SOMATIC EMBODIMENT: SOMATIC PRACTICES
Somatic Practices: I teach an annual workshop at Breitenbush where for 3-4 days we engage in various somatic practices I’ve learned over the last 15 years from Tibetan Buddhism, Continuum Movement, the Diamond Approach, Qi Gong, Yoga, and the Gyrotonic Expansion System to name the major influences. I occasionally teach smaller classes which you can find out about through my newsletter.
Besides this group context I offer one on one sessions for those interested in this inner level of embodiment I will work with clients through guided somatic meditations and the practice of inquiry as learned through a decade of study in the Diamond Approach (www.diamondapproach.org) and 15 years daily practice in the somatic tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism. If this option is chosen it is usually added to the bodywork session.
What do I mean by somatic embodiment?
Embodiment is how aware or lucid you are in your body. In your felt sense of your body. Somatic embodiment includes psychological embodiment. It is your connection in this moment with the direct experience arising in/as your body.
Why does this connection need to be practiced?
Consider for a moment the hunter gatherer, who felt reality so clearly through the body, one with nature, immediate. Spending years in the wild, close to the land, so intimate with the environment in close physical engagement. Just the act of finding food, shelter, warmth is enough to keep you embodied, in touch with a deep inner landscape. In modern times theres so much complexity, so much to be navigated through the use of the head center. Through the Internet, through the self-images, through the mind. The body and the rich soma, the rich emotions get pushed into the subconscious with the loss of awareness in the belly center. We’re nearly forced by our cultural practices, beliefs and expectations to lose touch with our felt sense. We leave the body immobile for such long stretches of time, projecting our consciousness into our work. These practices are an attempt to balance this out, to give time to sensing and digesting the soma.
To make these concepts more accessible I have included some key points:
3 levels of feeling /embodiment:
1: Not being aware of feeling. When asked what you’re feeling in your heart for instance, it comes as a surprise to you to even notice what’s there, and you’re attention doesn’t last long enough to really get clear about what the feeling is.
2: Becoming aware of feeling, this is the witnessing stage. You are aware of your feeling but either don’t have the attention span or just haven’t made the leap into identifying with the feeling. There is still a separation from the feeling, its there, not quite here, like you’re seeing it from your head, or very much on the surface or outside of the feeling.
3: Becoming Feeling. Fully allowing the feeling. Not repressing it in anyway, not keeping it at arms length, not rejecting it, but opening yourself to completely allowing whats here. This often involves moving through a defense that is keeping the feeling from blooming into awareness. This allowing the feeling is what will allow for integration and assimilation, bringing the feeling from the subconscious into the conscious experience where it can be processed and integrated.
The difference between witnessing or observing your feelings, which is still removed from the feeling, and Identifying, becoming, fully allowing the feeling is a vast distance.
Soma has different meanings, the broadest meaning felt sense. Your felt sense of your belly right now for instance. Pause and tune in, does it feel heavy or light, full or empty, present or empty.
I have identified three levels or dimensions of soma. Lets stay with the belly as an example, though it could be anywhere in the body.
Physiological: how does it feel on a sensation level: empty, full, light, heavy, cramped, open etc.
Psychological: how does it feel emotionally: when you contact your belly with your mind and senses, does it give you a sense of support, of balance, of easy, presence, groundedness or is it more on the spectrum of fear, discomfort, unease etc.
Essential / Spiritual: If we have the capacity to stay with the sensation and emotion of the area, or we are already in a peak state of consciousness it may go deeper into an essential state, various traditions have names such as the Hara, Kath, 3rd chakra etc that speak to a more essential or transpersonal dimension of experience. Infinite varieties of experience may arise but more commonly something like a deep abiding presence that isn’t conditioned by our psychological persona, with different qualities such as a state of openness, of pure presence, or a grounded calm peaceful centered feeling. These states exist on a spectrum from ordinary to more deep and radical experiences of connection and presence.