Connecting with Your Body of Possibility

By Alan Sieler

The world of possibility

The ideas of great thinkers can sometimes provide useful perspectives for assisting us to deal with some of life’s challenging circumstances. Two such thinkers are German philosopher Martin Heidegger and French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

One way of understanding Heidegger’s philosophy is that provides a novel view of the "nitty gritty" of everyday life. Heidegger contended that while we live in a world of objects, equipment, people, animals and natural features, our daily lived experience is more than simply living amongst these many phenomena. He considered that the world we live in is always one of possibility and that different aspects of the world provide possibilities for us, a prominent example of which is smartphone. Without a smartphone as a form of mobile technology different possibilities in our life are less readily available.

Another of Heidegger’s insights is that a very important aspect of life is dealing with interruptions (which includes disruptions), which was translated from the German into English as "breakdowns". Heidegger pointed out that as we go about the daily business of life much of the world is already familiar to us. This familiarity leads us to live a lot of life in anticipation of how things will be and how life is likely to flow. And yet, life is full of breakdowns – interruptions of varying magnitude and intensity to our anticipated flow of living– many of which we experience as being negative.

Breakdowns we experience as being negative have the effect of closing possibilities down for us, and we experience breakdowns not only individually but also collectively. Losing a job is a negative breakdown that closes down possibilities not only for the person who is no longer employed, but also the reduction of possibilities in family life as well as for businesses, because the unemployed person has reduced purchasing power.

So, a perspective on the current COVID-19 pandemic is that it is a massive negative breakdown in which we individually and collectively experience significant reduction of possibilities.

Unfortunately, our experience of the pandemic as a negative breakdown has the potential to plunge us into unhelpful and unresourceful moods, such as the continual anger of Resentment, the pessimism and sometimes despair of Resignation and the ongoing fear of the worst in Anxiety, Unfortunately, these moods continually generate within us an impoverished field of possibilities.

A body of possibility

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who was student of Heidegger’s, is renowned as probably the prominent philosopher of the body. Building on Heidegger’s idea that humans can be described as potentiality-for-being, Merleau-Ponty developed the perspective that our body is an "I can" body, always with the potential to be a body of possibility.

One of the interesting things about moods is that they live in our physiology and can have us live from an "I cannot" body and a physiological configuration that continually closes us off from being oriented to a world of possibilities.

Now, the above ideas may make sense and even be appealing. But, so what? A key question is:

One approach to addressing the question is being oriented towards ensuring that you live from a body of possibility. In a world of reduced possibilities we are faced with a continual challenge to invent new possibilities, which we can do through a distinctive combination of how we are in our physiology, our moods, our thoughts and our conversations with others. So, let’s commence with inviting you to get in touch with your body of possibility.

Relaxation session

It is suggested that you approach developing your body of possibility by engaging in a relaxation session that will take about 20-25 minutes. What follows is a set of suggestions that you may like to initially read and then to audio record, leaving approximately 30-60 second spaces between each point, and then play back and immerse yourself in the relaxation.

Maintaining the commitment to be in a body of possibility

It is interesting that we can be aware of a range of possibilities for what we could be doing differently to enhance the way we are living in the current challenging circumstances, but unfortunately not apply them. This is most probably because we do not have a way of being in the body that allows us to act on them, being in a body that can trap us in unhelpful moods and self-defeating thoughts.

Being constructively different in our orientation to life and to ourselves as potentiality-for-being almost inevitably involves the embodiment of how we want to be. And this is not an overnight phenomenon. Of the three domains of our being – language, emotions and body – the body tends to be the slowest to change, yet the most profound. It requires continual committed practice to realise a more possibility-oriented way of being. Some ways to can engage in this practice is to:

A final note – an audiotape of the relaxation session has intentionally not been provided. If you consider the points in the session will be useful, you are invited to take responsibility to be creative and produce your own recording and experience the session as a potentially first step to creating a new world of possibility for yourself. Or, perhaps there is someone in your household who would like to read the script to you. I hope this is a helpful learning experience for you.

Best wishes



© Newfield Institute



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