What do we make of a world in which a mind and soul can exist without a body? I imagine my fellow movement professionals and bodyworkers have considered the same notion after seeing the brilliant new film “Her.” The story poses the question portraying a man who falls in love with a computer operating system with artificial intelligence. (Sounds ridiculous, but watch it – it’s incredible.)
Many of us talk about finding higher consciousness beyond our bodies, finding enlightenment. But what if our physical form never existed in the first place, so there was nothing to transcend beyond? What would the soul be without a body or shell ever having housed or shaped it from the start? I wonder about interpreting the world without all the collected knowledge (and data) that our bodies provide in shaping that interpretation.
It brings me to the opposite of the “somanaut” experience with my long-standing teacher Gil Hedley. We explicitly distinguish in our cadaver dissections between people and bodies. People have souls, whereas bodies are vessels no longer containing those souls. This distinction reminds us in the gross anatomy lab that we’re not working on people but merely forms, so we’re dealing with bodies without the minds and souls. It provides comfort to the queasy and reassurance to the questioning.
So the film’s futuristic and dystopian/utopian world distinguishes humans from computers through the existence of physical bodies (aside from mental capacity.) But to me the intimacy and connection that it poses as possible without human beings still feels hollow and lacking, and from a mind-body perspective, the body is essential to the experience of life and identity. Part of our mission in life as practitioners is to facilitate embodiment – and what an empty world that would be without the body to feel, sense, move and inform us through life.
But so many of us who’ve lived with physical pain – myself included – find ourselves cursing and condemning our bodies. We feel betrayed, as if our bodies have not held up their end of the bargain. We feel that our bodies are controlling us. The common saying, “My knees are killing me” indicates that the body holds all power over us. “My back gave out” suggests a disloyalty of the body in that it didn’t serve its supportive duties.
This isn’t meant to dismiss the frustration we feel due to physical pain. This is meant to remind us all that our bodies are not our enemies. And despite the numerous issues and ailments we may experience, so much of our bodily function is still working correctly, as evidenced by the mere fact that we’re still alive. Physiologically, we’re still operating as intended.
I just had a remarkable, eye-opening experience yesterday working with a new client who’s had an ileostomy — part of her small intestine and her entire colon have been surgically removed. That she can still live and move and that her system can compensate for this major visceral alteration reminded me of just how miraculous the human body is. Its ability to accomodate differences and adapt to deviations is indeed a revelation!
So even when our bodies seems to let us down and seem so wrong, there is so much that is still right with them. And we often forget to honor, admire and cherish that fact. Salute the body. The human form is a glorious phenomenon.