Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More



Listening The Body

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

January 11, 2023

"Our claim to own our bodies and our world is our catastrophe." ... WH (Wystan Hugh) Auden, Canzone

"Maybe it's not even my  body." ... Gale Barnum, Landmark Forum Leader Emeritus
This essay, Interoception: Listening The Body, is the companion piece to
  1. Maybe It's Not Even My  Body
  2. Self-Efficacy
in that order.

I am indebted to Joan "Joani" Culver who contributed material for this conversation.

When I listen my body (as stoopid  as it sounds) it tells me what it's got going on. It tells me what it needs (in the case of something I should supplement) or it tells me what it doesn't need (in the case of something I should discontinue). I've always listened my body. Nobody told me to or taught me how. I've just had it that that's what one does with one's body. But it's not necessarily so. It's not necessarily true. And it's certainly not necessarily true for everyone.

In our bi-annual strategy huddle, my nutritionist commented "The way you listen to your body, is amazing.". I didn't know it was amazing. Doesn't everyone listen to their body? During a routine check-up, my physician said "It's great the way you listen to your body.". I didn't realize there was anything that great about it either. I mean, isn't that what everyone does? When one of my coaches, someone I've known forever and have enormous respect for, exhorted me to "Keep listening to (your) body", I realized it was time to become more facile with the idea, and to see if I could distinguish something useful about it ie to see if I could say something useful about it and / or write down something useful about it. Thus began an inquiry which discovered the following, inter alia:

There are the semantics  of it which are unavoidable. Do I really listen to  my body? Really? Or is it that I simply listen my body?  The "to" in "listen to  my body" is colloquially de rigueur, yet it detracts from the experience / its language doesn't fully re-create the experience. My experience is "I listen my body" in which a "to" would be both superfluous and distracting too. Elsewhere in this Conversations For Transformation internet series of essays, we have already differentiated between "listening" and "listening to". In a transformed context, we almost always "listen" rather than "listen to". The difference is that I bring forth listening when I "listen" my body ie I'm the source of listening, I'm responsible for listening - whereas when I "listen to" my body, it's  the source, it's responsible, and I'm off the hook (to a degree) for being responsible for causing the totality of the experience. The difference is both subtle and profound.

Soon, based on this experience of my body not on a concept of it, I began asking "But is it really my  body?". Yes, conceptually  I know it's my body. Yet my experience  is merely of "a" body - or even of "the" body, if you like. Dare I stand in an experience of "a" body or even of "the" body rather than of "my" body? (I'm asking the question only as a matter of accuracy). Maybe it's not even my  body. What if it's not my body? Sometimes I'm unsure if it's my  body.

That's the order of insights which resulted in the byline of this essay's title morphing from the colloquial "Listening To My Body" to just "Listening The Body".

Listening the body (as I subsequently discovered) is so universally recognized (although not so universally distinguished as such) that it's even been given its own scientific designation, which is: "interoception". If per-ception is the ability we have to be aware in totality, and if intero-ception is the ability we have to perceive what the body is telling us interiorly, I surmised there would also have to be a distinction for what we perceive around  the body (I eschew the designation "outside  the body" which in and of itself is a subject for another conversation on another occasion). There is. I found it. It is: "exteroception".

Here then is the trifecta of 'ceptions  (if you will): there's per-ception, there's extero-ception, and there's intero-ception (which I aka "listening the body"):

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


the quality of being aware of things through the physical senses, especially sight

From a Google search result:


sensitivity to stimuli that are outside the body, resulting from the response of specialized sensory cells called exteroceptors to objects and occurrences in the external environment

Also from the Cambridge International Dictionary:


the feeling of knowing what is happening in your body, for example if you are hungry, thirsty, warm, cold, etc

Given interoception ie listening the body, I get what to add to my diet and / or what to remove from my diet. I listen. It informs. Listening the body, I get what exercises to add to my regimen and with what frequency and / or what no-longer-applicable exercises to remove from my regimen. I listen. It informs.

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