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Somatic Reflections by Mala Aeto

Seeing from within:
Moving through the Looking Glass into the Unknown...


Thomas Hanna stated the following concern on the very first day of our training in 1990. He welcomed us, and then he said, ”Now, the basic thing that is going to occur is that I’m going to try to teach you the things that I have been doing, and I want to try to teach you the ways in which I do these things, but most particularly, I am concerned that you learn to see in the way that I see things and in some sense, that is the most central part of the task.”  (My italics.)

These are his exact words, taken from the manuscript of the first training day, and when I heard them, I thought to myself, “This is not going to be easy.”  And, in fact, Hanna Somatics has turned out not to be ‘easy,’ but rather to be a life-long exploration for me, a never-ending process to ‘see’ what Tom was referencing for us that day.

What I have discovered for myself is that ‘seeing’ is the most important, and difficult, aspect of Hanna Somatic Education. It is important for me because I think that it is the doorway into the essence of Tom’s work, defining for me the depth, meaning and purpose of his philosophy.  It is also difficult for me because the emphasis of Tom’s way of ‘seeing’ is placed on the practitioner, and begins within the practitioner, requiring me to be in as continuous a state of self-awareness as I can be in my life and in my work.

I found out that ‘seeing from within’ cannot be taught, learned, memorized, intellectualized, or pretended.  To ‘know’ what it is to experience it from within myself. It is where I find that I have to give up my point of view and my projections about existence; where I have to discard what I know and what I think I know, so I can move through the looking glass and explore the unknown with the new lenses of this new way of ‘seeing’.

Giving up my conceptual and structural view of reality in this way is like pulling the ground out from under my feet with nothing solid left to stand on, and nothing to rely on.  Scary, but exhilarating!  This is ‘seeing’ beyond perceptual reality and into a domain of processes and flux, leaving nothing except my experience and awareness to guide me.  I find that when I am willing to be ‘through the looking glass’ like this, this is when and where I find myself connecting with the flow of the work and where I am able to use the remarkable techniques of HSE to create new possibilities for human freedom.

For me, ‘seeing from within’ (parallel to Tom’s definition of a soma, i.e., “a body experience from within”)  is the context in which I experience the first person perspective.  It is also an integral piece of  the wholeness and vitality of Hanna Somatics.  Working to ‘see’ in Tom’s way of seeing is what facilitates my entrance into a domain comprised of human freedom and possibility.  It is the beginning of my transformation as a somatic educator, i.e., a teacher of human freedom.

Remember, Tom Hanna believed there is no such thing as a body -- it’s just a concept and it’s just an illusion (Maya) -- and no such thing as a mind either. And if there is no body and no mind, then there is no nervous system and no brain either.  So what is the nature of our work? And who are we working on? And is HSE’s only function to get rid of pain?  Or is it more than that?  Is it beyond pain?

As HSE practitioners, these are some of the questions, I believe, that we need to explore and ask ourselves. Is there more to HSE than just an effective and valuable pain relief method?  Is there, in fact, more meaning and essence to HSE?   And if there is a meaning or essence, what or where is it?

I believe that learning to ‘see’, as introduced by Tom Hanna that day, will not only answer these existential and philosophical questions, but will also reveal the why of our work.  As Tom said, “...in some sense, that is the most central part of the task.”

by:  Mala Aeto, HSE - Wave 1

       January 2017
       Pupukea, Hawaii