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February 16, 2010

"Experiencing my Experience..."

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.

April 21, 2009

OPINES and CARJ - A response

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's Reflections on Last Friday's Workshop

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.”

March 28, 2009

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.

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.

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.