Emergence of a somatic language?

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Pepe ·, modified 2 Months ago at 10/5/22 9:53 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 10/5/22 9:53 AM

Emergence of a somatic language?

Posts: 618 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Hey DhOers,

How far does a "somatic language" emerge and develop along the path? Once conceptualization loses its predominance in consciousness, one has to dial directly to the fuzzy and messy messages the senses offer. Probably most everyone can recognize emotions sensations, but mind-states sensations aren't that clear (some mind-states are themselves a bundle of other mind-states and emotions, like "nostalgia" for example), and urges sensations are usually very short lived. Add to that emotions and mind-states coexist for some time in any given moment, plus the ever present low-key primordial anxiety related to the fabrication of the Self. 

In my case, on cushion (and briefly when off cushion) there's a coexistance of both a non-conceptual recognition of some or most of them (nothing to be done, just perceiving them) and the occasional pop-up of words that either directly label the sensation or indirectly through a related word or image.

It makes sense that some level of conceptualization emerges as that is faster for some tasks. MP3 files do the job given certain needs, while WAV may be richer but that doesn't mean that the extra data is perceived or is of value. But maybe those who have crossed some meditation thresholds find those words/images not really helpful or even annoying.

So again,  how far does a "somatic language" emerge and develop along the path?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
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Chris M, modified 2 Months ago at 10/5/22 10:35 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 10/5/22 10:31 AM

RE: Emergence of a somatic language?

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Pepe, are you asking us about how we communicate with and about our body? That's the meaning of "somatic" that I'm most familiar with. I'm curious about what prompted your question, too.

Thanks!
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Pepe ·, modified 2 Months ago at 10/5/22 1:18 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 10/5/22 12:43 PM

RE: Emergence of a somatic language?

Posts: 618 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Yes Chris, that's what I'm asking about, how you communicate with and about your body. The question arised because on-cushion I have longer periods of time when thoughts don't come up, so it's mostly about body sensations, some sporadic words and few and very fast images. This happens in much lesser degree off-cushion, when having a walk. So far so good. But that doesn't feel yet that a new somatic vocabulary is building up, (while) labels - words mainly, else fuzzy images -  are much more handy. Doesn't look like I should prefer one over the other. But my question is if this somatic vocabulary eventually (would) build up, as I guess the predominace of raw sense data over conceptualization intensifies along the path. 

edit: grammar
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Chris M, modified 2 Months ago at 10/5/22 5:26 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 10/5/22 5:26 PM

RE: Emergence of a somatic language?

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So are you assuming (or asking) if advancement along the path of awakening requires (or presumes) the creation of a different language of mind-body communication? 

Also, in what sense are you using the word "language?"

Sorry to keep answering your posts with questions but I need the additional information to formulate a useful response. 
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Pepe ·, modified 2 Months ago at 10/5/22 7:43 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 10/5/22 7:43 PM

RE: Emergence of a somatic language?

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No worries Chris, thanks for joining the conversation.

I'm assuming that further down the path of awakening, consciouness: (1) perceives sensory input with much less filters (say "raw data"); (2) isn't consciously/unconsciouly triggered to conceptualize the sensory input. In other words, there is less automatic pattern-matching ex-ante and ex-post. Yet the individual should be observing some patterns in the sensory input: it may be fuzzier and messier but some kind of patterns should be emerging nevertheless. Thus, I assume that some kind of somatic vocabulary ("language") should emerge from those fuzzier, messier patterns.

But I could be totally wrong, for many reasons, so that's why I'm asking. 
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Chris M, modified 2 Months ago at 10/6/22 10:03 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 10/6/22 9:15 AM

RE: Emergence of a somatic language?

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Pepe,

My experience has been that the biological, electrical, and chemical processes that comprise our human senses and perceptions don't change with the traversing of the path no matter how far along we might be. We can, however, dramatically change our reactions to what we perceive. We develop a far less "me centric" point of view because we pierce our habitual intuition that there's a centrally located, permanent, and somehow special decision maker that controls things throughout experience.  Over time this new perception gains traction and affects the way we react to everything, including our sense of our body and its functions. That said, and to give you my personal answer to your question, I have yet to notice any additional "special" vocabulary or language that relates to how I perceive the body and its processes. Maybe that will come someday but so far, nothing.

I hope this helps - it's just my experience. Others may chime in and disagree.
Adi Vader, modified 2 Months ago at 10/6/22 10:00 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 10/6/22 10:00 AM

RE: Emergence of a somatic language?

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shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 10/6/22 10:47 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 10/6/22 10:47 AM

RE: Emergence of a somatic language?

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Body sensitivity gets more and more refined and more sensitive, I would say.

It becomes clearer that the mind "thinks" with the body, that the mind isn't just in the head somewhere.

There is also a sense of an extra gaps between visceralness, reaction, and indentity. By that I mean, things feel raw and there doesn't need to be a reaction. But there can be a reaction, that's not inherently problematic (the meat machine needs to be programmed some way, although old clumbsy maladaptive reactions do go away).  But there is much less of a sense that "I" am feeling and "I" am reacting. The I seems to see it from a bit of distance, even while in the midst of it. 

I don't think there is a somatic "language" that emerges, but the dimension of physicality does become more subtle and nuanced I think.  

Hope this helps in some way. 
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Chris M, modified 2 Months ago at 10/6/22 11:32 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 10/6/22 11:32 AM

RE: Emergence of a somatic language?

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I just typed in a very long post about how autonomous our body and brain really are and how little we see of what they do from moment to moment, let alone have control over it. But DhO's Liferay system ate it before it could get posted.

​​​​​​​Argh.

Oh well, next time.
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Pepe ·, modified 2 Months ago at 10/6/22 7:22 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 10/6/22 7:22 PM

RE: Emergence of a somatic language?

Posts: 618 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Sorry to hear that Chris, may be another time.

Nice responses from you both, thank you. Maybe it's me, finding some reason not to be 100% present without interpretating what I'm sensing  emoticon  Coincidently, I just read some paragraphs from Bruce Tift, that also address the topic much in the way you describe:

"When researchers attempt to document all the possible emotions human beings can have, they come up with a variety of lists describing many different emotions. However, cross-cultural research suggests that there are probably only six or seven fundamental states of affective arousal, or basic biological feeling responses to life. These states have been described as anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, anxiety, and surprise. And even these states of affective arousal seem likely to be strongly influenced by context and culture. The implication is that emotions are strongly interpretive. We experience some form of affective arousal—say, anxiety—and then we interpret it. We might feel a tight stomach, our heart may be beating fast, or our breathing may be shallow. Depending on what the circumstances are, we might interpret those sensations as nervousness (if we’re awaiting medical results, for example) or excitement (if we’re meeting up with a lover). In that way, for every basic state of affective arousal, there may be many different interpretations, with each interpretation resulting in a different emotion. But underneath both lies an even more fundamental layer of experience: raw sensation.

Our thoughts carry our interpretive history, but our strongly interpretive emotions do as well—often in even more powerful and less obvious ways. When we focus on sensations, though, we’re putting attention on something more basic and more fundamental than emotions and thoughts. Whether we’re talking about evolution or individual human development, it seems accurate that physicality comes first, followed by emotionality, and then the capacity to use thoughts and symbols. From this point of view, sensations are very reliable, very human, and basically impersonal—that is, they aren’t heavily shaped by personal history. Interpretations, on the other hand, are often deeply shaped by our patterned, conditioned history. 

... What is most reliable? ... What can we rely on for support? In my experience, what we can most consistently count on for support in our lives is the truth of our immediate experience. This doesn’t mean that whatever we experience in the moment is “true”—we can have distorted, mistaken perceptions, even hallucinations. It just means that our immediate experience is what’s always available ...

By support, I mean the experience ... that’s not theoretical, and that we can engage with our life without constantly questioning ourselves. We feel a confidence that our experience is reliable, even when different than others’ experiences. Especially in our culture, support is often thought to be synonymous with positive feelings. When I have good feelings, I tend to take that as evidence from life that I’m on the right track, that I can trust myself ... But of course, life isn’t only positive. Given our predisposition for “positivity,” any time we have to deal with negativity, we tend to interpret this as evidence of a problem. We’re understandably not committed to the experience of negativity. Yet, if we continue to go beneath this experience, we may find that much of what we call “negative” is actually interpretive. If we stay at the sensation level, it’s possible we won’t be able to find any problem, nothing inherently negative. We may discover that what we take as negative actually comes from our attitude toward our experience rather than anything innate in that experience. The more we consciously participate in sensation-level experiencing, the more we’re able to commit equally to experiencing both positive and negative feelings.

In my experience, what we discover when we are able to stay with both positive and negative experience is that life is already supporting us. Actually, we find that it is our willingness to commit to all of our experience, regardless of our preferences, that supports us. It’s very common that we feel that “something’s missing” from our lives. So we search for love or security or enlightenment or whatever. But what’s actually missing is our full participation in our ongoing, immediate experiencing. We are what’s missing. When we are fully engaged in our life, regardless of whether we like or don’t like what’s present, we no longer have the drama of something missing. We will always have limitations; our relative experiencing is a collection of limitations. But our feeling of being supported or not, full or not, is a direct result of our openness to life, and I find that staying with our sensation-level experience gives us immediate evidence that it is workable to be open.

... We ask if we’re a “glass half empty” or a “glass half full” type of person. Actually, the glass is always completely full, just not of what we think we need or want. The glass is full of water and of air. Our life is full of experiences we like and those we don’t like.

I want to make clear that we’re not talking about taking sides between sensations and interpretations. Both are very valid. Our lives wouldn’t work very well without interpretations. But in this particular type of work, where we’re interested in the experience of freedom, feeling at peace with and supported by life, learning to keep our hearts open to others, it seems to me that familiarity with and access to our sensations can be very useful. We can then have an experiential dialogue between our immediate, embodied, sensation-level experience and our interpretations of that experience. This allows us to find out for ourselves, at any moment, what’s actually most true right now.
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 10/7/22 7:58 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 10/7/22 7:05 AM

RE: Emergence of a somatic language?

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 Yes, Tift does a good job of speaking to this conundrum. In a way, it's very similar to the main idea of Noting/MCTB, but just a slightly different way of saying it...

At the heart of things, the implications of this current moment are uncertain. Are things going in a good direction? Are things going in a bad direction? There seems to be a very very primal part of our brain that is always assessing this. In Koan language, this is "the great matter of life and death", you could say.

Pretty much everything extra in our experience is more complicated thoughts and emotions about the situation. If thoughts aren't seen as thoughts and emotions aren't seen as emotions --- and simply best interpretations in the moment -- then we can dwell and elaborate and intellectualize etc. etc. and it can lead to overthinking thoughts and overjudging emotions. 

But what Tift describes well is that the original experience of sensation is overlooked when we intellectualize and emotionally dramatize. Sensations are the bedrock of thoughts and emotions, but we spend so little time with them.

And what we can realize if we watch this whole sensation-emotion-thought dynamic is that greedy and aversion and ignorance is involved.  If we just stayed at the level of sensations and we didn't want more good sensations, to avoid bad sensations, or to ignore boring sensations... then we wouldn't have strategic emotions. Because 99% of the time, we overlook the fact that sensations are just fine, being embodied in this moment is good enough. And if we stayed at the experience of strategic emotions and didn't want more good emotions, to avoid bad emotions, or to ignore boring emotions... then we wouldn't have strategic thoughts. And if we just stayed at the level of strategic thoughts and didn't want more good thoughts, to avoid bad thoughts, or ignore boring thoughts... then we wouldn't over intellecualize. 

Basic sanity is clarity of sensations, emotions, and thoughts --- while not "believing" any of them. Sensations are sensations and can change in the next moment, emotions are emotions and can change in the next moment, thoughts are thoughts and can change in the next moment. Until this is truly "seen", we'll have false fears and false confidence in different sensations, emotions, and thoughts. But when we can truly experience these things, 
sensation hunting, emotional drama, and complex thought is a lot less compelling. 

Sensations really are a gateway of sorts to not-self. Sensations are closer than close and not quite self and not quite other. Really studying sensations exposes our uncomfortable dualistic framing of sensations. If you "watch" how sensations are experience, you see that our framing is illogical: some senations are me and good, some are other and bad, some are bad and me, some are other and good... this is normal and what happens when we look closer. And yet we kinda know, but aren't all sensations basically just experiences in the mind? So how and why does all of this sorting and judging occur...?

The trick noticing how in some way this watching of sensations feels like the search for a self. "If I can really see the difference between self sensations and other sensations, I'll realize the self and know what I need to love and protect..." (At least that's how I would attempt to put words on this core feeling of searching.) Not to give it away, but as Tift points out: maybe sensations are just sensations and not really a problem to solve. It's true, when we realize that it is effortless to experience sensations (they arise on their own) and that there is no need for mapping them (they are where they are), then practice enters a whole new dimension of equanimity and insight.



I kinda feel like that was a lot of words but might not be that helpful.  Basically it's almost a true-ism: when in doubt go back to experiencing sensations. Only sensations are "now". 

 
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Chris M, modified 2 Months ago at 10/7/22 8:15 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 10/7/22 8:06 AM

RE: Emergence of a somatic language?

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Not to put too fine a point on this, but literally, everything is occurring right now. The conundrum for human beings is to be able to better distinguish between the grounded and un-grounded nature of the various experiences we have. Between the literal experience of sensations - the signals coming directly from our sense organs, and the follow-on elaborations, embellishments, fears, and loves, of the mind's follow-on thoughts. This is why getting somewhere, availing ourselves of the fruits of our practice, is so difficult. Mind confuses us about this, and it's easy to do because our filters are inexact and inexperienced. Practice increases our resolution (grounded vs un-grounded) and changes our habits over time. Sensations that come from non-mind experiences are just easier to see as grounded than thoughts and emotions.

Just another elaboration on the same theme...
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Pepe ·, modified 1 Month ago at 10/8/22 12:05 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 10/8/22 12:05 PM

RE: Emergence of a somatic language?

Posts: 618 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Another couple of great posts, thank both of you.

Chris: "Sensations that come from non-mind experiences are just easier to see as grounded than thoughts and emotions".

I guess most thoughts are much more easily seen as not me than most of emotions.

Shargrol: "Aren't all sensations basically just experiences in the mind? So how and why does all of this sorting and judging occur...?"

I didn't follow this line of reasoning, but I guess that's kind of a koan instead, only to be revealed on-cushion.

Thank you both for joining the conversation and clearing up some misunderstandings.
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Not two, not one, modified 1 Month ago at 10/8/22 2:12 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 10/8/22 2:12 PM

RE: Emergence of a somatic language?

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Pepe, I would just add to Shargrol and Chris's excellent points that one of the things going on here is the intuitive perception of dependent origination arising from the base sense quanta. That is, intermediate emotions or bodily reactions arising at a higher level of aggregation than sense quanta, and giving rise to application of conceptual overlays, and then reactions to those overlays, and then wallowing and the reinforcment of clinging, as you intuit.  

These intermediate emotions or feelings are hard to see clearly as they seem to be an emergent property of a variety of different factors, or perhaps they represent the operation of the endocrine system rather than the usual sensory systems. At one level they can be noticed as a vague cloud-like sense of something or some emotion, then you can observe this sense of something arising and passing away, and over time you can link it to the things you note like sensory input, conceptualisation, reaction and indeed affect.  Some unbundling of this process can occasionally occur along the path - I had some really interesting experiences of very pure emotions without the usual entanglements - fear, disgust and joy, all a pure pleasure to experience. A related practice of reversing the vedana is also in the suttas - through cemetary contemplations, or contemplations on the repulsive nature of the body, or relinquishing the experience of pain for example. These all shake up and unbind some of the default reactive processes that keeps us enslaved, separately from the practice of clearly perceiving discrete sense quanta.

For me, I found an intuitive kind of meditation on these dimly percieved phenomena quite useful at times. It was not so much to perceive them extremely clearly, which seemed impossible, but to perceive their antecedents and consequences, and that they were impermanent, not-self, and a source of suffering if clung to.  I suspect some people are better suited to this kind of intuitive meditation than others.  But there are 84,000 doors to the dharma, right?

Malcolm
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Pepe ·, modified 1 Month ago at 10/10/22 1:05 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 10/10/22 1:05 PM

RE: Emergence of a somatic language?

Posts: 618 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Thanks Malcom for chiming in. Those intermediate emotions you describe are really interesting and hard to pin down. Probably some mind states work in that way too, isn't it?  And  those experiences of very pure emotions must be awesome. So far, what I can observe every know and then are emotions in colors, at a fraction of a second. The first information I get is intensity, then surprise and sometimes fear or wonderment.

It's good to know that these subtle phenomena might be available to investigate in the future.

Thanks again!