Body + Spirit = Having it all

July 13, 2015

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

Someone in the past, long since dead, or maybe a committee of the faithful, also long since dead, decided that body and spirit were mortal enemies that could never get along.
That crowd may have just been having a bad hair day, but years of culture and language have propped up this point of view. We have even been led to believe that one mind-body-spirit-festivalis good and the other is suspect. (And you and I know which one is which.)
Where did this all go wrong?

Somewhere back there, human experience began to be divided up into neat little categories. I’m sure it was a good idea at the time. But we have mastered separation and categorization. What we need right now is to pull it all back together, to see how richly intertwined all of our experience is, to have it all together

The term “bodyspirit” reunites body and spirit—back where they belong. It helps us name the basic reality that all of our experience is physical— that we can’t have spirit without body. How would we recognize a spiritual experience unless it were a something-or-other going on in our bodies? For that matter, how would we know we were having feelings or thoughts if there weren’t some sort of experience—body stuff that we can recognize and notice (even if it is difficult to articulate)?

Thoughts, feelings, and those glimpses of a bigger reality that we call “spirit” are all physical experiences, much like any other physical sensation we experience in our bodies.


What’s your 90/10 body relationship?

July 6, 2015

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


My crackpot theory is that when thinking of our bodies we spend 90% of the time plotting ways to fix ourselves. We’ll go to the gym, stop eating cake, apply exotic creams, dye our hair, get new clothes, meditate more, get a tan. Unfortunately, much of it never passes the planning stage. We may never do the things we intend. Is that a good way to spend our time and energy? The other ten percent of the time we work with our limitations, even celebrate them, we build on our strengths, we seize the moment, we revel in our ability to live and love. We learn from our mistakes and turn them into triumphs, we see opportunity in chaos, we sing in the shower, we reach out and zap others with compassion and concern. Sounds like more fun doesn’t it? So here is what I suggest: reverse the percentages.

Let’s spend 90% of our time having the glorious wonder of our bodyspirits and 10% of the time trying to fix ourselves up. You don’t have to give up your self-improvement schemes entirely. There is little harm in those desires and sometimes they even pay off. But meanwhile, you can have so much more than you can imagine. Within any of our perceived limitation resides and infinite range of possibilities. They may not be the same set of options that you had 10 years ago, but they are still endless. Even if you are seriously limited by some sort of big body deal there is so much potential waiting to burst forth. How do you do it?

  • Look for the good. Celebrate your gifts, your accomplishments, your relationships, your small and large triumphs. Notice them in others if you find it difficult to name them for yourself.
  • Notice what creates energy and grace in your life. Have more of it. Put yourself in the settings that give you a sense of liveliness, peace, ecstasy or whatever it is you desire.
  • Open your circle of concern. Look past your own body spirit. Pay attention to the wonderful gifts around you. So much of the joy of living has to do with relationship. And when we can include others in our circle it immediately widens our own possibilities.

This would be a good beginning in the process of percentage reversal.

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.

You Have a Gold Mine Right in Front of You

July 3, 2010

Look around at the people in your organization or group or staff or team. They contain a gold mine of possibilities that you have hardly tapped.

A big pile of goldEach of us has a wealth of experience, ideas, dreams, desires, visions and possibilities. The history of organizations is to get people to fit in. You will do this, you won’t do that. Much of this has to do with the restriction of physicality.

We have learned how to “behave.” In the process, we have suppressed many of the ways that people learn, articulate, discover, react and relate. We are afraid to move out of our boxes and, therefore, will never get to the information that comes from behaving in a different way.

Look at your organization.

Are things buttoned up and buttoned down? Are you afraid to speak up? To tell the truth or to share a new idea? Do you laugh together? Share stories? Create environments that are pleasant to be in?

What if you could free up even a few new resources in your group? Your team members might flourish and want to stay with you longer. They might have ideas that you never imagined. They might bring unexpected gifts to the way your organization runs. Collaboration and cooperation might increase.

Do you want to sit on that gold mine or dig into in?

Folks doing and leading InterPlay have been exploring hidden territories of possibility for over twenty years. We have developed the tools to release these rich resources. Find out more about InterPlay classes and workshops.  

“Sucking It Up”

May 24, 2010

Male” and “corporate.” Those two words, used in a relatively narrow and traditional sense, can easily be used to describe many of the expectations we have of how we are supposed to behave in groups/organizations/workplaces even if our groups are neither “male” nor “corporate.”

When we gather, we’ll be all business. We will be prompt, we will get our work done, we will be efficient and then we’ll be on our way. We will remain buttoned up and battened down.

Actor Daniel Craig Crying (Subtly)

Actor Daniel Craig Crying (Subtly)

And if we have any experiences that fall outside the perceived realm of propriety, we will shove them aside and we won’t let on. We will suffer (or rejoice) in silence.

This is called “sucking it up.”

Now, I think it’s sometimes helpful to be able to reign in my emotional life, to control impulses, to appear calm even when I’m  nervous. But I also know that denying those experiences—pretending that they don’t exist for whatever reason—can be both harmful and unnecessary.

I also know that, in many cases, when those sorts of experiences are expressed/acknowledged/included in a group it is usually a good thing. It releases stress, it taps the power of vulnerability, it opens up territories of knowing, it connects us. It is simply honest. For the individual body it is almost always better to move through an experience rather than shunting it aside. I believe that is true for the group body as well.

Take a look at your world, though. Where does the “suck it up” principle predominate? Who sets that tone? Are there places in your life where there is room for a wider range of experience? What is that like? Which sort of situations would you prefer to be in? Which feels more whole?

If we are to have body wise organizations, we simply must acknowledge the full range of human experience—mind, body, heart, spirit. This is a central piece of body wisdom  from the InterPlay philosophy. I truly believe that if we follow this wisdom, our groups will be happier, healthier and more hopeful.