One of the most interesting features of somatic practices is the absence of the mirror in class which is much used in other contexts as a checking tool for one’s body appearance and physical outcome. Why is that?
As a commercial dancer I got used to train while watching my body or the perception of my body at the mirror, and to compare myself with others’ performance all the time.
By studying the concept of ‘Dualism’ and how this translates into mind-body separation, I have recently reflected on how many body practices still use external props for self-assessment. Not to mention, how many professional environments completely deny the unification of the material, psychological and spiritual aspects of a person.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s quote ‘One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself’ encapsulates the essence of challenge and self-mastery as opposed to basing one’s performance on external value scale.
Yet again, what is the perception of ourselves in our daily lives?
Investigating in the beliefs of thinkers and philosophers from the past, we can look at either monist or dualistic visions of our body and mind.
For instance, Plato argued that each person is given knowledge and truth at birth, and was adverse to the idea of ‘body’. Aristoteles contraposed this theory, supporting the importance of nurturing a person in his/her process of learning, although he just emancipated from Plato by taking about materialism.
This binary assumption between body and mind has increased through the Christian consideration about one’s and others’ bodies and dance.
Throughout the following decades, beliefs about the integrity of senses in the development of one person’s identity and interaction with others has been originated, neglected, challenged, obscured, or encouraged at times.
For example, Orphic priests sublimated the material aspect of the body worshiping Dionysus by means of the body. In the late 1800 and early 1900, Nietzsche attacked the notion of absolute truth, by asserting although two people have the same learning experience, the perception of it can differ according to their personal meaning they attribute to it.
From a teaching point of view, I relate to Nietzsche's perspectivism as a resolution to conflict that may result from acknowledging one’s limitation in being exposed to the truth. Somatic movement learning/teaching provide one person with the instruments to explore the perspective of one’s body and integrate mind into the re-harmonization of all aspects of physical and mental being.
The way we contemplate the essence of learning, our physical existence, knowledge and truth gives rise to how we see ourselves and engage to others. The way we learn about learning significantly influence the way we teach and share knowledge with our others.
Hence, my reflection on the capacity to hone our vision, our skills, our capacity to train and challenge ourselves in our respective roles for the sake of fitting that role or for the sake of embodying an integrated self which sees human potential as key to an ever-growing engagement in self-mastery.
Can you re-learn how to learn from now? Can you re-consider the perception of your body? Would it help with your current tasks?
Bob Bates, Learning Theories Simplified, 2nd edition, London, 2016
Gymnastikföreningen i Helsingfors -seuran ryhmä harjoittelemassa - Finnish Heritage Agency, Finland - CC BY.