Walk #1: Douglas Rushkoff
I was a long-time reader and silent member of his Media Squat posts that were like manna from Heaven which would arrive under the cover of darkness and brighten your day in a paragraph. But a few years ago, through the conduit of a mutual friend, I was able to meet this enigmatic messenger face to face. Soon after that, he became a client of mine...imagine that. Now I have to honor to say he's my friend. In 2010, he admirably participated in the 2010 Coherence Coherence. Despite being the farthest from the fire in the panel, in terms of background and expertise, his video put the idea into a context that made it safe for others in the room who were decorated icons in their respective fields to admit they didn't know 'everything' about this squirrely topic. We walk from there now... Rushkoff asks the questions that are highlighted.
What's the point of living in coherence? Do you get to live longer? Get more sex? Feel better physically? Cure your cancer?
It's interesting to start there because coherence is such a 'Smurf' word to me. When we had the 2010 Coherence Conference, one of my questions to the panel of experts, of which you were one of them, was to define coherence in their terms. To me coherence is the payoff for being able to communicate without effort. By that I mean, when we connect in a pure sense, we're living in rhythm with our surroundings. But that rhythm is as unique as our fingerprints and as predictable as the 5-day weather forecast. So in that sense, it's both ingrained in us to 'be' a certain way as creatures of habit and yet we seek novelty naturally.
The old General Semantics way of wording that is instead of viewing the world as things changing, it's really change'thing-ing' - taking different forms, expressing itself across a spectrum of conditions, constraints, and circumstances. IOW, letting life unfold. As far as coherence being some path to a pain-free, disease-free, suffering-free, pleasure-filled world, sorry to say, all it offers us is what's optimal in-the-moment. It doesn't pretend to make us bulletproof, super smart or help us channel the lottery numbers. It's just the core signature of our conversations with ourselves, others and the environments we live in. It's also the best marker we have to clinically and socially track how well we're adapting within them. No cures.
For more on the 2010 Coherence Conference visit...
Well, you make it sound like we have to just adapt, then. Like the first line of the Serenity Prayer: "grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." It may sound Western to you, but what about getting the courage and strength to change the things we don't like? How does "letting life unfold" gel with command and control of our universe?
That's just it. The dominant message of Western social conditioning celebrates the power of the individual, not the process of individuation. So whether it's the monotheistic appeal of the 'higher power' or the secular Emersonian one of self-reliance or any of the other array of worldviews that get stuffed between them, the common thread is that survival is a solo act. Somatics helps us recall the raw awareness of being a fully conscious undividual. That leads to rediscovering an openaspect of our identity that lives beneath the verbal, literal world we've given primacy. We get glimpses of it in our relationships, but we often filter those experiences right back into the narrative the culture has woven into our minds. So the illusion of being solid and separate persists until we get invited to a moment of truth (or not) that offers us no aha or amen but a well-deserved whew as we exhale all the false gods our belief system carries.
Rolfer/research/author Tom Myers, another of our 2010 Coherence Conference experts, pointed out that the word invite literally means to let life in. So we don't lose our individuality or our will power by opening up like that. All we do is lose the notion that we can be fulfilled through the isolating paradigm we've been given here. What we gain is a deeper sense of continuity, sometimes described as a tensegrity, that make us feel whole as a person but incomplete as individual human beings. We return to the collective and yearn to advance it. Control and command is usurped by contact and coordination, two lost arts in modern living.
To listen to my interview with Tom Myers visit:
A lot of bla-bla here between the communicative strands of the answer. You're saying that trying to change stuff falls within the power of the individual, which is some sort of illusion. And that rather than worrying about personal coherence we should start looking at our place within the bigger systems. But doesn't that fall into the trap of Anna Freud and the psychoanalytic community? We change the self to suit the world, rather than the world to suit the self?
Even if the self as individuated unit is illusory, it's all we've got as a starting place for action. What if the world is fucked up? What if I want to fight injustice?
Yes, I want to be an open organism of connectedness with others, but I also want to free my friends from the shackles of corporatism, slave trafficking, and so on.
Now we're getting to the fractal, fuzzy boundary of self and other that somatics bases its whole existence on. If we want to reclaim our 1st person authority the vehicle of the self needs to be used as a check and balance on the degree and extent society imposes it's will on us. We need to become more embodied. That's not a process that operates at the speed of life as we know it. It's actually painfully slower. That's one of the reasons why somatics gets co-opted by psychology, anthropology and choreography, among other disciplines where the way we 'perform' is the focus. Those 3rd person approaches to somatics can make it look passive, withdrawn and somewhat aloof and elitist in it's attitude towards, as you say, the injustices we all face. By becoming aware of our somatic identity we realize that it's the biological underbelly of the psychological personality we develop on top of it. It's 'down there' at the foundation of our being we can connect with others in ways that empower us socially.
The individual can then use that insight to operate within a self that stretches beyond the boundaries of their cultural influences. Again, easier said than done and that's the challenge of sharing the message somatics has. The biggest stumbling block to accomplishing that is we're forced to systematically forsake the 'world we're in' for the 'world within'. It's a sacrifice many of us struggle with in real time since no one is immune from the ills of society. That dilemma is why I keep harping on my clients to develop ways to externalize that noise in healthier always. What usually happens is people develop soft addictions and trade their vitality for minor relief. All my work is aimed at unwinding that bias so we can make better and better choices.
So there is still a conscious, sense-making actor at the heart of this. A person making choices. That's reassuring. But this 'world within' stuff is needlessly isolating, no? Is there really a within? Isn't that like TM or something?
Our conscious filters operate under the 'user illusion' of free will, which is a huge ongoing and tiresome argument in many disciplines. The mechanisms that guide us are not very Zen at all actually. They're part of our subconscious system that detects threats and safety that Stephen Porges, Ph.D. called neuroception. The 'world within' isn't an abstract idea as much as it's reference point we can communicate without effort from. So that ties back into what we discussed about coherence. It's a rhythm we are attuned to that works as the biological soundtrack of our lives. When we're 'in it', we experience flow. If we drift away from it our outer lives reflect that as well. When we're comfortable in our own skin, we'll thrive. When we're not, we effort to survive. I have a little piece of paper in my office that just says IAMNOWHERE. When we perceive I AM NOW HERE, we are safe and present. When we read it as I AM NOWHERE we are searching internally for a way to avoid danger or conflict. Biology.
For more on Dr. Porges ideas visit...
Except I AM NOWHERE is more true?
By and large, being and feeling lost, spending decades 'finding yourself' or a lifetime in some kind of Woody Allen cynical neurosis is viewed as both common and in some circles a sign that you're playing the game to win. We live in a get your uniform dirty, but never let them see you sweat culture. That fundamental contradiction leads to what Thomas Hanna first coined as sensory-motor amnesia, which loosely translates to a physiological state of disembodiment. The price for living in our heads all these generations is that we are often spatially disoriented and emotionally tolerant of the dissonance it creates to the point of viewing limbo as a real place. If that sounds oddly George Carlin to you then the question is how do we wake every one up? The body has been a repository for all the pain, suffering and all other psychic wounds we chose not to feel for one reason or another. An embodied mind contextualizes those living lessons and efforts to not let the fight/flight/ignore aspects of the stress response dominate.
John Chitty has an excellent article that explores these concepts in detail...
I suggested that, most of the time, we feel like "I am nowhere" rather than "I am now here." We feel disembodied and alone - existentially challenged. You have responded by saying this is often interpreted as a sign of playing to win. I don't see the connection. I get that living in our heads makes us feel disembodied. I don't understand the game or the winning.
The answer is written right into the preamble of the Declaration of Independence actually. Here's the line. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The game I was referring to is personified by the word pursuit. Americans are given a culturally confusing message, whether it's embedded in our founding documents or our advertising memes. Individuals are guided to live their lives in an effort-based, overexerted way. We embrace overachievers, underdogs, anyone who wants to play for a prize really. So the game is about competing for the sake of being socially seen as a competitor, a player of the game of pursuing a prize. The prize is almost irrelevant if there's been enough effort and energy spent publicly. What is scorned and yet coveted is privilege.
We tend to despise and yet celebrate people who start with prizes and squander their wealth, fame, talent, etc...in some decadent stew of the 7 deadly sins. The contradiction that's been made is that in this pursuit of the cultural carrot we can't ever show any fear of the stick. We are also conditioned to internalize unruly emotions, pain, suffering and other natural human reactions to socially demonstrate that the price we're paying chasing these elusive prizes is not taking it's toll on us personally. We're mentally tough, we're independent, we're free. See!!
The winning aspect is also subject to a convoluted aspect of all this. Whether it's an athlete, a musician, or a politician, the criteria for success and the threshold for happiness are often not only divergent, they are at polar opposites. Even something as nebulous as health has been converted into this penchant for pursuing a prize, whether it's a certain weight or a level of strength or youthful good looks or being seen as sexually attractive etc...That pursuit has been the source of a new wave of dysfunctions, syndromes and reality shows that brings us both our next Top Model and our next teen suicide. We've replaced vitality with victory as we chase that carrot from cradle to grave. We all want to be rewarded for our efforts in life. But we also want to be supported for them as well. That backlash has led to another pursuit. The need for a way or ways to hack 'the game' spawned another American subculture; slackers.
The slacker may be a population that got attention for the wrong reason because the hacking path worked. They got away with not compromising themselves by figuring out how to avoid being seduced by the game. And yet they needed to eat too. So they created a myriad of pathways from A to B that involved low risk and a high reward. If you're chasing a carrot you may get dirty...hey, look at that guy, he's trying...good for him. But if you're a slacker you look at the same guy and say...hey, look at that guy, let's bet on him. They see the players as suckers, fools running errands. If they can create a better game, their pursuit is shortened.
That mixed message is now traveling at warp speed. Try, but don't complain or be sly and don't be seen smiling about it. This has done more to disconnect us than any tendency to occupy our minds more than our bodies. All it's done is make nowhere a desired place to 'be'. To be here means feeling all that tension, angst, and contradiction. Screw that. Gimme a pill. We can be comfortably numb or comfortably dumb. The slackers and suckers both have outs. But ultimately we are just delaying what biology won't let us deny. We are connected. Instead of saying so what, I want my carrot, somatics asks us to say 'Now what?' If survival is seen as a competition, then evolution, whether it's personal or collective is seen as collaboration. To shift from owning to sharing seems like a weak move. If you're somatically alive it's not.
People come to you and you put them on a table and do stuff to their bodies with your hands and sometimes little tools. What is this for?
I'm going to start in the middle this time and address this notion that somatics or more to the point, my applications of somatics, involves some kind of ole of the atrocities of the world. The accept things as they arepart is more about being able to take things at face value and resist the inclination to move from sensation to perception too quickly. As I said, that's a big stumbling block for a culture used to living in the abstract, dissociated vibe of the visual world. The hook with designing things that way is that images are the catnip of consciousness. We can't ignore the lure of speed. Paul Virilio, an pretty obscure but important contributor to this idea said "The speed of light does not merely transform the world. It becomes the world. Globalization is the speed of light." Once our technology made pictures the universal code, we had to willfully apply the brakes the body provides to disengage from the machine. Not easy.
Somatics doesn't shield us from this as much as it provides us a deeper context to process it. When we can be more accurate in the way we convert how we feel about we see or think it gets easier to regain our balance when we're confronted with the hostilities of the social world. Rather than acquiesce to the fascist state as you portray it, we can focus on opening ourselves up to morelocal injustices, like regulating our breathing for starters. This shift to governing ourselves better is not a wishy-washy direction. It doesn't mean we get to shut off the outside world at all. It actually helps us realize that the outside world is an integrally connected and untamed extension of us. It makes a lot of this visual/abstract stuff ironic to me. Here we're in a culture that loves to be superficial and yet rarely takes things at face value. We tend to funnel the cultural images into a endless narrative of automated and often self-limiting behaviors. Cutting edge speech/hearing pathologist Cherie Florance, Ph.D talks about how we develop our unique 'brain print' from the combination of our two primary thinking or cognitive systems; the Lexicoder for verbal processing using words and the Opticoder for visual processing using pictures. The somatic profiling I teach in my work allows us to embody those two perspectives without being enamored with either of them. It's an internal aloofness.
To get back to your question about what the hell I'm doing to people who brave the elements and get to my adjusting table, it's extremely boring but I'll explain it. When we remove gravity our body and brain are supposed to change their tone, turn down the locomotor system and go into a dimmer switch, screen saver state. Conversely, when we stand up, we expect it all to revert back to full screen mode with all the bells and whistles awake and alert. But we are the sum total of our habits and our somatic biases. So that's where I step in and challenge those asymmetries and aberrancies that make us all so different and so very necessary. I do agree that the sensate hand or as Ianna Rubenfeld calls it the listening hand is vital in converying this message in way that is both heartfelt and unflinching. What I'm doing is essentially slowing down the phasic conversation so the client can find a more sustainable rhythm and tonality to create a greater Sense of Coherence (SOC), which is essential to life.
That experience is delivered in a variety of ways on different sessions done at different points in the day, month, season and lifetime of the client. It's a merciless mirror most of us avoid. And yet, in facing it, since 99% of learning is not conscious, we somehow walk away smarter.
Just to fill in the blank, here's Paul Virilio's wiki page...
For more on the relationship of somatic profiling and opticoding, read "The S-List" e-book...
I mentioned it so here's the link for Ilanna's book...
Most people first go to you for a health concern. Some part of their body doesn't feel good, or they're suffering from a chronic condition. Where do you take it from there? For instance, I still have the chronic health condition I had when I first came - but "fixing" it isn't the point, right?
For the better part of 20 years, through both my wide-eyed chiropractic beginnings, my clinical researcher middle years and my recent behavioral consulting era, the one thing I've failed to understand from the public is their expectations of me/this approach. I think the source of that is largely echoed by what happened to my predecessors. Harvey Lillard, the first chiropractic patient, didn't have low back pain. He was deaf, got adjusted, and his hearing returned (at least initially). The public thought D.D. Palmer discovered the 'cure' for deafness. So all these deaf people flocked to him. Some got better, some didn't, but their heart condition improved or their asthma waned or whatever. Palmer's background was in magnetic healing for Christ's sake. He was as out there as anyone in his day. It took him another 15 years to get the cart before the horse, or his science before his art more aptly.
About 5 year later, around 1915, the first American psychoanalyst, Trigant Burrow, trained by both Freud and Jung themselves, had his 'Harvey Lillard' moment with Clarence Shields, who was mourning the loss of a fiance. Burrow thought he was humoring his uninitiated client by changing places with him and letting him sit is his therapist's chair while he took Shields' place on the couch. Well it turned out the joke was on him. He immediately felt waves of bodily tension and anxiety and Burrow realized these social roles were interchangeable, independent of the background of the participants. It was society that was neurotic. Of course his own profession banished him in short order. Another case where expectations and reality clashed.
To address your question directly, people who have found me over the years get here three ways; trauma, drama, or karma. I'm being cute, but it's the truth. By the time they wander into Soma Space, they've exhausted all the mainstream routes to relief available. Once they get here, my approach is to shift their focus 180 degrees from the labels and limitations that have defined them to building the freedom they want to create. From a procedural standpoint, it's a very dry process actually. The aim of every session is to guide the client back into rhythm with themselves and their surroundings. Sometimes that involves asymmetrical body tensions, sometimes it's more about coordinating eye movements with breathing patterns and sometimes it's my own brand of conversational hypnosis. But more and more it's been less about me and my magic tricks and more about transferring the core skills of The Somatic Method (TSM) to the client in the context of the session and then into their everyday lives.
So if you reflect on how much your internal perspective and overall functionality has shifted while your chronic health condition hasn't yet, the big difference now is that what underlies that condition is apparent to you. It's mutable now. I am firmly convinced that developing a healthy outlook, imagination and attitude is what's vital to living well despite what befalls us. So yeah, I prefer to free people not 'fix' them but that doesn't mean we ignore what ails you at all. TSM is rich with strategies, resources and proactive behaviors that facilitate repair and recovery from a systemic standpoint. If nothing else, the high risk patterns you walked in with are challenged and addressed every time we meet. It's that level of entrainment that pays off.
So there's still some cause and effect in the Somatic universe, right? It's still okay to have some preferences? To want to move towards freedom or flow and away from constriction and stagnation? I mean, assuming we are chill enough to listen for a while, we can then go on and "do" stuff, change stuff, or apply a little "effort"?
I'll take these on one by one...some cause and effect roughly translates to saliency, which is what dominates in the Somatic Universe as you call it. I'll pull a book off my shelf and let one of the people from my 'chaotic past', William Solis, Ph.D., speak through the pages of a book written by another old friend, Robin Robertson, Ph.D. in his great book Mining The Soul.
'Saliency does not depend upon the energy which is exchanged but rather upon the form, texture, and context between the exchange takes place. Pattern takes precedence over substance."
That idea gets back to what I've said about guiding a client back into rhythm with themselves. In a nutshell, 'that's entrainment' (cue the orchestra). So instead of a linear cause and effect or a divided past and future, we get this oceanic, non-linear exchange of memory and event, intention and attention until it all resonates into a rhythm that person can resonate with well.
Preferences are not only allowed, they're required. As I discuss in my e-book The S-List we move from creating signatures based on references during our bonding stage of development (AKA, PHYLO-somatic orientation) to using preferences during our bossy stage (AKA, ONTO-somatic orientation). And by and large, moving towards pleasure and away pain is universal.
As far as the 'do' stuff part, the whole aim of developing this inner freedom is to reach the highest realms of each of the domains. In the ONTO-somatic realm, creativity...in the PHYLO-somatic one it's vitality...in the ECO-somatic arena it's empathy and over in the EXO-zone it's productivity. So that wraps around to how saliency and entrainment lead to resonance which is the crescendo of living in my book. That cycle is what keeps the cosmic hologram dancing.
I can't miss a chance to share Robin's book...it'll rock your whorld...
Here's a quick overview of the 4 somatic domains...
Do you see the body - and the physical reality in which the body lives (like rooms and rocks and earth and planets) - as a real thing or as some sort of projection/illusion/hologram? Korzybski saw there being a fundamental chemical reality underlying all this, didn't he? Do you?
OK, I'm back to Hanna's vibe with this one because bodies are 3rd person things that can be found in a library or in a morgue. So let's stick with the living body which is a soma by his definition - paraphrasing here it's a self-moving, self-experiencing, sensory-motor system.
His explanation is a little more verbose, but I think it spells out his position clearly...
The history of the soma begins with the history of the cosmos.
But even though tornadoes appear to be independent beings appearing out of nowhere, we know that they are neither more nor less than the summation of the atmospheric conditions that produce them. There is nothing within this twisting phenomenon that is not already present within the surrounding atmosphere. It is the same. Yet, in its special organization and its uncanny “life” as a synthesis of the surrounding atmosphere, it appears utterly different.
Somas are like that. They are fully a part of the cosmos and a product of its pre-existent elements, yet they represent an utterly different synthesis of those very elements. In this regard, we cannot separate the nature of living creatures from the nature of the cosmos itself. They are co-existent. The main difference is that the development of the cosmos preceded the development of somas, the latter being a later synthesis of the cosmic conditions that produced them.
Then there's where I stand. I've studied all the far out stuff that Bohm, Pribram and other like Ken Wilber have offered. I've also enjoyed the journeys of Carlos Castaneda, Fritjof Capra and all the people from the complexity and chaos theory community. My take is that since we're living in a holographic universe, we ourselves are holograms, so I can't argue with all that. All I can do is accept that as the latest, best guess. I'm more in line with Terence McKenna than I am Korzybski when I think about the big picture. Here's his quote when someone asked him.
We're born into what William James calls a blooming buzzing confusion, but by the acquisition of words we mosaic over various sectors of this blooming buzzing confusion with words. We replace the unknown with the known through the substitution of words and by the time a child is two or three they have completely created a cultural mosaic of words that is interposed between them and reality.
Reality from that point on is only an unconfirmed rumor brought through the medium of language and every culture accentuates different parts of reality so that in a sense every culture is a different reality. Language is the stuff of the world, not quarks or wave-packets or neutrinos, but language. Everything is made of language. All the constructs of science are actually interlocking constructs of syntax. So that's ordinary language which seems to define reality through a kind of process of lying about it. For instance by creating subject-object distinctions which are, in fact, not true to the matter, but somehow operationally necessary for us to navigate in the kind of lower dimensional space that we inhabit.
Since I'm a vitalist, it's all alive…us, the sky, the ocean, the cosmos, all of it. So the whole universe is non-locally proprioceptive. That means there's always that filter of life to factor in. To use a term from my time with the Lifywnn Foundation, there's a fundamental cotention, often called in that particular group a prototention, but all it means is that we live in a big, endless conversation. Our role is to engage in it, make it coherent, and add to it if we can.
For more on Hanna's story about somatics visit...
Don Watson has many articles on enformy...here's one...
To follow that thread Terrence McKenna left us visit here...
Explore the work of Trigant Burrow here...
Steve Rosen, proponent of prototention, offers this essay on the nature of the cosmos...
Okay, then. Where does tensegrity fit into this? Isn't that what keeps me, me? And is maintaining my tensegrity part of why I have to kill plants and animals and eat them? Basically, maintaining my tensegrity requires energy that can only be acquired by sacrificing the tensegrity of others?
It's actually the fact that you are a SELF - Single Enformed Living Field that keeps you a distinct and unique entity. In effect, a SELF uses tensegrity to entrain its energy into form. That may sound far out until you expand the concept of self beyond simply the proprioception of a local mind and body. This is how Watson explains in a very general way.
"Enformed systems are the sums of their parts plus a four-dimensional "map" that specifies how they are dynamically organized, i.e., the relationships among its parts in space and time. Non-enformed systems don't possess such a map. The "map" that identifies enformed systems is denoted SELF, which is acronymed from Singular, Enformed, Living Field. Here, "Singular" means unique, "Enformed" means created by enforming, "Living" means capable of evolving to more complex forms, and "Field" means that the influences of SELF's are extensive in space- time."
The more literal explanation comes from Bruce Lipton's work in cell research. Maybe this will connect the dots better. I've applied his concepts to my work in TSM. Basically, our identity has 2 dimensions. Our closed identity is an entertaining story, a narrative we design over time. Our open identity is an entrained signal that we download into our cells. It's pure somatics.
"The biggest "Aha!" was this: ...our identity is actually an environmental signal that is playing through the keyboard on the surface of our cells and engaging our genetic programs; you are not inside your cells, you are playing through your cells using the keyboard as an interface. You are an identity derived from the environment."
So it goes enformy, entrainment, then tensegrity and if we're being specific it's biotensegrity at that. I can forget Stephen Levin, MD, who made it his business to make a clear distinction between biotensegrity and the "new age mysticism' memes that Carlos Castaneda attached to tensegrity. But your dots end there. Once you start talking about it being necessary to eat plant and animals to maintain your tensegrity, we're off the reservation. Your metabolism, which in somatic terms is your timing, is connected to your ability to nourish yourself. Your system has a variety of biological rhythms that regulate that along with rest/activity, sleep/ wake and growth/repair. Again, enformy and entrainment are a factor, but tensegrity isn't.
So tensegrity is not a zero-sum game. We're not all fighting over some limited tensegrity pie. I think sanity might be though! Since most of the world is still enraptured with the intensional orientation of the Aristotelian view, our languaging and evaluating is far more damaging to our sanity and Sense of Coherence (SOC) than gravity, biology or metabolism can be. Damn him!
For more on Watson's ideas, check out his article Are Living, Conscious Robots Possible?
For more on Bruce Lipton's ground-breaking research visit...
For the curious and insatiably technical, Stephen Levin MD's site is found here...
If you not exhausted from all this wordy gurdy, here's a General Semantics glossary...
Thanks for reading this far! LMK how this conversation hit you...