how to start a conversation with your body
In the 1050s, while enrolled at the University of Chicago, a graduate student – Eugene Genlin – conducted a series of experiments with psychologist Carl Rogers.
The purpose of those experiments was to determine why some people in therapeutic settings had successful outcomes while others didn’t.
What they found was that the difference between ‘successful’ and ‘unsuccessful’ participants was that successful participants were in conversation with their body.
They were able to connect with, and speak from, their ‘felt’ bodily experience.
This felt experience took the form of sensation, the meaning of which didn’t actually need to be clear. It was felt by the body rather than thought by the mind: an inner (non-verbal) source of knowing.
The conceptual mind is good at lots of things, like identifying different parts of our experience and relating them to other parts. What the thinking mind is less good at is holding a sense of the whole. This is why, when we get too ‘thinky’, those fresh perspectives and intuitive insights frustratingly disappear.
What research has found is that when we engage with felt sense in an intentional way it evolves from the vague and non-specific to the clear and present. In doing so, it helps us build a more honest and trusting relationship with ourselves and with life.
The nice thing is, it isn’t a capacity just some people have. As a yogi, you’ve already been learning it. We can still make this more tangible though…
Have you heard of John Keats? He was the romantic poet in the 1800s who came up with the phrase ‘negative capability’. While it seems like something negative on the surface, it actually refers to something very sweet: our ability as humans to sit with uncertainty and, importantly, to sit with mystery.
‘Negative capability’ has become a well-known idea, particularly in the realms of embodied practice. Contained within it is the invitation to become an empty vessel, to learn to remain calm and open as we give up our quest for certainty.
It’s a type of ‘felt sense’; an important part of any creative process and an important part of yoga. To help you put this into practice…
Before you hit ‘play’ make sure you do a little bit of whatever kind of movement feels natural for you.
Enjoy! And let me know how you go. This is a really beautiful practice and I’d love to hear your experience with it.
P.S. If you resonate with this, you might like The Embodiment Project this month as the content centres on this kind of theme. You can sign up for it here.
P.P.S This sort of thing is also something we’ll explore on the next 300h training (beginning September). If you’d like more information about that you can register for it here.