Embodied Pathways

Integral, Transpersonal and Somatic Psychology: An interview with Don Hanlon Johnson

September 27, 2023 Adrian Harris
Integral, Transpersonal and Somatic Psychology: An interview with Don Hanlon Johnson
Embodied Pathways
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Embodied Pathways
Integral, Transpersonal and Somatic Psychology: An interview with Don Hanlon Johnson
Sep 27, 2023
Adrian Harris

 In this episode, we step back and take a wider overview of what I call the embodied pathways: What connects diverse practices like Focusing, Rolfing, Authentic movement and meditation? Our guide on this exploration is Don Hanlon Johnson, who has spent over half a century studying how transformative body practices can enhance personal and social change. Don’s work takes cutting-edge theory and develops it through experiential practice. What emerges is a remarkable body of work on embodied consciousness and spirituality. Don is the author of numerous books and articles and is a Professor of Integral, Transpersonal, and Somatic Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

Don weaves together warm personal stories of his extraordinary life and profound insights into what it means to be fully human. He spent years at Esalen and has known many of the key figures in the world of embodied awareness, including Carl Rogers, Ida Rolf and Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. Don has also had personal experience with many of the somatic practices that inspire people worldwide. Join us on a journey of discovery into the rich world of somatics.


Show Notes Transcript

 In this episode, we step back and take a wider overview of what I call the embodied pathways: What connects diverse practices like Focusing, Rolfing, Authentic movement and meditation? Our guide on this exploration is Don Hanlon Johnson, who has spent over half a century studying how transformative body practices can enhance personal and social change. Don’s work takes cutting-edge theory and develops it through experiential practice. What emerges is a remarkable body of work on embodied consciousness and spirituality. Don is the author of numerous books and articles and is a Professor of Integral, Transpersonal, and Somatic Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

Don weaves together warm personal stories of his extraordinary life and profound insights into what it means to be fully human. He spent years at Esalen and has known many of the key figures in the world of embodied awareness, including Carl Rogers, Ida Rolf and Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. Don has also had personal experience with many of the somatic practices that inspire people worldwide. Join us on a journey of discovery into the rich world of somatics.


Previous episodes of Embodied Pathways have explored specific aspects of this broad topic: We’ve looked at Focusing, nature connection, dance, psychedelics, Authentic movement and mediation. But in this episode, we step back and look at the bigger picture: What connects these diverse practices? We have a fantastic guide on this journey of discovery: Don Hanlon Johnson has spent over half a century studying how transformative body practices can enhance personal and social change. Don’s work takes cutting-edge theory and develops it through experiential practice and what emerges is a remarkable body of work on embodied consciousness and spirituality. Don is the author of numerous books and articles. He founded the first Master's degree program in Somatic Psychology and is currently a professor of Integral and Transpersonal psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

Don, it’s a great privilege to welcome you on the Embodied Pathways podcast.

Don: { 1:25 }
Thank you. I'm happy to be with you

There's a story that you tell in one of the chapters that you wrote about transpersonal psychology, about this experience, having been years and years working, being a Jesuit practitioner, doing lots of meditation. And then you had a session with a Daoist, and I wonder whether that's a good place for us to open up? You could just recount that story of how that was for you.

Don: { 1:50}
Sure. It's very strange to look back upon. It was about 60 years ago. I'd been to Esalen. It was a kind of concentrated education. I got after 14 years of being in the Jesuits and meditating for several hours a day and months and getting all this education. And overnight I went to Esalen and took LSD, and that was the end. Rock'n'roll and all the rest! And strangely, so we had our theological studies - Three years of theological studies at an old gold rush retreat when the floods was one of the built the railroads in California had this beautiful estate in the Santa Cruz Mountains. That the Jesuits bought across from the wineries that made Jesuit wine, and above us was a little Zendo that had meditation every morning and they were connected with Esalen. So my friends and I would walk up there in the mornings starting after our Esalen visit and meditate there. And the strange thing that happened to me was - that's strange to think back on is - There was nothing new to me about Zazen.

So we had in our in the Western tradition, there are lots of teachings about sitting quietly and paying attention, careful attention to posture, breathing, all of the kinds of things that one does in Japan. But suddenly it all came crashing home to me, the consciousness opening of it. And what was different between the Zendo and the Jesuit place had to do with simple things like architecture, attention to address, attention to the atmosphere of the room, the kind of aesthetics - it was almost an aesthetic difference. That we meditated kind of in our rooms, which is kind of funky, and we kind of - I was very sloppy about my sitting, even though I was taught not to be. I was very sloppy about my attention to standing and sitting and breathing. I was trying to do all of that - I was doing all of that. And yet somehow it was not settled. And the only sense that I could make of that over the years was another conundrum where I had a student who was from Kyoto. In our programme and I thought, 'Oh, here's somebody who's going to have a lot of body work'. So he had done sports all his life, he had done Zazen and all his life and he had absolutely no ability to talk about any sensations in his body. So there's something about this connection that's strange and elusive. It's not the content of the teaching, it's how it's taken in. That insight took me into the next step, for me, was being Rolfed right around that same time and I realised how dense my body was, how unrevelatory my body was, and as the Rolfer began to open my ribs and my lungs, I began to say, 'Oh, that's what they're talking about. That's what's happening here'.

I remember that over the years I became a very close friend of Charlotte Selver, who lived right down the road from me and died when she was 103. And she always used this phrase; 'Are you there for your breathing? Are you there for your sitting?' And that question was so rich for me. I realised I hadn't been there really for my sitting. I had not really been there for my breathing. And that was a journey that took me quite a while actually. It took me a long time to kind of get into that.

I think it's very powerful because that journey from not being there for your body through all these different somatic practises, you came to that. I think people who've had that struggle are the ones that can teach the best.

Don: { 6:12 }
It's interesting because I - one of the things that's miraculous to me now is - so I'm almost 90 and I feel better now than I did when I was 10 or 20! Because I had very difficult birth, a really horrible birth. I had a congenital spinal problem where the discs are overgrown with calcification. So I never had a spine that moved, and then I grew up with severe asthma. I couldn't do sports. I couldn't do anything that involved exertion. On, on and on. So my early life was very pathological. It was I I had a lot of - I couldn't, you know, I just couldn't do anything, basically, except read. That was the great grace of being able to read.

So it's been kind of a miracle to me that here I am, all my friends are dying, and it's like I'm one of the few people left and I'm feeling great. I have a wonderful family and a wonderful life and  I live on the side of a mountain and I climb up the mountain all the time and 10 years ago I fell off the cliff on the mountain and broke all my ribs and here I am still - broke my spine so so it's kind of strange. I feel it's a little bit odd. And in relation to what you triggered me saying, is that I feel I live my life backwards. You know, it took me a long time to figure this out. And thank God I live long enough to figure out a lot of things that I just never got in my younger years.

Adrian: { 7:52 }
How would you sum it up? Is it a different relationship to the body?

Don: { 7:58 }
Certainly that. But I think it's. ... Take that teaching about just the simple thing we began with; sitting. It took me quite a long time to grasp in my experience, what was meant by paying attention to my sitting. I was just sitting. There's a  - Jack Kornfield talks about, there's a phrase that in practise he talks about 'soggy shamata' where you sit, but really nothing's going on. Yeah, it was a little bit like that. That's a good phrase for what I was doing for long time. I mean I, you know we did a lot of meditation. We did 30 day retreats - twice - in silence. Every day we started the day with an hour of meditation in the morning before anything else. We had short meditation periods during the day. We had week-long retreats periodically. So I did a lot of meditation and read a lot of esoteric Christian texts from the West, the Western tradition, Monastic tradition. Benedictines Cistercians and Trappists. It seems quite simple to me, but it took me a long time to learn the simple lessons and here I am.

Adrian: { 9:22 }
You mentioned some of the ritual work that you did and that sounded ... Was that a way of accessing the body in a different way?

Don: { 9:28 }
Very much so, yeah. That's a good point, because one turning point early in my life was - we lived my father and grandfather, My family came in the gold rush to Sacramento, and both my grandfather and father built houses. So my father grew up in the houses his father built, and I grew up in the house my father in Downtown Sacramento. And my father and my father's family had no religion. They just were not interested - and my mother was an Irish Catholic, and her father was an immigrant from Ireland whose mother died in childbirth.

So if you if you know this little fact about the Catholics, in that era, you could not marry a Protestant or a non-Catholic unless you, the non-Catholic signed a contract that the child would be raised as a Catholic and they got married in the process - they couldn't get married in the church. So my father signed me over to my mother for my religious upbringing. And the reason I'm telling this story is so I grew up the first many years - Our parish was the cathedral parish down by the state capital. And this dull priest was in this huge, cavernous imitation of the Duomo in Florence - a bad imitation of the Duomo - And this priest, the pastor would just drone on like a drone. He just he was just a ghostly figure. Just so. Every Sunday and holidays, my mother would take me to that place and we would sit in this cavernous place, cold and windy. Ugly. And this priest would drone on about all these things that were totally meaningless to me. And then at one point - I forget why - But just a half a block away from us was the border of a parish, cathedral parish. And somehow I got to go to the Franciscan church which is across this boundary. And they had kept the old rituals. They kept the old sacred rituals of Holy Saturday, where they you, everything is extinguished, there's no fire or anything and it's light. That's a wonderful creation ritual where they create new fire, they create new water, they create - It's all an enactment of recreating the world with ancient chants. They're just amazing and wow, this is an amazing world here! This is fabulous! And I probably was around 7th grade then.

And so that was a big opening, and it was the only world that interested me, since I couldn't do sports or anything. It was, it was like the world of novels. So I was, I was immersed in, it was a magic world. It was so much more appealing than the everyday world that I couldn't deal with very well. So that was the turning point, the ritual. That carried on and that eventually really drew me into the Jesuits.

Adrian: { 12:37 }
What's coming across when you're describing that ritual is that it's very sensual. Is that the ...?

Don: { 11:44 }
Yes, that's right. It is very sensual. Yeah, the costumes are great. I love the costumes that we put on. You know, you put on all these, you didn't wear ordinary clothes, you were all covered with laces and beautiful brocades and different colours for the seasons. Yeah, it was great. It was really very wonderful part of growing up. You know.

Adrian: { 13:05 }
There's a term you use 'consensual spirituality', which has that element of sensuality - It seems to be bound up in that in some way.

Don: { 13:18 }
I just have to say a parathesis as I talk about all of this: One of my oldest friends is Jerry Brown, who was Governor for endless years in California, and he was in my class and the Jesuits and PBS just did a film on his life - it just came out a few weeks ago. I was talking to him yesterday and he said, 'You know, when all's said and done, this whole thing is about meaning. It's not about politics'. It's like - he's kind of held on. He's kind of been the person that's got all of us ex-Jesuits together over the years and stuff - to many other state governments and all that. And it is kind of amazing that he's held on to that thing in a very public way. The spiritual, the spiritual rudder that got us all on this path. It was very profound. And binds us a lot.

Adrian: { 14:14 }
One of the key themes that you talk about that runs through a lot of your work is the difference between alienation and authenticity. Does that weave in here somewhere?

Don: { 14:27 }
Big time. Big time. Yeah, yeah, big time. Because that's, that opens goes to the other doorway, which was people like Carl Rogers - Well, especially Carl Rogers. So meeting Carl Rogers was a huge bomb in my consciousness. Terrifying. I still to this day I look back, and I say I was terrified to be with the Rogerians. I was terrified because nobody was talking very much, and so I would have to talk right? And everything - I felt everything I said, it was just silly. It was just ridiculous. It was trying to do this or that and Carl just, yeah, he just listened.  It was just so frightening to me. You know, I remember doing a three-day marathon where we were up, you know, 24 hours in a room together, and he barely said 10 words! And it was so frightening because I realised it was just babble. I just babbled and everybody in my world babbled. There's no wonder we couldn't sense our bodies because we were too busy talking.

Adrian: { 15:48 }
So was that the beginning? Was that the first inkling that there was something Rogers was doing with his body?

Don: { 14:38 }
Yes. Yeah, that's right. And it was before this other breakthrough with Esalen and the meditation experience. But that was the opening. That actually was really the beginning, with Rogers and Rogers' people. It was at [?] where I did my first teaching stint. And philosophy, I must say that philosophy was also really important here, and still more so ever than now. It's like, I think we're still in Athens with the Sophists. I mean, it's like, it's just like here we are again, you know? Did anybody learn anything in 5th century Greece? I mean, it's like ...

Adrian: { 16:40 }

Don: { 16:42 }
People are just babbling bullshit all the time. Nobody says, 'What's the basis for this?' So that was a very big breakthrough, reading the dialogues of Plato - a huge breakthrough, the Apology and all of that. At the same time meeting Carl Rogers who seemed to me like a modern Socrates and the sense of just sitting there and saying,  'Well, you know, what you're talking about.? What do you want to say here?'

Adrian: { 17:08 }
Yeah, really cutting to the chase.

Don: { 17:10 }

I'm very grateful for the Jesuits, for all about it. Thank God I became celibate and I didn't get married when I was out of college. It would have been a disaster - I wouldn't know what on earth to do with that.

Adrian: { 17:18 }
Philosophy's been a big part of your journey, hasn't it?

Don: { 17:25 }
Yeah, it's been a really big part and if they say that I really it's now it's very fresh because I really do think it's very much like the Sophists in Greece. I think it's just there's no basis of reliability of what people are saying. And on the other hand, amazing stuff going on in science. I mean, it's amazing it's happening there.

Adrian: { 17:50}
My sense is what's missing from a lot of philosophy is the body. Is that something you resonate with?

Don: { 17: 54 }
Well, it's not quite. I wouldn't say it that way. Would you think of the symposium? Plato?

Adrian: { 18:01 }
Yeah, that's, yeah, Plato's got it. But there is this distrust of the body there too, isn't there?

Don: { 18:02 }
Yeah, the gymnasium and Athens and you know, the whole thing. All these. They're very, very much into the body. I think when there's so much talk in our little world about dualism. There are two things I think about about that. One is that dualism did not begin with Descartes. Dualism began with human suffering. You know, the world is a very hard place to be. I mean it's a very, very hard, you know, dealing with all of the realities of physicality and suffering and sickness and how hard it is to live in and through weather and earthquakes and fires and famines and migrations. And it's very, very hard. What Descartes did - Descartes was very liberating for me because he figured out a way to get around the church. You know, Galileo ended up in prison and you know, his buddy Descartes sat there and his nice house on the Sorbonne down the street from the the Sorbonne.

So it's like Descartes to me it was a hero. And so it's not - He's not the founder of dualism. I think dualism is really an existential human condition. Do you know you all Yasuo Yuasa's work?

I've read some of it, mainly through things that you've quoted.

Don: { 19:33 }
Because he was a really important figure because, he says, dualism is an existential human problem and what's different between East and West is not that, it's that. We think of it in the West as a human reality, whereas in Asia they think about it as a problem to be solved by the body practices. So from their viewpoint, somebody like Heidegger is a person who is thinking gigantic thought thoughts with the sensitivity of an adolescent. And cultivated through the practises: Breathing and meditation and martial arts and all of that

This seems like the nub. The practise is what changes consciousness.

Don: { 20:22 }
Practise is what changes consciousness. Without the practise, the consciousness remains untethered and unrefined. And that's a very, very difficult thing in our little world here in California to grasp because people take the body practices more as for health, pleasure, psychological work. Whereas what Yuasa's saying, well, you can't do thought work without it. Your thoughts are not worthwhile unless you've really grounded them in breathing, moving, you know, digesting.

It's absolutely fundamental.

Don: { 20:08 }
Yeah, yeah. And I think that's what's so great about you on the other side of the Atlantic with you and the people in Germany, I think that you are doing very great work and bringing that to the fore. In a way, that's very - I think Husserl was a great guide for that. He saw that problem a lot himself, and his great essay in 1938 - The Crisis of European Sciences, where the crisis is that the physical sciences have made such enormous progress, but as far as understanding violence and bigotry, all these kinds of difficulties and relationships, we've gotten basically very little progress in that realm. And unless we solve that question, we're doomed.

One of the things you wrote about in your book Body (1993) was that belief systems can be embodied.

Don: { 22:10 }
Yeah. That's certainly true of me. I mean the huge - in the Jesuits we have so much emphasis on the rules of modesty. I don't know if you know this, Saint Ignatius wrote this tretise called the  'Rules of Modesty'; How we were to walk, how are we were to hold ourselves, were we to put our hands, all these things.

Very controlled,

Don: { 22:36 }
Very, very controlled. So there's a huge amount of control and criticism. We have these things called defectives where periodically we'll criticise each other for bad practises and we would say, 'Gee, you walk with your hands in your pockets'.

 'You're a bad person'. So would that be a technique of alienation?

Don: { 23:54 }
Absolutely, yeah. Where you're developing a consciousness that is concentrated on form rather than the flow of the feeling of the feet on the floor and the joints. At the very beginning, when you introduced this thing we're doing, you mentioned what connects - It's been a really big, I'd say, rudder for my life, is what connects. And I think that there are many people who go out from different angles like Reich in his treatment of orgastic movements and central movements and Charlotte Silver about the flow of sensations and the osteopaths from the cerebrospinal pulsations. So there are all these kinds of really deep currents that kind of carry us forward. I'm very, very much taken by the recent discoveries of the James Webb telescope and how our understanding of the cosmos within which we're embedded has changed so drastically in the last 10 - 20 years and there's this kind of bang chaos. So total chaos! Galaxies, asteroids and nebula. Yeah, tiny bits of order somewhere coming in and the black holes take it away. And so, you know, gradually there's gravity, light and heat - these kinds of deep forces in the cosmos kind of produce every once in a while sources of order and gathering and to get somehow connected at a deep level with those forces, really, really get a sense of them, literally get a sense of where in us - because they're there. I mean the osteopath yesterday I had a session - I've had for years with this person, one of the original people who brought back all of the manipulative practises in osteopathy - and that they're kind of working with that deep pulsation that is so deep and powerful. So embodiment's not just about getting in touch with our feet, It's about getting in touch with these deep pulses that are ancient and the cosmos. And you mentioned in one of your questions - and you're preparing about our connection with the earth - I think one of the problems about the disaster we're in about global warming is even the people who are the leaders of taking hold of this problem, they don't feel we're part of this. They don't feel part of this. It's us! So that's us that's being destroyed, not 'it' out there. It's like, so they get that connection so that they realise the desperation of it; It's about us, not about those trees out there.

So how do we, how do we come to find that or help people to find that connection?

Don: { 25:50 }
Well, that's certainly been a big question of mine and why I started the programme. I felt that the particular programme we have now - you when you left out - we have a new name; So it's Integral, Transpersonal and Somatic Psychology. I think those three are really kind of say it in a way integral in the sense that there's a bond, there's a systematic connection between psychology, anthropology, so all these things are connected and integral visions. And then transpersonal, there's a vastness of consciousness that comes out of these things. And then somatics, they being the really how do you do this through the attention to being there for all of the blood, fluids, joints, movement, all of that. So all of that, that trio is actually a very good way of of showing the work, the nature of the work, that without any one of those, there's problems.

So we need all three, all three strands to come together to do this work.

Don: { 27:02 }
You know, people go in different ways, but certainly without, without the content of those three roads ahead, there are problems, there are deficiencies.

What this is about is striving to overcome the illusion of separation.

Don: { 27:30 }Yes, it's a very big problem. And the challenge of course, is how do you keep both? How do you keep developing my sense of my particular gifts, really appreciating, crafting a self that harvests all of what I have and I'm in connection? It's a really hard task, a hard task.

Finding that balance between the two.

Don: { 27:50 }
I think that's why both Rogers and Eugene Gendlin were so important to me to start out on the field where they are working with the matrix of connection. So I'm just not doing this for myself, but I'm here so I can be better with other people, I can be more open and responsive.

So there's that community dimension that's very important to the whole process,

Don: { 28:14 }
That's one of the deadly errors of the West I think: that knowledge is born out of individuals. These people claiming this is a match, you know, this is my way. 'I teach the Johnson method of standing in my shoes, $500.00 an hour!' Yeah, there's an awful lot that. I mean, capitalism has really worked its way into everything.

You've worked with a lot of different somatic practices over the years, haven't you Started off with with Rolfing? Was that the first?

Don: { 28:49 }
Yeah. One of the great gifts in my life was Michael Murphy started Esalen sort of gave me Esalen as a laboratory, so he allowed me to - encourage me actually to - I could just invite anybody that wanted to come there. So I had. I could have people from Harvard and UCLA and Stanford - Places like that who are cutting-edge scientists who would come - they would never come to San Francisco because they could already be there. But to come to Esalen  and to be able to have these private seminars at old Murphy House was such a special thing that I could get anybody to come. So we had these fabulous dialogues for about 10 years regularly with the scientists and theologians and artists and movement specialists and massage specialists and all of the pioneers of different methods. And so it's been a great gift that that I was given that it was just Michael really supported what I was up to and saw that it was part of his vision of Integralism.

Were there particular insights that came out of that when these minds came together and the practises, was there something?

Don: { 30:02 }
So yeah, big time! I mean the reason that Esalen is so valuable is - an early thing I learned is that dinner is a really important revolutionary act. So these people, they would come and they would be into their ‘this's and that's’ when they're in their private work rooms. But they all come together in the dining room. They have a good time together and they really enjoyed - like suddenly you have a humane thing, you know, eating together and going to the baths naked, which was a big thing - all these people, big shots and all naked in the tubs together. It's a little hard to be pretentious when you're either at the dinner table or in the bath naked. I think what's often lacking  in these institutional worlds is the human environment, the work at cleaning up the kitchen and crafting meals. I mean, cooking a meal together. So, living in this house - Have you been Esalen?

I haven't. No.

Don: {31:09 }
The original building - there was a hot spring there long ago, 100 years ago. And then the Murphys, Michael's grandfather built a house there for the family. So they owned 25 miles along the coast of which Esalen's only this one mile. So there's this lovely old house, two-storey house, several bedrooms. And to stay in that house with all these great people and founders of psychoneuroimmunology to pioneers and neurobiology and you know and all these founders of these disciplines - were going to the bathroom down the hall from each other and sharing bedrooms and meals and all that. So it created a human environment for knowledge to kind of bubble up and there are some great, you know, very meaningful events. Like one of the things I'm most proud of in my crafting all this was there were two people that could not be more different: Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and Emily Conrad. Emily was this wild - from a Holocaust family and wild and didn't want to have any ideas about anything except just move with the cosmos and all this. And Bonnie has also extremely complex intellectual system - all very good and I knew there was something about them that it would that they really shared the same vision, which is odd. So I brought them together and they just became fast friends right away. They could easily see how they would get together. They just loved one another and developed their work together. And there are many stories like that where these comings together created something that was unexpected.

Lots of common ground emerged.

Don: { 32:53 }
A lot of common ground emerged, right. It did have to do with that deep sense of what it means to be human on the earth.

Is there a particular somatic practice that you you find particularly valuable, or one that  you're drawn most to?

Don: { 33:06 }
I love them all. I love them all. Basically. It's been helpful for me to have known so much of the origins of them, because there's an awful lot of of popularisation loses the original wisdom. I mean, just for example, one of the people, I really love it. I don't know if you know Juliu Horvath. Do you know Gyrotonic? Strange guy from Hungary, I think, who builds these machines - it's like Monty Python - and they're wonderful. They're they're unlike Pilates, they're very circular in their ways, so they do a lot of circular - which I need because of my rigid spine, and they're just quirky. They're beautiful, beautiful objects. So there was a period in my life when I really had a hard - I mean I do have a hard time toning myself because of the rigidity of my spine makes my joints very problematic. So this was a big help to me because of all the circularity of movements. So I'd love Gyrotonic - not many people do it and I would hate to eliminate that from my recipe of wonderful things. So I just like them all. I feel so blessed that I got to experience so much with them and still do. I mean, I still.

Is there a kind of an underlying foundation or a core somewhere where they all meet together, I wonder?

Don: { 34:34 }
I would say, the pulse of the universe.

The pulse of the universe - Wow.

Don: { 34:38 }
The comings and goings of energetic waves, that course through our cells like the tides.

So through sensing into our bodies we are able to become more aware of these tides and these pulses?

Don: { 34:54 }
Yeah and I think where Rolfing was helpful to me is my body because of all of my early deficiencies had lots of rigidities built-in and calcifications and literal armour. I mean Reich's idea of armour was very literal in me because of these hard tissues and that are over-calcifying and dried up. So Rolfing because of its directness in dealing with connective tissue and loosening - liquefying the connective tissues - has been very important for me. For other people, not so much. You know movement or Feldenkrais work are less assaultive - Rolfing is very assaultive and directive., which I needed for my particular history and I still do. So I think people, because of their individuality, find one train more helpful than another that's great - We have so many choices. I think the big problem is discernment. How do people who don't know much about any of these, how do they make discernments?

So helping to guide people to find a particular somatic practice that's going to be best for them.

Don: { 36:08 }
Yeah. And I think that, you know, it's a work in progress - a lot of trial and error. I think it's a similar problem among spiritual practices. You know, there are a lot of a lot of people hanging out their shingle to be spiritual masters, but where do you go? It's like it's a similar problem. It’s dangerous. The world of consciousness teaching is very dangerous because of the tendency to become a guru.

Yeah, yeah. There's so many. There's so many people ...

Don: { 36:40 }
It's very tempting to say, 'Oh, I understand the meaning of the Universe. Come and study with me, and give your life to me and obey everything I say'.

What's lovely is that several of the key people you mentioned, they don't seem to do that guru thing,

Don: { 36:57 }
Right. They don't. Yeah. Yeah. I like Bonnie. One of the things that's been so great for me to to get to have Bonnie as a friend is, if you just read her work, it sounds very dogmatic: 'If  you go into the blood cells, this kind of consciousness unfolds'. It's a very mapped out. So she takes it so lightly and experimentally and somebody else might come up with a different method. So she's just very, very fun about it all. It's a constant game that she plays and she's, you know, just not at all a dogmatist.

A sort of playfulness there.

Don: { 37:34 }
Playfulness. Yeah, kind of. Which is also one of the great things about Esalen. People really fell in love with each other and had fun and rolled on the floor. I remember Charlotte Silver one day when she was like 100: So we were all kind of rolling on the floor together, and she said ‘I want to get down there on the floor too!’ So she got down on top of us all, you know, there's this 100 year old woman, who just barely escaped the camps.

Oh such life! That's interesting because today, and you talked a little bit about it in your writing, you talk about the way place impacts, and Esalen, there's something about the place.

Don: { 38:19 }
Yeah, I've often over the years as somebody tells me, ‘Oh, we started another kind of Esalen up here in Pittsburgh’. I say well, the Big Sur Cliffs and the hot springs and it's something about that. It's the only place in the world if you could do Esalen: only Esalen’s in Esalen. It's hard to get there – it’s a journey itself.

That's part of it, the whole place.

Don: { 38:51 }
And often it's not accessible. It's like most of the winter it was not accessible. Road totally washed out.

You were writing and said that walking in the streets of Manhattan or spending time on the the fields of Kansas would be very, very different ways of thinking, would you say?

Don: { 39:14 }
Yeah, yeah. I mean, again, this would be going back to Yuasa, it's a different way of feeling, which then generates different ways of thinking. Like I remember in Toni Morrison's book Beloved, there's a passage in it where there's this couple have managed to get up to New York from living in the South and they get off at the 125th St subway in Harlem. They say ‘Oh! Home at last!’ You know, all of us are wanting to get out and this into the country. It's no, no, no. The country’s where these people shoot us, you know, it's like - it's such a different place, this place.

Different feeling, different way of thinking. That kind of brings us back to the whole principle of there being authentic technologies and sensual - that whole contrast that we touched on earlier perhaps.

Don: { 40:13 }
I think it's very hard for people to think of the body as like that. I several times mentioned the work of Rudolph Surlipa in Berlin, the body as a first artwork of a culture. You know, that's an amazing phrase to me. It's very rich.

The body is constructed by culture.

Don: {40:35 }
Right away with infant handling practises. You’ve already have started a process going on: The way the infant is held - it just goes on from there.

Schooling and religion ...

Don: {40:55 }
The whole shebang, diet, I mean, everything. And if you look at it that way, it's like these are all like shaping the body – the way we sit, the chairs, design of chairs but you know the whole thing. So that my first book, The Protean Body, I think it was a great title because it really says it that the idea of the body's fixed. I mean I'm I'm very amazed. I mean one of my little amazing gifts right now is I have found just in the last few weeks actually, ways to rotate my head on my cervical spine that I had never been able to access before, because of all this calcification. And through my trainer, working with my trainer and with my Rolfer, I suddenly find this movement that I've never had before. And to me it's kind of amazing. It's really kind of a miracle. It's a tiny thing, it's a very small thing for humanity, but it's a really great for me

Adrian: { 41:57 }
And these ways of freeing up the body changed the way we feel and change the way we think?

Don: { 42:04 }
That's the link that's very hard for people to get.

For people to actually grasp the reality of that or to kind of - to do it, to make it real?

Don: { 42:15 }
To appreciate that that's happening and to nurture it rather than to just bypass it. Have you seen Oppenheimer? Right, right. So I, you know, I lived in Santa Fe for 10 years and I Rolfed many of the people at Los Alamos, including the lab director. So that whole reality is very palpable to me. And it was just shocking in the film that the men never cooked, they never took care of their children.

That’s very telling, isn't it?

Don: { 42:41 }
Yeah. And then they go out and they can they can experiment with wiping out 100,000 innocent people in Nagasaki for no reason other than to test their weapons. There's something wrong with that kind of thinking.

It's like it doesn't get taken into the body. It's not like a a gut feeling of abhorrence. It's blocked

Don: { 43:02 }
Right. What it is to have a child! What it is to hold it child! How can you destroy with a bomb all these children? Where is there sensibility there?

And maybe an example of what happens when this technology of alienation really takes a hold.

Don: { 43:30 }
Yeah. It's a really good example of the techniques of alienation, for these men are up there in this plateau and the women are home taking care of the babies and cooking meals and the men are in the lab doing their mock ups of world destruction; A chilling image.

It does kind of sum it up.

Don: { 43:48 }
 It really kind of like sums it up big time, yeah.

Just to lighten the mood a little bit, what would be the flip side? Because in your some of your books you mentioned some of the positive ways forward when we do really embrace this technology of authenticity. Something shifts and something emerges that's precious.

Don: { 44:10 }
Well, pleasure! Good relationships. Fun. Overcoming of the tensions that make it hard for us to have a good time together. It's simple.

And community?

Don: { 44:30}
In community. I think that tribal people have that sensitivity of these basic things about having meals together and having ceremonies together that are family oriented and meal oriented and nurturing. So I think there's something about - I think that's when we talk about Oppenheimer, there's something about getting out of the big earth-shattering thinking into how do we have a meal together and enjoy it? How do we have sex? How do we do it without destroying our relationships? I mean it's like, how do we do this?

Coming down to the basics of being human.

Don: { 45:15 }
The very basics of being human.

Adrian: { 44:01 }
It’s kind of scary that we have to learn these things, isn't it?

Don: { 45:19 }
It's right. It's scary, but also interesting to think of our life more grounded in that way. I mean, one of the things I'm very grateful for is that both my mother and father were serious cooks. They cooked very differently. My father was into beef and barbecue and my mother was in the kitchen, but they both raised me cooking. I'm so grateful that they did that.

I suppose cooking and eating together, that's a very sensual experience, isn't it? Brings everything in.

Don: { 45:51 }
It can be! Right, yeah. To celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary, we celebrated by going to Chez Panisse, which I've witnessed from the very beginning and with Alice Waters and all that, everything at Chez Panisse is carefully done to make eating food fabulous. That building is hand built. There are no nails in the building - It's all crafted. The woods are beautiful, the lighting's beautiful. The staff are fabulous - they're so relational and the foods are all fabulous. So it's a whole talk about integralism. And Alice Waters had integralism down. She created this whole network of cheese makers and dairy people, beef raisers and hog raisers and vegetable raisers. So the whole thing there it is - one place. It was such a pleasure again to see that all happening

It sounds like a kind of a ritual in itself

Don: { 46:56 }
Yes. Well, the Last Supper.

Adrian: { 45:43 }
You know, it brings together the element of ritual, the sensuality. We touched on the community dimensions in there as well.

Don: { 47:10 }
Yeah, absolutely. And kindness and caring.

Adrian: { 45:58 }
That's what emerges from these kind of somatic practises.

Don: { 47:19 }
We hope! I mean, that's why I introduced that idea about the techniques of alienation and authenticity, as they can go either way

I was very struck by that point because you sort of think, ‘Oh yeah, these are all the good things’. But you actually made the point that some of them can kind of try and create this ideal body that actually is really unhelpful.

Don: { 47:44 }
Absolutely; more than that – it could be evil actually. And also it can feed into narcissism: ‘I have no time for anybody else because I'm too busy doing my my sensory exercises’.

Adrian: { 46:45 }
Subtle, isn't it? It's a very subtle work. We need to treat it carefully.

Don: { 48:04}
 It is subtle work. It takes - it's subtle, right, it's subtle.

So we're we're coming towards the the top of the hour. so I wanted to see where there was anything that's come out of our conversation that you particularly wanted to talk about or is anything else that you wanted to touch on?

Don: { 48:26 }
Well, I think it's a good example of what could easily profitably happen all over the world. I mean we we went from zero to 50 on this scale of understanding what needs to be done in this short hour. So I think these kinds of conversations are really important.

More conversations.

Don: { 48:46}
I think conversation is a much neglected alternative to sort of so-called evidence based practises, which I think is a a little real frilly to me. Talk about evidence based practises. Conversation is really well tried out road to the truth.

We're back with Socrates again.

Don: { 49:12 }

Yeah, we're back with Socrates, right.

Wonderful. We begin and end with Socrates.

Don: { 49: 22}
Lovely to be with you.

And thank you Don, it’s been a pleasure to explore and investigate and hear some of your fabulous stories.

Don: { 49:30 }
Great - Thank you.

Adrian: { 48:17 }
OK. Thank you very much and thanks to everybody who's listening and I hope you enjoyed that episode and we look forward to seeing you next time.