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.