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Life in the learning machine

Another guest blog from Graeme Green outlining the highly beneficial power of coaching from an embodied perspective, join Graeme at our forthcoming wellbeing retreat to find out more.


Every moment of every day we are practicing something, albeit often unconsciously. Getting a little better all the time. Not just our hobbies or professions, our emotions, our behaviour our reactions, to name  a few.

Like it or not we are learning all the time; not just when we pick up the text book or sit in the seminar room. Nobody tells our consciousness that “now” is the learning time. Nobody tells the neurons when to fire, the mind to instruct or the muscles to write to memory. They all save us the effort, they do it for us. Howard Gardner wrote about multiple intelligences in the 1990s, highlighting the different learning modalities with us all, including the more embodied ones beyond the linguistic and logical. These intelligences do not lie dormant until we instruct them, they are in their way gaining experience with each action.

Our intelligences are generally learning in parallel, or to think of it a different way, our learning is more like holistic. It is what we call somatic – a whole body experience – From the Greek soma. Our contemporary emphasis on cognitive learning has taught us generally to overlook this.

Somatic teachers talk about the active connectivity between mind and body. One greater consciousness, if you like. They acknowledge an implicit memory which is stored within our bodies, often an emotional memory which might reflect itself in an spontaneous physical response – for example, an often punished child flinching when a hand is raised, regardless of the raiser’s intention.


We are learning machines that in essence permanently have a “write” function switched to “on”. The combination of mind, emotion and action constantly creating routines and habits. This helps us to ride bikes and to play tennis, or develop our professions.

The problems come when the habits obstruct us. We can engage all sorts of mental planning and reframing but when the obstruction is a somatic (embodied) memory we will never quite seem to deliver change that we seek. We need to look within. We need to face that physical memory or behaviour.

We need to develop an objective and non-judgemental somatic awareness. A real consciousness of the what out body is doing and what it is telling us. And what effect that pattern has upon us.


We need to nurture an embodied awareness awareness. This awareness invites us to act.

To be curious. To face what-ever it is and explore it. To share kindness, not to battle with it. To accept and so release it. The act of accepting frees us to envision the shift that is needed and from there to grow. And as we grow into the new form or shape, or the new feeling, we learn a new behaviour. A new character which grows from the old.

With practice we become the change that we need. And we know it, once again we are.

The key through this is to work with the body. Let the body lead the mind. The body speaks to us and to others, we can see people’s impatience when they fiddle with pens as we talk, we can see their muscles tighten or their skin change colour as we offer difficult conversation.

Again the body is telling us when we need to look. When we need to pause and be curious. Asking ourselves where that action came from. And the process begins.

In developing the tools to sharpen awareness we can act on the clues and sign-posts that our bodies offer, and in so doing we might open and re-write the habitual.

We can be the change.