Embodying Purpose

Embodying Purpose

When I was finishing my PhD I had the opportunity to take Anatomy classes at a medical school. Many of them consisted of dissecting corpses. One of the many things I learned while using a scalpel to make my way through the human body is that there is no place that can properly be considered the centre of it. There were muscles, bones, connective tissue, organs, tubes, ligaments, tendons… but no centre. We, however, talk about finding our centre, being in our centre, being our centre, going to the centre and so on. If there really is no centre, is it simply out of mental laziness that we speak this way, or is our discourse pointing to the purpose of embodiment that precedes embodiment as purpose?

The centre is not a thing, but rather a process – just as our bodies are not a thing, but rather who we are as a process. Being born entails having a body with which to initiate the process of life, while to die is to surrender the body to conclude the process of life. To have a body is to experience the phenomenon of being alive, liveness, through it. We do not have a body, nor are we inside one: we experience being alive through our bodies.  Thus, focusing our attention on the body is how we initiate the centring process. Feeling our “liveness” means the possibility of developing our ability directly from this energy, the cultivation of a certain virtue or a behaviour, which allows us to affirm ourselves in that energy and live a purposeful life. “Centring” is the embodiment of purpose.

The first principle of the Somatic methodology, with regards to the embodiment of purpose, is to feel life in our bodies.  This means beginning to identify with our sensations – the building of life. This puts us in contact with temperature, movement, shape and pressure, and connects us with heat, condensation, cooling, a tingling sensation, a current, firmness, softness, pooling, inflexibility or opening towards a new form, for example. This does not mean “having a feeling” (although this may happen) but rather feeling life as it flows through us.

The second principle is awakening to the embodied feeling of life. The initial sensation of life grows and expands. We respond to this impulse by forming and dismantling barriers that allow the circumstances of life to pass through us according to their rhythm and wisdom. Emotions come to life and we begin to generate trust in our experiences by moulding ourselves in accordance with that primordial intelligence. We are able to see things as they are, without clinging, without adding anything to them, but rather living our joys and sorrows fully. There is an energetic pulse of longing that is the affirmation of life.

The third principle involves embodying a somatic ethic: How do we want to interact with the world? This forces us to face how we live in community, how we take part in life, how we yield when necessary, celebrate compliance, mourn loss, break contact without breaking commitments… how we adopt a position in favour of the dignity of all sentient beings, of the earth, of the water. Our institutions have failed to teach us how to live in accordance with an embodied ethic of satisfaction and transformation. Developing a Somatic ethic, we incorporate a behaviour and identity in the context of others, of the grass, the quadrupeds, the stones, the winged ones, the swimmers, the air. We can choose a path that infuses our own tissues with life, and the social fabric too, the ground under our feet, and the sky above us. We experience this as love, sensitive interconnectedness. Somatic ethics encompass the particular and material as well as the universal, comprehending everything. Our interdependence and interconnection is lived and felt, generating, more than a concept or intellectual framework for correct behaviour, a space from which to act according to our purpose. This experienced sensation of a purposeful narrative, pulsing in our tissues and illuminating our imagination, is action.

The fourth principle entails the taking of skilful actions to serve that purpose. Purpose is not just anything, but rather something actionable and observable. For example, the purpose of incorporating a healthy lifestyle can involve the actions of eating healthy and exercising regularly. The purpose of developing an organization can be understood as the construction of a team, a culture, a network of commitments, and so on. The purpose of having a more intimate relationship can be understood as the transition from a defensive attitude to a stance of open listening, through somatic embodiment work. Or, we can say that our objective is to be one with the universe. Wow. That’s saying a lot… and yet, we can consider this a spiritual practice committed to intentional compassion and goodness rather than negative judgment and egocentric behaviour.

Incorporating a caring and respectful attitude towards life is the basis for a purposeful life.

Take it easy, but take it.

Richard Strozzi

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