Your Body as a Teacher
“At school we were taught mathematics, reading, and the geography of the world, but few of us were taught much about the geographical mapping of the home we live in—our bodies”
- Donna Farhi
How often do we consider deeply the importance of our physical body, recognising how it impacts our thinking, learning and decision-making? In modern Western society we tend to think of ourselves as separate parts comprised of the physical, mental, and emotional. Many people fail to recognise the interconnectedness among these parts. This misconception has developed over the last 2000 years, shaping Western “body versus mind” worldview, which contradicts belief systems originating in Ancient Greece and traditional Eastern concepts of body-mind-soul unity.
The concept of embodied cognition is a domain of cognitive science studying the physical side of thinking. It explains that thinking is interconnected with the somatic processes through perception and motion. To put it simply, our thoughts cause emotions, these emotions then manifest themselves in our physical bodies, though this is not a linear process.
In this exercise we will explore the intelligence of the body, the dynamic interplay between the physical and the cognitive. If we listen closely, it allows us to learn a lot about ourselves and the surrounding world. We can see the value of caring for our bodies and listening to the wisdom they can provide in caring for ourselves more holistically.
Individual / Experiential
To connect to the intelligence of our body and learn how the body can give us valuable knowledge about our own lives
To practice deep listening of ourselves
Required Materials and Tools:
A room where you can relax and can be undisturbed for some time
Paper and pens
If you want put on some relaxing music and make sure that the lights are not too strong
Find a way to feel comfortable in the room—do whatever you need to do in order to relax.
In the activity that follows, remember who the teacher is - your body. You are still a student, and it will take an honest effort, and patience with yourself, to begin to learn what only you can do.
We will explore how the body reacts to past, present and future events. Through each part you will be guided with a set of questions, so please write down the answers and note also any small or large revelation that you may discover.
Explore body sensations (tension, ache, lightness, headache, heat, cold...) regarding events and circumstances in the:
Search your body for a time or experience when you felt:
restricted, suffocated, under-appreciated
another emotion of your own choice: in love, in the midst of an athletic feat, etc.
Take some time with this.
When you are ready, take a look within your body to see how you feel about (and not simply think of) different aspects of your life. For instance, what does your body tell you when you think about:
your roommate or neighbor?
your dinner plans for tonight, or some common but seemingly insignificant component of your life?
your girlfriend or boyfriend or other close relationships?
your life as you are living it?
anything else that you might want to take this time to feel?
Again, take some time with this.
Now that you have felt your body as it was in the past and is in the present, how do you feel in the future? What can your body teach you of your relation to:
the next summer?
your future work?
what you think it will be like to be thirty years older than you are now?
anything else that you anticipate in the future?
5. When you are done take some time to reflect on the whole experience. Use the reflection questions below for guidance.
If you are in a group and you would like to ask participants to explore certain questions from a different point of view you can also put on some light music and invite them to let the body guide them into the answer by observing the sensations in the body, movement that emerges or images that they get while moving.
Did you arrive at any insights, surprises, big or small?
What was your experience with this activity?
Did it teach you anything that you didn’t know? About yourself, about the body, about the world around?
Instructions for Submission
Write a feedback piece of around 200 words, summarising your experience of the exercise and upload it in Moodle. Instructions on how to upload photos and how to submit things in Moodle can be found here: Instructions on Submission&Uploading
Instructions for Assessment
Provide feedback to at least one participant that has done this activity. Instructions on providing feedback can be found here: Instructions on Feedback .
Creative Commons - ySI4R Content Team (adapted material from Chris Uhl)
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