Faculty Profile: Don Hanlon Johnson
There is a particular kind of wisdom inherent in the ancient structures of collagen, nerve fiber, and cerebrospinal fluid.
The San Francisco Zen Hospice, an organization called Men Overcoming Violence, San Francisco General Hospital's screening service for immigrants who are survivors of torture, a battered women's shelter, and suicide prevention clinics —these are some of the places our students are putting into practice what they are learning in the Somatic Psychology Program at the Institute.
Somatic psychology is a body-oriented approach to psychology whose aim is to bring human beings more closely into relationship with each other and back into relationship with trees, frogs, coyotes — all of the Earth community. There is an endangered wisdom inherent in the ancient structures of collagen, nerve fiber, and cerebrospinal fluid. Somatic psychology is a crucial counterbalance to the history of the West in the last 400 years, which has promoted a sense of self apart from nature that has had devastating effects. As somatics pioneer and founder of Continuum, Emilie Conrad says, "Awareness of deep body processes helps us become planetary beings, not simply cultural and psychological beings."
One of the especially exciting aspects of my work at the Institute — that I've done in association with a study group that includes pioneers in the field of somatics — has been to produce a series of books that is for the first time documenting and moving forward the work of 150 years of that has given rise to the field of somatics. The series is serving as a reference point for further theory building and provides raw material for future empirical research.
In a larger sense, helping people to become planetary beings is what CIIS is about. The integration of the spiritual and the academic — in a nondenominational way — is something quite unique to CIIS in higher education. An exciting dimension of the Institute is that there is a great receptivity to all the different approaches to psychology, not only by the various psychology programs here, but also by programs such as Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness and East-West Psychology. There is truly an integral approach, an awareness that consciousness and culture are in large part shaped by the fact that we are embodied, physical beings. I'm increasingly fascinated by the interesting variety of people at CIIS. They have traveled so much, experienced so much, they have good senses of humor — it's a rich mix of people and this produces fascinating dialogue in our classes. I love what happens when all these people get together and talk.