Writing and the Body in Motion: Awakening Voice through Somatic Practice by Cheryl Pallant
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Writing and the Body in Motion
Excerpted from Writing and the Body in Motion: Awakening Voice through Somatic Practice
by Cheryl Pallant | November 3, 2018
The somatic technique discussed in Writing and the Body in Motion: Awakening Voice through Somatic Practice relies on the synergy of combining moving with writing and deep listening. This potent blend opens pathways for creative expression, embodied knowing, healing, and integrative being.
The act of moving furthers the articulation derived from writing just as the act of writing furthers the articulation derived from moving. Resonant writing generates a rich investigation and expression of personal experience and understanding profoundly grounded in the body. The technique teaches us to read our nonverbal and verbal bodily manifestations and to increase awareness, which shifts sensory sensitivity and revises how we show up in and think about our personal body.
The technique leads to discovering the value of our personally embodied truths and how they contribute to fulfilment and achievement of our highest aims. We take up residence within ourselves, in the flesh of embodied knowing, and discover the profound difference between knowing with the head and knowing with our full being.
We move from sensation. We feel from moving. We write from moving. We move and write with being. The practice alters how we experience our body, what we perceive, and what we recognize as possible. We take up residence in the house that is our body and feel at home, full of relief and renewal.
Combining moving with writing and deep listening engenders neural integration, areas of the brain brought into coherence, strengthening synaptic connections and establishing new pathways. The combination leads to significant increases in somatic and mental intelligence. It leads as well to increasing overall intelligence, connections between experience and ideas newly forming.
Here is a laboratory for neuroplasticity, change taking place on fundamental neural levels, from atoms and cells, from the body expressing itself, awareness tugging and shifting the boundary between consciousness and unconsciousness, the separation between body and mind impossible to uphold. Here is a mindfulness technique that emphasizes body awareness and imagination.
At every turn of phrase and rise of sensation, the technique activates awareness and reminds us about the nature of our flesh. We embody. We develop great facility in knowing and being, an expanded somatic epistemology placing a more colorful palette of experience and invention at our finger tips, in how we stand, move, interact, meet challenges, and show up with our body each day. We discover the expansiveness of imagination, embodied cognition, a knowing who we are and what we are becoming.
Once we have engaged the process, it's hard to go back to who we were. There is instead standing with growing integrity in the truth of our body and the freedom that comes with feeling embodied presence.
The response I hear most from my students and clients who engage in the process is astonishment. "I didn't know my body can move like that," or "I didn't realize I could make my migraine disappear," or "I've never written a poem before," or "I didn't know I knew that." They change their attitude, posture, how they do their job, how they interact with a partner, and how they use creative expression. They speak up when a situation calls for more volume and listen more attentively to subtle cues. They find the rhythms of moving and writing inform them about their lives.
The body senses and knows more than we give it credit for, its wisdom arising when obstructions are removed, when we connect to the inherent rhythms of our body. What appears is a different way of knowing, an increased range of motion, deeper breath, ease, a sense of spaciousness, connective tissue hydrating and renewing, new definitions and articulations of flesh and word opening portals to the previously unimagined.
Movement by itself is a powerful activity. It is a precursor to conceptualizing which tends to remove and abstract us from feeling. Movement roots us in our body and the flesh of experience. Movement may be the closest we get to expressing the immediacy of the lived, felt body. "Movement," says choreographer Martha Graham, "never lies."
The body is always in motion in visible and less visible ways. Blood continually travels arterial highways and cells continually respire. Skin and muscle expand, contract, push, take weight. Movement engages the connective tissue system, the collagen fibers that extend throughout the body from the outermost layer of skin to the interior of cells. Connective tissue is piezoelectric, transmitting electricity, the potency of those currents increasing with movement. Movement puts us in touch with our body and every rock, stairwell, floor and person that we encounter.
Writing by itself is also a powerful activity. Writing expresses and verbally defines an otherwise amorphous, fleeting experience. It matters not whether we use a conventional or unconventional narrative, use pencil to meander across a page or stick to lines and type. Words contain the history of a culture. How we use those words gets us participating in the making of culture and ourselves.
Writing creates order. Writing defines experience, furthers thought, and contributes to making sense of a passing experience that may otherwise seem chaotic, contradictory, negligible, or overwhelming. Writing makes us intelligible and generates a product that makes later reflection possible.
Somatic awareness lets us come to know the body at rest and in action. We need not be doing anything special. Both lounging on a chair, feet up, torso in recline or sprinting across gravel, fists punching the air, sweat dripping all provide valuable clues about our body. Somatic awareness gets us to see how we show up in our body each moment, tight or relaxed, numb or enlivened, and to what degree we feel in or out of kilter, disjointed or coherent.
Applying somatic awareness to writing shows the intimate link and resonance between words and our body. It's a two way street. Our storied verbal expression shapes our body. Conversely our body influences the choice and manner of our words. Words help to define our body and our body, in turn, influences our choice of words. What we tell and how we language ourselves determines the words and ideas that flock to us. Writing in conjunction with somatic awareness can also liberate us, shifting the way we experience and define ourselves, leading the way to insight and expression.
Applying somatic awareness to writing awakens us to the power of these verbal messengers. Recognizing the two-way direction and impact of words trafficking with body allows an active and informed participation in the exchange. We discover how words matter because we find how they inhabit and shape us. They lead to new territory or impede us. They stop us with each pronouncement or guide us around obstacles. When we apply somatic awareness to writing, all roads lead to other roads, the body pliant and present, words responsive and lively, all working hand in hand, step after step, our gaze tied to the belly or heaven of our balance. Words open us to worlds as does motion and somatic awareness.
I am not advocating that we move at the same time as we write, one hand on the page, the other extending into the nearby space. Perhaps the most dexterous among us can carry off this bipartite activity without a bruise, but this is not the purpose of this technique. Moving and writing with somatic awareness takes place sequentially. Move, then write. Or write, then move. In this way each inform, compel, and further the other and heightens overall awareness, perception, and connections. It brings verbal and nonverbal expression into greater congruence. We not only come home to ourselves, but settle in with a sensitivity to the position and layout of every verbal and nonverbal gesture.
We initiate an experience with the body and words with integrity, deep listening, and openness. Expectation is dropped. Curiosity awakens. Movement moves us. Words move us. The writing writes us, telling our story or a new story. We watch and listen and feel. We breath in synch with the expressive depths of being. The body shares its experience and wisdom, its knowing, feeling, and guiding. But only if we pay attention, only if we let it inform us, and let it lead to the unknown.
©2018 Cheryl Pallant. All rights reserved.
Cheryl Pallant is the author of Writing and the Body in Motion: Awakening Voice through Somatic Practice and several other books in nonfiction, memoir, and poetry. ...
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