I would like to explain as clearly as I can the core ideas of the system I call Bodymind Training (BmT). These concepts also apply to many other forms of Somatic education and therapy.
Bodymind Training shows you simple and easy ways to feel better and be more effective in daily life.
The most central idea is what we call the Natural State. Similar to concepts like the “flow state”, Zen concepts of present awareness, Taoist ideas of effortlessness and naturalness, the Natural State is when we are at our best – open, present, strong, capable, loving, balanced. Our physiology reflects this, with our lungs, heart, and gut all functioning optimally. This is the state that arises naturally in the nervous system in the absence of threat or deprivation. Everything is in the Goldilocks place—not too tight, not too loose: just right! This is a state of effortless well-being, with no inner conflict. Our relationship to the world around us is balanced, able to open and close; we are able to respond spontaneously effectively to what happens around us.
If the Natural State is such a nice place to be, then what keeps us away from that state? To understand this, we bring in the idea of the “Preparatory Set”.
In evolutionary terms, living beings have always had to deal with various challenges from the environment: we might get eaten, or we might not get enough to eat; we might need to kill a rival, or care for our young. We have evolved basic patterns to help us respond to these circumstances. Affective neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp classifies these patterns as RAGE, SEEKING, LUST, JOY, CARE, GRIEF, FEAR (this list is not written in stone, one could add DISGUST and likely others).
They are integrated states of our whole organism, organized deep in the midbrain, readying ourselves to deal with challenge. It is easy to feel and imagine each of these states; if we imagine angrily confronting a rival, lovingly holding an infant, or joyfully playing with a friend, we can feel the changes in our tension patterns, posture, movement impulses, breathing, our gut, our feelings, our attitude towards the world, even our thoughts
Of course, each of these patterns is vital for dealing with the changing challenges of life. But problems arise when we are preparing for a situation which is not actually happening. Do you ever get the feeling that you are always getting ready for an attack that never comes? Continually anticipating loss? Itching for a fight all the time? Then you are Stuck in a Prep Set.
This, of course, prevents one from being in the Natural State.
So, the aim of BmT is to re-establish and reinforce the Natural State, by showing how to let go of the stuck Prep Sets that are getting in the way.
Since the Natural State and the Prep Sets are States of the whole being, we need to work with our whole being to change them; this means body and feelings as well as mind.
So BmT teaches specific postures, movements, breathing, internal awareness, orientation, and images, which foster the Natural State and encourage release of stuck Prep Sets. The training uses a step-by-step-step approach which enables you to move as slowly or as fast as you wish.
In keeping with the idea of the Natural State, the postures and movements are the casual motions of everyday life—standing, sitting, walking, or just being. Through these daily activities you learn and put into practice the principles of the Natural State, which apply equally to movement, bodily sensations and feelings, relationships with others, and attitude towards life.