Updated: Aug 7, 2022
Exploring our Peri-Personal Space- The Somatosphere
Many people don’t realize that our bodies doesn’t end with the physical boundary defined by our skin. Our brain considers the three to four feet of space around us as part of our body-self. In neuroscience, this space is known as the ‘peri-personal space,’ and in the Somatofulness practice, we call it the ‘somatosphere’.
The frontal and parietal areas of the brain relate to this space and anything that comes within this peri-personal space, activates these parts of the brain. The function of this space is to protect our bodies, making us conscious of the obstacles ahead, like a low doorway or a tree branch. It can also warn us about threatening movements by others, prompting us to take self-protective action.
During all activity, if we become aware of our peri-personal space, then anything that falls within that space—a race car, a paint brush, a musical instrument, a walking cane, or surgeon’s scalpel—will be seen as part of our own bodies. It makes handling these objects smoother and our movements more precise. With practice, these objects become like extensions of our bodies. The Somatosphere gives us a sense of aloneness and solitude during an activity.
Our specific peri-personal space can shrink or expand depending on our physical and mental state. For many people struggling with mental health issues, this space shrinks. Anxiety, depression, psychoses of various kinds will make this space shrink or become distorted. It can also expand when we are calm and confident. In situations where one is assertive, the Somatosphere expands. Women who take testosterone will experience an expansion of their peri-personal space.
Unfortunately, we lose awareness of our peri-personal space because our brain is cluttered by memories of the past and worries about the future. But we can reclaim this space so that we can recover a special intimate sense of body fullness of the body and expansive freedom. It can be done by being constantly aware of this three-to-four-foot space around our bodies. Physical movements such as those used in yoga, Tai-chi, or dance—when one becomes conscious of the space around the body—can help in recovering this space. This can also be achieved through expansive humming meditation in which the sound of gentle humming fills the body, and then those vibrations slowly expand beyond the physical boundary of the body.
What do we achieve by reclaiming our Somatosphere? Besides self-protection, this space can also help us achieve excellence in sports, arts, medicine and healing. The peri-personal space can ward off negative emotions and thoughts and allow us to stay peaceful and stress-free.
Ultimately, we start living in our own presence, and we develop the freedom to express that which brings us to a place of perfect physical and mental well-being.