Effects of This Work.
For many people these practices bring about calm-vitality. They often soften emotions and enliven, calm nervous systems, bring about more fluid thinking, foster resiliency, soften past trauma, bring more ease with/in your body, and they tend to bring forth a sense of spaciousness. A feeling of alive-peace.
After awhile, people often experience slow changes in their daily-life behavior. This happens at about the speed of plants. Your eyes might not see the change happening – but usually the slow moving-ness seems to do it’s thing.
What is It, Though, What Do We Do?
My best-favorite answer to this question is not words but instead, trying a short practice.
For a wordy response about the one-on-one work I do with people:
We start our session by talking a bit. Once I have a little sense of you/your life situation, I propose a practice. Depending on who you are, we might work with a breath practice. Or we might work with imagination-visualization-memory, or moving actively. Depending on where you’re at we might use quite focused mental-attention work, or body-based activation/play, we might work without ‘mindfulness’ at all. There are many options. We aim to start with practices that seem to fit you, right at you are in that moment.
I work as a guide, inviting you to investigate what you sense and feel. We work with asking yourself questions and I support you in listening to your bodily-sensation responses. As we explore bodily sensations – thought and emotions usually begin to change. When that happens it often feels a bit like magic, spontaneous, without effort.
Big and Small Changes.
For people who are seeking to work towards big life changes, such as healing work, learning, or establishing new habits – that sort of change reminds me of making an emulsion sauce. If we do too much, too fast, we “break” the sauce. If we move to slow, the sauce never happens. So, we do our best to move at pace that fits you. When we find this pace, often, these sorts of practices tend to bring nourishing-feeling changes into your life.
Too, we work in small steps. Whether your hope is towards big change or just a little help over a little life bump or phase, we work in small ways. While holding the overall situation in mind, we do our best to engage with the situation one bite-size piece at a time. And we rest in between periods of more challenging work.
Some aspects of you may be less prone to change; some parts of you might get distracted or resistant-feeling. This happens a lot, for a lot of people. When these parts ‘speak up’, we spend time listening to them. We foster relationships with these parts. We don’t necessarily do what they say, but we make it a point to really listen and feel what is going on with them.
Our neuro-body types vary so much, and our social environments + realities vary a great deal. Because of this: what amount and what speed of change matches one person, may not work for someone else. As I see it, not doing well is not necessarily a sign of one person not knowing how to better support themselves – it is certainly a sign that there may be something awry in the environment, in the social-ecosystem of their life. Together, we aim to listen to what fits you, within your present life situation.
As far as I have found, there is not an easy-peasy test you can take to figure out questions like – what can you change? what can you not change? how fast can you change? and so on. So, what we do together, is to work in a super personalized way. We work at a pace that seems to fit YOU. We work with practices that seem to work for you. As we move along, we regularly take time to reflect, how’s it going? Does it feel like we are on a path and pace that seems nourishing? Should we adjust our course or pace?
If all of this is sounds very unfamiliar or confusing to you, you are not alone. This stuff usually makes way more sense after doing a bit of it.
Bigger Than Self – Fostering Relationships.
Along with sensing into your inner experience, we work to help you feel how you are in relation with the world-others around you. Fostering relationships with people and with the rest of nature is central to how I work with people.
We work on sensing into relationships and systemic dynamics around you – noticing, how do you respond to different environments, people. I work in a way which considers you as you are situated in the midst of your current ecosystems.
As you gain skill in listening-into yourself – these same listening skills are then applied to sense/listen to other creatures around you – be they humans or trees with the aim of getting curious, listening to them.
Thus, these practices might be referred to as learning, healing, emotional intelligence, communication skills, or so forth.
Broadly speaking about embodiment-mindful-somatic work.
Some practices, like sitting meditation, yoga or kung fu have a general name, with a variety of specific styles (such as Vipassana meditation, Iyengar yoga, or Shaolin Wushu kung fu). Some practices are integrated into cultural ceremony. Some practices are trademarked (such as Rolfing).
Some practices never even needed a special name – people just do them. This sort of work is not so much defined by what one is doing. Rather it is more about how one is doing.
One can do this style of work in a variety of ways: in solo, in one-on-one settings, in groups, in formal practice, or woven into everyday life – such as having sex, talking politics or washing dishes.
In the words of Glenna Batson, “Somatic approaches emphasize sensory awareness (paying attention to sensing)…in somatics, kinesthetic awareness functions largely as a potent agent of change – a powerful means of altering habit…Just as the mind organizes the rest of the body’s tissues into a life process, sensations to a large degree organize the mind. They do not simply give the mind material to organize; they are themselves a major organizing principle.”
I think it is important to re-emphasize: this is age-old stuff. People have been noticing how they feel for ages. You do not necessarily need someone to teach you how to start noticing how you feel or how to do a daily somatic, centering practice.
For example, maybe you already have a practice of getting a hug from someone you love, or maybe drinking a nice big glass of water – as something that nourishes you? Many people are already skilled at doing informal somatic practices; they just might not think about it or recognize it or talk about it in a formal way.
That said, it often helps to work with someone well-versed in these sorts of practices, who has many practices in their tool box. Especially if you were not taught to sense in these ways, if you were taught to stop feeling, or perhaps learned that feeling is very dangerous. Too, for everyone, often times it is just nice to have support. I feel like amazing things often happen when someone just shows up to support you, to hold space with you.
The way I work with these practices aim towards elastic terrain. That is, rather than trying to force change, such as in boot camp environments – this work is characterized by mental-emotional-physical stretching, encouraging, allowing – not forcing.
Sometimes we work hard, we lean-in towards difficult, edgy terrain. Sometimes we rest in a restoration practice, or sometimes we ‘work’ by doing nothing particular.
How Does it Work?
One way I think about it is that there are many parts of ‘you’. In a literal way, I consider various organs such as skin, hearts, intestines, and cells, as well as all of the flora and fauna in microbiomes – as well, one could consider any abstract, unknown, or spiritual aspects that feel like they are a part of you.
For various reasons, some parts of you can get sort of shoved down, be ‘unheard’ by other parts, or go dormant. When people do these practices, often times some learning or remembering often emerges. It feels like the parts of you get more integrated.
In short, what I find is that when all the parts have space to ‘speak up’, they come into more integrated conversation. I sorta feel like all the parts of me come closer to being on the same page, so to speak.
When thinking about change, I’m reminded of the popular science term, neuroplasticity. A simplified way to talk about this is: how your thinking-emotions work, how your ‘neurons fire’ – this sort of stuff can change to some degree, there is some plasticity to it. Over time you may notice that your nervous system or thinking-emotions feel a bit more alive/calm feeling, less anxious. Neuroscience, psychology and more academic disciplines study and sometimes provide science evidence about how this sort of work effects your physiology. When you do certain practices, it has an effect. Each part affects all the other parts – just like it is for all ecosystems.
In many ways, I find science study to be extremely supportive of this embodied-doing work – so much so that I am now pursuing a science degree. Of course, science is just one type of knowledge system, there are many others. Before fields like neuroscience, psychology or ‘somatics’ existed, many cultures throughout time, throughout the world have worked with a wide variety of related sorts of practices.
Many of these practices are still alive and flourishing, such as a wide variety of ceremonial dancing, Hatha yoga, Taoist meditation, and countless informal practices like just being quite, listening. Depending on the specific practice, and the specific cultural context, many people throughout the world have various ideas of what is happening and how it works.
At the end of the day, I myself could not say I know definitively what is happening and exactly how it works. My aim is to help you find experiences, tools and practices that support you – which work with the spiritual, cultural, conceptual framing that you arrive with. Of course, I arrive with my own ideas, speculations, preferences, ways of working but my aim is to support your own path.
I do know that – whatever is happening – this work frequently brings forth vital-alive and calm feelings, and expands ones capacity for inter-relating with other humans and all of nature.