Checking in with Living Functioning

There is a principle
Which is a bar against all information
Which is proof
Against all arguments
And which
Cannot fail to keep a man
In everlasting ignorance
That principle is
Contempt prior to investigation

Herbert Spencer

Movement Pioneer, Thomas Hanna coined the term Somatic, which can be defined simply as Living Body. This simple term points to the amazing opportunity of attending to living processes, which I will begin to unfold over a series of blogs.

The First Law of Thermodynamics states;
Neither matter nor energy can be created nor destroyed, it can only trans-form.

This change in form is the nature of the phenomenal realm, in that all phenomena are transient.  Their essence is movement and change, yet our tendency or conditioning is to fixate phenomenally and resist the nature of change.

One of the ways this turns up in experience is to see future events as a continuation of patterns or conditions from past experience or memory, however when you understand the nature of phenomenon you realise that this is out of alignment with the principles of phenomenal transformation; so what to do?

If we were to look directly at the nature of experience, we would realise that there is a layered pattern unfolding, this pattern plays out as follows;


  • Doing is living on automatic pilot, with the assumption of ‘same old.’  Only there is never any same to be old!  The nature of daily living is phenomenal movement and change.  Beginning to enquire into this, is the beginning of a shift.
  • Thinking is bringing an element of looking to the nature of experience.  The reflective process brings up important questions about choice and consequence, and is the opportunity to align with the transformational aspects of the change process.
  • Feeling is deeper than thinking because the body is the living storehouse of all sensation and feeling that registers through a life-span.  Every thought and action affects the tone of the body which is regulated by Autonomic and Central  Nervous System processes.  Learning to pay attention to sensation and feeling in the process of daily living is the key to understanding the directionality inherent in transformation.
  • Being is continuous in Doing, Thinking, and Feeling and is therefore the Aware background in which Doing, Thinking, and Feeling happen.  To check this directly notice what was prior to your last thought, or where reading this blog is happening. This faculty of perceiving is what is implied when I encourage; ‘Checking in with Living Functioning.’

What does all this mean practically, and how do you suggest I bring this practice into daily living?

As living organisms we are tuned to the field of gravity which is functioning continuously.  This means that I have sensory mechanisms which are tuning to up and down.  This sensory intelligence is located throughout the bodymind, and the first location to explore is the middle ear.  The first cranial nerve to myelinate in-utero, is the Vestibular Nerve, which means that our first perception is movement. The Vestibular Apparatus is responsible for orientation and balance, and works with the body and brain to organise information related to uprightness, stability and moving.  Ask yourself the question;
How often am I challenging balance in daily living, and if I begin to understand balance experientially, will that help me balance the forces of living?

The other important location for sensory intelligence is the propriosensory mechanisms of the muscle spindles (MS), golgi tendon organs (GTO) and joint receptors (mechanoreceptors).  Muscle spindles are located in the contractile apparatus and communicate directly with the nervous system.  They respond to changes in the length of muscle chains, and how fast those changes are occurring.  When the shape of the spindle is changed too much or too quickly, this creates a protective contraction, to limit range of motion.  This is one of the reasons why standing yoga postures are so effective for injury prevention, as their primary influence is on the overall ‘gain’ of the spindle system.

Proprioception is the intelligence of efficient, graceful movement as its operation is continuous in feedforward and feedback loops called stretch-shorten cycle (SSC).  The body gives the brain the information from moving (feedback) and the brain modulates the response (feedforward).  This creates an interesting paradox, because to improve movement we need to give the brain better information, which comes from the body!  The direct way to do this is to learn to pay attention to the organising intelligence inherent in the functioning of the bodymind, so that this embodied attention can trans-form perception, stability and movement.

The GTO works with muscle spindles and joint receptors, the primary action of the GTO is to reduce tension in the muscle chains, to protect the muscle-tendon junction.  When you rupture a muscle the GTO was not able to act fast enough to reduce tension in the chain.  If you feel slow or lack power, there is a good chance that your system is suffering the effects of inhibition, meaning that the CNS will not give you more power, because GTO and other sensory mechanism are protecting joints from damage that could be caused by movement forces.

From the above explanation it is possible to begin to understand the balancing act required by the propriosensory mechanisms to balance the amount of overall tightness and tension in the system, with the forces required to move.  This is why elite athletes are spending so much more time in recovery, than previous generations.  More is known about regeneration, and more is being asked of athletes’ bodies.  Just look at the current speed of AFL games, or consider the effort required to win 7 best of 5 set matches in Men’s Grand Slam tennis.

If this fascinating material about living well, learning directly how to improve function, and understanding the process of transformation is of interest, please give me a call, or consider coming along to one of the weekly classes.

The series of Audio pod-casts appearing on the site over the coming months, will also expand on this view.  This week I start my ‘Interview Series’ and my first interviewee will be Max Bailey from Hawthorn FC.


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