Mastering the Expression of Your Authentic Self.

December 20, 2022

Mastering the Expression of Your Authentic Self.

May 29, 2023

American anthropologist Clifford Geertz writes in The Interpretation of Cultures that humans are “suspended in webs of significance” which we ourselves have spun. Some of these webs have served us well, giving meaning and order to our lives, while others have resulted in systems of oppression and alienation from one another, and even from ourselves and our own embodied experiences.

Geertz’s metaphor is a powerful one; after all, if the cultural landscapes we live in have been created by us, they too can be examined, interrogated, and even dismantled by us. Of course, this requires both critical investigation of what exists around us, as well as quiet attention to what resides within us.

In Reading the Body, an undergraduate course we co-teach at Stanford University, we ask how the lens of the culture(s) we grew up with color, inform, and even distort our notions of self. As an Anthropologist (Cari) and a physician and writer (Abraham), we are particularly interested in how culture shapes the way we view our body, our notions of disease and ability, and our approach to the fact that we live finite lives.

One way to think about this is to ‘map’ the body. Body Mapping is a creative, artistic tool which allows us to turn our awareness to our bodies with deeper intention to develop a visual “map” of the stories our bodies hold. Body Mapping can create space for renewed self-care, active awareness, and personal empowerment.

The form of Body Mapping that Cari has developed uses anthropology to help us reframe and reclaim the personal sense of empowerment that certain cultural and social norms threaten to strip away, especially for people whose identities or embodied experiences exist on the margins of society.

Body Mapping is also an artistic contemplative practice that can serve as a pathway to finding our authentic story. It provides a nuanced lens through which to examine the ways we have come to perceive our own bodies, and the bodies of others. We’re both very excited to be co-leading an MEA workshop in Baja in February that will go much deeper into this topic.

As a novelist, a clinician practiced in “reading” the body as a text, and the Director of the Center for Presence, discovering our life stories is Abraham’s interest. Abraham believes that reflecting on our embodied ‘life stories,’ viewed through the lens of the age and experience we all now possess, allows us to develop compassion, understanding, and empathy, both for ourselves and for others.

Through readings, meditations, and writing exercises, Abraham will help us examine our own stories—the webs of meaning we have embraced or rejected, and the new webs we intend to weave as we retool towards a new stage in our own personal evolution.

Just like you, we have had unique life journeys and experiences. We love the practice and experience of trying to look at ourselves objectively at this moment in time, in the here and now. It is another form of the “mindfulness” that many of us practice, except the object of our attention in the present moment is our own self, our own embodied experience. Now. At this age, and at this point in the grand arc of our unique story.

We invite you to join us in peaceful surroundings to connect more deeply to your embodied experience, and to your personal narrative, looking to the future anew. There are only a couple of spots left in our Mastering the Expression of Your Authentic Self in Baja this February 12-19. We would love to have you join us.

- Cari and Abraham

Cari Costanzo is a Cultural Anthropologist who teaches at Stanford University. Her research looks at the ways that culture informs and distorts how we think about our bodies. Cari designs Body Map workshops that encourage the reframing and reclaiming of our embodied experiences.

Abraham Verghese is a physician and writer whose novel Cutting for Stone spent 107 weeks on the NYTimes bestseller list. His new novel, The Covenant of Water, will be out this May. Abraham directs the Center for Presence at Stanford School of Medicine. He believes that stories instruct, give meaning to our embodied lives, and help us plot the course for what remains.

Go deeper with a workshop, in person or online.

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