Insinewate – insinuate – inSin(n)ewate

I’ve been playing with the word ‘insinuate’ with its sinewy textures and feels, and it seems to me that great deal is happening in the body, and in our resultant meanings. when we use this word.

Part of the joy of the word is the way in which it can be sounded, rewritten and rearranged to demonstrate the relation between the active engaging body and meaning. So, even in the examples in the title we can see the play on the homophonic (in English) ‘sinu’ and ‘sinew’ and then, with the introduction of the German ‘Sinn’ we get a broad notion of meaning (Bedeutung), but also of feeling (Gefühl) and to become aware of (wittern).  The perceiving, feeling sinewy body makes sense of its world, and never alone; it is inter-objective and enkinaesthetically interwoven with other organisms making sinewy sense with its world.  (Gendlin would call this “whole-body-environment” sense-making.)

The Latin root of ‘insinuate’ is sinuo, sinuare which means ‘to curve’, ‘bend into a curve’, or ‘to swell out in curves’.  The German for ‘sinew’ is ‘Sehne‘ or ‘Flechse’. The current English usage ‘sinew’ comes from these roots through Old English ‘sinewe’, and means to strengthen and pull into shape or form. It is this form that with our sinewy yet sensitive engagement brings forth a world with meaning for us.

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The articulation of recursive time-consciousness

This post is a section from a paper Paul J. Thibault and I have written entitled: Enkinaesthetic Polyphony as the Underpinning for First-Order Languaging. I am adding it here because it is my first attempt at articulating the notion of recursive time-consciousness.

Luria (1973: p. 36) uses the term “kinetic melody” to point out that the formation of motor skills requires the skilful orchestrating and performing of many “complex movements” that are produced and “performed as a single ‘kinetic melody’. He continues, claiming that “with the development of motor skills the individual impulses are synthesized and combined into integral kinaesthetic structures or kinetic melodies” (Luria, 1973: p. 176; See also Luria, 1973: p. 32).

 Luria’s term applies to the enkinaesthesia of dialogically coordinated relational dynamics in what we are calling, first-order languaging between agents (Stuart, 2012; Thibault, 2004a, 2011c).  Enkinaesthesia is, therefore, intrinsically pre-reflexive and dialogically reciprocal. The kinetic melodies of one agent respond to, engage with, affect, and change the kinetic melodies of other agents, and vice versa.

Luria’s writing on kinaesthetic melodies echoes Merleau-Ponty’s earlier thinking that “internal articulation and as a kinetic melody gifted with a meaning [carries within itself] an immanent intelligibility” (Merleau-Ponty, 1963, quoted from Baldwin translation 2004, p.51). In our dialogical context, “internal articulation” refers to the pico-scale dynamics of whole-body inter- and intra-actional attunement and co-ordination. They are ‘articulations’, not just of musculo-skeletal systems, but of affectively-laden tonalities which underpin the formation, strengthening, fracturing, and breaking of social bonds and which, in their enkinaesthetic articulation, have their own intelligibility. This intelligibility is formed within the feelings of anticipation, of the sensed familiarity (we might once have referred to this as ‘repetition’, but now know that true somato-sensory repetition is impossible) and sensed unfamiliarity (which we might think of in terms of ‘change’ or ‘difference’ whilst not being limited by their static temporality), and most importantly, how these at once draw us back and propel us forward. One might think here of the notion of ‘width’ in the “living-present” of Husserl’s phenomenological structure of time consciousness. The “living-present” extends beyond the now of the primal impression, into the retained just-past, and the protended yet-to-come, and, so, our temporal experience spreads out across time, and is not a matter of a single, discrete punctuated event. (Husserl, 1964; see particularly §11.) But this highlights only one – albeit manifestly significant – element of the “always livingly present”; the other element is the processually recursive.

Sensed familiarity has balance; its articulation is smooth, its intelligibility immanent, but it is never still, never quiet, and never discrete. Our livingly present is always co-livingly enkinaesthetically active; drawing us within ourselves and forward anticipatingly. There is, at one and the same time, a linear (explicit) order, a story we can tell, and an implicit forth-coming, but the coming-forth is only possible because this is a process of feedback into the already-changed and feed-forward into the anticipating; and this is a perpetual process. We might express this as a recursive ‘synchrony’ of being-into-becoming. In our being is our becoming. Our being – never still, never quiet, never discrete – yields to our becoming which shapes and alters our being which yields to our becoming, and so the processual, recursive nature of our experience continues. We are, so to speak, immersed anticipatingly, recursively, becomingly, livingly with our world.

In this immersive anticipation we ask non-propositional sensuous questions about how our world will continue to be. We touch the seat to my left, look up to see our partner, or smell the air to catch the scent of dog roses. Our anticipated response may not be the forth-coming we expect, our equilibrium may be disrupted by a sensed unfamiliar with its accompanying kinetic tensions and dis-ease. 

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Making yourself a puppet – comments

My good friend, Michal, has sent me some comments on my puppet posting and she has permitted me to add them here:

I think that becoming like a puppet is allowing rather than doing in the ordinary sense of the word, though one could also argue that allowing (inhibiting, giving permission, trusting) is another kind of doing. Personally I think that it is an ability, to be like a puppet, to be adaptable, receptive. If I have the ability to be like a puppet I am probably nothing like a puppet in the sense of “Our tendency is to think of a puppet as passive, as a non-responsive body entirely, and quite literally, in the hands of the person controlling the strings or sticks, and subject to their urges and caprice” (see below).  So, by being able to apply the puppet metaphor to a learning situation or as a chosen way of being, as a way of improving attention, one has the choice to be like a puppet as a means to an end.


Michal has also mentioned very clearly that it having the ability to trust and become receptive rather than directing is a kind of non-doing:

By striving to make oneself like a puppet in the context of learning the Alexander Technique, one is consciously opening oneself to new possibilities. It is the prerequisite to learning, of letting go of preconceived ideas in order to open oneself to new sensory experiences, in order to allow change.  Alexander called it Non Doing.

“The question of doing and non-doing, again in our special sense, is one that is intimately bound up with that of giving directions, and is one that has caused a great deal of confusion.

The long and short of it is that we, as teachers, require that certain activities should, as we say “do themselves”. This we call non-doing. On the other hand, any activity that interferes with this “doing itself” we call “doing”, and it is the aim of the teacher to get the pupil to inhibit it.  Alongside of this actionless activity, which is set in motion by directions either from the teacher’s hands or from the pupil’s brain, or from both – there is also, in everyday living, the need to use the ordinary physical kind of doing with which everyone is familiar.

In learning the Alexander Technique (and I speak now of the actual lessons and not everyday living where much must be left to luck and to the unconscious influence of the lessons), these ordinary doings must be inhibited until they can be done without interference with the behaviour of the neck-head-back relationship, or what Alexander called the Primary Control.

When a pupil is capable of acting without interfering with the Primary Control, or perhaps I should say with only slight interfering, the actionless activity that is going on in the body modifies the physical activity and bring it into harmony with itself, so that physical activity grows out of the non-doing of the Primary Control. To a trained eye, it is a great pleasure to watch anyone whose physical actions are determined in this way”.

By Patrick Macdonald

Macdonald, P. (1963) “On Giving Directions, Doing and Non-Doing”, Lecture to the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique at the Medical Society of London on November 12th, 1963

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Articulation — to ar-tic-u-late, to express and make meaningful.

We articulate our words when we want to be heard and understood. We articulate so as to distinguish the words but in that distinguishing we are also threading them together in their temporal, syntactic and semantic relations to one another.

It is like the practice of articulating bones — Mr Venus, the articulator of bones and taxidermist, in Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend — reconstructing the skeleton so that it is fluent, intelligible, regular and rhythmic in its interconnections.

Even pronouncing the word ‘ar-tic-u-late’ or ‘ar-tic-u-la-tion’, the phonemes become bones or sounds, threaded together to become explicit and be made intelligible. Just like the bones, the sounds lack meaning until they are articulated, until they are threaded together in regular, fluent and intelligible ways.

Our enkinaesthetic entanglement has its own articulation and its own articulacy. Its articulacy is affective and non-mediated; its intelligibility is  immanent, articulated through the entwined co-constituing lived experience, of the agent with other agents and other objects. Agents and things have no meaning unless they are threaded together, articulated in the community and reciprocity of our affective co-consituting enculturation.

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On Becoming A Tortoise

There’s been quite a gap between this post and the last, and one of the reasons is that I’ve been pulling myself in to my ‘shell’ so that I can cope with what I have to do to ensure the life and livelihood of necessary parts of my living. However, this kind of activity, withdrawing to protect oneself, can have harmful enkinaesthetic implications which I’ll now try to describe.

It is a commonplace to say that when we are fearful we try to make ourselves as small as possible so that we will go unnoticed, but a corollary of this is that it requires a contraction of the muscles and sometimes holding oneself very still. We might think of it enkinaesthetically as a preconceptual desire not to have our presence felt by the other; that the backgrounded affective co-agential living with this particular other comes to the fore, we sense ourselves in relation to the other, and we do what we can to stifle their co-sensing of us.  We have pulled ourselves into our carapace and hope that nothing will discover us.

There is no doubt that every so often this is a useful strategy, after all, we all need to retreat, occasionally; but if we stay in retreat we stifle our openness to sensation and action possibilities. We strive to disentangle our lives from those things which cause discomfort, but in so doing, we create discomfort and dis-ease.

In drawing ourselves into our shell we create musculo-sensory constraints and fragmentation in our enkinaesthetic agential relations. Fragmentation of this kind includes a loss of harmony or attunement with others, characterised by a depletion or diminution of affective anticipatory interplay, feelings of ostracism, alienation, paranoia, long-term failures of trust, problems of identity and personhood, and so on. Where this withdrawal becomes habituated it can begin to feel normal, and we develop a faulty sensory, social, and cognitive appreciation of ourselves in the world.

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Making yourself a puppet

Making yourself a puppet

Resonant guiding

It’s too easy to move or talk against or past one another, and what I’m discovering, through my Alexander lessons with Michal, is that to be properly receptive to the other you need to trust, to open yourself up to the guidance of touch, of voice, of muscle tones, of all the myriad subtle enkinaesthetic cues. We could think of this as becoming a puppet, but in doing this we must not let ourselves be misled by the metaphor.

Our tendency is to think of a puppet as passive, as a non-responsive body entirely, and quite literally, in the hands of the person controlling the strings or sticks, and subject to their urges and caprice, but that is not the case. The puppet is a material thing which, with its sticks or strings, presents all manner of tensions, resistance, bendings, and yieldings; it is not a nothing in the hands, in relation to the person which guides it. It is a something, presenting visual and kinaesthetic, possibly even auditory, feedback to the guide, altering their neuro-muscular tensions, affective experience, and their actions. It is a reciprocal relationship where puppet and puppeteer are influenced by one another, though only the puppeteer is influenced affectively. This is, then, an experientially entangled enkinaesthetic relationship, just as is becoming a trusting puppet under the tutelage of an Alexander teacher like Michal.

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Radiating and Inviting in Rochester, NY

Over the weekend of the 1-3 November 2012 I had the great good fortune to travel to Rochester, NY for the annual meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and the Human Sciences (SPHS).

It was a fascinating meeting in terms of the people, subjects and perspectives, but also in terms of the warmth and friendliness of the environment. Speakers were encouraged to present their ideas in a non-combative – though frequently pressed-for-time – environment, criticism was made openly and constructively, and suggestions for opening up the breadth and depth of the work were explored. There wasn’t a complete absence of militaristic metaphor, but it was far from predominant.

Thinking enkinaesthetically the conversation was characterised by resonance, with very little fragmentation and still less talking past one-another in the manner of point-scoring. One might think of the affective dynamics of the interaction in terms of radiating and inviting, where, and this is only a surface unpacking of this idea, there is a reciprocity of openness and good-will in presenter and audience.

Radiating has a sense of spreading out around and before, but in radiating the action is of drawing people (and other agents) to you; it is an openness and to the other. Radiating is an invitation.  Inviting seems also to move in one way, to draw inwards or bring towards. It is an invitation to trust but an invitation can only be taken up in good heart by those who are also open to those who radiate and, in that openness, they themselves radiate an invitation to draw in to the conversation, to the felt co-affective engagement. In short, radiating and inviting are ways in which we might characterise dynamic aspects of the enkinaesthetic field.

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