Presenting Somatics

Ladies and Gentlemen:
for your edification and entertainment
may I present

somatics

an evolutionary leap
in the understanding of humankind

This kind of stunt happens only every ten thousand years, or so, so listen up.  I'm going to lay a metaphor on you. 

The early stages of life were little more than separation of inner from outer by a cell membrane, with some chemical exchange and a sense of bouncy motion.

Later came light sensitivity and then, eyes, signifying the entire orientation of the next few hundred million years, or so -- the orientation to what is external.  Most of evolutionary history has been taken up with that task, at first in the name of bare survival, then in the name of cultural and social development (beyond bare survival).  The external orientation shows up today with the use of make-up (which simulates the facial coloring changes of sexual arousal).

Only recently (in terms that changed the face of Western culture) has internal awareness been developing; in earlier times, individuals rarely developed much subtle internal awareness, being more preoccupied, as they were, with challenging living conditions and social conformity pressures (both internal and external).  Individual impulses were contained within and by conformist conditioning.

So, the inner is coming into its own, ready to be correlated with the outer.

"Correlated"  -- what does this mean?

It means seeing the correspondences between inner (subjective) experience and outer (objective) behavior or physical changes as two experiences of the same thing.  Not "thinking of them" as the same thing, not thinking "We're supposed to think of them as the same thing."  Actually experiencing them as the same thing, considered differently.

So, "outer is experienced inwardly" and inward experience shows up as outward behaviors or changes.

Then comes the lie detector test.

Just kidding.

Here's some examples, instead.

Dreams are inward events, right?

Ever seen a dog dream?  The waving paws, the changes of breathing, the barking?  See the eyes move back and forth?

They call that REM -- Rapid  Eye Movement.  It's  reliable sign of dreaming.  The outer behavior that corresponds to doggie's inner experience.

Ever watched someone learn to read?  The lip movements?

You're seeing them thinking the words as they sound them.

Ever blushed?

Point made?

So, somatics is based on inner and outer being two aspects of the same thing, not two different things.

First of all, for reasons stated, that alone is an evolutionary leap in the understanding of humankind.

But wait!  There's more.

Those primitive life-forms at the dawn of time, those cells floating in a primordial soup, were very simple.  They had three functions:  eat, excrete, and reproduce.  They enjoyed it, but still, that's all they had.

Later down the line, they developed a fashion sense.

My point is that as life evolved, life forms became more intricate, more organized, capable of more and different forms of behavior.  Most of these behaviors are what would call "instinctual" -- meaning intrinsic to the organism and, for the most part, constituting all of its behavior -- the behavioral patterns of bugs and worms, a reptile or two, maybe a fish.

The higher we go up the evolutionary staircase (fooled you -- you thought I was going to say, "ladder", didn't you?), and the more complex life forms are, the more complex their behavior gets, and something new appears -- the ability to learn more.  Dogs, rats, bankers.

Now, learning is a big deal.  It involves self-loading new behaviors and new perceptions into the Automatic Memory Library for use in day to day living.  Any life-form can learn by repetitive experiences of something -- but how many life-forms self-load new learning?  I ask you.

That's another evolutionary leap.

But wait! There's more!

Sometimes conditions change to such an extent that previous learning no longer closely applies.  What do you do, then?

Learning something new on top of old learning is like playing two pieces of music at the same time.  Moreover, one generally finds it impossible to turn off Song #1.

Good grooming suggests an alternative.  Learn to turn off Song #1, or at least to modulate it.

How?  You've got to switch it from "autoplay" to "manual launch".  And to do that, you've got to switch yourself to "manual launch" and then manually re-launch Song #1.  Now that you know what it feels like to launch Song #1, you also know what it feels like not to launch Song #1 -- and there you are.  STOP PLAYING SONG #1!!  You think I'm being funny?  No.  I'm using a metaphor to explain a principle.  I'll explain, how, later.

For now, let's assume that you've stopped playing Song #1 and things are quiet enough that you can hear yourself think.  You can play Song #2 without interference.

That's it, in principle.

In other language:  Wash before you handle food.

What does this have to do with somatics?

I would think that would be obvious.  But if it's not, here goes.

Our lives are a gigantic recording library of events and behaviors, input from earliest consciousness, grown into maturity, or something similar to maturity.

Life is constantly playing Song #2, while we continue to play Song #1 (to a greater or lesser degree).  By time we get to Song #2, Life expects us to learn Song #3.  It's always something.

We're on a rolling landslide of cultural norms, so Song #1 is definitely on the playlist, as is Song #2 and, of course, Song #3.
 
Wouldn't it be nice to be able to bring songs under control, at least some of the time?  Maybe clear out a little memory space so we can meet experience afresh, learn the next song more adroitly?

That's one of the basic understandings of somatics:  free the grip of old "songs" so that we can dance to the new songs better.  In other language:  Out with the old, in with the new. 

The question of "How" enters the picture.

Here's the basic approach:

Whatever a person is doing "wrong"
(causing problems for self or others) -- 
have him (her) do it more --
and then less.

The "more" part heightens awareness.
The "less" part activates responsibility.

Sounds like fun, huh?

This strategy works with physical pains, emotional distress, and stupid thinking.

It's a basic strategem of somatics, and if you don't like it, try drugs -- the legal kind, of course.  (Oh, no, I would never advocate the use of psychoactive drugs -- you know, the kind that expand your reach beyond conventional thinking!  oh, no ... not I.)

Which brings us to another principle, which I call "The Prime Directive of Somatics":

Ya Gotta Wanna.

If you don' wanna, you don'a get so much done.

I heard that, once.

The field of somatics observes certain principles and from those principles develops courses of action that free individuals from old songs so they can learn new ones and maybe a new act or two.  Of course, ya gotta wanna.

Here's another way of saying the same thing:
There is No Mind-Body Connection | There Is No Mind-Body Split
Pain Relief through Somatic Education 

Practical Action:
Programs 










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


MORE:

There is No "Now" Moment -- There is An All-Present Now-Field

There is No "Now" Moment -- There is An All-Present Now-Field

A common confusion exists about what constitutes, "now" or "nowness".  This entry clarifies that confusion to the point of dropping you into your own self-nature, which is only "now" -- not a person, place, thing, state, or process.  

"Now" is utterly transcendental and not knowable as a particular "something" that we can "be" in, by decision.

In the Upanishads, the esoteric Hindu scriptures, and elsewhere, reference is made to the three "times" -- past, present, and future.  We are said to exist only in the present.

Eastern spiritual and Western psychotherapeutic teachings exhort us to "be here, now" as the gateway to health and sanity.

While there exists a measure of benefit to following that advice, it leaves in place the very habit that leaves us subject to distress and strife.

It's helpful to re-cast the three times in other, familiar language.  As we will discover, there are only two times -- past and future -- and what we call the present is actually the past.  There is no "now" in which to be, here.

The past is memory.  The future is imagination.  The so-called present is considered the infinitesimal "edge" across which "future" enters our experience and becomes the past.

Psychology teaches us to "live in the present".  The expression is, "Lose your mind and come to your senses."  As noble as the intention behind it may be, even that advice leaves us in bondage to memory and habit.

Time is fleeting.  No one has identified how infinitesimal the "edge" of the present is.  I submit that it does not exist, but only appears to exist because of memory.

Everything Happens Before We Know It

This is not just a figure of speech.  It's an observable fact.

There once existed a game show, "Name That Tune."  Players competed to guess the tune being played in the minimum number of notes possible.  No one guessed before the first note.  The tune had to play for a certain number of notes before recognition was possible.  My point is that contestants needed a certain span of time to recognize the tune. 

There always exists a span of time, after an experience has started, before we can recognize it.  Every event happens before we know it.  We live, always, in the past.

Test my words.

Sitting as you are, now, turn and look elsewhere -- wait!  Before you do, decide to notice how long it takes to see what you are now facing.  Now do it.


You notice that you need a certain amount of time before your eyes can focus well enough to see what you are looking at -- and even more time to discern details.  See?


Another example:  Turn on the radio or some other source of music that someone other than you has programmed.  You'll notice that, not only don't you know what's playing, at first; you don't even know the rhythm for some time.  The music happens before you know it; you know it only after the fact.

Same with "The News":  "news" is a misnomer -- it's old before we hear it.  It may be a new development since the last time we heard "news", but if it's not "right now", it's old.  Even "breaking" news with live coverage happens before we know it, since we need time to comprehend it, and then our emotions rise before we know it.  "The News" ain't new.  Interestingly, to give the impression of immediacy, news media commonly print headlines as if stating a general truth in the form of a generality:

GIANTS DEFEAT PATRIOTS

and not,

GIANTS DEFEATED PATRIOTS

which states the fact as in-the-past, which would be true.   Oddly, people never question it.  (Don't say, "People understand what is meant."  It's a mis-statement, period, a distortion of the truth that people have to correct in their minds or be misled.)

You meditators -- here's one for you.

Some people make an effort to quiet (or silence) the mind in meditation.  The vexing thing is that thoughts always seem to be arising and to exist before we can quell them.  Ever notice?  Thinking happens before we know it.  Then, we may try to stomp on thoughts to get the mind quiet or we may try to "listen to the silence between" thoughts.  The only problem:  these strategies depend on thought (or intention -- same thing, for all intents and purposes.  There's an "out" for that.  Click here.)

Well, folks, there's no escaping it:  Everything happens before we know it, both outside us and inside us, and everything we experience is memory (or perhaps, imagination, or both).

There are some, I know, who attempt to "hedge" on this observation.  They say that events happen so recently in the past that they are, for all intents and purposes, in the present.  This is a stand for the notion of "free will".

These people forget that their own reactions also happen before they know it -- and their efforts to control their reactions also happen before they know it.  They confuse the past with the present, confuse memory with now-ness.

Likewise, people who believe that living in their sensations (or with mindfulness) constitutes "living in the Now".

Earlier, I showed how living in the senses always entails a delay between happening and recognizing.  Now, let me drive the point home, some more.

I'll take two approaches that drive toward the same point.

Approach #1:  The Limits of Physiology

It's an accepted physiological fact that our senses deliver information along nerves, from sense receptors (retinas of the eyes, inner ears, touch receptors, etc.) to our brain.  Nerve impulses travel slower than instantaneously; they take time to reach the brain and time for the brain to process them.  There's always a delay between stimulus and sensing the stimulus (never mind "reaction time").  We are always and only sensing the past (but paradoxically, in the present).

Approach #2:  The Basis of Perception

Perception always depends upon recognition, and recognition always depends upon memory.

We have, at minimum, a memory of the difference between "something" and "nothing".  The sense of "something being there" comes from the act of fixating (or holding) attention someplace.  If you don't hold your attention steady in some way, at least momentarily, there's no possibility of experiencing something as "being there"; you don't perceive it. Holding attention steady depends upon a memory of "movement and position", so the ability to distinguish something from nothing depends upon memory.

Everything else follows from that.  Recognition of persons, places, things and processes depends upon pre-existing, similar memories.  If you don't have a similar memory to be activated by an event, you can't recognize the event; it's incomprehensible to you.

It has been said that the Indians of Central America failed even to see the ships of the approaching Spaniards because they were so unlike anything the Indians had ever seen.  For them, this new thing happening (before they knew it) was the same as nothing happening -- and the Spaniards conquered them before they knew it.

Perception depends upon recognition, and recognition always depends upon memory.

In other words, perception of the present depends upon memory of the past.

Let's take a deep breath, here, and then I'll summarize.

It distills down to this:

Our experience of the present, even of the sensory experience that some call, "the now", is actually the experience of memory -- of the impressions of our past.  Without memory, we have no experience of the so-called present.

"The Now" is a fabrication.

"Now" is indeterminate -- the experience of infinity, which is not some bizarre insanity, but without form, formation, or definition, most ordinary, but unnoticed.

What does that leave us with?

I said, earlier, that "now" is utterly and entirely transcendental.  It is not one or many objects in time; objects-in-time are memories.

More than that, the presumption that we are "living in the now" when we are living in our senses leaves us sensing our memories, since perception depends upon memory -- and thus our sense of "the now" is our sense of "the past" (memories) confronting experience emerging before we know it.  Take another moment with that, if you like.

We cannot exclude memory (or our perceptions or our motivations or our insights, either) in order to "live in the now". Motivation depends upon memory, even the memory of a "spiritual" or "psychologically healthy" intention.  If you can operate upon it, it's memory operating upon memory, enforcing memory (the past) in the name of "the Now".

Thus, it has been said (for all you Buddhists) that "the more we pursue it, the further we go from it," and "You may polish a tile forever, but it will never become a mirror."

There is one loophole.  It's the usual one:  "The way Out is Into and Through."

If we recognize memory as "memory", if we recognize the so-called "now" as "memory", we intuit the subtle field of awareness within which memory exists (which is not a thing with a location) Now and Always.  We intuit -- by another name -- The Universal Eternal (not a thing -- gotta recognize memory of "The Universal Eternal" as memory -- then the intuition flashes forward).

That recognition levels the playing field.  We no longer seek to exclude memories or imagination in order to "live in the Now".  We no longer seek, "The Power of Now", since it is always already the case, and never a "power".  There is no "other" to be sought as Truth; there is only the simultaneous recognition of All Things and the Formless Field in which they arise as perfectly coincident ("not two"), and there is no way to escape Now.  Memory loses its grip, even as it persists, and we fall through.

So, why does it appear that we must make an effort to intuit Now?  It's because of entrapment in unconscious, habituated memory.  Here's the next step, and it's the opposite direction, perhaps, to the one to which we have become accustomed.

Hee hee hee.


MORE:

There is No Mind-Body Connection -- There is No Mind-Body Split