not separation

A smiling, grey-haired woman in red jumper in a garden featering red roses, pink cosmos and lots  of greenery.
Me recovering well in the garden at Evergreen.

I was sitting in a hospital bed wearing a pale blue cotton gown that gaped at the back when the surgeon told me what the operation I was to undergo would involve.


He did a crude drawing of what I assumed was my tummy area and made three marks on it. He held it up like a teacher would, and tapped two of the marks with his pencil, saying, ‘These two cuts will be made for the keyhole surgery.’ Then he tapped the longer mark over my belly button, and said, ‘Then we’ll pull the gall bladder out through your belly button.’


My eyes popped.


I’d been held together by the knot formed by my belly button since the day I’d been born, and he was planning to cut it open! I’m sure that if I’d earned my living as a bikini model, he would have found another, less dramatic, way to extract it, but he assumed no such thing. However, I was aware I was a public patient so probably didn’t have a say in the matter, and willingly went along with any plan he had to end my acute suffering.


It’s been four months since the surgery. The two smaller scars have almost disappeared. But my belly button features a thin, ridged, red line running up into it.


When I look at it, I feel that my skin – that which keeps all of me safely inside myself – has been compromised. It’s like there’s now the potential for a leak to occur and for me to find myself pouring out onto the floor through my belly button to form a bright red, gooey puddle, in front of a growing crowd of interested bystanders.


But this perception of what my skin does is only one way of looking at it.


In his book, The Way of Zen, Alan Watts wrote:


He [a liberated person] sees the world that we see; but he does not mark it off, measure it, divide it in the same way. He does not look upon it as really or concretely broken down into separate things and events. He sees that the skin may just as well be regarded as what joins us to our environment as what separates us from it.


Connection, Not Separation

So, my skin doesn’t exist to separate me from everything else. It connects me to everything else.


As Watts goes on to say, nothing is separate from anything else, so nothing needs joining together again, but I’ll leave that deep thought for another day.


I learned two things from reading The Way of Zen.


  • My skin hasn’t been compromised just because a surgeon cut open my belly button, which is a great relief.


  • My skin doesn’t just keep me in a moveable package. It unites me with all that is.



My wrinkly skin has a spiritual purpose.


And so does yours, whether it’s wrinkly yet or not.


With love, Marlane

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