Bookreview by Anna Adams. Being “present” in one’s body is essential to conscious participation. Yet this is an awareness that is often undistinguished in most physical educational programs. Bringing that understanding into one’s everyday life brings a quality of presence and consciousness that has the ability to reinterpret one’s perception of reality.
Book review Awareness Through the Body
The authors of the book Awareness Through the Body, Aloka Marti and Joan Sala, bring their own embodied
wisdom to revealing the intelligence of the body. They are long standing practitioners of “integral yoga,” the Indian sage Sri Aurobindo’s approach to living a life in which the development and integration of our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual intelligence
are held as vital to what it means to be a conscious human being. Their program “provide[s] tools for individuals to expand their consciousness, explore the different planes of their being and discover their inner selves…” (p. 19).
Creator of your own life and co creator of the world
Living in the 21st century requires being a different kind of person…one who is able to be with the complexity of the time – the uncertainty, ambiguity and paradoxes of life. It includes being able to think inside and outside of the changes occurring today; knowing the relationship between parts and wholes, i.e., all parts are really wholes that are aspects of other wholes; embracing opposites, e.g., respecting the unity that exists in our diversity; order and disorder and relating powerfully to the multidimensionality of life. Living in our world today calls for engaged, connected individuals who know they are essential to what is being created and know that who they are is the creator of their own life and the co creator of what is emerging in the world.
Awareness Through the Body and ‘being present’
Because the physical body is a fundamental access to consciousness, participants in the Awareness Through the Body program are given many varied experiences of the connections that exist in their lives. The connections their own body has within itself, e.g., organs, cells, circulatory system, senses, etc.; the connections they have with people, animals, plants, nature, the elements – air, fire, water, ether, earth; and the energetic connections existing beyond their immediate physical sensations.
Through exercises of projection into and identification with other objects, both animate and inanimate, Joan and Aloka introduce the relatedness that exists between their students and the universe. People who experience their “connectedness” relate to uncertainty, ambiguity and paradox in life with a more reed-like stability and flexibility.
Being “present” in one’s body is essential to conscious participation and yet it is an awareness that is often undistinguished in most physical educational programs. Bringing that understanding into one’s everyday life brings a quality of presence and consciousness that has the ability to reinterpret one’s perception of reality.
In this approach, teaching and learning are experienced in a dialogic environment that invites one to discover one’s own subjective sensory landmarks, e.g., personal memories of how one’s body feels during different states of consciousness; students find meaning through their own experimentation. Areas such as fear, anxiety, restlessness, impatience, anger, trust, partnership and dealing with different life situations are addressed.
The witness attitude is introduced and practiced throughout the program, giving participants opportunities to use their senses to take in both particulars and a wider perspective – to gain mastery in being an observer from within and without. A consciousness is brought to the perceptions, which unfolds into self discovery, self reflection, self awareness, self directedness, self responsibility and ultimately self mastery.
The results of educating students in the awareness through their body are powerful and uniquely stand out by the possible future they invite if this program were more broadly available. Two clear examples, one concerning aggression and the other, intimacy, provide a hint of what might be possible if young people entered their adolescence and early adulthood grounded in the distinctions presented in Awareness Through the Body. In an interview, one of the parents of students in the program said:
“Through this program my sons could see that actually their body is the same as their friends’ body and
there is no difference and that it is the same matter.
They can respect the others as themselves. Around here, there was never an incidence of violence.”
A mood of learning, curiosity, appropriateness.
Students working with one other throughout their education, from K through 12th grade, learn how to touch another with awareness, care and an appreciation of the humanness of another person. The mood is one of learning, curiosity, appropriateness and openness rather than embarrassment or awkwardness. These young people are comfortable and natural in their own bodies and therefore they have a naturalness in relating to another‘s body.