Where is the Somatic Center, Really?

When people refer to being "centered", one wonders what they mean.  Immobile?  In possession of ones faculties? Calm? This piece clarifies the term.  Psychologists -- don't worry.

If you answer the question with from a bodily perspective, “at the center of the trunk" or “at the hara,” I bid you recognize that those answers come from the third-person perspective (“it”), but for the answer to be meaningful, it must jive (correlate) with the first-person (“I”) perspective that is the essence of somatic existence.

What makes the somatic center, The Somatic Center? We would have to answer the question in functional terms, wouldn’t we? and in experiential terms, yes?

So, let’s explore some answers.

We might say that movement originates from the somatic center. Now, in experiental terms, when you lift your arm, do you experience the act emanating from the center of your trunk? Can you keep your trunk relaxed and still lift your arm? Well, mostly. You’ll find that you have to stiffen your spine to some degree, even if you are lying down, and even then your shoulder gets far more contracted than your spine.

So we are left with a bit of a question about the matter. Is our spine our somatic center?

Chiropractors and teachers of The Alexander Technique would argue that movement originates at the neck. Our neck is part of our spine, but hardly the center of our trunk, or hara.

Perhaps we need to revisit our criterion. Perhaps the somatic center is not the place from which movement originates, in that sense. Perhaps it’s the place at which the intention to expand into the world originates.

That still seems a bit abstract. To firm the idea up, a bit, we might look at the opposite motive, to withdraw from involvement with the world. The action of withdrawal from the whole world (which is different from withdrawing from something specific in our environment, which involves walking or running away) generally involves curling in upon ourselves, protecting our soft belly, hiding the hara. It’s wholesale avoidance of everything.

That might seem to give us an answer, but it’s still conceptual rather than experiential.

What are we protecting, when we curl that way, and what are we exposing, when we uncurl?

In first-person terms, we are protecting or exposing our most sensitive feeling-being.

That gives us a bit of a better lead on an answer, but leaves us with a deeper question.

From what place in ourselves are we viewing our most sensitive feeling-being?

Now, don’t go into your thinking mind for the answer. Go into your experience. You’ll notice that you can observe the sensation of your hara, which means you observe it from a from a place outside it. Since we are observing from that place, it must be at least “closer” to the center of our sensitive feeling-being than the thing being observed.

So, where is the center of our most sensitive feeling-being?

At this point, any answer you give that is based upon a bodily, or somatic, frame of reference, falls back to the same question. From what point of view are we viewing that?

Go experiential with that question and start exploring with your attention for the answer, and you discover something disorienting. All “places” from which we view anything can themselves be viewed, or felt, as as “something, somewhere.” The point of view from which you do the viewing, however, is always not there, where the object being viewed, is, but here, where our hereness is, the “hereness” that doesn’t move no matter where or how much we move.

If, at last, you turn your attention to the origin of the viewing, you can’t discover anything there because you are always viewing from “here” and anything you can view is “there.”

Now, where is the somatic center?

OK. I’ll give you a break. Let’s reframe the question, again.

Is awareness of the somatic center the center of somatic awareness? Or is the center of somatic awareness outside soma altogether?

Or to put the question another way, which is more central, our somatic center or the “hereness” from which we view it?

What does it do to your somatic experience to recognize that the center of your experiencing (hereness) is not the same as your somatic center?

Just asking.

Here’s a little clue: Whatever you can experience is not your essential self because it is always “there” and changeable; it is not your “hereness,” which is always here, always you.

That means you can discriminate more clearly between contractions that are so familiar that you identify them as yourself (sensory-motor amnesia) and the free condition of sensory-motor awareness.

Soma can be said to be our functional self because we identify, as self, anything we can control by mere act of will, with no intervening steps. However, soma cannot be said to be our self because somatic sensations are always perceived as “there” to our hereness, observable by ourself.

So, I hate to break it to you, but that means that soma is neither self, nor is it not-self.

What a relief.

© 2006 Lawrence Gold, Sunday, October 8, 2006, 1:28 PM


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