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Retracing the Labyrinth: Applying Phenomenology for Embodied Interpretation

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Abstract

According to phenomenological tradition, particularly Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) and his followers, the body is the first purveyor of lived experience. Our corporeal bodies can inform our process and interpretation as researchers. As a researcher concerned with bodily topics as well as process, my work intentionally includes concrete techniques geared to collect embodied data. Yet in an experimental design study, where I carefully structured my framework to include somatic techniques, I discovered that somatically geared data collection alone failed to reveal the full depth of the findings. I was able to tap into a fuller range of whole body insights by reorienting the phenomenological stage of imaginative variation by using labyrinth walking to inform my interpretation. This presentation is based on my recent research that investigated the work experience of massage therapists. Here I describe how attending to my own somatic markers resulted in my conducting a second and deeper phenomenological interpretation of my data. Using the image and physicality of a labyrinth, I literally took another turn with the data. As a result, I produced findings that were more embodied in the research question, the participants, and their life-world. In addition, the outcome was vastly more satisfying for me as the researcher.
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