Scholars of embodiment who have some type of corporeal practice have worked with language to find a way to describe what it is that they are experiencing and how it is different from their standard mode of sensing and perceiving when they are engaging in other forms of thinking. William Poteat, a Polanyian scholar, described his process as "indwelling" - a phenomenological reflective process that involved a descent into Jamesian primal experience.
This article describes Poteat's findings:
by Margaret Adamek
Don Hanlon Johnson refers to this style of embodied inquiry as "disciplined experiencing." For some, any whiff of the term 'discipline' connotes everything from academic siloization to Foucaultian musings on the nature of knowledge and control. Perhaps on some level, Johnson includes this notion of 'discipline' in his discussion, given that he is a former Jesuit monk.
What Johnson suggests in the use of this term is that there is a way to 'experience one's experience' that requires rigor, practice, a particular style of attention, and extensive cultivation.
In a more standard treatment of the word 'discipline' - one that cultural studies aficionados would probably prefer, Poteat suggests that the transition to "experiencing one's experience" is moving from the "disciplined body" to the "aware body." What he refers to, however, is essentially the same type of rigorous practice of first person experience that Johnson refers to, despite the confusing contradictions in terminology.
Because of the complexities of using the term "discipline," I will use Poteat's term - the "aware body" - to describe the somatic style employed by our Embodied Methodologies Working Group when we are exploring in the first person.
So, if we are in 'aware body' mode, what does that mean? Any somatic style or way of being in the body requires a 'somatic mode of attention' - a way of paying attention. The notion of 'forms' or 'styles' of attention is not completely strange. We employ a variety of attentional styles, depending on the task at hand. Natalie Depraz describes the style of attention required for first person-oriented experiencing as a "letting come" - a receptive style of attention.
So, experiencing one's experience requires a particular style of attention and form of awareness. Body-Mind Centering founder, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, describes this embodied style of the aware body as 'effortless' whereas oftentimes the attentional style of the scholar is effortful concentration.
As part of their monthly embodiment workshop on 1/22/10, the Embodied Methodologies Working Group considered the following question:
What insights about your own embodiment have you gained as a result of participating in these embodiment workshops?
Experiencing My Experience
Experiencing my experiencing is a big thing going on for me during these workshops. I have learned how to do this. The usual cognitive activity that I come in with moves to the background and the direct experience moves to the foreground. I have never experienced the 'flipped switch' of cognition to actual lived physiology before this. "Experiencing the experience" happens in different ways. I can't tell you how my experience is foregrounded, but we have talked about "getting out of our own way." I still don't know much about 'getting out of my way,' but now I have experienced it in several different ways by participating in this.
How The Discovery Happens
You can't control when insight happens, but you have to show up. It's about practice and sometimes you luck out and have a deep insight.
Struggling to Experience My Experience: What's Going On?
I didn't flip the switch. I didn't know how to know. I knew I needed to get somewhere, but I couldn't get there I had trouble feeling if I was there. I was trying. I couldn't arrive and then felt myself being pulled away. When I'm troubled in my work, I scramble. When I don't do this type of movement work regularly, I feel peripheral to it - like I've lost my place.
The way I think as an academic is tied to not moving, no mobility, being sedentary. My thinking is smaller. When I move, I wake up and feel more open, more awake, better. I am far more aware of the disconnect between movement, body, mind and how I think.
I try to bring in this style of embodiment practice into my exercise, but it is more difficult to do when I'm by myself.
The Question Is Changing
The question has changed from "how do I bring this into my class?" to "how do I learn to do this myself?" This shift means that when I open to this new question, it will transform me.
This entry was written by Maggi Adamek
Craig makes some very interesting points here. If you go back and read the Gilden article on Burrows and Behnke, he describes a similar phenomenon. Rather than using the CARJ/OPINES rubric, he describes these styles of embodied awareness as 'ditentive' and 'cotentive'.
A ditentive style of awareness describes Craig's CARJ stance and includes that stance of separation and detachment - a form of consciousness that leads the knower to experience and make conclusions about a phenomenon in a particular way.
Ditention privileges vision and audition over the other senses, which do not really play a relevant role (taste, touch...). Another author - I have to go back and find out whom - describes this as 'rational consciousness.' It can also be understood as a separative style of knowing.
Likewise, a cotentive stance - the OPINES corollary - relies on a receptive, pan-sensory (all senses engaged at a relatively equal rate), kinesthetically involved stance. This style of awareness is deemed by the as yet unknown author as 'perceptual consciousness' - a style of relational noticing that fully, explicitly and relationally engages the bodymind of the knower in the investigation. It can also be known as a relational style of knowing.
Primary reliance on a rigorous subjectivity = OPINES/Cotentive. Primary reliance on a rigorous objectivity = CARJ/Ditentive.
What is your style of awareness? What are you learning from the style of awareness we use in our embodiment workshops? How does it affect your experience? What types of questions arise as a result of locating your awareness in this more sensually-oriented, perceptually-based stance?
Craig Hassel wrote this entry
OK, I want to offer a few reflections and insights on the workshop session I experienced last Friday April 17, especially as relating to the scholar bodymind. For me, it is important that I allow myself to be as open as possible to the immediacy of perceiving and experiencing anything that comes up in the moment, suspending my impulses to fall back to a highly cognitive, analytical, rational processing of what is happening. If I allow myself to move to a more expansive, sensual frame of reference, I am able to gain access to perceptual data that tends to be closed off or unavailable if I am situated in a more cognitive, analytical, rational, judgmental frame of reference. This is not easy for me, as of course I am highly trained as a Eurocentric, male, scholar to attend to events in a highly cognitive/critical, analytical, rational, judgmental (CARJ) way. Please understand I am not knocking CARJ at all, as it is quite essential for me as I write at this time. I’m just simply stating the obvious, that there is a time and place for everything.
I have learned that if I come into our workshops with a heavy CARJ disposition, then I must find ways to shift away from this – for me - more habitual frame of reference into a more open, perceiving, intuitive, expansive, sensual (OPINES) frame of reference. (Please forgive the acronyms if possible.) If I am not successful in shifting away from heavy CARJ toward OPINES then this is when I experience greater frustration with “getting in my own way”. Mind you, I am always getting in my own way to some extent, but my perceptual window can be quite narrow indeed if I cannot momentarily put aside the CARJ impulses and disposition.
So, what helps me to shift toward a more OPINES frame of reference? Meditation, the space, the movement, Margie’s facilitation, the group dynamics and informality are all supportive of me in shifting toward a more OPINES mode. I also have to say that my golf avocation is a place where I practice this shift, at least on a momentary basis. If you’ll bear with me for a moment I will illustrate with an example:
I have hit a good drive on the eighth hole, a par 4, but the ball has rolled just through the fairway into some taller grass. I’m 140 yards from the hole, which is cut in the middle of a large circular green, sloped higher in back to lower in front. It is cool out (45), with a 10 mph headwind and a slight drizzle, damp conditions. This is heavy CARJ time, as I decide what club to pull from the bag. The high grass and damp conditions conspire to give me a “flyer” lie, wherein the ball will jump out of the rough as struck, giving me extra distance with little spin on the ball. Will this extra “jump” be offset by the 10 mph headwind, the damp, cool air and soft ground, which all conspire to take distance out of the shot?
Once I make this CARJ decision and select a club, I must now find the right swing, using proprioception as I rehearse a practice swing or two. I must shift toward OPINES as I take a practice swing, my experience telling me what sensations I need based on my CARJ analysis. As I get into my pre-shop routine and prepare to hit the ball, I must purge my mind of CARJ, allowing my skill to “run off” in the moment as I swing. Analystica, self-conscious thought destroys the relaxed, rhythmic flow needed for a good repeatable swing, so for a few seconds on each swing, CARJ is quite counterproductive. In this example, things worked out well, and my shot ended up 5 feet below the hole. But the reverse is also true. If I allow myself too much OPINES during club selection, my decision might be based on the emotional rollercoaster that inevitably evolves during the round. This leads to mental errors of strategy or club selection.
Back to scholarship. I see this kind of frame of reference shifting as very much a part of the exploration work we are doing. As a scholar, I must be mindful and respectful of a fuller spectrum conscious awareness, and not insist on privileging one extreme over the other, but work on expanding this multi-dimensionality. For example, a heavy CARJ reflection on my Friday experience would have me pondering the auto-suggestive dimensions of what I experienced, perhaps discounting my experience as “induced” and not reliable.
This response is quite natural given my training and background, but it can take me nowhere if I let it. I need to learn to take responsibility for further developing my OPINES experiential capacity, so that I can bring a better balance of mental states to my scholarship. Nutrition science comes out of a history quite heavy in material, biophysical, mechanistic, molecular, discounting the experiential and subjective. So does my scholarship, quite naturally. While there is no question that a heavy CARJ perspective certainly is quite useful and has a rightful time and place, I believe as scholars we are unnecessarily constrained and restricted by exclusive attachment to CARJ as our only option. I do not believe I can rush to judgment regarding other possibilities. I become biased as a scholar if I limit my perceptual frames of reference. In this light I will close with a quote from Vine Deloria that illustrates metaphysical cultural distinctions :
“The major difference between American Indian views of the physical world and Western science lies in the premise accepted by Indians and rejected by scientists; the world in which we live is alive. Many scientists believe this idea to be primitive superstition and consequently the scientific explanation rejects any nuance of interpretation which would credit the existence of activities as having partial intelligence or sentience. American Indians look at events to determine the spiritual activity supporting or undergirding them. Science insists, albeit at a great price in understanding, that the observer be as detached as possible from the event he or she is observing. Indians know that human beings must participate in events, not isolate themselves from occurrences in the physical world. Indians thus obtain information from birds, animals, rivers and mountains which is inaccessible to modern science.”
Poetry Radio Project: Jane Hirshfield
Poet Jane Hirshfield read this poem for us on our March 28, 2009 Splendid Table show. Find more poems by Jane Hirshfield online at the Poetry Foundation.
Each night you come home with five continents on your hands:
garlic, olive oil, saffron, anise, coriander, tea,
your fingernails blackened with marjoram and thyme.
Sometimes the zucchini's flesh seems like a fish-steak,
cut into neat filets, or the salt-rubbed eggplant
yields not bitter water, but dark mystery.
You cut everything to bits.
No core, no kernel, no seed is sacred: you cut
onions for hours and do not cry,
cut them to thin transparencies, the red ones
spreading before you like fallen flowers;
you cut scallions from white to green, you cut
radishes, apples, broccoli, you cut oranges, watercress,
romaine, you cut your fingers, you cut and cut
beyond the heart of things, where
nothing remains, and you cut that too, scoring coup
on the butcherblock, leaving your mark,
when you go
your feet are as pounded as brioche dough.
Copyright 1988 by Jane Hirshfield. Reprinted from Of Gravity & Angels with permission from Wesleyan University Press.
This entry is written by Amy Sheldon
I'm glad you said this, because it is so true. There is nuance here. Many of us love the FLOW state, when our bodies may be sedentary but we enjoy a feeling of creative movement, pleasurable focus, and being outside of tick-tock time. The downside of being sedentary is its incrementalism, accruing problems for our health over time, making it so the body doesn't work as well, or takes on problems, disabilities, and diseases as a direct result of us restricting our movements. It's the incremental toll of sedentariness in the scholar-teacher's day-by-day life style that is a serious problem, not only because it creates poor health, but also because over time, even though we do move in small ways, our body begins to become less feelable, and we become uncarbonated. Movement makes us carbonated.
Some people prefer the lack of restriction that comes from carbonation, others like stiller contents in our vessel. But as you say, there's no such thing as total non-movement, as long as we are alive. I note your words: "allow me", "better appreciate", "adjust", "let myself shift", "less restricted".
This entry is written by Margaret Adamek following workshops and a seminar delivered by visiting scholar, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone.
In Maxine's book, The Roots of Thinking, there is a chapter called "On the Origin of Language" - it gives a very good overview of what she thinks. She suggests that language co-arises with movement out of the tactile kinesthetic sphere. Her evolutionary take on the formation of words is quite interesting.
On BMC's/Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen's take - There is a great chapter on language development in her book, "Sensing, Feeling and Acting," that describes how language and movement emerge together. It's quite interesting - brings in the notion of sound and planes that Gill did with us in January; discusses the anatomical role/"mind" of the physiology of language and sound production and associated BMC-style somatic experiments, and then some of her theory on language and movement. It's quite good.
This entry was written by Craig Hassel
I'm not sure I have experienced not moving, as even the sedentary ways of highly cognitive academic work allow me subtle forms of movement. When I was in my intracellular world I felt a stillness, but within a larger context of living flux and activity. What I am learning is to better appreciate and experience movement in every day life, even as I adjust my posture in my chair in front of this screen. I do admit to quite enjoying our studio movement sessions where I can let myself shift away from my forebrain and open more of myself to less restricted ways of moving.
This entry was written by Margaret Adamek
Don Johnson (2004) outlines the widely understood Western definition of conscousness as a "ready-made reality to be located and explored: its boundaries and contents to be discovered by intellectual means" (p. 41). Another typical Western view of consciousness encompasses a hierarchical taxonomy of sentiency, where humans enjoy the most evolved consciousness, then primates, then other animals (and perhaps bumblebees), then plants (since they communicate via chemical messenger - which isn't really consciousness, but merely a physicalist chemical reaction), then primitive life-forms like fungi, bacteria and cells.
Because Body-Mind Centering emphasizes movement and its relationship to consciousness, its understanding of what constitutes consciousness diverges from this more conventionally accepted view in Western academia. Sheets-Johnstone (1999) defines consciousness as the "range of experiences that one has of itself as an animate form" (p. 77). She invokes an Aristotelian perspective on the nature and role of sensation in knowing, averring the importance of sensation and its importance to mind. Extending her reach even farther back and afield, Sheets-Johnstone explores the evolutionary roots and cross-species manifestations of consciousness, animation, and corporeality. Eschewing the notion of higher order and lower order consciousness, she proposes that as many patterns of corporeal consciousness exist as there are beings and that modifications in consciousness emerge as evolutionary descent unfolds.
This argument - tendered by Sheets-Johnstone and corporeally investigated by Body-Mind Centering - suggests that if the range of animate experiences we have constitutes consciousness, then there exists many states and forms of consciousness (what BMC describes as "mind"). There is bone consciousness, jellyfish consciousness, cellular consciousness, gravity consciousness, pushing consciousness, pulsing consciousness, fluid consciousness, all of which are accessible by the training and attenuation of attention. This means that humans are capable of manifold states of consciousness, any one of which can become the predominant experience in one's lifeworld simply through a skillfully shift in attention and movement.
Restricted, limited, cramped, small, curbed, restrained,
Asleep, deadened, out cold, under, knocked out
Ghost, spector, apparition,
Motionless, unmoving, at a stand still, at rest, at a halt, tranquil?, silent, quiet, stationary, stagnant, static, at rest, even, calm, relieve emotion, not carbonated, unemotional
At our last potluck we each discussed our answers to Maggi's homework question, "What is it like to explore your own embodiment?" The answers fell into two sorts.
Jerry and Maggi related their movement workshop experiences to an analytical discussion of abstract concepts about consciousness. Jane, who was silent, and I, did not. My homework answer to the question was: "It's fun." That's not an academic analysis.
Moving and experiencing my body are ends in themselves, even though, as an adult, I am aware that there are "benefits" that "motivate" me. I probably didn't think in terms of "benefits" when I was an active moving around kid running, rollerskating, and roving around my city and non-city world. And I didn't need to motivate myself to move, because movement was living. Not moving was harder and I did less of that.
Perhaps it's because I don't have the conceptual framework in Phenomenology that I don't reach for *that* framework to translate from physical, emotional engagement to verbal, abstract conceptual analysis of that engagement. Although I can speak about the experience of moving around in other reflective ways, but they are not explicitly grounded in an abstract framework of Phenomenology.
This leads me to the conclusion that, for me, the word "consciousness" is problematic.
I am not inclined to use it in talking about movement explorations.
My preference is to stay anchored in the physicality of experience and the feelings that stay with me after our workshops.
So, to answer the question now, "What is it like to explore your own embodiment?", I'll add that talking about embodiment in the abstract terms of Phenomenology (in the way that Jerry and Maggi were at the pot luck) didn't resonate with me.
Perhaps this means that we have more to talk about about what terms like "consciousness" mean in the phenomenological framework, and what it means in the folk-language framework.
You will receive other articles under separate cover, but this article is terrific. Please read it in preparation for our work next week