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In the introduction of Natural Intelligence, Susan writes: This work celebrates the life of the body—all the mysteries, intensities, and potentialities that human bodily life offers.
Why is there need to address such a basic aspect of our existence? Because, we have lost our connection to our bodies. Centuries of denial have reduced our experience of body to a mechanical one. The body in all its richness and sensuality has been driven out of town. As children, we learned that we shouldn't smell it and we shouldn't hear it. We were told that feeling it too much would lead to indulgence and distraction at best, or homicide and sexual mania at worst. We learned to view our body as an inarticulate machine which we should spend as little time as possible maintaining. And we were taught to keep it as still as possible. These are the denials of body with which we have been unconsciously indoctrinated. And these deep denials in turn flatten our physical experience—an effect that further strengthens a mechanical view of the body.
My intention in writing is to reawaken within us the memory of our bodies’ natural intelligence. By natural intelligence, I mean the synergistic intelligence that arises out of including all the resources of every tissue and fluid in the body. Every system of the body has its own unique abilities to perceive and respond. For both cultural and evolutionary reasons, we ignore and override both sensory input and behavioral responses which arise outside the nervous system. Including and integrating the intelligence and creativity of the entire body is natural intelligence.
Excerpt from Natural Intelligence
Watching an amoeba moving through fluid, one can see the currents of water around it and the currents of the plasma within it. The membrane separating the two—amoeba from the water—responds to both but seems to maintain some intention as well. The membrane shapes itself to engulf a particle in the outer fluid. It does so without resisting or jumping ahead of either the inner or outer flow. We humans have infinitely more forces moving us at every moment, yet we can integrate this natural intelligence of the amoeba on many levels. Our membranes—in the largest sense the skin, nervous system, muscles, and bones—can shape themselves responsively to the internal flows of fluids, organs, and glands, blending that with intention. Conversely, we can ignore and suppress those flows. We can allow our membranes to be permeable, or we can rigidify. In movement, this spells the difference between allowing the body to move or mechanically forming it.
In natural movement, response is joined seamlessly to experience. If there is a crispness traveling out the nerves of your arm and your fingers are too numb to shape it, the energy is lost. If there is a lurch rising up through your guts but your neck is unwilling to let go of verticality, the energy is stopped in the throat. Able to control our impulses, many of us have lost touch with natural movement.
Natural movement is the manifestation of natural intelligence. To regain this intelligence we must actually practice our natural abilities. This is not an attempt to return to a simpler state. Rather, we can allow all of our natural intelligences, including cognitive thought, planning, and intention, to work together. Our uniquely human intelligence can be icing on the cake of all our animal abilities. The rest of the chapter describes four techniques for exploring natural movement.
The Practice of Natural Movement
I) Attend to your sensations. Allow your attention to shift naturally from one sensation to the next
II) Allow those sensations to move, breathe, and sound in an organic way
III) Sequence sensations throughout your body, through your endpoints. Take time to wake up each endpoint by
a) really feeling the sensations in that endpoint
b) allowing those sensations to move, breathe, and sound in their own way.
IV) Practice inclusivity in order to find the unexplored parts of your body.
Attending to our Sensations
The first step in practicing natural movement is attending very precisely to one's sensations. The language of the body is sensation. Sensations reveal to us the flow of energy in the body. We can therefore map the flow of energy through our bodies by charting our sensations. This process of mapping sensation in the body can be very helpful in developing bodily awareness. It is akin to charting traffic flow in a city. On a simple level, where there are a lot of sensations, there is a lot of energy. Where there are few sensations, there is less energy.
If you would like, take the time right now to attend to your sensations.
Begin by standing or lying down. Letting go of your breath if you were holding it, begin to scan through your body for sensation. Let your body move a little and breathe to wake up sensation. Spend a few minutes just attending to all the sensations in your body as you are move and breath. Let your attention move freely through your body from top to bottom, from outside to inside. Notice areas that feel flowing or stagnant, dense or open, fast or slow. When you have gotton as much information as you want for right now, try actually drawing a map of your experience. This might allow you to sense even further.
Allowing Sensations to Move, Breathe, and Sound
The next step in working with sensations is to allow each one to move, breathe, and sound in its own way. This requires suspending ideas of what is good for any one part of your body, and how that part should serve, acquiesce to, or be dependent upon other parts. This is an aspect of the principle of respect. It requires moving your center of attention into the place of sensation rather than viewing it from afar. To cultivate natural movement is to deliberately drop below your personal ideas of how you move, what kind of movement you like, what is beautiful, what is clever, what is aesthetically correct, what is appropriate, and what is "good" for your body. Instead, attend to what you are experiencing right now.
Let your focus be centered within whatever sensation comes to the forefront, and allow that sensation to move, breathe, and sound however it pleases (full participation). I often ask my students, "What if you had this body, with this energy, but no more rules about how you should move than a two year old?" For a short time, give attention and discriminating mind over to the body. Let it roam over its own terrain, not editing out the rocky slides or the peat bogs. Give the body an invitation to express without editing. Come back again and again to the basic perceptions of the present moment. . . . I feel the skin tingling on the back of my neck. . . . I feel my right kidney making a fist. . . . If you allow these feelings to move unobstructedly, how do they move? How do they breathe? How do they sound? Imagine that your sensation is a creature in and of itself. Let this creature invent its own activity.
The third practice of natural movement is sequencing, which we discussed briefly in Chapter 1 as a principle of body-mind integration. Sequencing entails following the pathways along which a sensation is moving and allowing the expression to continue until it has moved all the way through the body: that is, until it is fully processed. When information we have taken in is thoroughly processed, it becomes a response.
In order to work fully with sequencing, we must examine the basic layout of the human body. The major ports of the body through which information comes and goes are the endpoints: face, hands, pelvic floor, and feet. These are our primary contact points with the world. Our endpoints are the areas of the body in which our sense perceptions and motor abilities are most precise and detailed.
The endpoints are unique in several ways. Skeletally, the endpoints are composed of many small bones with multiple joints; they are the free ends of the skeleton. Many small muscles capable of precisely initiating and guiding movement compose the tissue of the endpoints. Neurologically the endpoints contain the highest concentration of sensory neurons in the body. All this suggests that the endpoints are in the best position to communicate with the outer world. They are important emissaries—major information passes through them. This is not to deny that every aspect of the body is continually receiving from and communicating with the outside world. However, the face, hands, pelvic floor, and feet are the endpoints of the primary pathways through the body.
The practice of natural movement involves sequencing movement in and out of these contact points, allowing them to shape the passage of whatever energies are moving through the body. In this way we support our energy coming into contact with the world.
To experience this, feel your face. Take a moment to become aware of all the myriad sensations on the skin of your face, around your eyes, in your ears and nose and mouth. Begin to allow these sensations to move in their own way. Let your face contort and move. Also let it breathe and sound in any ways it wants to. As if it were its own little creature, let it invent its own movement and sound out of its sensation. Try touching your face with your hands. When you are ready, reverse this. Let your face touch your hands, however it wants to. Do this until your face feels alive and fully present. As you move your face and allow your breath and voice to follow, how far down into your trunk can you feel this? How far into your trunk do the roots of your face go? Lay down and do this. Allow your face to move the rest of your body. When your face twists to one side, let that roll your body. Play with this as long as you like, but when you feel complete, notice how the energy is circulating in your body. Is it different from when you made your map earlier? These same steps can be done with the other endpoints as well. Spending time attending to each endpoint fully can be quite luxurious. Why is this practice of natural movement simultaneously so energizing and recuperative? Because we are allowing individual free enterprise. This naturally releases vitality and flow.
The feeling of inner flow as well as the outer movement from the head down into the trunk is sequencing. Recognizing the continuity of perception, sensation, and movement enhances sequencing. Look up at the sky; feel the sensations of response in your body. Now look at a wall; how do your sensations shift? Perception results in sensation. When we recognize perception as sensation and sensation as a moving event, movement becomes a circulation of whatever forces are being experienced, within and without, from moment to moment to moment. Intentional sequencing invites this circulation. It primes the pump of flow.
The next step in the practice of natural movement involves inclusivity, which is, like sequencing, one of the six principles of body-mind integration . Our bodies are vast and varied landscapes. The trick in becoming fully present in the body is to find the unexplored territories. Within them there is sensory expression of all shapes, sizes, wavelengths, rhythms, colors, and textures continuously occurring. Culturally there are preferences to what of this inner experience we will attend to. There are also individual preferences. Aesthetically, we impose still more. As these preferences become fixed, we begin to lose our abilities to hear what we habitually ignore.
The challenge is becoming acquainted with more than the most familiar, most easily known parts, deliberately coming to know areas with more subtle voices. We have a tendency to come into unfamiliar territory in the body like a missionary, giving ourselves directives such as "Open up, release, soften. . . " Try coming in like a pilgrim, instead, asking "What are your customs? How do you live here? What can you teach me?" This, again, is the principle of respect. With respect, one can really inquire as to how that part wants to move, breathe, and sound if given full permission. It might want to close, pull, grasp. It might want to hum or lurch. Maybe it wants to dissolve. All manner of rich and bizarre expressions can occur. Trusting this process to express some basic integrity is akin to trusting earthquakes, floods, and lightning as well as sun, rain, and blossoming