The Somatic Dimension of formation
We are embodied selves. All that we experience as humans is in and through the body. A holistic formation takes into account the progressive integration of the somatic dimension of one’s existence into the project of one’s life. Somatic transformation is not just health care though it includes it. It is primarily about achieving and maintaining a relatively high degree of wellness despite a disability disease, or terminal illness .
Somatic refers to the human body, to body structure, and to bodily sensations, feelings—including sexual feelings—and memories. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), and is the physical expression or manifestation of an individual’s spirit. Subsequently, when the body is injured, as in a motor vehicle accident or by a cerebrovascular stroke, this somatic expression may become distorted or limited. Likewise, if the individual’s soul and spirit are pained, such as in mourning the loss of a dose relative, a predictable somatic expression may be experienced as symptoms of grief.
Somatic transformation is primarily about wellness. Wellness is similar to, but not synonymous with, health, because wellness can coexist with chronic illness, disease, and even terminal illness. Individuals with a high level of somatic transformation can be expected to experience a high level of wellness irrespective of their health status – Len Sperry
To experience a high level of wellness, individuals need ongoing transformation in the somatic dimension. This includes the development of virtues such as temperance and physical fitness. It also includes preventive measures such as proper diet, exercise, and sleep, which can contribute effectively to one’s degree of vitality, somatic wholeness, and transformation and consequent missionary commitment. Sperry also points out that preventive measures do not guarantee wellness, since wellness is not dependent on health status. A high level of somatic transformation goes with life-affirming attitudes toward one’s body—including sexuality—which are in harmony with one’s vocational life.
Virtues supporting somatic transformation
Temperance: Moderates the attraction of pleasures and balances one’s desire to achieve good through food, drink, or other sensual pleasures.
physical fitness: Taking responsibility for one’s own physical health and well-being
transforming cravings: fasting; single pointed attention; custody of the senses; exercise regimen; commitment to simple living
self-activation: Capacity to identify one’s unique individuality, goals, and wishes, and then to be assertive in expressing and achieving them
self-mastery: Capacity to achieve a balance of pleasure and self-control over needs, desires, wishes, and cravings.