Sometimes a piece of writing sparks my field, shines like a distant planet. One you know exists but just don’t have access to the right focal lens. Such a moment came yesterday, lines dropped to my inbox, relayed by another teacher (thank you Marcia in Vancouver). She knew they would rock me…bless her. Illuminating words from Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s new book Basic Neurocellular Pathways. I spent a week with this grand dame of movement a couple summers ago. She’s been at it a long time, you might enjoy clicking on her YouTube videos on that home page link.
The word embodiment is often bandied about. I know it when I see it in someone else. I sense a variable degree of it in myself, ranging from out to lunch to full on presence. The tricky thing is that when it is full on presence, the mind is nowhere to be found. A slippery one. This is the most clear explanation I’ve been privy to. Putting it out here word for word. Thank you Bonnie:
“The process of embodiment is a being process, not a doing process. It is not a thinking process; it is an awareness process in which the guide and witness dissolve into cellular consciousness.
Visualization is the process by which the brain imagines (visualizes) aspects of the body and informs the body that it exists. In this process, there is a director or guide.
Somatization is the process by which the kinesthetic (movement) and tactile (touch) sensory systems inform the body that it exists. In this process, there is a witness—an inner awareness of the process.
Embodiment is the awareness of the cells of themselves. It is a direct experience. There are no intermediary steps or translations. There is no guide. There is no witness. There is the fully known consciousness of the experienced moment initiated from the cells themselves. In this instance, the brain is the last to know. There is complete knowing and peaceful comprehension. Out of this embodiment process emerges feeling, thinking, witnessing and understanding. The source of this process is love.”
So picture yourself on the mat learning a new skill, coming into new bodily awareness. Me? I love to visualize what’s happening inside. The imagination is so powerful and anatomical pictures and 3D models are a go to in teaching. What we can see, physical and imaginary, guide us into the field, create opportunity for exploration and discovery. They point in the direction of embodiment, but they are not embodiment.
Still on the mat. Every time you move you can witness your body in motion. The internal sense of that movement is information but, once again, not embodiment. The tactile sensation of changing mat pressure, pull of gravity, heat of breath, weight on palms…clearly your body exists. But somatic experiencing, a sense of what’s occurring from the inside out, both movement and sensation…are still translations of experience, an intermediary step.
Still on the mat. We are busy doing: we see what is happening, we feel what is happening. Simply being? In the proverbial zone? For most of us, those moments are in between the doings. Actual embodied movement is initiated on a cellular level and “the brain is the last to know”. For me, visualization and somatization are strong tools on the mat. Curiously, it is on the dance floor where the dropped in process of embodiment more easily occurs. Moments of being that stretch toward the infinite…until some image or sensation or conscious movement pulls me back into the land of doing.
The enigmatic poetry of that final line from Bonnie? There is simply no way of articulating how the source of this process is love…but there is a “complete knowing and peaceful comprehension” that it is. And there are plenty of opportunities to know this from the inside out between the looming equinox and the winter solstice. Someone is out there at Clara insuring that set and setting are optimal for holding you for embodied possibility every Wednesday night and Sunday morning. PLEASE NOTE: scholarship fund is to support attendance on Wednesday and for workshops…consider applying. Here’s the extras:
Let’s get it on Sacramento, let’s keep moving from the inside out. It would not be the same here without you.