On Aliveness


Somatic Therapy

Aliveness is the living dynamic of our body, the kinetic force generated by the motile currents and pulsing urges of our anatomy’s activity. The awareness of being alive arises from the animate process of our soma, coursing through us, as us, revealing itself at it crests forth from our depths. Our soma calls to us, speaking in the sensual voice of movement, the vibratory rhythm of life. We can ignore or suppress it. But, no matter, it is always present as long as we are living, for it is our living.

We all, in our own way, seek to be more alive. It is the body’s will, it’s grand directive, driving our growth. Greater aliveness is not found in seeking happiness or self-awareness. Nor is it simply high-pitched arousal or sensation seeking. To be more alive is to be more in contact with the somatic pulsations that inform our existence. The vitality of the body is a shining, climaxing sensuality; it is the thrust of life’s desire. Experiencing how we are shaped by our soma’s process and how, in turn, we can be shapers of our vitality gives us a way to participate in the formative drive that is both the process and experience of being alive.

States of aliveness are grounded in cellular activity. Our cells are shivering in movement. Just as bees in winter generate heat for the hive with their collective vibrations, small pulses give rise to emergent animate patterns. The strum of our organs send vibratory waves rippling through us, forming throbbing pulses, circulatory currents, rivers of excitement, eddies of feeling, and pools of warmth. These motile rhythms and liquid pressures crescendo into large orchestrated movements, the pulsatory expanding and contracting of muscular action and emotion.

Pulsatory vibrations organize into complex orders that we experience as the unique patterns and qualities of aliveness. We don’t just vibrate; we are buzzing in alertness, purring in pleasure, quivering in anticipation. The soma’s pulses and pressures are liquid waves experienced as a sweet blush of warmth, a rush of delight, a flow of tenderness, a throbbing in desire. We swell with its building force and are bathed in the feelings left in its wake. It movements carry us on it’s tides, sometime pounding in determination, sometimes draining away in dread. Atmospheric moods and airs pervade in unformed ambient clouds of excitation that anticipate the gathering condensation of feeling and neural-electric storms. Pulse, flow, suffuse—these shifting liquid densities and grades of pressure create layered excitatory textures, a gestalt of experience.

The heightening of motility and movement heightens sensation and the experience of aliveness. We become vibrant— literally vibrating more intensely and fully. The more movement the body generates, the more immersed we are in the soma’s élan. The kinesthetic friction of our visceral layers increases sensation, heat and building excitatory tensions. At times I experience deep visceral throbs, a powerful sonorous wave that generates a feeling of force and grounding in myself. Other times, aliveness shows up as a shimmering wave that travels up the surface of my body, an electric pleasure that leaves me vitalized in its wake.

Dynamic states of aliveness constitute the many ingredients that give experiencing its flavor and richness. The experience of aliveness is what gives significance to moments, their pleasure or ache, their special quality and character. It includes and encapsulates the gestalt of feeling, awareness and meaning we make of things. It is the quality and value of our experiences, like when we feel comforted or loving. We ‘feel good’ we say, but often without recognizing the simmering state of somatic activity that generates the experience of goodness. We tend to attribute meanings to outside causes, not recognizing that meaning and value are fundamentally embodied.

The metabolic and excitatory products of our soma are the zest of life. It gives living its wonder, for our aliveness also puts us in touch with what is timeless— the ancient organizing process of the body. We are anointed by it; you could even say it is sacred. It might seem intangible, but it is actually quite tactile, kinesthetic and sensual. Without this, meanings and values are abstract, disembodied things, devoid of the life that informs them.

Aliveness is inherently spontaneous, the echo of our anatomy’s self-organizing process. On the whole, our body is an autonomous, involuntary realm of activity. We are born moved by our inherited acts, and these involuntary movements drive how our body maintains and grows its order. The body generates pulses and impulses—compelling, driving and reacting. Emotion, after all, is motion—a movement before it is a feeling.

To be immersed in the spontaneity of our aliveness is to give ourselves over to its movements. This requires varying degrees of relinquishing control and preconception, for how else could anything new happen? In manageable doses, these involuntary waves catalyze our attending and investigation. “What is this that presents itself?” asks our brain’s cortex. Arousal awakens our brain to its body’s urges and rhythms, informing it of its soma’s process in the language of direct sensory-motor-kinesthetic experiences and feelings.

We discover that arousal has cycles, cresting into fullness, climaxing and finally releasing. It emerges from the background, enters the foreground of expressive action and awareness, and recedes. The body quickens to meet the world, heightening activation and arousal then withdrawing back into deeper, slower rhythms that give feelings of inwardness, pause and relief. There are cycles of expanding and contracting, filling and expelling, hunger and fulfillment. These cycles inform our process of desiring, our urges and impulses which emanate from within and cast us into the world of action.

We discover the rhythms of its waxing and waning, sometimes fast, sometimes slow and ponderous. We come to anticipate them, welcoming some impulses with eagerness, seeking to evoke their return. Others surprise, even alarm us. And some we come to regard as a threat, seeking to deny or escape their arrival. We can even participate in them, learning when to hold off, when to yield, when to get carried away. We can learn how to ride their waves and harness their force or to brace ourselves as it crashes within us.

Growth rides the razors edge of excitement-overwhelm as we are carried further away from our familiar inner ground. When the waves are large enough they expand the bounds of experience and action, generating new senses of what we can feel, do and be. Imagination, novelty and excited uncertainty are it’s attendants. So is the excitement of risk, and the youthful quality of the world being new again. In this way, our aliveness initiates us to new possibilities of self experience and action.

When the waves of aliveness are big enough, we end up in overwhelm, a somatically uncontained and unmanaged state of being. Ripples of excitement can become tidal waves; we are carried away in panic or even ecstasy. Risk goes from excited to anxious as we lose the familiar ground in ourselves, becoming unstable within it’s liquid surge. Heightened excitation also leads to ’losing our minds,’ overthrowing cortical volitional influence, the rudder of the brain that steers and orients us within the soma’s swells and tides. We can become driven by our impulses, our volition flooded by the rush of the involuntary realm.

It is no wonder there has long been a mistrust and fear of sexual excitement and other powerful forms of aliveness. Aliveness can rock our internal boat, make waves, disrupting our order and stability. It dissolves boundaries. It is wild. But, like many things wild and unknown, its threat is in its otherness and unfamiliarity. What is a wilderness to us is, to those familiar with it’s ways, a home. Our bodies are a home and a wilderness, and the more we acquaint ourselves with it, learning to orient to it’s rhythms, the more we can inhabit our aliveness, incorporating and embodying it’s force and vitality.

Experiencing our soma’s rhythms awakens us to the dance of life. Our pulsing beats are also a source of delight, a play in the tempos that compose the song of life. These pulses are more than simply maintaining a homeostasis. We can be an active participant in the dance rather than watching from the sidelines. We can pulse with it, making life’s rhythms our own creative and unique expressions, pleasures and possibilities of being alive.


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