Hello. My name is erin christine bell.
I come from mostly Irish + Anglo people, some Flemish and other european settlers. I was raised near the San Juan Creek and Pacific Ocean, in Southern California.
I’ve lived + worked in many countries and cultures. Currently, I live in Confederated Salish and Kootenai lands, near Flathead lake and the Mission Mountains, in Montana.
My earliest training was a decade in natural horsemanship. I worked as an artist in performance for over a decade. I studied at ISLO’s Education in Dance and Somatics in Finland. I’m certified in somatic sexuality work. I’ve worked with many styles of practice. Along with my embodied and creative work, I regularly read science research in neuroscience, behavior and cognition, I work with and learn about plants, and I am on a path towards a Wildlife Biology degree at SKC.
– My Training –
This list includes informal and formal education experiences, horizontal and hierarchical learning situations, other-than-human teachers, training and certificates, academic degrees, work experiences, and more. This list is far from exhaustive but I feel it paints a somewhat robust picture about where I’ve learned. It is loosely organized chronologically. Locations are in USA unless otherwise noted.
There are many teachers all around. You never know where you’re going to find one. – Angel Hawley
Poco, Habib, Colt (San Juan Capistrano, CA) – Along with many other horses, these three are some of my most important life teachers. In relation to nonverbal communication, finding calm before further conversation, about embodiment and somatics in general, about movement, about stress and trauma, about death, about the imperativeness of nurture and consistency for fostering vitality in relationships – much of who I am and how I work ties back to these three.
My immediate + extended family – full of loud and love, extreme mental health hurdles, relative economic stability, and so much more. My people are combinations of Gaelic-Irish, Anglo, Flemish, and assorted other light-skinned settlers of U.S. Of course, my family and tendrils of these cultures have had a tremendous impact on how I relate with the world.
Cathy Holman (San Juan Capistrano, CA) Along with teaching excellent horse skills, my first mentor taught me how to teach to a wide variety of people. She taught me about improvisation, how to make learning and practicing always fun, and how to make-do and make-up solutions when expensive tools were not accessible or necessary. I studied with Cathy about 8 years. During this time I taught fellow kids and adults, starting from the age of 10 years old. About this time I also began training horses.
Natural Horsemanship (San Juan Capistrano) There was a particular duo, teachers, who held a workshop in one style of natural horsemanship. I was quite young and moved deeply. Unfortunately I have long forgotten their names. One strong memory among others include when Colt, my horse-friend, was moving through an obstacle course. He was nicking a pole with his hoof, repeatedly. One of these trainers quietly watched several rounds, then moved the pole slightly. She suggested that the original layout did not fit with the joy that Colt seemed to take in how he moved his feet. He had a particularly flashy stride. By slightly adjusting the pole, this gave him room to be him, without coming into conflict with the pole. This small interaction, along with several other teachings in that time, taught me volumes about horses and life.
the Creek – the creek taught me about wonder and adventure, how joyous wandering feels, and ever coming upon new pockets of plant life and spiderwebs + secret passageways to hide from adults. I learned how quick they changed with a rare rain, and learned to feel drought in the veins of the dry creek bed. I also learned that creepy men hide in the bushes waiting to show off their bodies, along with strategies for safety from them.
the Ocean – my dad and the waves taught me how to get pummeled, giggle, and dive back in, how to swim out of a riptide. Especially, how diving deeper can save your life when the waters up top are too virulent – both metaphorically and literally.
Former friends and lovers – Like family, these relationships are too complex to list. It is certain that many impactful learnings emerged through these relationships.
Saddleback Community College – AA degree 1997. My class list includes:
Euro-U.S. History to 1876
Algebra – Introductory, Intermediate, and College
Introductory to European Philosophy
Western Music Appreciation I
Principles of Composition I + II
Fundamentals of Communication – Speech
Women and Religion
Anthropology – Physical
Anthropology – Magic, Witchcraft, Religion
Work with Children – As an adult I gained experience working with children at Crafty Kids (San Juan Capistrano, CA), as a Public Pre-school Aid (San Francisco, CA), La Familia Center (Santa Cruz, CA), Snow Mountain Camp (Nevada City, CA), YMCA Camp (Dana Point, CA), and through private child care (Brooklyn, NY).
San Francisco State University
Anthropology of Sexuality
Anthropology of Money
University of California, Santa Cruz – B.A. degree, Cultural Anthropology.
This degree path included two absence-of-leaves due to mental health trouble. While at UCSC my most impactful learning experiences were through writing my senior thesis, and in Susan Harding’s courses. Classes included:
Anthropology and Photography
Born Again Religion and Culture – Anthropology
Cultures of India – Anthropology
Native Peoples of North America – Anthropology
Wilderness and the U.S. Euro-American Mind – Anthropology
Spanish I + II
Anthropology Senior Thesis: an ethnography of Saturn Cafe, a queer-culture, vegetarian restaurant with an alternative healthcare system, with employee-restaurant marriage and tattoo opportunities, presented through cult-satire ceremonies. I was employed there for 3 years, waiting tables and baking pies.
Service Industry Work – The amount that I learned about gender, racial, and class dynamics from doing service industry work in the US feels integral to how I understand and move in the world today.
Santa Cruz AIDS Project (Santa Cruz, CA) Here I was trained in safer sex practices and afforded a chance to present this Safer Sex 101 material to a variety of audiences including drug recovery centers and youth groups.
Saddleback + Cabrillo Community College (Mission Viejo, CA and Santa Cruz, CA) – During my UCSC degree process I had two leaves of absence due to mental health trouble. During both of these phases I attended these community colleges, respectively. The doorway to art-making that these basic skills brought me was tremendous and life saving.
Intro to Painting
Basic Guitar + Keyboard
Western Music Theory Fundamentals
French I + II
Art Making – Diving head first into solo painting and then making a wide variety of art, performances, installations, puppets, human sculptures and more – with friends such as Lisa Van Wambeck, Thomas Little, Walt McClements, Billy Schultz, and various kindreds of Dusty Walker – these people and projects in particular taught me a tremendous amount.
Music – My bandmates in Why are We Building Such a Big Ship?, Eris, the Curious Shape of Hens, and Veveritse Brass Band all contributed a great deal to my music education. J.R. Hankins and Patty Farrell, in particular, gave me many private music lessons, especially relating to Balkan and Klezmer. I received a series of lessons from Brian Drye, and I had a one-week intensive with Cerim Becirovic. Mostly my time with Cerim was spent learning his family and about Romani and Slavic relations in Vranje (Serbia). In relation to my music and dance education – I feel primarily informed, influenced, and imprinted on by all the musicians and dancers of brass bands and Second Lines of New Orleans.
Travel – through a combination of touring work, through work exchanges (such as Workaway, etc), through moments of wind-fall money and savings, I have been incredibly fortunate to spend extended stays, in several places. Being immersed in a wide variety of cultures has had a tremendous impact on my life.
Bread + Puppet Theater – (Glover, VT) in 2 years as a company member particular bits of learning stand out to me. Such as, learning about devised theater, stage lighting, about raising and eating animals, milking and making cheese and ice cream, driving a giant bus, and rocking a wood stove – all learned from many neighbors and fellow company members. About the power of upstaging via quiet attention to nuance, I learned from Noah Harrell; about the glories of everyday dance and maple sugaring from Peter Schumann; about sound-sculpture-awe from Peter Hamburger; about romantic-longevity and care in raking dirt from Genevieve Yeuillaz; about generally living life in a way that is full of presence and magic, and the phrase “you can’t have everything, where would you put it!”, from Federica Collina.
ISLO’s Education in Dance and Somatics – (Joensuu, Finland) I studied here for four months. I learned from my formal teachers Elina Ikonen, Pia Lindy, and Malcolm Manning – his spiderman, Feldenkrais, and kinosphere practices I remember in particular. In this training we touched on several brand names of somatic styles. As well, Poh Choo Loo taught me a deeply informative teaching perspective: You don’t have to be an expert. Just share about what you do. This changed how I teach. Hannah Jarvi, Tommi Lindman and several others – taught me about Finnish culture – especially about the incredible effects of saunas and ice swimming, Finnish humor, food and felted footwear.
Dance/Movement – Weaving into my prior experiences of moving with horses, family influence, all the people of New Orleans Second Lines, time at Bread + Puppet, and ISLO’s dance instruction – my dance learning continued through countless dance and movement classes. Most prominently including two months of Tango intensives at DNI, Buenos Aires, Argentina, many forms of somatic-oriented contemporary dance such as authentic movement, skinner release, contact improvisation, and many others – some famous methods, some less well-known. I spent several years practicing yoga regularly, mostly oriented towards Iyengar yoga. Through my life I have attended many classes but have not had the pleasure of seriously pursing styles such as Ba Gua, Aikido, Kung Fu, Capoeira, parkour, and Jiu-Jitsu. Notably, I regularly learn a lot about movement by studying animals.
Still Meditation – I was introduced to formal practices of this sort in a patchwork way. Most of my formal practice time has been related to forms of buddhist meditation. Some informal learning of this style have emerged through time spent with animals, art-making, and being in forests.
Death – Since I was young death has been present in my life, among family members, animal-friends, peers, my sister. From mental health-related deaths, fluke accidents, AIDS, old age, and more – having death be so present in my life has been a big piece in shaping me.
Nuero-Physio Diversity – At 42 I was diagnosed autistic. My own experience and my self-education about neurodiversity has taught me a great deal about the difficulty and wonderfulness of being super sensitive, of huge diversity in communication-learning styles, and many other aspects of life. I also learned about some ways in which disabilities and physical diversity can affect lived experience through working as a personal care assistant on a 2 month US roadtrip for a man with quadriplegia, working for a brief period with mixed abilities dance groups (in New York, NY and in Berlin, Germany with Tanzfahig), and in a two day workshop, working with autistic kids in Skopje, Macedonia.
Sexological Bodywork – I obtained certification for this training. Many of the practices here I learned from Joseph Kramer’s work, as well as some practices through Barbara Carrellas’ work. Weaving into the somatic base I arrived with (founded primarily through time with horses and art making), the practices I learned in this field opened up new ways to expand my earlier learning, and introduced me to some new ideas as well.
Friends and Colleagues – The way all my friends make me laugh, blow my mind with joyful-weirdness, or give me hugs has been fundamental to my life and inspires me every single time it happens. As well as the way they feed me and welcome me into their homes, like Eva Boodman, Patty Farrell, Quince Marcum. K La Spruce regularly steadies my sail with life-work decisions. Anais Adair and Amy Seiffert expand my capacity to giggle and frolic. the way Matt Knowles cares for his kitty and plant friends, and feeds his people-friends continues to inspire me. Eleanor Warner and Susannah Rosenthal often say words and ideas which make my mind sparkle and expand my imagination-feelings. The organizing work of Lily Paulina always energizes me. I often feel magic and life learning emerge through collective time spent with my friends + colleagues Amélie Gaulier, Barbu Panaitescu, K La Spruce, Mäks Roßmöller, T.T., Shannon Stewart, Florian Filtzinger, Leah Krauss, River Drosera and Lilli. There are many more, these are just a few.
Social-Enviro Justice Work – My first exposure to justice work was through Critical Resistance. Some of my learning has been on through on-the-ground work like mutual aid, protests and collective process work towards undoing engrained oppressive ways. Some of this has been through readings, etc (some of this list, coming soon). Like many people, I felt myself fundamentally change in relation to the movements for Black lives in 2020.
Hildie – a dog friend who I have lived with the past few years. She daily instructs me about rest, focus, presence, smelling for awhile before any further action, and being excited about routine moments of life.
The Plants that I Live Near – The bent and twisted trees in particular keep teaching me about resiliency and change possibilities in relation to the rest of the factors of one’s ecosystem. Their sensitivity, their speed, their genius architecture – all of the plants are continuing to blow my mind in ways that I cannot yet fully articulate.
Certified Behavioral Health Peer Support Specialist – This was a training with certification through the state of Montana’s Behavioral Health board. As well, I received additional training in relation to suicide prevention and youth.
Wilderness First Aid + CPR Certification– (Missoula, MT) This wilderness training with Aerie brought me insight on emergency care in DIY situations. I recieved my CPR card from a Red Cross training.
Salish Kootenai College (Pablo, MT)
In process – Wildlife + Fisheries Biology, Bachelor of Science.
In palpable but abstract ways I feel already shifted by learning in a tribal-centered school. Completed classes include:
Chemistry, Introduction + College
Biology of Living Systems
Biological Psychology – Foundations of Brains and Behavior
Tribal Use of Plants – Bitterroot Salish focus
Principles of Ecology
Food Garden Intern – SKC Extension
Books, Podcasts, Articles, Publications, Passages, Videos, and More Which Had a Strong Impact –
– In more of a story-form –
My strongest, earliest influence comes from working with horses. I was able to ride, free of any bridle, rope or restraint; the communication between my horse and I was such that he would gallop, stop, or do fancy ‘footwork’ on request, all through the subtlest of communication. I developed a particular and keen awareness of non-verbal communication. Most importantly, as opposed to ‘breaking,’ forcing one creature’s desire upon another, I learned to find calmness before delving into further conversation.
Along with learning from horses in this way, I also taught youth and adults to work with horses. Teaching in this experiential learning setting fostered my ability to teach others how to listen and communicate in nonverbal ways.
My degree in Cultural Anthropology worked as a doorway through which I entered a world of art making. In my mid-twenties I began independently studying music, learning to compose and play in brass bands under the guidance of my expert friends. I began to paint, make puppetry and work in theater. Through theater, particularly my time working with Bread and Puppet Theater, I fell deeply in love with movement and dance. This love, combined with a longstanding interest in healing work, led me to ISLO’s Education in Dance and Somatics, in Finland.
I come from a family which struggles with many mental health difficulties including depression, addiction, anorexia, schizophrenia, alcoholism, compulsive eating/shopping, childhood sexual abuse, and other difficulties which evade DSM diagnosis. Through this, I have had experience as a patient, and as a first line of support, within the structure of psychiatry and psychotherapy.
I’m neuro-atypical, recently diagnosed autistic. I am not a huge fan of diagnostic categories, though I find them a bit helpful at times. When I work with people I continually try to find, with them, how much and which sorts of practices fit them, exactly where they are at; how I work and relate with others is informed by these aspects of myself.
In terms of what support/therapy styles have helped me, I find that the being-ness or the vibe of a practitioner/therapist/teacher is far more important than what modality they offer. That is – whether body based practices, talk therapy styles, or any other type of teacher/healer – the presence, life experience, world view, compassion, and whether or not I feel ‘seen’ by a practitioner – all of this feels more impacting than whatever particular style they might offer.
I have found the greatest support – the most useful tools for my daily life – via body-based and/or awareness practices, as well as via studying about biology behavior and cognition sciences (learning more about how all the parts of me/my body are in relationship, and in relation to my environment, others around me.) These have been some of the greatest sources of my healing and continual learning – that is why they are the tools I offer.
I grew up in now called San Juan Capistrano, California. My ancestors are mostly a mix of Gaelic Irish, Anglo, with some Flemish, and a wide variety of other white-skinned colonizer-settlers. Most of my ancestors arrived to Turtle Island (USA) about four generations ago.
I predominately identify as a ciswoman but dont feel strongly tied to gender. I don’t mind what pronouns you use in relation to me – so long as your words are not rooted in misogyny.
In terms of sensing, feeling mindful body work, I teach about it with my particular flavor of elbow grease, seasoned by my life experiences. I find that teachers all arrive with their personal strengths and weaknesses, sharing the knowledge of their own experience as humans. I come from a perspective that one’s personal life experiences influence how a practitioner thinks, works, relates. If you are looking for a practitioner with a related approach but different life experience, please do write for a recommendation. If my words and experience speak to you, I hope to meet soon!
A small pile of resources I have found/find to be especially helpful – a mixture of some of my early-learning-lineage and newer-to-me people who I love how they say: All My Relations, Dr Ginger Campbell’s Brain Science, Prentis Hemphill, Re-Rooted Podcast, Queer Nature, Pema Chodron, Gabor Mate, Michael Yellow Bird, Tara Brach, James Baldwin, Madness Radio, Paulo Freire, Francisco Varela, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, Peter Levine, Robert Sapolsky, and – especially – Art, Movement and Nature.
“To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread.” – Baldwin