Exercise: "Conversation with Body"

By Robert Larsen


In a society which values the technocrat at the expense of the child; and success, expertise, and transcendence above meaning and relationship, one learns very early to distance oneself from all awareness which comes from the embodied image.  Our ability to receive and relate to bodily awareness has become limited to the sensation of heroic power and fully muscled superiority.  Our sensed ability to control and subjugate others is the only sense of value we are left with.  Consequently our ability to have a meaningful relationship with things of this world, including our own bodies, has atrophied to an astonishing degree.


To reclaim our full birthright we must work to reverse this process and re-awaken our atrophied sense-abilities.  Like life itself, bodily signals do not care whether or not one is ready to hear them.  They, at least, remain unspoiled by foggy sentimentality.  They, at least, respect one's ability to hear and respond without any concealment of what one needs to hear.  How do you feel when you sense someone is withholding themselves because they feel you don't have the ability to hear the truth:  Nothing is more disrespectful or disenfranchising of personal power.  Recognize for yourself what you wish others would recognize in you.  Demand your right to firsthand information.


This exercise teaches of an invaluable path to working with bodily signals including chronic pain and affliction.  It is a way of revaluing the power body signals have to awaken us.  Wherever one is closed down to hearing from and responding to body one has a blind spot.  One needs to develop the craft of listening to the dream taking place in body.  It does not speak English.  "Sickness can be a stroke of luck.  It's a dream happening in the body, use it to wake up." (Mindell)


For this exercise assume you are encountering an unknown life form which you know nothing about.  This life form comes from a world where things are very different, perhaps like attempting a conversation with a dolphin.  Begin by turning your awareness inward.  Sense what is happening in your body right now.  Where is there a sense of presence?  Where is there a sense of absence?  Where is your body signaling from today?  Where do you feel something that stands out?  In particular, where do you find your delicate, struggling, "cactus"?  Where is there a thorny place for you?  Here is where there is a developing edge for you.  Here is where there is some new awareness bubbling up and striving for birth.


Lets see if we might help this "succulent", this holder of moon water, into awareness.  Remember, right here is an edge for you.  It is at your current limits of awareness.  The "Folly of Youth" will resist and perhaps even feel some fear.  That is all right.  Allow that energy in and use it to heighten your awareness of body's signal.


First of all, lets turn up the volume of this signal so that we may hear it better and in greater detail.  Respect your limits as you do this.  What can you do to increase your feeling of the signal?  Is there some bodily position that will amplify it?  If you press where the signal is coming from with your fingers, will that turn up the volume?  Is there some movement which will help you to feel it better?  Might there be some thought or image which makes the signal louder?  Sense all you can of this signal.  Invest in loss and focus all your being in receiving what the signal may be bringing.  Withhold interpretation and judgment for now.  Just get in touch with the sensation the signal brings. 


How would you explain this signal to someone else?  If this signal were being caused by someone or something outside yourself what might they be doing to make you feel this particular sensation?   Pair up with someone and describe your signal to them.  Then switch and listen to the description of what their signal is like.  Help each other to get more specific by asking for clarification whenever you need it. 


Now work alone again and encourage yourself to pay attention to any sensate details you may have overlooked:  Locate as precisely as possible exactly where the signal originates from.  Is it hard or soft?  What is its sense of weight?  How large is it?  How thick is it?  What texture does it have?  Does it seem strong or weak?  What shape does it have? Can you sense any color?  Is there any movement, vibration, pulsing, or undulation?  Perhaps it seems more like something missing than something present.  What about connections with the rest of your body?  Does it radiate to other places?  Does it move around?  What happens to the signal just by turning your attention to it?  What happens to you?


If this signal were a sound what would it be?  Vocalize this sound and use it to connect with the signal through vibration.  Send the vibration of sound into the place of your signal.  Now double the volume of your sound.  How does it respond? 


If this signal were a place, what would this place be like?  What kind of beings might live here?  What might your relationship to these beings be like?  Are you attracted or repulsed by them, or something in between?  Is there anything these beings might need?  What can you do to help them get their needs met? 


Now pretend you are a sculptor and your working material is your body.  Invest in loss to serve the impulse of the signal by making its shape and vibration with your body.  Do its sound as well.  Imagine this sculpture to be placed in the land you imagined, and being regarded by the beings you discovered.  What do you imagine their reaction to this work might be?


Mark this experience for yourself by reflecting on what took place.  Now create a "haiku", a short imagistic verbal rendering to speak the voice of your signal.  For example:  "Dark clouds gather, tension.  Suddenly the singing splash of falling frogs."  Now enact your sculpture again while repeating your haiku.  What do you notice?


The above exercise is an attempt to help us learn the language of body's dream.  Continue to engage in "conversation" with your body and increase your working knowledge of its language.  As you do you will gain in confidence and trust in your ability to "sense and respond".  Right there, in the midst of that inferior, spiney, cactusy feeling that attends every sensing of the bubbling well spring of life, is true primary knowing. 


Source: Arnold Mindell, Working with the Dreaming Body, (London and New York:  Routledge & Kegan Paul), p. 70.