women Body Thinking. babies

Losing the ability to enact. 

Before humans first evolved into their present form, they communicated mostly with bodily signals. This was not just hand signals but facial expressions, body posture and the miming of some activities. This early communication was essential to survival, and ment the difference between a short life and a long one. Although many animals use this type of communication ours quickly became complex and sophisticated. We lost most of our facial hair, especially females, so we could make better use of facial expressions in comunication. In the modern world, the western world, although children still require this early physical communication ability, it now acts only as a bridge to the superior communication of verbal language. Because children's ability to code and decode body signals and facial expression becomes less important as they develop language, they tend to pay less and less attention to it. It certainly does not disappear, but rather drops to an unconscious place, where adults, only take notice of it when it seems to be in conflict with verbal language. Although children do not need to pay such close attention to bodies, this ability could serve them well, if they were to maintain it into adulthood. It not only provides an impressive tool for creation, but also provides a parallel of communication cannel that enables the verbal cannel to be checked for truthfulness.

keller Helen Keller.

To concieve of a process of thought that does not involve sound or visual images seems almost impossible and yet such a thing must exist. Although Helen was not born blind she contracted a disiease at 19 Months of age and became deaf and blind as a result at that time. She did not have much in the way of language when this happened. However, there are people in the world who were born deaf and blind such as Robert Smithdas who, although born blind, went on to be a teacher with a master's degree. Imagine such a person in a silent black world. How would they think? Well not in sounds and not in pictures either. In their book "Sparks of Genius" by Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein try to give us some idea of how Keller must have thought:

"...She realized that many of the ideas that burst upon her consciousness were not actual sensations but memories or imagioned perceptions of body movement and and feeling. During her years of silence and darkness, before her first 'vision' of language at the age of seven, Keller knew herself and her world primarily through sensations of the body, including touch. 'When I wanted anything I liked, ice cream for instance,' she later wrote, '...I had a delicious tase on my tongue (which by the way, I never have now), and in my hand I felt the turning of the freezer. I made the sign [presumably a rotating motion as if she were turning the freezer handle], and my mother knew I wanted ice cream. I thought and desired in my fingers." 

Motor schematic thought, kinesthetic thought, proprioceptive thought and enactive thought.

Although it has been fairly well established in science that this is the code we all think in when we are babies, it is not something we are much aware of doing in adult life, and so we have only scientific words to talk about it in. Not only that, but every science seems to have a different word to use when talking about it. We are supposed to have five senses. Tasting, smelling, seeing, hearing and feeling. While the first four of these seem fairly clear and familiar, the word feeling seems to cover a very wide array of very different sorts of perception. If you are talking about memory there is an old word 'enactive'. Enactive was used, by M. I. Posner and others, to describe memories of the feelings in muscles, and the feelings of movement. The psychologist Howard Gardner calls the appreciation, recall and understanding done with information coming from the muscles etc. kinesthetic thinking. Piaget calls learning in this form of thought as acquiring motor schemas. The neurobiologist C. S. Sherrington called this kind of sensory intake proprioception. These all describe slightly different ideas. Enactive seems to describe memory in both position and action. Kinesthetic seems to describe action or thought mostly in action. Proprioception is a form of perception and seems to describe mostly position. Motor schemas seem to describe mostly action and are cloaser to habits or skills.

Body thought or enactive thought.

Lets call it body thought, or enactive thought. These short words give the appropriate idea of a sort of thought that is different from other sensory types of thought, and seems easy to comprehend. Most of the information involved in any skill comes as feedback from muscles, of how they feel when an action is being performed. Some information comes from touch and some comes from the special organ of balance in our inner ears. We do not think in words, nor do we need to, when performing a mastered a skill. Our bodies know what to do and do it. Of course sometimes we use verbal thought while we are learning a skill. But even then, vebal thought may be more hindrence than help, interfering with the smooth transition from what we see others do, and what we can then imitate. 

Thinking by means of movement, balance, position, the skin, the gut, and emotion .

What do we feel? In the book "Sparks of Genius" by Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein quote Eliot Dole Hutchinson as follows:

"By no means all insights express themselves in verbal form. To the pianist and sculpter, the instrumentalist, dancer, surgeon and manual artisan, their [ideas] burst upon awareness in a kinesthetic form feeling their way into varying types of muscular expression. Fingers 'itch' to play; music 'flows from the hands'; ideas'flow' from the pen. Movement expresses the 'idea' of the dancer or orchestra conductor; the almost sensuous desire to model plastic form becomes compulsive in the sculpture."

Well, we feel what we touch, of course. But we also feel the workings of our muscles both when we move and when we hold still, we feel the position of our bodies in space and our orientation to the pull of gravity or balance. These feelings we have in our muscles when we move and hold still is very important feedback. This is what we use for learning what we did wrong so we can improve the performance of any action. This kind of sensory information has been theorized about and thoroughly investigated. In their book "Sparks of Genius" by Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein point out:

"More recently psychologist Howard Gardner, in his book "Frames of Mind" (1983), has made a case for a similar concept of kinesthetic thinking. Gardner argues cogently that the body harbors an 'inteligence' all its own, and he reiterates the anology between the skilled body use and thinking that other psychologists such as Frederic Bartlett, have drawn. Psychologist Vera John-Steiner also views the body 'as an instrument of thought' and explores it as such in "Notebooks of the Mind" (1985). Even researchers who seek hard and fast answers about the biological basis of motor memory, such as the neuroscientist Marc Jennerod, hope to tese out the relationship amoung perception imagery, and cognition."

Still, touch, position and movement, by no means offer a complete picure of what we mean by feel. We feel pain and pleasure, we feel the functioning of our bodily organs, we feel both sick and well, and we feel emotion. In their book "Sparks of Genius" by Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein continue:

"We belive, however, that psyshologists and neuropsychologists limit their studies and therfore their understanding of body thinking with two eronious assumptions. First, they assume that body thinking has only to do with movement, whether it is the movement itself or the imagioned sensation or image of movement. But as psychologist Walter Cannon pointed out fifty years ago, proprioception also includes how we feel viscerally and emotionally. Our posture and and movement reflect our moods, and our moods are related, in turn, to how we feel in what Cannon called our 'internal milieu,'our gut and mind. People can think in nonmuscular physical sensations, too. The second error, which follows from the first, is thus to assume that body thinking can only be expressed as movement and is therefore best studied in dancers, athletes, and other performers. Movement sensations certainly make up a large part of body thinking, but not to the exclusion of other propioceptive and tactile sensations. Musicians are proprioceptive thinkers, but so are mathematicians - and not just because they move, but because they feel with their skin and their gut."

Skills, habits and their reinvention as body thought. 

Again the Root-Bernsteins explain: "We humans tend to over-intellectualize, forgetting that our bodies 'know' how to do things that we understand only after we have done them." Words do not pop up into our heads when we are about to perform some action. We just do it. Various long complicated programs are activated and run often without us paying any attention during that running. The person who has learned to touch type does not need to look at the keyboard. If he is copying some text, he can pay all his attention to the text. His fingers know where all the keys on the keyboard are and find through memories in the muscles and various automatic programmed series of actions. Likewise people who play musical instruments do not have to see their fingers move. The movement is performed so quickly that there is no time for thought. Sports people, especially tennis players, on the other hand, are particularly aware of an inner dialogue they have with themselves while playing. But they are not thinking, 'I will hit the ball over there.' They are trying to psych themselves up, but usually managing only to psych themselves down. On the other hand, exponents of the Asian martial arts tend to try and clear the mind of verbal thought, so that it will be unable to interfere with the smooth motion activated, monitored, and remembered by the body. Whatever you are doing in eastern philosophy, the first rule is to empty the mind. When people do this they are seeking to trust in automatic programs we might call habits or skills. The point is, all these different types of experience can be used as the basis of a creative form of thought that many of us have discarded like trash in the latter part of our childhood.

puppet Art and enactive thinking. artist

Marshall McLuhan wrote in his book "The Medium is the Massage" "All media are extentions of some human faculty - psychic or physical. The wheel is an extention of the foot, the book is an extention of the eye, clothing an extention of the skin, electronic circuitry an extention of the central nervous system." So it is, the media, the implements, the tools, of any artist, become an extention of him/herself. This is so much so, that the artist tends to progect his or her body image into those tools, so that he or she can feel with them. The way an artist holds and moves his brush or charcoal, is a motor schema type thought held in the muscles of the arm and in the brain and sent back to the hand of the artist and into the brush or charcoal, when the artist is painting or drawing. Most artists are not aware of all this motor information passing back and forth. There is probably something going on in the artists conscious verbal mind, when he is painting, but it may have little to do with the painting or a lot. Much of the artist's thinking may reside in automatic programs of activity and the ability to change them at a moments notice. In other words a lot of the thinking may not be conscious, but in a form that is in a sence of position and the movement of the artist's brush, crayon, pencil or charcoal. In their book "Sparks of Genius" by Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein found this in the art of playing a musical instument or animating a puppet:

"Yehudi Menuhin has written that 'a great violin...is allive' and the violinist 'is part of his violin.' When he plays, he said, 'the body becomes a kind of aural intelligence, an instrument perfectly tuned and playing independent of me, a 'pure voice' that is indistinguishable from the violin itself.' In 'The Hand' Frank R. Wilson records an interview with German puppeteer Anton Bachleitner, who projects body sensation into his tool, the puppet. 'The most difficult job technically is to be able to feel the foot contact the floor as it happens. The only way to make the puppet look as though it is actually walking' the puppeteersays, 'is by feeling what is happening through your hands.' This requires a kind of shift in perception, so that the puppeteer sees through the eyes of the puppet, As Bachleitner puts it, the puppeteer 'must learn to be in the puppet.'"

Also, often artists seem to go into a reverie, where they no longer aware of what is going on around them, they are only aware of what they are creating and how it is progressing. When they come out of this trance like state they have no memory of thinking in a verbal sense, although one can assume that there was thinking, but of an enactive or motor sort.  Although this is true of all fine art painters, someone like Jackson Pollock cannot be fully experienced without recourse to feeling his movements as Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein explain:

"...Pollock's work can not be fully explained by just looking - it is necessary to feel as well. To make his paintings, he took the canvas down from the artist's easel and placed it flat on the floor, changing the usual physical relationship between the artist and his material. He then literally danced around the canvas, flinging the paint as he went... Each canvas is, therefore, a record of of his movement, an action painting. If you do not feel the physical sensations involved in Pollock's artistic process, then you do not understand his art."

Dance and enactive thinking.

Some sorts of creative activity are of course more concerned with enactive or motor thinking. The two art forms most concerned with enactive thinking are mime and dance. Twyla Tharp in her book "The Creative Habit" talks about imitating the masters of her art as if she is building a vocabulary of motor language. The way she sees it one canot become creative untill one has mastered this vocabulary. Without these elements of the language of dance there is nothing to change, nothing to transform, nothing to recombine, nothing to create with. The vocabulary of dance is all that has gone before that is quality dance. When you have mastered it you have something to build with, something to build on. Tharp also made clear that various collectables, such as photographs that held for her portions of this vocabulary, also acted as inspiration for new vocabulary elements, she herself was able to create. This vocabulary is not just the skill set of the art, but also the knowledge of it's greatest achievments. This sort of vocabulary of actions is essential to all creative endevours. It just is more obvious when it comes to dance and mime. In her book "The Creative Habit" Tharp says:

"When I started out as a dancer in New York, I became obsessed with studying every great dancer who was working at the time and patterning myself after  him or her. I would literally stand behind them in class, in copying mode, and fall right into their footsteps. Their technique, style and timing imprinted themselves on my muscles."

"The New York Public Library houses one of the world's great dance archives. I asked the curator to bring me photos of the women pioneers of dance: Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, Doris Humphrey, Martha Graham. I could read their movement vocabulary, from these photographs, keeping what was useful and ignoring what wasn't."

"I was trying to absorb how their bodies worked, taking their movement potential out of their bodies and imprinting it on my own, just as I did every day in class as I worked in the footsteps of great dancers."

"I would pour over a Martha Graham picture so intently that I could guage the the size of her footsteps or feel her body's tension as she torqued inside her costume."

"If one day I was stuck, I could ask myself, 'How would Martha move?' or 'What would Doris Humphrey feel like?' I could harness their memory as easily as if it were my own, and use the things they were using to fashion my own solutions.

In a sense I was aprenticing myself to these great women, much as as Proust had to Ruskin and Chandler to Hemingway."

"What all these people [geniuses] have in common is that they have mastered the underlying skills of their creative domain, and built their creativity on the solid foundation of those skills.

Skill gives you the wherewithal to execute whatever occurs to you. Without it, you are just a font of unfulfilled ideas. Skill is how you close the gap between what you can see in your mind's eye and what you can produce; the more skill you have the more sophisticated and occomplished your ideas can be."

Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein in their book "Sparks of Genius" explain their own view of this:

"According to dance critic and historian John Martin, the recognition and imitation of proprioceptive states in others make possible the arts of dance and mime. 'It is the dancer's whole function,' he has written, 'to lead us into imitating his actions with our faculty for inner mimicry in order that we may experience his feelings. Facts he could tell us, but feelings cannot convey in any other way than by arrousing them in us through sympatetic action."

mime Acting, mime and enactive thinking. drama

To act or mime one has to think spatially and in terms of movement, as well as the emotions driving those movements. Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein in their book "Sparks of Genius" explain:

"...people around the world know what Charlie Caplin's Little Tramp means when he lifts his hat or looks shyly at his feet in the presence of a beautiful woman, because they recognize in themselves the feelings that accompany the body language. Indeed, the Encyclopaedia Britannica defines mime as the first and only truly universal language. No wonder, then, that Stanislavsky argued that every actor should have skills of the mime: 'An actor must posses so keen a sense of observation and such well developed memory in his muscles as to be able to reproduce not only pose and gesture but also harmoniously moving thoughts and body.' Our only objection to Stanislavsky's statement is that he limits it to actors. Surely this is a skill that would improve everyone's ability to understand and communicate with others."

Sculpture and enactive thinking. 

The plastic arts such as sculpture and other types of modeling not ony embody the dance of their own creation but also embody an anthrophormorphic infusion of humanity into otherwise lifeless substance. Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein in their book "Sparks of Genius" illuminate this idea:

"Understanding plastic form was for Rodin almost entirely a function of the feeling body. 'Don't you see,' he remarked in his 'Personal Reminiscences, 'that for my work of modeling, I have not only to posses a complete knowledge of the human form, but also a deep feeling for every aspect of it? I have as it were, to incorporate the lines of the human body, and they must become part of myself... Only then can I be certain that I understand.' When Rodin created 'The Thinker', perhaps one of the best known public sculptures in the world, he gave physical form to his own proprioceptive imagination. A nude man, whom Rodin meant to represent all poets, all artists, all inventors, sits upon a rock in tense and intense contemplation. 'What makes my 'Thinker' think,' Rodin wrote, 'is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils, and his compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes."

surg Learning, science, medicine and enactive thinking.

Learning has always required a certain amount of doing or body activity to form concrete examples of what is being learned. Likewise many sciences are at the forefront of the need to feel using ever changing and more comple instruments. As reported in the book "Sparks of Genius" surgery is leading the way of this virtual feeling:


"The same fusion of body and tool takes place in medicine and science. The Pentagon has recently developed a Telepresence Surgery System (TeSS), a virtual-reality machine that will enable surgeons  to operate on people with life threatening ingeries from miles away by electronically manipulating a surgical robot. Surgeons testing TeSS on dummies, cadavers and anesthetized animals report that they quickly began to 'feel' as if they were doing the operation without an intermediary 'The pincers responded instantly to your hand motions,' one said 'and open and close when you manipulate the handles. Most startling, you feel what they feel. When the pincer bumps something or pulls the surgical thread taut, you sense the resistance.Equally startling reports have come from physicists working with specially adapted atomic-force microscopes that magnify the the pull experienced by a microscopic needle in the presence of a layer of atoms. Users claim that you can actually feel the exture of a single layer of atoms and sense the physical attraction of individual atoms."


crane Man, enactive thinking and machines. worker

You don't have to be an artist or scientist to experience an expansion and inclusion of some machine  as part of your body image. Construction workers have been known to wax poetic about it. In their book "Sparks of Genius" Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein continue:

"No matter the purpose or the size, people project bodily senses into every kind of tool that requires skilled use. We even develop body phantoms for the instruments we drive. It may come as a surprise to hear construction workers speak of communion with their big machines, expressions more typically associated with musicians and artists, but the physical bonding they experience is real. 'You must empty your mind and think of nothing so that the backhoe becomes an extension of your arm,' said one machine opperator quoted in the Wall Street Journal. 'You're part of the machine. It's part of you' reported another construction worker. Many people embody their cars in the same way. Think about how you know the size of your car well enough to park it in a small space or pull it into your garage without hitting anything. You can't actually see the cars outer dimentions, yet you know the size and shape of you extended 'body' - a fact tha becomes apparent when you hop into an unfamiliar car or take one for a spin in a country where people on the 'wrong' side of the road. Withou doubt you find yourself making countless conscious adjustments until your body phantom re-forms in the image of your new car body." 

children Children and enactive thinking.

All young children are masters of bodily thought. Their first thoughts were in the form of body feelings. They had no words, and their main form of experience was kinesthetic, proprioceptive, tactile and emotional. This form of thought unlike visual imagery is useful and indeed necessary in infant communication. Without it there could be no communication, infant or otherwise. As explained earlier, it still, even to this day, remains the essential bridge in communication that makes the learning of vocal or verbal language possible for all infants. Although it does tend to dissapear it does not do so instantly, it remains a constant part of all child communication well into the school years.

Practice as iterative improvement is a necessity for life long creativity.

If we are to preserve the ability to feel with every part of our bodies, we not only need to keep using this ability, but also to exert ourselves each time in an effort to improve that ability as exemplified in each individual action. Only in this way can we tip the probability we might generate a greater creative ability and improve our chance of eventually achieving genius status. Only by the continued awareness, use and improvement of such bodily thinking is such a probability set in motion. Only in this way can bodily thought become an iterative improving vocabulary that is habitually practiced throughout our entire lives. 

In her book "The Creative Habit" Twyla Tharp points out that practice is not repetition but is rather where each practice try is an iteration seeking improvement. She suggests that artists should not do what they already have learned well, but rather work on those skills that are lacking, and thus can be more easily improved. She says:

"It's pleasent to repeat the things we do well, while it's frustrating to deal with repeated failure. I see this all the time with dancers. If they have great leg extention but deficient arms, they will spend more time working on leg extention (because the effort is rewarding - it looks good and feels good) and less time on their arms. Common sense should tell them the process ought to be reversed. That's what the great ones do: they shelve the perfected skills for a while and concentrate on their imperfections.

The golfer David Love III was taught by his father to think of practice as a huge circle, like a clock. You work on a skill until you master it, and then you move on to the next one. When you have mastered that, you move on to the next, and the next, and the next, and eventually you'll come full circle to the task you began with, which will need remedial work because of all the time you have spent on other things."

This site would only add to this that no skill is ever really perfected and an artist can always find ways to improve a skill. Practice is always change, the hope of improvement and always involves the posibility of failure.

At the moment, the practice of moving while learning is generally discouraged in both the home and school as it is generally thought to be frivolus and childish when not performed within very strict parameters. This has led to most activity being discouraged and a great deal of it being forbidden or suppressed. However, if we try to use our ability to feel deaply in our ongoing daily routine we will find this ability does not fade but rather becomes ever stronger until we can use it as a vocabulary of thought that can be randomly combined to produce creative genius.

This site is suggesting that concentrating on learning language and arriving at ideas only through the use of language may actually be partly responsible the suppression of this invaluable ability, and we would do well to be more patient with children learning language. This site asserts that every effort should be made to retain this bodily intelligence. We assert this not just because of feeling's creative usefulness, but because doing and feeling is so important to all learning experience. Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein in their book "Sparks of Genius" sum up:

"'I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.' says the ancient Chinese proverb. Doing and remembering how it feels to have done is inseperable from learning to think with the body. So don't just sit there. Monkey around, and you just might find yourself solving problems only your body knows how to answer."

This site sees a posible future where most of the world's population is able to actualize their genius potential. However, if we are to have hope that genius will ever reach such an epidemic state, it may well be a necessary to retain this ability to know and understand with our bodies. The associations that we use to build our concepts, and our understanding of them, will be greatly impoverished if they include few associations of bodily feeling. For us to be able to build a future society where all have a chance at becoming a genius, life long practice in using this ability is essential.

Needs Interest Method Reality Keys How to Help Creative Genius Future What is Wrong Theories Plus
Prodigies Genius Creativity Social Creativity Thin Slicing Observing Imaging Abstracting Recognizing Patterns
Forming Patterns Analogizing Empathizing Dimensional Modeling Playing Transforming Synthesizing