Tag Archives: perceptual lens

What does Refocusing teach?

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series Refocusing.

I received a question by email yesterday, and thought my response was relevant enough to the general discussion that I should include it here.

On Jul 21, 2013, at 6:21 AM, Adam Cole  wrote:

Hi, Ralph,

A good start.  I’ve definitely experienced this in work with a high-level Tai Chi teacher.  He moved his arm in an arc and I couldn’t stop it.

What I’d like to see next are some steps for a process for learning how not to inhibit the movement.  (I didn’t want to say, “Steps for learning how to inhibit the inhibit!”)


That’s a great questions, Adam, one that I find harder to address satisfactorily than you might think. It goes to the core of my dilemma about what I want to communicate about Refocusing, and about how to do that. It forces me to think about that dilemma, and try to articulate it, and that’s good!  Continue reading What does Refocusing teach?

Toward a Refocusing Paradigm

This entry is part 8 of 11 in the series Refocusing.

If you are visiting this blog for the first time, you might find it more accessible if you start at the beginning of the Refocusing series.

My last post described a “theatrical perspective” in which I distinguished between my roles as a character in the long-running drama of life and as the actor portraying that character. I’m now going to explore another formulation organized around the concept of a paradigm, as a collection of shared beliefs, values, and ways of perceiving that determine how those sharing that paradigm shape and understand their experience of the aspects of reality that the paradigm addresses. I’m drawing from Thomas Kuhn’s usage of that term in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, though the subject matter I’m dealing with is somewhat fuzzier than Kuhn’s. Continue reading Toward a Refocusing Paradigm

Introduction to Refocusing

This entry is part 1 of 11 in the series Refocusing.

Refocusing is a way of exploring the connections between perception and physical interaction, and the ways that we we unconsciously impose limitations on ourselves. Bob Nimensky, a friend with whom I practiced Aikido, and I developed this approach in the 1970s, as we attempted to understand and replicate the fluidity in movement and apparent untouchability we saw in some high level Aikido players.

Involving each other in physically constraining interactions — choke holds, joint locks, and the like — we would look for ways to dissolve the apparent constraint and move as if it didn’t exist. We found we could do this by attending to and responding to aspects of the interaction that were normally unnoticed. When we were successful, the constraint would melt away, and the person being constrained could move as freely as if the constraint weren’t there. Continue reading Introduction to Refocusing

The Somatic Dimension

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Perception.

So far we’ve been looking primarily at the perception of information impinging on you from the outside world. But human experience involves more than that. You are a physical being, with a physical body that moves through space and interacts with the world around you, physically and in other ways. You assess situations, make choices, and carry out actions. Your experience encompasses all of those things — your body, your movement, and your interaction with the world. Any description of how you compose your experience must take those dimensions into account as well.

I’ll use the term somatic to refer to those aspects of experience that relate to physicality. The term comes from the Greek word soma, meaning body, in contrast to psyche, meaning mind. Its dictionary meaning is “relating to the body as distinct from the mind,” though a shading of its meaning in the direction of “relating to the experience of living in a body” has been coming into common use in recent years. That latter meaning is more in keeping with my use of the term.

Our previous approximation for the Perceptual Process model focused on information coming in from the outside. Let’s now add the somatic information flows within the body and from the body back to the outside world. In the schematic below, these flows are labeled motor stream, proprioceptive stream, and external effects.

Continue reading The Somatic Dimension

Memory and Expectations

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Perception.

Past experience and what you learn from it play a significant role in shaping your perceptions and your current experience. The examples we’ve looked at so far make that clear. That’s why you could recognize things like faces and vases, characters like B and 13, and four suites of playing cards — two red and two black — and more, and why you saw those things in the visual patterns presented earlier. You also learned from past experience that when force is applied to your body you must use effort if you don’t want to be controlled by that force. That’s why your first response when someone grasps your wrist to pull you hand off your head is to resist.

The knowledge you gain from past experience feeds your perceptual lens — shaping which bits of information you select from your perceptual stream and how you assemble them into the perceptual images that make up your current experience. We can incorporate that influence into the Perceptual Process model as shown below.

Continue reading Memory and Expectations