Gil Hedley has been leading instructional and inspirational human dissections for over twenty years and is a thought leader in integrative human anatomy. A self-described “somanaut” who helps others to “explore the inner space of the body, and discover there the rich terrain of themselves,” Gil has also completed a “What’s the Fuzz,” tour through North America to share his most recent insights. (Don’t worry if you missed it; he has promised an online version!). Gil is an inspirational teacher: deeply knowledgable, relentlessly curious, and immensely reverent.
How did a divinity scholar wind up as a human dissection expert?
Ha! “What a long strange trip it’s been!” Short version: When I was doing my doctoral studies in theological ethics, I was starting to experience my body through practicing Tai Chi. That led me to acupressure massage, which I followed up with massage and Rolfing structural integration training. Once I was practicing, I had the urge to deepen my anatomy knowledge through dissection explorations in service of my clients, and before you know it I was teaching anatomy to groups of Rolfers, massage therapists, etc. Twenty-four years later and I’m still at it!
What inspires you to do what you do?
I am committed to becoming conscious and awake, to know “who I am,” and that for me has involved a deep exploration of the question, “What is my body?” Teaching dissection courses has been a means for me to study that question with ever increasing depth. I am also on a mission to democratize knowledge of the body, and expose the profound gift of it. That drives my sharing information and insight as broadly as possible, from the lab – but far beyond it.
What has been your most surprising insight through your work?
There are no “parts” to our bodies. It is possible to perceive the different textures without mistaking them to be the stuff of separate entities. Everything really is continuous. And the application of the insight can be extended beyond the conventional limits of “a body” to relationship at large. We can deny or miss the connections, and, here we are nonetheless, in relationship!
What have you hoped to share with people through your “What the Fuzz” tour”?
I hope to share an opportunity to look into the human form and be blown away both by its grandeur, and also by its intelligence. The human form does the teaching on this course, the body itself has a lot to say if we plop down at its feet, observe, listen, and feel. It’s a pretty bottomless cornucopia of insight into the nature of human form, movement, and the particulars of our internal relationships. Ultimately I’m just inviting people to look into this profound mirror with deep appreciation.
Can a layperson understand your work, or should you have some anatomy background to attend?
Sure, a layperson can go. They will have a different experience than someone with some professional or personal interest in anatomy. Everyone has a body so can benefit, but the takeaway will be different depending on one’s intention for attending. The courses generally fill with folks who have devoted themselves professionally or personally to an ever growing understanding of the body. That having been said, mastery of anatomical terms is far less important than a willingness to explore with patient presence.
You’re also a writer. Can you leave us with a quote to contemplate?
“Notice the beauty
along the way~
fill with wonder:
all that is you.”
I highly recommend spending some time with Gil in person if and when you can. I have completed two six-day human dissections with Gil; while I learned a tremendous amount about the layers and anatomy of the human form, my most precious take away from the experience was a profound and giddy delight in my own embodiment. Gil is an excellent guide in the exploration of “what is means to be human,” and – if you are curious about your human body – his 6-day workshop is a life-shifting experience.