Is it time to bathe in grace?

June 29, 2015

Excerpted from: Slightly Mad Rantings of a Body Intellectual, By Phil Porter  

If you knew what stress felt like in your body, you could probably name the physical experiences that signal this charming, here-it-comes-again-all-too-soon experience. But you don’t experience stress, now do you?

Shimmering-shores-of-Vaadhoo-Maldives-768x512What if we imagined another state that was the opposite of stress–a shimmering-water, skin-tingling, open-hearted, melted-chocolate-on-figs sort of experience. What would that feel like in your body? What if we were to snatch a word that is as happy in the world of dance as it is in the world of spirit and call that experience “grace.” A bit presumptuous, yes indeedy, to pull this oft-used, sometimes misunderstood noun and slather it on the body of our physical experience.

Presumptuous yes, but surprisingly easy.

You have it already in your life, I’m sure. You may have slightly different words to describe it—peaceful, calm, centered, energized, easy, amused—but you have it. What would happen if you were to pay more attention to that experience, to notice where you were, what you were up to, who else was nearby. What if you were to do those things, be with those people, go to those places more often?

I’ll tell you what—you would be happier, healthier, more whole.

Stress can do some interesting things to us. It can rev us up, get us going, spark new ideas. But it is hard on our bodies
and fails as a long-term strategy unless you want to be exhausted, shaky, and frazzled. IT’S A BEAR! That’s when stress is really helpful. Run like crazy! But our lives today are more like this: IT’S A BEAR! IT’S A BEAR! IT’S A BEAR! IT’S A BEAR! Way too much stress. It can really wear you down.

Grace builds up the body. Not to mention making us easier to live with.

What is a body intellectual?

June 22, 2015

_DSC2261by Phil Porter
an excerpt from his book The Slightly Mad Rantings of a Body Intellectual Part One

The difference between your run-of-the-mill intellectual and a body intellectual is the difference of perspective. It demands a personal voice, not a disembodied one, a voice that can come from the left hand or the hips or the heart. It makes no claims to objectivity, but wallows instead in the subjective.

In normal discourse we often use the idea of subjectivity dismissively. It’s meaning is something like, “oh, that’s your opinion (and I don’t think it’s true)” or “oh, that’s your opinion (and aren’t you being a bit emotional about all this?).” But in fact, none of us can speak other than subjectively. We are always rooted in our own particular experience, our culture, our beliefs, our values.

Jumping to Conclusions

June 18, 2015

by Phil Porter
an excerpt from his book The Slightly Mad Rantings of a Body Intellectual Part One

In the beginning is experience.

the_big_picture_2Almost before something has finished happening to us, we are constructing architectures of meaning with it. We want explanations, we want to see how it fits in the big picture, we want to know where it is going and what we might do with it. We want to knit a sweater out of it, wrap it around ourselves, and sit in front of the fire with it. We want to learn from it, wrestle it to the ground, fit it into a slot or two. We want to know why? why? why?

In the process we are jumping to conclusions. And our conclusions have a high probability of being wrong because they aren’t based on enough information.

We would be much better off if we could stay closer to the immediacy of what is happening to us and pull ourselves back from propelling it into the future. For everything that we experience there may be multiple explanations. If we settle too soon on one or another, we risk choosing the wrong one. We may also create generalizations out of an experience that was really an anomaly. We may be paying more attention than we should to something inconsequential.

Let’s say for example that we feel a pain in our chest. It could be a muscle spasm, indigestion, or just an odd something or other. OR IT COULD BE A HEART ATTACK! Given our human need and desire for drama, we probably leapt straight for that last one.

Now, I am not saying that we should minimize our experience, that we shouldn’t be at least a bit prepared for the next big thing to happen. But mostly in our lives the next big thing doesn’t happen, and what we are creating is not readiness but anxiety.

The worst of it is that we don’t stop with theorizing about our own experience. We also love to conjecture reasons for the behavior of others that we observe. This may be risky or even unfair. Though we can see certain things, we can’t know completely what is going on for another. Immediately we are a step away from direct experience.

To help me remember that moving to explanations for my own and others’ behavior may be a dicey activity, I use the “crackpot theory” practice. If I find myself spouting off one of my ideas about why people or events are the way they are, I label it a “crackpot theory,” preferably aloud. This convenient tool allows me to indulge what seems to be a quite common human desire while at the same time not taking myself too seriously. Others are also given more latitude to accept or reject what I have said because I haven’t presented it as fact or truth.

Having taken some responsibility for framing my opinions actually increases the range of my theorizing. I’m just making the stuff up, so why limit myself? I can create crackpot psychology, crackpot physics, crackpot sociology, crackpot theology… the sky’s the limit!

And if I combine the crackpot theory practice with the practice of compassionate imagination, I am less likely to do much damage.