VOTE

The etymology of the word vote is in Latin votum, vow - a solemn promise or assertion: one by which a person is bound to an act, service, or condition and wish. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

To vote is to speak out our values, our beliefs, our hopes.

To vote is to place our confidence on somebody, who will carry our values, beliefs and hopes - and act on them. With a vote we provide a mandate for a course of action. Something to be done on our behalf.

The vote is our voice.

Your voice.

Use it.

Support precedes movement.

In the last decade or so, Somatics, or at least the parallel term Embodiment, has perked its head up in the mainstream. While back in the day I wasn't sure about the reasons of being a member of any professional association, I am becoming more and more clear, and outspoken, about how we need to keep clarifying the professional standards of this work. We need to learn the skills to take this work into where it is needed, including underprivileged communities. We need to examine our own ableist privileges, and we need to do way better than offer retreats for those who can afford it, in distant, exotic corners of the world. This work goes beyond the self, including self-promotion. It has to. We need to recognize our lineages, pay respect to our teachers - which in many cases have been women, or circles of women - and know that our responsibility is to take the work forward, in the ways that we are both inspired to do, and in ways that recognize the complexities and challenges of our current political and social environments. This work is about community building, it is relational work. Embodiment cannot really happen without us recognizing the contexts within which we practice. And with whom we are practicing. This work is participatory. While it resonates at a cellular level, at an evolutionary level, we can't by-pass the various cultures, languages or traditions we work in. We need to learn how to create dialogues, how to ask, invite and empower. And while we represent knowledge based on kinesthetic experience and oral traditions, we also need to have our voices heard in the complimentary fields of academic and scientific research, where our work has often become fodder for someone else's research.

Supporting a professional affiliation, such as ISMETA or the Body-Mind Centering Association, is to acknowledge where we are coming from, recognizing the many years and decades of rigorous, commited study that has been done, and promoting an ongoing research and a future evolution of this work.

www.ismeta.org
www.bmcassociation.org

 

2018 - Upcoming Research on Ecosomatics and Radical Embodiment

In the heels of the grant I just received from Koneen Säätiö - Kone Foundation, I will let this blog resurface from its long hibernation, and have it become one of the canvasses for my upcoming research. As writing will be one of the main forms utilized, this blog is my drafting board - in the feeble hopes of some engagement from you who read this.

This first post after so long is one of gratitude - for students, colleagues, friends and family for their unwavering support and presence over the years. There would not have been (paid) work without some of the connections, based on mutual respect and willingness to share one's good fortunes. Thank you. You know who you are, though there will be a moment to name you more specifically and publicly. And for the students who've come to my workshops, shared their experiences and made me realize that this work is worth taking forward. It actually has made a difference in people's lives. Mine included.

And to Koneen Säätiö, Thank You for boldly supporting unconventional practices. They truly provide a life line for diversity in the arts and sciences (in Finland at least), for allowing a multiplicity of voices to blossom. I am proud to be witnessed and supported as a bold maker. This privilege comes with responsibility, and I feel the strong urge to keep following this hunch, to keep leaning toward the unknown and see what emerges.

 

 

Journal Notes 9/2007

I stand in Ruth’s yurt, my back towards her, my gaze reaching out the dusty window out into the mountains far in the horizon. The heat has packed itself in the room, the wood is soft and cool under my feet. I feel Ruth’s eyes on me. She talks to me about finding my animal, the empowered position where I am willing to feel the kinesthetic response of my body, and following that lead, staying with it. ”It does not reside in the make-sense level”, she says; ”You are still trying to know.” She wants me to notice more closely what I already do and not just go on automatic, loosing the life in my actions and thus the possibilities for other choices than the utterly safe and familiar. The animal metaphor strikes a sounding chord, since I know in my flesh what she is talking about, even as my rational mind is completely lost by her urging. Yes, I am still desperately trying to know, while also sensing that it is the listening of the flesh which begins the process of allowing me to organize the world and it’s realities anew. As we construct our world through our senses, and as certain pathways become habitual and well trodden over time, we begin to see what we expect to see. Ultimately, what we perceive determines what we know – and what we think is real (1). Yet the plasticity of our perception offers hope for change. The process of recognizing and changing the filters of association and categorization through which incoming signals are screened, as in the practice of improvisation, can expand our perceptual conditioning and habits. (2)

1. Andrea Olsen, 2002. Body and Earth, An Expriental Guide. 55.

2. ibid. 56.

 

 

 

Approximate Answers & Possible Beliefs

The above quote by Richard Feynman is the closest truth I have experienced - a worthy reminder for every time I teach or work with a client. Or just go about my daily life as a mother and a partner. Whatever needs I have "to be right", "to get it right" or even occasionally, to provide a student with an answer that they can hold onto as the "truth", this should remain as the meta perspective. In a way, this also provides us with a perspective of what and how to teach. What skills are necessary for us as we navigate through immense amounts of continually changing information? How do we support the potential growth in each other, rather than attempt to provide answers that revolve around a fixed point?

Nature Body

These last two months I've immersed myself in these surroundings - the ground that used to be ocean, the large pieces of rocks moved by the shifting glaciers, the ribbons of migrating birds, the rapid weather cycles blowing through this piece of land, once an island. My body has begun to respond more easily, more fluidly to the scenery, to the sinking moss under my boots, even accepting of the heaviness, an accumulation of the short northern days in my tissue.

Today I watched the light glide across the grey surface of the bay. Beginning from the other shore, its yellow beam tracing and revealing the pleats of the water, the contours of the tiny islets, the glowing wheat color of the dried reeds, finally shining it's light to expose a rainbow. The dance of the weather so evident and moving, I found myself momentarily gasping.

But the beauty of my body's response was, that I didn't feel myself grasping at the scenery any longer. My eyes simply received what so shiftly kept changing. What a change in perceiving, as I let go of the need to hold and secure the memory of this beauty - and simply allow myself to be touched by it.

 

The discource of the Trees

I read about this man who can tell by listening, what kind of tree he is next to. I am not yet sure if my ears can be that supple. But I've been training my hands to listen long enough to the tissue of a human being, that I might be able to detect the quality of a tree if I pratice long enough. I think it's a worthy goal.

Years ago I took tree showers with a friend. Paul. We would leave the meditation center where we both were doing long term service, and find some trees, not that numerous in the english country side I must sadly add. But I remember a particular Yew by an old stone chapel, that seemed to rain it's presence upon our delicately tuned nervous systems. We ran under that Yew, and others, giddy from the glimmer that filled the space around them. Returning back to the center, the silence, the cushion, the practice of sitting, I remember being filled with an expansive lightness and freshness.

Last night I placed my hands on a large Oak - rare in these parts of the world - but already massive at 300 years. How do I explain what I felt. A tingle that erupts into a shimmer, fills me internally, as if the tree connects with a running current inside of me. It feels like my depleted nervous system gets a charge, my internal space becomes cleansed. What did not flow, now does.

Today I went to a Spruce. I noticed myself a little hesitant. How do I enter the presence of another? Placing my hands on their bark, the difference between the oak's expansiveness and the spruce's quiet depth was notable. The Spruce seemed to pull me in toward the center, the color felt deeper, I became still. I thought about what I knew about the Spruce, how it is a shadow tree, how slowly it grows. Again as I was leaving the tree, I felt hesitant. How do I part? I felt clumsy, as if I didn't quite know the manners of this new place. Do I bow, say thank you. How do I acknowledge this meeting with the other? When did I become so unpracticed in the ways of the woods? While living in the city and not connecting enough with the trees around me, I assume.

It is not words I hear - it is not about hearing at all. The information I receive is purely kinesthetic.

So this is the daily practice which revealed itself, as I arrived here in this place, surrounded by truly magnificent Oaks, Spruces, Birches, Rowans.

* Let me learn some of your ways as I yield my porous skin toward your bark, listening to your subtle pulse, noticing the color of the veil that surrounds me in your presence.

Unfasten my allegiance to my own single species.

Call my errant spirit back home to its senses.

In the forest, all is body.*

Embodying the Pelvic Floor

One of the aspects of embodied anatomy I love to teach is the Pelvic Floor. It is a powerful place of support, and rich in potential expression.

Pelvic floor is an integral part of our core support - and here I speak of core support as a verb, a dynamic relationship with ourselves and the events in your life. Pelvic floor is a station along the myofascial line from feet to head, a "drum skin" that reverberates with the other diaphragms of the body - the bottoms of the feet, thoracic diaphragm, thoracic inlet, vocal chords, soft palate and Tentorium Cerebelli. Even the palms of our hands. It supports not only our movement, breath and voice, but also our expression.

The pelvic floor muscles are what wag the tail of the dog. And similarly, we express emotions through our pelvic floor.

Think of something happy - like meeting a good friend after a long time. Notice how your tail and pelvic floor respond to this image. Do you notice the happy little wag in the lowest part of the spine, your tail?

Now imagine being ashamed, or being told off. What happens in your tail/pelvic floor now?

Our body-mind is a creature which responds to every event in our lives. It's not just our minds saying "So great to see you!" as our whole body expressing that emotion.

At least let's hope so.

Now imagine meeting that same old friend and holding your tail still. Which is what many of us tend to do, unconsciously. Do you notice how that changes your emotion, your expressive quality? How does that read as an action? Is that familiar?

Gaining an experience of the pelvic floor as a station along your deep core fabric, can build an understanding of it's integral role in your emotional and physical health - and by health I mean your adaptivity and ability to respond. Any holding pattern in one area of the body, resonates along the connective tissue lines, precipitating further holding and cutting down the choices for movement and expression.

When it comes to health, we like choice. The basis of somatic work is to provide you with more choice. And when it comes to injury or trauma, or just long-term unconscious habitual usage, that range of choice has often become severely limited.

Anatomically pelvic floor (or pelvic diamond) is a set of muscles stretched across the bony landmarks of your tail bone, sit bones and pubic bone, thus creating a diamond shape.

Pelvic diamond - muscular hammock, or diaphragm, consisting of the levator ani and coccygeus muscles and their fascias.

 

To embody your pelvic floor begins with a sensory process; we need to come aware of what is present to our nervous system through sensation first. You may want to spend some time holding the bony landmarks and allowing your sensitivity to develop by staying with the various tissues and the sensations accompanying them - be they warmth, tingling, pain, pressure etc. It is really just about staying present to the tissue, not trying to change anything.

If you like, the pelvic diamond can also be sensed as four quadrants - a diamond separated into front and back halves, and then again into right and left halves. This can give a great deal of information about various areas of the pelvic floor, tensions in one quadrant being more noticeable than on another, for example.

Breathing and sounding (hissing) is a way to focus your awareness even more acutely to this area, which often is rather void of sensation. By practice (and I'll share one shortly), we can train the pelvic floor to feel, to notice and to adapt.

The goal is not to judge what you sense, rather just staying with what ever is present - even if it is "nothing". This "staying with the sensation" (or even staying with the "nothing") is a great way to map this, or any area, back into your body schema.

While there is much more to say about this area of the body and it's health implications - I want to end with an exercise I've created, called pelvic floor writing.

Please take a pen and a note book/paper. Crayons/paints if your more visually inclined.

Get in touch with the sensations at the level of your pelvic floor or the bony landmarks. The "task" is to write from those sensations that you notice - and dedicating yourself to return back to the pure sensation if you notice yourself being pulled away by the content or the ideas in your writing. Write without editing at least half page to a page at a time. Drawing or painting from the sensation is also an option. See what speaks to you most strongly.

This can be done with another person, or within a small group as an exercise of embodiment, building mutual support of that process.

May it yield surprising gifts to you.

600720_4950109063251_796586215_n.jpg

Communities or Audiences?

The other night I had the privilege to perform to a full house in Gothenburg, Sweden - after a 4 year long hiatus away from the theater stage, chewing on the question of "why to perform"? Those who know me, know that I am not a seeker of the limelight. I've often struggled with the idea of performance, the reasons for doing it. Truthfully, the best performances that I have ever seen, were not performances at all. Like Julia Butterfly Hill (her stay in Luna sealed my path as an activist). Or the group of Tibetan Monks walking down the busy street of Delhi in 1991, as if they were walking in the forest. (The moment that turned me into a buddhist). Or that guy who climbed up the wall and into some parliamentary office during Reclaim the Streets in London, like 2 decades ago. (The moment that made me question my dance training). And the papers he threw down the window fell like snow. Therefore even prior to the hiatus, most of my work was participatory, I was more interested in the audience looking at themselves, than looking at me. "I" did not have any need to be seen.

So on Friday night, accompanied by my wonderfully talented partner Sten, we performed a duet. And along the stumbling and moments of being lost, I realized there was a pathway that I followed that was not about me/us at all. I was (getting) over myself and therefore free to improvise. The me that was left, was there in the moments of lostness, the moments I doubted or questioned the sensory pathway. And that I can live with. I can live with performance being a practice of aliveness, practice of curiosity, practice of willfull failure. Practice of deep listening, be it the various tissues of the body, the trees, the constant hum of the city or the falling of the paper snow.