This video, entitled "Body Consciousness" presents my theory of consciousness within the framework of body philosophy. Below is an edited and revised transcript of the presentation.
A lot of my philosophical work comes from asking the question: What does it mean to be human? And you may wonder, "Why do I ask the question?" My answers pretty simple, I'm curious. but the real question is: how do I find answers? What are good methods for thinking about deeper questions. How do you investigate what it means to be an emotional, thinking being?
When I think about what it means to be human, I exercise a unique approach for finding answers. I focus on the human body for answers particularly the core muscles--muscles of the torso, neck, and head--as the landscape for exploring humanness. It's a physical approach where I focus awareness inward and map inner muscle movement and sensation as I think. And what do I think about? Well today I'm going to tackle the topic of consciousness.
I'm going to show you how to map the core muscles by feeling and then use that map to explore consciousness. But first thing's first, the core muscles. What are the core muscles? They are muscles of the torso, neck, and head and include organ muscles like the gut, the stomach, and the heart. The core muscles move and they feel. What do the core muscles feel? Muscle things. Sensations of their own experience. Sensations like pain. Uhhh! Life is hard. Or sensations of pleasure Ahhh. Life is good. And sensations of stretch and fatigue, and warmth and cold, and also the contraction and relaxation sensations of movement, for example, the muscle movement of breath.
At any given moment the core muscles are somewhere in the cycle of breath moving together. Inhale, inhale, inhale. Exhale, exhale, exhale. To get a sense of breath movement, I would like you to feel and visualize the muscle movement of breath with me. Start low in the core, feeling the abdominal muscles expand. Then move awareness to the pelvic floor. It's a bowl of muscle underneath the pelvis, and it's very subtle, but with a deep breath try to feel the pelvic floor expand on the inhale. Then move awareness up to the low back, and lean forward a bit to feel the low back expand on the inhale. Then imagine the diaphragm--it's a parachute shaped muscle underneath the lungs--and imagine it flattening on the inhale. Then feel the chest expand. There are muscles between the ribs. Perhaps feel the throat lengthening. Feel subtle sensation in the mouth and nose. The core muscles move together to breathe and this concert of movement causes the lungs to expand creating a vacuum in the lungs and air moves into the body to fill that vacuum. It's like a pump in which the core muscles move together to create the inhale and the exhale. When I breathe, the core muscles move together, and when I sing, the core muscles move together. When I speak and emote, the core muscles move together. The core muscles move together in a variety of ways creating different core postures.
What is a core posture? The easiest way to explain a core posture is to move you through a few examples, but as for definitions: a core posture is a complex pose of the core muscles with several core muscles involved. It's like a yoga pose for the core. But it's easiest to explain by moving you through a few core postures. The first core posture I want to move you through is anger. And I'm not trying to start a fight. It's actually a very simple core posture with muscle contraction at the front of the body. Starting in the face. Contract muscle between the eyes and the eye brows, then contract the mouth and the jaw. Contract the tongue. Contract the chest. Contract muscle below the sternum. Then contract the abdominals strongly. And contract muscles in the pelvis. Good. Release. Shake it out. I think of the core posture of anger as a frontal armor with strongly contracted muscle in the front of the body in order to deflect and also the core posture of anger can contract the body forward to attack.
The next core posture I would like you to engage is a smile. You all know how to smile. But a smile is not just in the face, it's a full core posture with several core postures involved. Starting in the face. Engage muscles at the sides of mouth and the sides of the eyes. Then feel a soft lift in the chest, a soft expansion at the sides of the ribs and the upper back. Feel a soft engagement in the abdomen and a soft engagement in the pelvis. Now I'd like you to try to engage only the muscles at the sides of the mouth while relaxing the rest of the core. This is a fake smile, and this is my favorite part of the talk because I get to see everyone fake smiling at me. Now you're really smiling again. I'd like you to feel the full core posture of the smile with muscle engagement throughout the entire core.
The last core posture I'd like you to try is called a half-yawn. What is a half-yawn? You know
what a regular yawn is so we'll start with that. I'd like you to open your mouth and move awareness to behind the top molars to the soft palate--it's a dome of muscle in the back of the mouth--and I would like you to try and lift the soft palate up as if you are stretching it up and out through the ears. Good now breath deeply all the way to the pelvis. Good. I'd like you to try it again and if you get yawned out it's ok just do the best you can. This time I'd like you to add a hand movement. I'd like you to track the duration of the yawn moving your hand from left to right to indicate its progress from beginning to end. Good. Now I'd like you to do it again except this time I'd like you to stop half-way. Good now exhale on "ah." Good let's do it again. Ready, go. That is the half-yawn. It's a moving stretching core posture with a lifted soft palate, lowered larynx, expanded ribs, descending diaphragm, expanded abdominals and back, expanded pelvic floor. It's the same pose I moved into to sing the chant on "ah" that you heard before. I moved into a half-yawn and I exhaled on an "ah."
What's very interesting about this half-yawn pose is that it's very similar to the core posture of 'yes.' You know how we have a word for yes. It's yes. Well my question is: What experience created the need for the word "yes." After all there are all kinds of languages each with their own words for yes.
So what is the human experience of yes that all humans have in common? I think that yes is a core posture. Yes or 'ah' is a pleasure pose--a moving stretching pleasure pose of the core muscles head to pelvis. At it's most pleasurable, I map it as a half-yawn with pleasurable pelvic contraction and a warmly engaged heart. There are varying degrees of the core posture of 'yes' from a strong ah to the subtle ah, but strong or subtle, the general structure is the same. The core posture of yes encourages breath movement, whereas the core posture of 'no' stops it. You can test the differences by engaging yes and feeling stretch in the throat and below the sternum and then engage 'no' and feel muscle in the throat and below the sternum contract. Or you can think about when and how you engage yes and no in your life. For example, if a child starts running toward the street, do you say 'no' gently? Or do you say it strongly clipping at the end so the child stops his breath? And when the child stops running do you say "No! Don't run into the street." to associate the memory of the street with the felt experience of stopping the breath. You want to try? A good strong 'no.' On three, ready? One, two, three: NO! On the other hand, if someone asks to kiss you, do you stretch into a pleasure pose and say 'yes.'
As I've become more aware of my core muscles, I've realized that my core muscles need to move into the core posture of yes. Frequently. Just like I need to pleasurably move and stretch arms and legs, so I need to pleasurably move and stretch core muscles. It feels good. With all that the core muscles do: breathing, speaking, moving into different core postures of emotion, they need a rejuvenating pleasurable stretch, the core posture of yes. And so I move into the core posture of yes often throughout my life. For example, when I have conversations with friends and strangers and we affirm each others' experiences. "Are you having a good day?" Yes. "Are you having a good day? Yes. But not only do I engage the core posture of yes to affirm experiences when I'm talking with other people, I've realized that I engage the core posture of yes to affirm myself when I think. The core posture of yes is interwoven into my processes of thought.
To demonstrate how this works, I'm going to do math. And it's going to be very simple math where I emphasize the core movement, and the core movement is: breath suspension, then moving into the core posture of yes, breath suspension in anticipation, then moving into the core posture of yes which I will indicate with this hand movement--breath suspension then moving into the core posture of yes. Very simple math, the goal is to demonstrate the core component, so I'm going to exaggerate that part. Here is the math: 11 plus 12 is...23 (internally say 11 plus 12 is...23) <core posture of yes>, "Yes." As I said the equation, I moved into breath suspension, where I visualized the equation, spoke it silently to myself, then I moved into the core posture of yes, a subtle pleasure pose, then I said the word "Yes." Again, 11 plus 12 is...23 (internally say 11 plus 12 is...23) <core posture of yes>, "Yes." But it doesn't have to be math. How about a question about my present state? "Am I alive?" <core posture of yes> "Yes." And another, "Am I thinking?" <core posture of yes> "Yes." But I don't actually have to say the word 'yes.' I can simply end the thought with the core posture of yes which is wordless but has a core structure like a subtle, pleasured breath. 11 plus 12 is...23 (internally say 11 plus 12 is...23) <core posture of yes>. Am I alive? <core posture of yes> Am I thinking? <core posture of yes>
Moving through this process is like being my own parent giving myself the reward of breath. So when I was a little kid, I needed my parents to acknowledge me. I would do something and they would say "Yes good job!" and I'd be like "Ah!" Then as I got older I learned to acknowledge myself. Now I acknowledge my own thoughts with a self-created "yes," a moving, stretching pleasure pose of the core muscles. By moving into the core posture of yes to acknowledge my own thoughts, I am exercising a process of human consciousness. So I just snuck in consciousness on you.
And then, what happens when I become aware of the core posture of yes? I'm thinking 11 plus 12 is 23 <core posture of yes> and all of a sudden, I become aware of the core posture of yes to acknowledge myself, and I acknowledge that core posture of yes with another core posture of yes. And I think: "That's me!" and then I do it again, engage the core posture of yes and then acknowledge that core posture of yes with another core posture of yes. That's two yes core postures in a row. What's a yes core posture plus another yes core posture? What's ah plus ah? By becoming aware of the core posture of yes and acknowledging it with another core posture of yes, I move deeper into the yes pose into it becomes a strong "Ah." Literally an ah-ha moment. An epiphany of core awareness. A felt awareness of myself.
I've concluded that human consciousness is a body process. I have core muscles. The core muscles move and feel. They move into many core postures including the core posture of yes, a moving stretching pleasure pose of the core muscles head to pelvis. I engage the core posture of yes to acknowledge my own thoughts. And when I become aware of yes, and acknowledge it with another yes, I move into an ah-ha epiphany of core awareness. This is my theory of consciousness that explains how people are able to perceive consciousness. It accounts for the felt experience and how we acknowledge ourselves by including the core muscles as active and sensory components of human experience.