A Somatic Experience

18 days ago I walked out of the forest from my Vision Quest. I walked out feeling clear and full of power and ready to kick ass. And life has sent me it’s fair share of things to work with. In some ways the quest was the easy part. Living life, living what I’ve learned, and continuing the kind of clarity that comes from 4 days and nights alone in the wilderness is not always so easy.

I’ve been thinking about past quests since then and one particular experience has been coming to mind. I want to share it with you. This experience was brewing prior to that quest and was connected to both nature and yoga, you’ll see why here in a minute. Here’s the story.

Quest guides that I’ve worked with tell you to take note of what happens in your life right before and after a quest as well as the quest itself, there is often a lot of power and insight that can happen around that time. The story I want to tell you happened right after a quest I did back in March 2009.

I spent that quest in the darkness. I built what looked like a mini sweat lodge, covered it with black plastic and lots of blankets and stayed inside all of the time, minus when I had to go to the bathroom. Am I crazy? Maybe:)

After my quest I returned home. The next morning I was sitting outside my front door. I was quiet. I could hear the birds singing, especially the winter wren. Then I noticed I feeling in my belly. It was uncomfortable and I could tell it was something I didn’t want to feel because the next thing I noticed was that I was pressing it down, pressing it away. (As I describe this please understand that it was not so much an intellectual thought as a feeling realization, it was all rooted in my body and my mind was helping me to understand.) Instead of feeling the need to label what was going on I made another decision and little did I know how much it would change my life. I decided to feel whatever it was that was going on inside me and let it move. So I did. I tracked the sensation. I didn’t get overwhelmed by it. I felt and watched as the sensation moved from my gut up my body and into my throat. That’s when I felt like I wanted to sing, so I did. And when I stopped, whatever that sensation was in my body was gone. And I felt good.

This lesson was so simple, yet it’s taken me quite awhile to actually apply this to my day to day life and still I work on it. When I feel something the best thing I can do for myself is to slow down, let go of the labels of what the sensations are related to (no father growing up, societal conditioning, etc.) and feel, track the energy. If I clamp down on it, it makes it worse and then I wake up every morning with a horrible pit in my stomach. When I make the choice to feel, movement and change happens. Those sensations are calling me to attention.

This kind of thing isn’t for everyone. Not everyone is ready for it. Some people can’t bear sensation in the same way I can. But everyone is capable of it if they train themselves and have support. My training grounds have been and are nature and movement, specifically yoga, and more to the point Forrest Yoga. Forrest Yoga is a system that teaches people to pay attention to themselves in a deep and healing way. Forrest Yoga was the tool that took my nature connection to the next level and helped me to understand what had been awakened in me during my intense nature connection time. Forrest Yoga taught me the art of inner tracking.

Somatic comes to us from the Greek and means “of the body”. Science is beginning to find direct correlation between our minds and our bodies. There is a whole realm of psychology that deals with this and it’s fascinating. Many therapists find that when their clients track sensation that’s brought up by traumatic experiences they can begin to release those sensations and actually move towards healing and long-term change. See Peter Levine‘s work on this subject.

You can try this. Someday in your life, it will probably be sooner rather than later, as we are humans after all, you will experience anger, sadness, some kind of emotion that your mind labels. When you are in that place stop and pay attention to how your body feels. What part of your body is activated? When you’ve located the place or places pay attention to the sensations, don’t be afraid of them, and please don’t label them too much. You can use descriptive words to help you feel the energy like sharp or dull or numb or prickly, but don’t, please a thousand times over, don’t over-intellectualize it. Feel it. Feel it. Feel it. Don’t dam it down. Let it move.

If you’ve had a traumatic personal history you may want to seek the help of a Somatic Psychologist, body-worker or therapist as you delve into this stuff. It isn’t for the faint of heart. But, in my experience, it makes life much easier, more fun, and much more worth living.

As always leave your stories and comments below. And if you do the above experiment leave your impressions!

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5 Responses to A Somatic Experience

  1. amy says:

    hay there, as soon as i read your post, i thought of Ray who i’ve worked with a fair bit – check him out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlFVeCli6Ao – i wonder how similar this is to forrest yoga? the somatic therepy you speak about sounds a lot like the therepy i got with Ray. x

  2. Beth says:

    Thanks for sharing such a personal experience. We all need reminders and reframings of this process of experiencing life rather than ignoring it. This reminded me so much of a post I recently shared: http://wp.me/p1qvpl-aN – It’s a similar idea from a different angle. And this story never gets old, since it’s the human condition. woooeee!

    Sounded like a great quest! I am curious about how you view a quest in comparison to a practice of meditation or something similar in non-quest days. Is this distinction important, and how often do you choose to create the quests- yearly? Just curious šŸ™‚

    • electrickat says:

      Hey Beth! Thanks for your question.
      A quest is incredibly different than a daily meditation practice. Because during a quest we spend around 4 days and nights or 96-hours “meditating”. I’ve heard some people call it “the sledgehammer approach to spirituality”. That seems about right. When we return from the quest to day to day life, that is when some kind of presence practice comes into play. Because boy is it easy to get swept up in the flow of life (and not always in a good way). A quest facilitates breakthroughs and gives enormous energy. A daily presence practice is titration, the slow burble of information. At least in my experience.

      At this point I’ve done 5 quests over the past 7 years, so not quite yearly. I quest when I feel called and that is a personal thing:)

      What do you think?

  3. Catherine de Marin says:

    As always your heart felt sharing resonates with me. There is something beautiful and fierce about your courage.

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