Your Body is Your Soul

Ever heard of a phenomenological embryologist? I hadn’t until I stumbled upon the Liberated Body Podcast entitled “Your Body Is Your Soul,” interviewing Jaap Van Der Waal. He studies the body, and what makes him phenomenological is what sparked my interest in this particular episode. Instead of an anatomist, who draws what a human body “should always be,” Van Der Waal is more interested in what the body is moment to moment, always changing. He views life as an ongoing performance, an ongoing process of change.

Are we the product of our bodies? Are our bodies a product of our selves? These questions latched on to my moving meditation and won’t let go. I felt reminded of a word I learned recently; mechanotransduction, or the changes in our bodies that are brought about through movement. Every morning is a new day for our bodies. They are pliable and are not fixed vessels.

I especially enjoyed the perspective he shares regarding causal processes. He does not see DNA as a building block of life, but instead as the thing in our cells that is most removed from “life.” DNA is the hereditary material that is produced by our living tissue, and genes do not “cause” anything. My mind blurred with chickens and eggs, plants and seeds.

From the perspective of the embryo, motion comes before form. Our spine is a C curve when we are born, until we learn to walk, when it requires a change in shape to balance in gravity. Furthermore, fascia is what transforms our bodies, and is responsive to both action and emotion.

Van Der Waal also sees no use in viewing the soul as separate from the body. “If either soul or matter exist, they must be one.” This poetic visualization points to that which we have not discovered yet; the appearance of soul embedded in that which we already “know.” I have faith that there is soul in my pinky toe, heaps of soul, but scientists probably won’t find it because they would probably take it for granted, and if they not then they would be more interested in anatomy and the tangible information we can glean from our limited perspectives. When I think of it that way, it almost sounds as if they willfully blind themselves to discovery.

I love this fresh take on anatomy, intertwined with spirituality. It is a wondrously ponderous topic and I am glad I took the time to enjoy this man’s perspective. Now it’s time to get up, move about in the ways that make me happy, and create my body of the day.

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