Embodiment and the Art of Living


The human experience is the experience of being embodied. We emote, express and feel in accordance with the way our bodies move and pulse through our existence. Our embodiment is the ground from which awareness rises and sets; we emerge out of our bodied mystery, and into mystery we return. Endless forms of experience are born out of this emergence. For me, embodiment is the great frontier.

We are not simply defined by our anatomy. By this I mean we are not simply biological and neurological processes, nor are we determined by our genetic inheritance. Human anatomy is a subjectivity, a soma. It is a personal way of knowing through the sensory, kinetic and excitatory revelations of the body. Anatomy is poiesis: the creative emergence of life’s drive to generate forms, bodying forth a world of experiencing, feeling, memory. Our dreams are body dreams, pulsations of the somatic imagination. The body's grammar, primary and primordial, is the poetry of morphogenesis.

In contrast to the objectification of the body, somatics is the art of living. The art of living is how we learn to give our aliveness an embodied shape, expressive form and energetic presence. Our soma generates the raw material of direct experience to be formed into expressive, creative acts. We are touched by our process, and, in turn, we can shape our process, defining ourselves by how we form our aliveness. What do I want? How shall I live? Who am I becoming?

There is an increasing confusion between ideas and experiences. Interpretation and understanding have come to replace experience and action as how we answer and address life’s questions. For the soma, we only really know that which we have lived, which is to say, embodied, enacted, experienced. Our answers are body answers, a preverbalized knowing in action and sensation, our somatic compass. When we lose touch with this, we may come to rely on external codes of behavior and imposed meanings to orient our existence.

To be alive is to dance at the edges of knowing. Living our questions is to wade in the uncertainties, lingering in the felt-sensed animate promptings which harken our possibilities. I experience this by attending to what is unformed in me, liquid and visceral pulsations for which there are yet no words, no expression. There can be a sense of disorientation, a groping in the dark, sensing out the dimensions of inner space. And yet, there are bursts of illumination. The poiesis of my soma generates successions of waves, unfolding excitements that inform experiences to be embodied. Expression: a pressing outward of excitement, a forming of liquid urges into muscular acts. I wait to be touched by the answers of my bodily responses, bearing with them new answers about how I can live.

The essays to follow reflect personal explorations, excitements and questions relating to embodiment. And mostly, my marvel at it all. After all, what is a question but an opening to the state of wonder? Like Annie Dillard said, "You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment."


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