Sensing the living body: Three degrees of conscious awareness

By Terezinha Petrucia Da Nobrega, Mary Schirrer, Alexandre Legendre, Bernard Andrieu, Laurel McEwen

The main purpose of this article is to present emersiology, which consists of activating the living body through mind and body practices in order to identify degrees of conscious awareness going from the “living unconscious” to the consciousness of lived experiences. On the one hand, we have Anna Halprin and her dance exalting awareness of the living body’s kinesthetic sense through an association of personal development and artistic expression that exteriorizes feelings, hidden attitudes, and unconscious blockages. On the other hand, we see that performance in Chinese martial arts brings to light an a priori contradictory double-bind: these practices look to the “unconscious” and its use of habitus to process a maximum of information in spite of the conscious limits of our perceptive potential; while at the same time they aim to render the learning process conscious through the refinement of this same habitus. Finally, an analysis of the techniques and discourses of freedivers reveals contradictions in their consciousness-based practice. To prolong their apnea, and to accept or overcome disagreeable sensations, freedivers modify their states of consciousness in order to stop thinking, to economize their oxygen use, and to “let go”. To do so, they use techniques that disconnect their conscious mind such as visualizations, meditation, the rotation of consciousness, and self-hypnosis. Inversely, during the end stages of a dive and particularly in competitions, freedivers must also maintain a conscious connection with their minds in order to fight against the loss of consciousness and anoxic syncope.


  • awareness
  • kinesthetic sense
  • modified states of consciousness
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