Let’s just do this: straight, no chaser.
Something that has come to me through my experience within the politicized somatics industry, is that the majority of what is taught as embodied/spiritual activism, is charismatic people asking you to jump through hoops of ‘discomfort’ to embody certain ideological programming.
If you are following me, the above is actually a form of top-down memetic indoctrination. You are being asked to mold your neurological and spiritual personhood to fit the ideological position you have subscribed to.
Now you may be wondering who I am talking about, and I am tempted to name people, and sometimes I actually do, but I want to leave things as is, simply noticing a pattern that you can really take some time to consider. What I will say is that, when I say majority, I very much mean it, including most people considered authorities on the subject.
Continuing on, well, funny thing. This top-down schema is actually foundationally opposite to how somatics is often taught in its ‘original’ non-Western contexts. In my short years of ‘teaching’, I’m starting to become aware that a lot of people with mostly just Western conceptual algorithms running their psyche don’t even realize that there is something else. I think this kind of methodology seems normal to a lot of folks because ideology is generally thought to be more important than behavior in the general Western conception of things.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say: the concept of somatics in ‘animist-indigenous’ cultures is that the embodiment changes and then the world view changes – and the process can’t be wholly predicted. So we run experiments that bring us into more reassociation, more whole embodiment, and from there notice if how our visceral understanding of the world has shifted. Certainly, this is the way embodied knowledge is understood in Asian/Japanese cultures.*
(*I’m not saying Asian/Japanese cultures are perfect reflections of what embodiment practice should look like, especially with Asian’s long history of animist-somatic practices surviving within an imperialist structure. But I do think this is a gem that explains why Asian somatics has been so influential and practices extracted from it form the base of modern Western somatics.)
In this kind of indigenous system of embodied learning, you don’t necessarily get to know what you’re going to think and maybe even how you’re going to behave until you make the change in the body. This seemingly subtle difference is actually quite a big one.
The gulf of unknowing to jump over to get to a non-Westernist approach to somatics is something that the psyche will use all kinds of tricks to avoid, including the construction of a politicized, or even ideologized, somatics. This is something I tend to refer to as the Miyagi-Yoda effect, which is basically the Dunner-Kruning effect specifically applied to somatic practices.
Both Mr. Miyagi and Master Yoda embody the archetype of the teacher that can’t be understood until you actually experiment with the practice itself. Daniel-san and Luke were typically poor Westernized students of theirs that wanted things explained to them rather than sensing into their own bodies and intuiting how the teaching is shaping them and paying attention.
Following, most of the ways that people have tried to combine somatics with politics are still mired in the Western paradigm at its roots. Using Master Chang’s tools to dismantle your master’s house isn’t going to make much sense if you haven’t gotten to know Master Chang.
Now I get that many people are understandably attracted to ideological approaches because their anxieties around systemic oppression drive them to get certain predetermined outcomes. That said, I am critical of us practitioners taking up roles of great responsibility when we have not come into a good relationship with our patterns around this – it is apt to breed a kind of codependency between you and your learning community.
My general feeling is that if someone is concerned their work won’t produce the results they’re looking for, it is better for them to change the algorithms of the work and change their central somatic guidance, rather than to try to control ideological outcomes.
Finally, to close this little piece off, here are some things that I believe good students of somatics actively do in their learning:
- They have a goal in mind e.g. ’embodied deocoloniztion’ but assume they don’t have a total understanding of what it means
- They routinely let go of their envisioned goal a bit and see how more embodied reassociation affects their understanding of their worldview
- They keep iterating on the above, nudging intuitively towards the goal that they do not fully understand
Of course, this isn’t necessarily a final list but I think its something that I can say is a helpful direction in how to reorient oneself in ‘the work’.