Connecting with Your Body of Possibility
By Alan Sieler
The world of possibility
The ideas of great thinkers can sometimes provide useful perspectives for assisting us to deal with some of life’s challenging circumstances. Two such thinkers are German philosopher Martin Heidegger and French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
One way of understanding Heidegger’s philosophy is that provides a novel view of the "nitty gritty" of everyday life. Heidegger contended that while we live in a world of objects, equipment, people, animals and natural features, our daily lived experience is more than simply living amongst these many phenomena. He considered that the world we live in is always one of possibility and that different aspects of the world provide possibilities for us, a prominent example of which is smartphone. Without a smartphone as a form of mobile technology different possibilities in our life are less readily available.
Another of Heidegger’s insights is that a very important aspect of life is dealing with interruptions (which includes disruptions), which was translated from the German into English as "breakdowns". Heidegger pointed out that as we go about the daily business of life much of the world is already familiar to us. This familiarity leads us to live a lot of life in anticipation of how things will be and how life is likely to flow. And yet, life is full of breakdowns – interruptions of varying magnitude and intensity to our anticipated flow of living– many of which we experience as being negative.
Breakdowns we experience as being negative have the effect of closing possibilities down for us, and we experience breakdowns not only individually but also collectively. Losing a job is a negative breakdown that closes down possibilities not only for the person who is no longer employed, but also the reduction of possibilities in family life as well as for businesses, because the unemployed person has reduced purchasing power.
So, a perspective on the current COVID-19 pandemic is that it is a massive negative breakdown in which we individually and collectively experience significant reduction of possibilities.
Unfortunately, our experience of the pandemic as a negative breakdown has the potential to plunge us into unhelpful and unresourceful moods, such as the continual anger of Resentment, the pessimism and sometimes despair of Resignation and the ongoing fear of the worst in Anxiety, Unfortunately, these moods continually generate within us an impoverished field of possibilities.
A body of possibility
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who was student of Heidegger’s, is renowned as probably the prominent philosopher of the body. Building on Heidegger’s idea that humans can be described as potentiality-for-being, Merleau-Ponty developed the perspective that our body is an "I can" body, always with the potential to be a body of possibility.
One of the interesting things about moods is that they live in our physiology and can have us live from an "I cannot" body and a physiological configuration that continually closes us off from being oriented to a world of possibilities.
Now, the above ideas may make sense and even be appealing. But, so what? A key question is:
"How do we begin to put these ideas into action and live them as an integral part of our being to maximise how we can effectively cope and live well in COVID-19 times?"
One approach to addressing the question is being oriented towards ensuring that you live from a body of possibility. In a world of reduced possibilities we are faced with a continual challenge to invent new possibilities, which we can do through a distinctive combination of how we are in our physiology, our moods, our thoughts and our conversations with others. So, let’s commence with inviting you to get in touch with your body of possibility.
It is suggested that you approach developing your body of possibility by engaging in a relaxation session that will take about 20-25 minutes. What follows is a set of suggestions that you may like to initially read and then to audio record, leaving approximately 30-60 second spaces between each point, and then play back and immerse yourself in the relaxation.
First, get yourself comfortable by either laying in the floor, perhaps with a pillow or cushion to support your head, or sit in a really comfortable chair.
Initially, be visually aware of various aspects of your environment – various objects and their different shapes, colours, shade of colours, textures, different areas of lightness and perhaps darkness. Take your time and simply notice.
With your eyes open or closed, tune into the sounds around – inside the room you are in, as well as other rooms and sounds outside the dwelling. Notice all the different sounds and their different volumes, pitches, tones and rhythms.
Next, you might like to notice your body – how you have positioned different parts of your body and what parts you would like to adjust to ensure you are more at ease, comfortable and relaxed?
Notice closely where you feel most relaxed and at ease in your body and perhaps be curious about how that feeling could make its own way to other parts of your body without you intentionally doing anything … such that you can allow your body to LET GO (slightly louder voice) of any unnecessary tension.
And no doubt you have been having thoughts and it may be interesting to observe your thoughts, doing so one thought at a time, maybe imagining you are in a cinema or a theatre and imaging seeing each thought pass across in front of you on a screen or a stage, and disappearing and the next thought appearing.
As you continue to observe your thoughts, notice also the emotions and or moods that accompany each thought.
And all the while you have been breathing, inhaling and exhaling and it is possible to begin to closely observe your breathing – each breath in and each breath out, noticing how long you take to breathe in and how long you take to breathe out.
And you can also observe the spaces between breathing out and breathing in. These are micro-moments of stillness and calm in every cycle of breathing in and out.
And noticing these spaces it can be interesting to imagine you are inside them, being absorbed in them and by them, to fully experience this phenomenon of stillness.
And I wonder if you could now begin to imagine what it would be like to be in a body of possibility – what does the notion of a body of possibility mean to you?
It can be interesting to wonder what a different world you could live in compared to the one you inhabit now?
It is interesting that living in the world does not only mean living in a world of actuality – of people of things, etc – but also a world of possibility. As future-oriented beings we have the amazing capacity through language and conversations to change what constitutes the world for us by creating new possibilities.
I wonder what a deeply felt body of possibility would feel like for you – what would be different about how you are in your physiology right now?
In this body of possibility, what do you think will be different about how your feet connect with the ground? …. About how you hold your knees? … And your pelvis? … What about your lower torso? … And your chest and shoulders? …
What would it be like if you allowed yourself to expand across the chest? … And to allow your shoulders to hang loose – like the sides of a coat hanger?
What would be different about the way you hold your neck and head if you were in a body of possibility?
Perhaps you could form an image of what you would look like if you made small adjustments to different aspects of your physiology.
You are also invited to imagine how you would move differently, using some parts of your body differently.
And then to imagine actually being in that different body and how the world shows up to you – not only the world of actuality, but also the world of possibility.
And perhaps you could now gradually begin to gently mobilise yourself – maybe first opening your eyes … perhaps to new possibilities … gradually coming to sitting if you have been laying on the floor … pausing for a moment before coming to standing.
And now – step into that body of possibility that you have imagined. Find a particular space on the floor that looks like a good space to support a body of possibility. And go into that body – simply let yourself drift and float into this new body and pause and allow yourself to fully get the feel of this body.
And ask yourself out loud – "Do I fully give myself permission to live from this body as a fundamental aspect of my being?" What is your answer? An unequivocal and resounding "YES" is extremely helpful.
And then declare out loud in a fully authoritative voice, "From now on I will live from this body of possibility and continually refine it to ensure I deeply embody this way of being".
Maintaining the commitment to be in a body of possibility
It is interesting that we can be aware of a range of possibilities for what we could be doing differently to enhance the way we are living in the current challenging circumstances, but unfortunately not apply them. This is most probably because we do not have a way of being in the body that allows us to act on them, being in a body that can trap us in unhelpful moods and self-defeating thoughts.
Being constructively different in our orientation to life and to ourselves as potentiality-for-being almost inevitably involves the embodiment of how we want to be. And this is not an overnight phenomenon. Of the three domains of our being – language, emotions and body – the body tends to be the slowest to change, yet the most profound. It requires continual committed practice to realise a more possibility-oriented way of being. Some ways to can engage in this practice is to:
stand in front of a mirror and observe yourself in your body of possibility, making any small adjustments you consider necessary;
video and audio record being in your body of possibility and speaking your declaration;
walk around in your new body, practicing holding different parts of your body in a slightly different way and speaking your declaration;
how does the world show up to you from your body of possibility?
what regular body practice could you engage in that will continually enable you to fully live from a body of possibility?
A final note – an audiotape of the relaxation session has intentionally not been provided. If you consider the points in the session will be useful, you are invited to take responsibility to be creative and produce your own recording and experience the session as a potentially first step to creating a new world of possibility for yourself. Or, perhaps there is someone in your household who would like to read the script to you. I hope this is a helpful learning experience for you.