The Language of the Somatic Self
By Charlie Badenhop
(click for more articles)
At every moment in time your subconscious mind speaks to you through your body, in a language that is as refined, systematic, and complete as your verbal language. This "somatic" language that your body communicates in forms the basis of the non-cognitive wisdom known as sixth sense, intuition, or "somatic intelligence." Becoming fluent in somatic language can help you to think less, yet know more. It is like having your own personal consultant, who you can ask for additional insight. Understanding the subtle yet systematic communication of the body can help you achieve breakthroughs in your personal health and well-being, as well as adding significant value to the existing abilities and skills you already manifest in your life.
Once we understand that the body has the ability to act intelligently then it doesn't take long to consider that the body requires a coherent form of communication in order to successfully perform all of its various life sustaining activities. We call this coherent communication "somatic language" or "the language of the somatic self." We organize and make sense out of our rational experience by using a verbal language and a corresponding verbal grammar. We organize and make sense out of our somatic experience by using somatic language and a corresponding somatic grammar. Your verbal grammar is the set of rules your cognitive self follows in order to make sense out of the verbal experience it generates and receives. Your somatic grammar is the set of rules your somatic self follows in order to make sense out of the non-verbal experience that it generates and receives. Make an extremely loud noise and a person or animal tends to immediately stop moving, and the blood leaves the extremities and travels to the vital organs. Each time and every time, every living mammal has the same basic response. Place yourself in a cold climate and your pores will tend to close up. Go to the tropics and your pores will begin to open. Swallow a poison, and your somatic intelligence will try to get you to vomit it. Swallow a tonic and your body will quickly absorb it.
Your somatic intelligence does not act in a random fashion. All of the various reactions that occur in your body are systematic in nature and when taken as a whole such reactions make up the language of the somatic self. This language is wired into your system at birth and forms the foundation of your memories, verbal communication, learned responses, and your ability to live and sustain your self. This somatic language is at least as sophisticated, systematic, and complete as your native tongue, and it does not use or require verbal language in order for your somatic self to completely understand what is being communicated. This is a concept that is central to Seishindo.
You don't need to tell yourself to sweat or get a temperature when you have an infection. You don't need to tell yourself to take your hand off of a hot stove. You don't need to tell yourself that it is time to digest what you have eaten. Your somatic self will react to the communication it receives chemically, and electrically, and it will do what it deems to be necessary, "all on its own." This language of the somatic self that we begin to understand while still being in our mother's womb, is what allows us to make meaning out of our experience prior to learning our native tongue, and it remains our primary meaning making language throughout the course of our lives.
The language generated by the somatic self is made up of the interplay of what we call "The seven building blocks of consciousness." These seven building blocks are:
- The pace, rhythm, volume, and location of one's breathing and the overall flow of "ki" or vital energy.
- Posture and balance.
- Movement, and flexibility, of the entire physical structure.
- The pace, rhythm, volume, and pressure of the blood supply.
- The pulsing of the dural membrane, the expansion and contraction of the skull, and of all of the joints of the body.
- Eye movement patterns.
- Mood: the electro-chemical and muscular processes taking place throughout our system.
These seven building blocks are the "words" or "morphemes" of our somatic language. When understood as one total communication, the building blocks of consciousness help us create the primary meaning of our experience. For example, suppose you are walking to an important business meeting and your body temperature rises somewhat, you start to sweat, and your heart beats a little bit faster. You notice all of this and you slow down the pace of your walking. Why do you slow down the pace of your walking? Because you just had a "language of the somatic self" communication which informed you of the energy and heat exchange that was taking place within you. You don't want to walk into your meeting dripping perspiration, and thus you slow down your pace. If there wasn't a somatic language that could be used by your mind to understand what was taking place internally, and externally as well, then your increased heart rate, body temperature, and sweating, wouldn't have any meaning.
The language of the somatic self does not use or require verbal language although it interacts with it continually, like a music group improvising with a singer, or a horse and rider traversing a path in the forest. The language of the somatic self is the pre-verbal communication that allows us to make meaning out of our experience prior to learning our native tongue. It is part of our mammalian consciousness, is intuitive and relational in nature, seems to direct us to join with other life, and it remains our primary meaning making language throughout the entire course of our lives. This language forms the foundation of our memories, verbal communication, learned responses, and our ability to live and sustain ourselves. Much in the same way that words are systematically joined together in infinitely varied combinations, to form the content of our verbal language as used by our cognitive self, the various components of the building blocks of consciousness are systematically joined together in infinitely varied combinations by your somatic self, to form the language of your somatic self. This is a language of immediate experience as compared to verbal language being a communication of abstractions.
Dr. Candace Pert, in her book "Molecules of Emotion" says that there are receptors (sensing molecules that exist throughout our system) and ligands (substances that bind to the receptors and help to create all of the chemical reactions necessary to run our system) that can be considered to be "information molecules." She refers to these molecules as the basic units of a language used by cells throughout the organism to communicate. We consider this "language" that Ms. Pert is referring to, to be part and parcel of what we are calling the language of the somatic self. Dr. Gershon says that neurotransmitters are the words nerve cells use for communicating. Renowned scientists are telling us that we all "speak," "listen to," and understand more than one language. This "other" language is what we are calling the language of the somatic self, and it is highly organized, systematic, and graced with many fine nuances.
What has happened for most of us is that we have truly forgotten that there is a somatic-emotional experience which we base our verbal language on. In actuality our verbal representation of reality is always one step removed from our actual experience. Verbal representations are an edited, convenient, synopsis of our somatic-emotional experience, and lead us to pigeon hole our experience as a discrete event in time. Having forgotten this we think that our verbal language is our experience. But in actuality our verbal language is one step removed from our actual experience. It is an abstract description or labeling of our experience.
Ever notice how easy it can be to promise yourself one thing, yet do another? Sometimes this phenomenon takes the form of "Dieting" or "Stopping Smoking." At other times our internal confusion shows up when we are unable to overcome our "senseless" fear of public speaking. One part of us says "Yes, I very much want to!" while another part just as emphatically says "No, I won't!"
When your body is relaxed and breathing freely, it is saying "Yes" to life, and you are able to perform with confidence. When your body is tense and short of oxygen, it is saying "No" to life, and you might struggle and find it challenging to accomplish your goals.
When what you think and say, matches what you feel and do, you respond to life as a "whole" human being. You feel at ease in the world, and at home in your body.