After over 18 years of study and practice, I’ve come to believe that if we want to really get to the roots of healing and experience the freedom, joy and potential that is our birthright, we need to work on the level of the nervous system.
In the Somatic therapies we often talk about neuroplasticity, or rewiring the brain.
In order to do this – to take advantage of our brain’s capacity for change, we must learn how to become our own self-healer.
We must build a toolkit of skills and resources that allow us to continually release the past so we can show up more fully ~ body, mind & soul ~ in the present moment.
And yet seemingly contradictory is the fact that we cannot do this alone.
Healing is not a solo journey if we want to go all the way.
We are wounded in relationship, and we must also heal in relationship.
And so while we do the help and guidance of others, what I love about Somatic Awakening and many of the other Somatic-based therapies is that it is so empowering because while we receive support, we also learn how to – as my teacher and colleague who you met over the past month, Irene Lyon says – become our own medicine.
Awakening the felt sense is a primary skill we must develop in order to become our own medicine.
We must learn to feel our bodies and track the sensations in our bodies just as we would follow the trail of a deer in the forest.
Gently, softly, quietly ~ all senses open.
It sounds super cheesy, but as Peter Levine (Somatic Experiencing) says ~ “Feeling is healing!”
In fact, one way to define trauma (that may be very different from what we typically think) is any experience that that overwhelmed our nervous system and sent us into shut down – too much, too fast, too soon – so our nervous system protected us by keeping the full experience separate from awareness…”
We hold onto this experience in our bodies – even if we don’t consciously remember it, until we have a safe container to process it in and integrate the shut down part of ourself into the present moment.
Our nervous system is so amazing, really.
She literally doesn’t allow us to feel anything that is too painful or too intense – especially when we are children and our little system is still developing and we just don’t have the capacity for big sensations/feelings without an adult with a healthy nervous system to help calm us down. ***note: adults with optimally healthy nervous systems are rare – so most of us didn’t get this!!!
When something happens that is too much, too fast, too soon, and we don’t have anyone there to hold us through it and help us feel safe, we can literally shut down or turn off our SENSES in that moment.
Eventually, we feel less, and less…and less.
Our awareness becomes more and more contracted to the point where it may feel like we have blinders on – and not just on our eyes but on all of our senses.
Our nervous system becomes, as my teacher Jon Young (8 Shields) says, like a root-bound plant – disconnected from ourselves, from others, and even from our first mother ~ Nature.
So awakening the felt sense is very powerful, because our awareness returns to the body.
Feeling is healing.
Through the body, we rewire our brain.
I learned in a recent training with Mariah Moser (Opening to Grace, Relational Somatic Psychotherapy) that body awareness also increases our capacity for compassion.
“Research has shown that the more a person is aware of their own body, the more their insula lights up in an MRI. The more active the insula is, the more empathic they are to other people, which is the foundation of compassion and loving kindness.”
Some humans have evolved to the point where we think that our bodies only purpose is to carry around our giant brains.
I would like to blame Rene Descartes (“I think therefore I am”) for imprinting this fascinating yet fatal idea upon Western Civilization, and yet I’m quite certain the origins of this imprint are far more complex than one guys obsession with his Thinking Mind.
As has been known for thousands of years by our Buddhist friends, the Thinking Mind can be very useful, but it can also cause us all kinds of trouble.
But who can we trust???
Fortunately, Somatic Therapy is proving to be so effective at helping people recover from such a wide array of both chronic and acute issues, both emotional and physical, that we large-brained Westerners may be willing more and more to put our trust back into the wisdom of the body.
Through listening to our bodies, we begin to reawaken our senses.
Through awakening our senses, we relearn how to listen to our bodies.
As we awaken our senses, we increase our capacity to feel, see, hear and be with what IS.
We increase our capacity for connection – like the root bound plant transplanted into the earth we reclaim our connection with our bodies, our full selves ~ our own true nature.
We increase our capacity to connect with each other and with our surroundings (Mother Nature).
We increase our ability to feel empathy, compassion and loving kindness to ourselves and others.
Really, what could be better?
Over the next several weeks I will be walking you through the steps of Awakening the Felt Sense ~ from very basic exercises that will allow you to begin to get in touch with your body if you feel very out of touch (the awesome thing is these practices also are SOOOO beneficial to go back to even if you are more advanced!), to more advanced practices that will take you deeper.
Stay tuned and please also share this with anyone you think may benefit by sending them here! 🙂