doubting-thomasThe 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

Spiritual practices

transforming cravings: fasting; single pointed attention; custody of the senses; exercise regimen; commit­ment to simple living

Self capacities

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.