Don Hanlon Johnson

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Professor Johnson is the founder of the Somatics Program at CIIS, "the first of its kind, established in 1983. After a brief career in teaching academic philosophy, he encountered various methods of deepening body experience and changing body structure-Feldenkrais, F.M. Alexander, Rolfing, Sensory Awareness, Orgononomy, Authentic Movement, Middendorf Breath Work, Rosen Work, Continuum, Body-Mind Centering, Osteopathy, and a host of others. His education in phenomenology enabled him to discern the potential of these then seemingly different and often competitive methods for helping create a more humane world at a time when they were seen principally as modes of personal healing and transformation. He saw that the fragmentation of these various schools was weakening their capacities for realizing their potential for individual and social change. Bringing to light those shared principles held the promise of posing effective challenges to harmful assumptions that shape medicine, education, political activism, and religion. Inspired by that task, he left academic philosophy for practical studies in these various modalities. He received his original training from Dr. Ida Rolf with whom he studied from 1970 until her death in 1978. He was a trustee of The Rolf Institute and author of the first book on Rolfing...

"Professor Johnson was director of the program for 13 years. During that time, it became a support center for teachers and practitioners in the various private training institutes, and a think-tank in the field. From the program's inception, he saw to it that graduates were able to situate themselves fully within the mainstream clinical community. To that end, he engaged as one of three consultants in reshaping the State of California MFT legislative task force to allow more room for training in a variety of expressive modalities. He also initiated the purchase of a neighborhood psychotherapy clinic as a training site for students in practicum. Along with his successor as program director, Ian J. Grand, he has continued to develop the research segment of the program, with funding from various sources...

"In addition to his work in the program, he has been a member of the Center for Theory and Research at Esalen Institute. In that capacity, he coordinates public and private seminars, and research projects in the field of Somatics. He brings to Esalen leaders in the fields related to the body -therapists, anthropologists, biological scientists, artists, psychologists- to develop their work in a collaborative way. He was a member of the Esalen-Soviet Union Health Promotion Project, focusing on addiction and gerontology. He is also the coordinator of the Esalen Scholars Program which awards CIIS doctoral fellowships for dissertations relevant to the Esalen mission.

"For several years, he was funded by Laurance Rockefeller and The Fetzer Institute to organize a project in which leaders of various major religious institutions both here and in Russia-schools of theology, retreat centers, monasteries, urban clinics and hospitals-worked together with leaders of various schools of Somatics to explore ways to ameliorate the body-deteriorating forces afoot in the world.

"He is a contributing editor of the professional journal Somatics, and the editor of a series of seminal collections of writings in the field, listed below, published by CIIS in collaboration with North Atlantic Books.

"Since 2000, he has been teaching and lecturing in Japan. In collaboration with the director of the Graduate Program in Human Services at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, he has developed a cooperative student-exchange program with CIIS.

"He continues to engage actively with a group of phenomenologists and cognitive scientists in inquiries into the relationships between direct bodily experience and studies of neural functioning. A longtime partner in this work is Elizabeth Behnke, creator of The Study Project in Phenomenology of the Body. Also, with Eugene Gendlin, the creator of Focusing, he has been working to develop models of first-person science. Adrian Harris is gathering many of these sources in his website and Listserv." [1]

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  1. CIIS Don Hanlon Johnson, organizational web page, accessed July 15, 2018.