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March 28, 2009

"Cook", by Jane Hirshfield

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.

Reply to Craig on not moving

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".

On Language and Movement

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.

On Not Moving

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.

What is Consciousness?

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.

March 27, 2009

what does "not moving" mean?

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

March 22, 2009

What is consciousness?


Jonah Lehrer is an editor at large for Seed Magazine. He's also written for The New Yorker, Nature, the Boston Globe and is a contributer to Radio Lab and Scientific American Mind. He's the author of Proust Was A Neuroscientist. His new book is How We Decide.

Out of Our Heads
Posted on: February 28, 2009 10:11 AM, by Jonah Lehrer

First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who came to one of the events on my book tour, from Seattle to The Strand. Thank you for listening and for your questions. It's been such a deep pleasure to meet so many people interested in dopamine, Proust and Cheerios. Also, a sincere thank you to everyone who bought the book and helped put it on the New York Times Bestseller List.

On an entirely unrelated note, I've got a new review in the San Francisco Chronicle (long may it live!) on the philosopher Alva Noe's new book on consciousness. I really enjoyed the book, and see it as yet another demonstration that Richard Feynman was wrong when he famously quipped that "philosophers of science are to scientists as ornithologists are to birds".

The most mysterious thing about the human brain is that the more we know about it, the deeper our own mystery becomes. On the one hand, scientists tell us that we are nothing but 3 pounds of electrical flesh inside the skull, a trillion synapses exchanging squirts of neurotransmitter.
And yet we feel like more than the sum of these cells. We feel self-conscious, endowed with a mind that experiences the taste of a peach, and the redness of red, and the thrill of romantic love. The question of how the brain creates the mind - how these subjective experiences emerge from a piece of pale gray meat - is one of the essential questions of modern science. And yet, despite decades of research, we aren't remotely close to an answer.

Alva Noë, a philosopher at UC Berkeley, argues that consciousness remains a mystery because we've been looking in the wrong place. In his provocative and lucid new book, Noë writes that scientists have been so eager to locate the mind in the brain that they've neglected to consider the possibility that our mind might not be inside our head.

Then where is it? Don't worry, Noë isn't an old-fashioned Cartesian dualist: He doesn't believe that our consciousness is some metaphysical gift from God. Instead, he suggests that who we are and what we know is inseparable from where we are and what we're doing: "Consciousness is not something the brain achieves on its own," Noë writes. "Consciousness requires the joint operation of the brain, body and world. ... It is an achievement of the whole animal in its environmental context."

Noë sells this audacious idea with a series of effective metaphors. For instance, he begins the book by comparing consciousness to a dollar bill. He notes that it would be silly to search for the physical correlates of "monetary value." After all, the meaning of money isn't in the paper, or the green ink, or the picture of George Washington. Instead, it exists in the institutions and practices that give the paper meaning. Similarly, our awareness of reality doesn't depend entirely on what's happening inside the brain, but is a side effect of how we, as individuals, interact with the wider world.

March 17, 2009

Problem with "consciousness"

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.

Reading for Sheets-Johnstone Visit

You will receive other articles under separate cover, but this article is terrific. Please read it in preparation for our work next week


March 11, 2009

Knowing by Maps, Not by Feel

Said by one of our scholar collaborators at recent embodiment workshop:

"Our problem is that we are locked into maps and representations of our body for knowing - NOT OUR EXPERIENCE OF OUR BODY. You can't get out of that - we are trained to create knowledge from this place"

March 10, 2009

The Role of Tone In Embodiment

Every bodymind sustains a particular tone - the overall vibrational field of the subject as a whole entity. Our bodies are alive and therefore moving at all times - from the subcellular on up. The tone of the bodymind ranges from low on one end of a continuum to 'balanced' in the middle to 'high' on the other end. We all fall somewhere on that continuum. The baseline of a person's tone varies. Tone can also differ from context to context - i.e. sleeping versus waking, sitting vs. running, etc.

Tone is also related to both weight and space. The body has a fundamental resonance with gravity. Our tone is impacted by this relationship. Our movement through space means our tone is also about kinesthesis - pushing, pulling, and reaching into space.

As you begin to recognize your own baseline tone, you can experiment with lightening the tone or deepening the tone, by alternating your attention between space and weight within your body. The more you work with the concept of tone, the more choices you have about the styles of engagement with others and the world. The role of breath is central in the investigation of tone and transitioning from one quality of tone into another. Returning to the breath and noticing how light or heavy it feels, how weighted or spacious it feels, etc. can assist the investigator.

Questions from Deep Dive Workshop

During our 3 day "Deep Dive into Embodiment" workshop in early January, the group articulated several questions that surfaced as a result of their work with weight and space, tone, planes, and developmental movement patterns. These questions include:

* How do we ask questions in the context of an embodied approach to inquiry?
* Where does this capacity to explore our own embodiment come from?
* How does the direct experience that we investigate through these workshops affect cognitive processing?
* How can I apply this as a methodology?

Recommended Readings from Group Members

The Embodied Methodologies Working Group suggested several writers whose work may be helpful or illuminating (or both).....

Gesture People (Michael Thomas Sella; David McNeal; Charles Goodwin)
Sensing, Feeling, Action - Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, founder of BodyMind Centering
Karin Dahlberg
Max von Manen
Patricia Benner (Nursing)
Charlie Laughlin
Elizabeth Behnke
Natalie Depraz

Why and What We Should Read

In embodied inquiry, there should be the embodied practice - in our case it is Body-Mind Centering-based work. But there should also be readings that support the somatic elements. Readings to support the development of embodied methodologies should:

* Provide a basic overview of what embodiment is and what embodied practice is
* Demonstrate how people study embodiment
* Offer a clear connection between what we are reading and what we are 'doing' embodiment-wise

Our Questions from Don Johnson's visit

We hosted internationally renowned somatics philosopher, Don Hanlon Johnson, in the fall of 2008. Don offered public seminars, participated in faculty dialogues, led workshops for our Embodied Methodologies Working Group and joined us for dinner conversations. Several questions surfaced as a result of our time with Don, including:

* How do we get feedback from participants? What did they hear in Don's remarks?
* How do we engage this content in real work?
* Can we have more readings to better understand what we are doing?
* How do we structure research projects? Do we 'watch' people being embodied? How does it work? What is the role of the investigator?
* How do people study embodiment?
* What is the connection between self care of scholar/humans and embodied methodologies in research?
* How does the abstract/conceptual/theoretical around embodiment connect to the practical?
* What does it mean to say the body knows?
* What are "body-primary" professions? What are "non-body primary" professions?

Acquiring Embodied Proficiency: Transmission and Time

For those interested in the application of embodied methods to scholarly inquiry and teaching, there are critical challenges that arise with respect to proficiency and expertise. While somatic practice is accessible to any motivated person, there is a degree of expertise that takes time. Training and refining the bodymind's proprioceptive capabilities and developing new pathways in the sensorimotor system does not happen immediately. Like anything, becoming facile at something takes significant practice and the guidance of an expert teacher.

In Body-Mind Centering and with an embodied approach to scholarly inquiry, one not only has to spend 'time' to gain expertise. There is - as Buddhist traditions understand - an issue of transmission, from expert teacher to novice student. The "mind" of the material in BMC as an embodied method can be transmitted through touch or through collective embodied experiences like our 3 hour monthly embodied workshops.

We have both elements in the design of this project. For scholars who want to know how they can immediately apply their novel and powerful embodied experiences to their work, they need to understand that time and transmission - refinement of the bodymind's capabilities, powers of proprioceptive and kinesthetic discrimination, and knowledge of how to teach and understand embodied experience must all come online before one is ready to do rigorous scholarship using embodied methods or classroom teaching.

Exploring the Planes and Sound

In our January 'Deep Dive into Embodiment' 3 day workshop, we explored the three planes of movement - sagittal, vertical, and horizontal. We used sound forms - through recognizable words - that shaped the mouth to reflect the plane in which our entire body was to move. In other words, as the lips and mouth stretch wide to form certain sounds - this movement shape of the mouth reflected the movement of the body in the horizontal plane, and so on. This exploration of the interconnectedness of sound, movement and language with our experience of movement through space produced a series of interesting questions, which are listed in a separate entry under "Embodiment Workshops"....

The words we used were:
Sloppy Copy - vertical plane, up and down
Peach Tree - horizontal plane, side to side
Fool Proof - sagittal plane, forward and backward

Each mover has their own preference for a plane, one which feels more familiar when asked to move through space via a proscribed plane.

These planes or dimensions of space are connected to the physics of experience:

Sagittal - Time (from urgent to sustained)
Horizontal - Space (from direct to indirect)
Vertical - Weight (from strong/condensing to light/indulging)

This terminology is used in Laban Movement Analysis

January "Deep Dive Into Embodiment" Workshop

We invited Dr. Gill Wright Miller, Chair and Professor, Denison University Dance Department and Body-Mind Centering expert, to conduct a 3 day intensive embodiment workshop based on developmental movement patterns and the connections between embodiment and scholarly practice. As a result of these 3 days, the group engaged in a dialogue in response to the following question:

What questions do you have as a result of your participation in this 3 day workshop?
* What is the difference between being and doing?
is it practical to imagine repatterning the bodymind? What does it take?
* What is the gap between language, sound and movement? How does this work? How does it connect to movement? What can we do?
* How do I get out of my own way with respect to my awareness?
* How does embodiment connect to "life" change and practices?
* How do I load scholarship and teaching with this work in a way that fits with my peers?
* How do we transform our methodologies to become more embodied so that scholarly praxis becomes more sensuous?

These questions suggest a fourfold trajectory of inquiry that includes:

* The role of embodiment in the production of language and the connection of movement to language
* The refinement and style of awareness required to feel proficient at embodied practice
* The personal and professional applications of embodiment practice
* The integration of embodied practice in scholarly inquiry

Perhaps these themes can inform future articles? We see how the questions that arise from intensive, structured engagement with embodiment begin to produce interesting questions and lines of inquiry for research.

March 9, 2009

Findings from November Embodiment Workshop

As a result of our November embodiment workshop, which focused specifically on the nature and meaning of embodied experience, we posted a question to surface early-stage findings from scholar collaborators:

What's coming clear about embodied experience?
* There are different types of embodied experiences that we can learn to recognize and inhabit.
* There is richness in embodied life - the knowledge of the body is very complicated.
* Embodiment is complicated. Mind is complicated. We treat embodiment as a simple thing.
In whose interest is it to make it simple?
* There is not your embodiment and my embodiment. There are worlds and worlds and layers and layers of embodiment
* Habitual states of embodiment become so familiar that we presume that they represent the full breadth of embodied experience
* We are not discovering the body for the first time. We've had life with a body, but no permission to have bodies in certain contexts (like academia)
* All states of embodiment are expressed at once - historical/personal/cultural/family as well as intellectual/conceptual
* We rarely get the opportunity to keep our somatosensory experience in the foreground as we make knowledge
* We’re not discovering the body for the first time. We’ve had life with body but no permission to have bodies in certain contexts like academia. We haven’t thought about embodied life in a comprehensive way like other things
* There are strong connections in this work to the erotic and feminine, making it fraught with risk for the academic world

November Embodiment Workshop

The focus of the fall for the Embodied Methodologies Working Group is "Experience." This workshop focused on providing its participants with an understanding of what is meant by the concept of "experience" - something alluded to by John Dewey (the nature of experience); Husserl (lived experience); William James (direct experience or 'sciousness') among others, including significant, longstanding discourse in Buddhist philosophy.

This embodiment workshop involved an extended sitting meditation component, followed by the questions:

What is it like to sit and notice your embodied experience?

* This type of sitting creates a non-personal kind of experience, where I'm not there and yet I am "just paying attention" to what's happening in the body and mind.
* This posture for sitting meditation and the other 'bag of body tricks' (including breath and gut, relaxed diaphragm, eyes closed) facilitates easy 'noticing' of my experience.
meditative space as embodied experience
* you realize that you breathe in shifts; a sense of selflessness kicks in
*What does it mean to relax?

What happens when we notice our own experiencing body as scholars in the moment?
* I loved the contrast between the experience outside and inside - there is a different quality between out and in
there is a great sense of space (the outside sensibility).
* Getting to the outside from the inside is a very interesting shift and only requires a change in 'noticing' or direction of awareness
* Scholars are locked into maps and representations of our body - NOT OUR EXPERIENCE OF OUR BODY - for knowing. You can't get out of that - we are trained to create knowledge from this stance.

Resources for Embodied Methodologies Trekkers

These are books that have been recommended by our scholar collaborator and Body-Mind Centering expert, Margie Fargnoli:
Embroyology (Netter)
Principles of Anatomy and Physiology (Tortor, Anagnostakos)
The Molecular Biology of the Cell
Anatomy and Human Movement
Medical Embryology (Langman)
Ontogenetic Basis of Human Anatomy
What's Going On In There?
Proust and Neuroscience
Life (Lanhart Nilsson)
From Conception to Birth (Alexander Tasiarias)
A Guided Tour of the Living Cell (Scientific American series)
Sensitive Chaos (Schwartz)
Clinical Kinesiology (Lehmkuhl and Smith)
Neuroanatomy (Martin)
Principles of Neuroscience
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience (Jean Ayres)
Reflexive Learning and Behavior (Sally Goddard)
Joint Structure and Function: A Complex Analysis

In September - Our questions

Early in this process, we asked each other about what's coming clear as a result of our collaboration - most people responded with a concrete idea for a research project, like:

* What is the experience of the Body-Mind Centering practitioner and client?
* What is the experience of intercorporeality with young children?
* How does pedagogy in mass education work with respect to the use of tactility?
* What are cultural roots and grounding of Body-Mind Centering?
* How much will this improve my golf game?

There were also questions about legitimacy and validation:

* How do we know this work is real? Can we prove it scientifically?

And one question that was more philosophically oriented:

* What types of metaphysical, epistemological and cosmological shifts are made by scholars undertaking an embodied methodology? What in particular happens to biological scientists?

What we hope we learn....

We first met on September 11 and posed several important questions to frame up our process:

How do we document this?

* We have posed open-ended, phenomenologically oriented questions when we are together - e.g. "what is it like to...." "what does this mean?"
* We have taken notes to document our experiences, using the above questions as the prompt
* We have generated a process that asks each individual by turn to share their perspectives, and then we move into a more dialogic conversation. This way, we are sure to document the individual insights of the scholar collaborators, as well as the emergent shared meanings and questions

How do we position this work institutionally? Departmentally? Disciplinarily?
* We have built a strong relationship with the Institute for Advanced Study
* We are seeking additional internal resources to support further work
* We are adding to our group of investigators from other disciplines and other campuses
*We have developed a long-range strategy to position and elevate the work - institutionally, academically, and internationally

What shifts for each participant and the group as we go through this? Is there a transformational piece? If so, what is it like?
*We are seeing the trust of each participant in the embodied exploration component - we look forward to moving together; we honor the importance of each scholar collaborator's embodied experience, and understand that we need several hours together regularly to explore this.
*We are learning that embodied investigation not only contributes fresh perspectives conceptually and intellectually (e.g. a shift in understanding Husserlian definitions of 'being') as well as personally (what happens when we spend time in a state of 'being' rather than active thinking)