Rebecca Haseltine 03/21/16
‘What do you mean by ‘embody’?’ my friend asked.
‘…it’s bringing presence to your body,’ I offered.
‘But how do you do that?’ my friend wanted to know.
We bring consciousness to the body, but we also tune in to the consciousness that exists within the tissue, within the cells, within the DNA. So it is reflective.
‘But how do you do that??!’ She wanted to know, ‘are you visualizing it?’
Yes, and no. Visualizing can be a tool to get into the neighborhood of somatic experience, but it’s not the experience itself. It’s only the embodied somatic experience that elicits deeper embodiment. It not only sounds circular, it is.
‘But what do you mean by ‘tuning in’?’
It’s just like a radio in the old days, where we turned a dial to change the frequency the radio was tuned to, to pick up different stations. Somatic perception is like operating a radio. We learn how to listen internally to different qualities of vibration, density, flow, and resistance.
‘You are using the word ‘embody’ differently from the way we writers use it when we talk about a piece of writing embodying a character or place.’
Actually it’s not that different. It’s that with the body it becomes complicated to describe, like chasing your own tail. How do I ‘come into my body’ if I’m already here? Here I am.
When I began my practice in 1992 I worked with a man with quadriplegia. He had zero somatic motor or sensory nerve activity from the nipples down. When I held his ankles I could feel his feet rotating toward each other and away from each other in the cranio-sacral rhythm. Movement was happening in an area where movement couldn’t happen according to a conventional view. Yet here it was: his feet were moving. They were responding to a fluid rhythm in his spine. I had studied the cranial rhythm, but I had never trusted its existence until I felt it in this context. There was no way he could be faking it.
So what is this process of embodiment, if we are already in a body, then what else can happen? I see it as an awakening of perception – perception that doesn’t rely on the nervous system. The brain will record it and claim it, but that is a few steps down the road from the actual embodiment experience.
With this client I began to understand something. I could squeeze his foot, and even though no sensory nerve signals could possibly get to his brain, he could feel something. He could feel a vague sense of pressure as I squeezed his foot. This is the perceptiveness of fluid, I believe – part of what we ‘feel’ is through the movement of fluid pressing against membranes in the body.
He had marginal use of his arms, and we discovered this process together: he brought presence and intent into his arms and I gave him resistance – something for him to push against – and sometimes I squeezed and wrung the arms to suggest the natural spirals that were there, but because of nerve damage, had been lost to him. Eventually we found ourselves doing a kind of wrestling: his active engagement – claiming and embodying his arms – with my resistance and assistance, and this began to bring his arms out of the shadows. Fluid presence, or embodiment, or simple use, began to awaken the tissues, including the nerves.
This was my first client. The questions continue.