Embodiment for nerds

When we chilled in a nerdy company, photo by Krzyś Niemkiewicz.
Taken on a Californian desert — credits go to Marta Cz-C, a single exposure.

My story

Before

I had been a stereotypical “cave nerd” — preferring to spend time indoors, playing and working on a computer, reading fantasy stories, and studying physics textbooks. I was clumsy in sports, especially team games involving balls (well, maybe with the exception of paintball). See my Autistic traits, science and the nerd stereotype.

Waterfalls in Yosemite and Oregon.

The fountain

The first big moment came when I was walking in Barcelona with my friend and lover. She entered a fountain. I asked if she is not afraid of getting a fungal foot infection. She said that if she gets one, she will get treatment — but would rather risk a fungal infection than live a life without ever entering fountains.

This person, this fountain.

Free improv

The next step was thanks to the Kotowski twins, my close friends. They were attending workshops that were an exploration of contact with body and emotions. I used to mock them that they were “opening their chakras”, looking down at a workshop that isn’t aimed at developing concrete skills. However, during one intense event, I heard from them:

  • Without a script (you think: OK, I get it, improv theatre)
  • Without words (you think: mime improv theatre?)
  • Without an audience, including other participants or ourselves (you think: WHAT?)
  • Being in the moment, spontaneous, in contact with your emotions.
  • Not judging — others or oneself.
  • Not having goals, plans, or expectations.
  • Not trying to be or do things in a smart, beautiful, inspiring way — or other ways to impress others or oneself.
  • Experiencing a lot of passionate sex.
  • Touching surfaces with my back (touching with palms make a fine division between “me” and “the world”).
  • Getting massages often.

Things that followed

After the dam broke, the whole process went from a small leak to an enormous wave.

Lovembal in Poznań — credits go to Marianna Łakomy.

Now

And what’s now?

Chilling in hot.
Lucjan doing wonders with an oak venik— photo by Krzyś Niemkiewicz.

Lessons and takeaways

Nerds build castles from books as a means of self-protection

Why did I cripple my contact with body emotions in the first place?

The mind-body dichotomy is a lie

In Western culture, we are soaked with Platonism and all its offshoots. One of them is Cartesian dualism — a belief in the separation of the material from the spirit world. This concept has its value in the history of philosophy. However, I side more with contemporary philosophers of mind such as Daniel Dennett — offering a biological, evolutionistic perspective on consciousness. While still pretty reductionists, they offer a concept of “embodied cognition”, arguing that it is impossible to consider abstract intelligence, not related to the body or environment in which it operates.

Words imprison

Human languages compress the uniqueness and infinite details of an experience into rigid, culturally-defined, categories. They fail to express anything that is inherently subjective or deeply personal.

Soft contact with one’s body

I would like to give a distinction between two kinds of contact with one’s body: “a soft contact” (experiential, process-oriented) and a “hard contact” (instrumental, goal-oriented).

A shell protects against all experiences — bad and good alike

It is impossible to have a shield against all negativity while being open to positive experiences. A shell works both ways. Protects and imprisons. Reduces absorption of both damage and nutrients.

  • The emotional freeze is numbness, which when left to itself can collapse into depression.
  • The emotional flight is a number of dismissive approaches — distancing oneself with humor or escaping into cold rationalism.
  • The emotional fight is all struggle and frustration that the world is not as it ought to be.

Male socialization takes its toll

In Western cultures, a lot of forms of soft contact are shunned down (even if not forbidden). Even handshakes and hugs between men are expected to be short and firm. Everything more delicate, sensual, or intimate is expected to be reserved for romantic and erotic activities.

You don’t need to give up your nerd card

Contact with your body is arational — neither rational nor irrational. Some non-intellectual people do sports, some others use pseudoscientific theories for connecting with their emotions and body. It does not mean that connecting with your body is inherently stupid or irrational.

It is fine to start from the beginning

What if your dancing skills are below an average 3-year-old? It does not matter. Once you drop the performance/competition mindset, you can learn (and enjoy) things regardless of your objective competence.

Conclusion

If you’ve made a similar path — I am happy for you.

Acknowledgments

Many people helped me on this path, with a special thanks to Marcin & Michał Kotowski, Anna “Melisandre”, Rysiek, Sarah, Seani, Seth, Sofi, Stefan, and the Ojrzanów/Parostacja team.

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Piotr Migdał

Piotr Migdał

583 Followers

PhD in quantum physics, deep learning & data viz specialist. Founder at Quantum Flytrap. https://p.migdal.pl/ / https://quantumflytrap.com/