Embodiment & Animism

A note from Carl:

 

Friends,

 

We hope this note finds you well in this very interesting world of 2020. Before I get into this week’s writing, I want to mention some of our upcoming offerings that can be helpful for meeting these intensive times and digesting and integrating the ride we’ve all been on these last 6 months. You’re warmly invited to join us.

Our September online Embodiment Lab began this week with the theme of “Bones, Breath, and Animist Embodiment.”  Such a powerful topic which we’re thrilled to unpack. You can still join us and we’d love to have you. Only $50.

Is your heart feeling heavy? We also will be holding a one-day online Grief Ritual by donation on Sat, Oct 3rd. Read more and sign up at the link above.

Erin will be teaching a “Digesting 2020: Embodying Compassion for Self & World” online course starting in October. (Registration will open next week.)

We are so looking forward to teaching an online weekend meditation and movement retreat, “Grounded and Spacious: A Retreat in Movement and Stillness,” on October 23-24th. You are warmly invited, whether you’re a seasoned meditator or someone who’s newly coming around to the idea that meditation might be just right to support your sanity and well-being during these times. (We have plans to return to the Crestone Mountain Zen Center in the gorgeous Sangre de Cristo mountains in Colorado next fall to offer a similar retreat in person, as this year’s live event had to move to an online format.)

We also have two wonderful new podcasts: The Mythic Masculine, where I speak with Ian Mackenzie, and Embodying Sacred Activism where we speak with the amazing Cynthia Jurs. Both are wonderfully heartening and inspiring conversations.
 

Embodiment is a word that has been gaining popularity recently. For years, when we would use the term to describe our work, people would often get the same puzzled look they got if we used the word “Feldenkrais.” But now, embodiment is everywhere. Embodied writing, embodied therapy, embodied trauma work – the free online Embodiment Conference that I’ll be presenting at next month has almost 200,000 people signed up… Clearly there is a need and a yearning for a return to the living intelligence of the body.

A piece that is often missed, however, is that our embodiment does not end at the edges of our skin. Our embodiment is always relational.  At this very moment, our bones are being continuously reformed through the pull of gravity toward the center of the Earth, our inhales and exhales are the reciprocal breaths of trees and plants.

As Gene Gendlin, the creator of Focusing, said:

“Your physically felt body is, in fact, part of a gigantic system of here and other places, now and other times, you and other people, in fact the whole universe. This sense of being bodily alive in a vast system is the body as it is felt from the inside.”

I would add to Gendlin’s line that is it not just other people but all beings that are part of our physically felt bodies. These immense Wasatch mountains to the East out my window are part of my felt body as are the finches bantering outside, along with a heaviness and tenderness in my heart that springs from the countless uprooted 100-year-old trees that were blown down in the hurricane-like windstorm that moved through our valley this week. All of that and so much more are a part of my bodily experience as I type this.

In many ways, the process of disconnection from our embodiment and disconnection from Nature and from Earth are the same. We separate. We mentally turn living beings, living presences into objects and relate to them from a place of separation and often of domination.

When we open to the non-objectified, living, intelligent presence of the body, we can’t help but open in relationship to the living, intelligent presence of the animate world.

I know for myself, learning to inhabit my body initially felt like learning a new language, just as learning to be in an intimate connection with a deer I meet in a canyon or the plants that grow in our yard can feel. But really, animism and embodiment are much more like remembering an old language than learning a new one. A native tongue that has been forgotten by many of us.

“The animacy of the world is something we already know, but the language of animacy teeters on extinction—not just for Native peoples, but for everyone. Our toddlers speak of plants and animals as if they were people, extending to them self and intention and compassion—until we teach them not to. We quickly retrain them and make them forget. When we tell them that the tree is not a who, but an it, we make that maple an object; we put a barrier between us, absolving ourselves of moral responsibility and opening the door to exploitation.”

 ― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

This process that Robin Wall Kimmerer describes of making a “who” into an “it” has so many implications and it so common, though often unrecognized. We can make our body an it. We can make our back-pain an it. We can make people who we disagree with politically into its. We can make the maple and the ground beneath our feet, the water and air that nourish us, into its.  When we turn anything or anyone into an “it,” we separate, we fall out of a living relationship.

So much about embodiment, so much of animist ways of being, to me, comes down this same root question: How do I recognize myself as part of a field of living interconnected lives and participate in those connections with as much care, awareness, curiosity, and respect as possible? 
In our recent podcast conversation, Cynthia Jurs was speaking about the climate crisis and she said, “She is always trying to communicate with us,”  referring to Gaia, the living, intelligent Earth, trying to show us ways of being that don’t lead to the destruction of life on this planet.

May each of us find our own ways to listen, through our bodies, to what she is saying.

We are deeply looking forward to exploring and unpacking this theme in the Embodiment Lab this month.
 

 

 

Some Things, Say the Wise Ones
By Mary Oliver

 

Some things, say the wise ones who know everything,

are not living. I say,

You live your life your way and leave me alone.

 

I have talked with the faint clouds in the sky when they

are afraid of being behind; I have said, Hurry, hurry!

and they have said, Thank you, we are hurrying.

 

About cows, and starfish, and roses there is no

argument. They die, after all.

 

But water is a question, so many living things in it,

but what is it itself, living or not? Oh, gleaming

 

generosity, how can they write you out?

 

As I think this I am sitting on the sand beside

the harbor. I am holding in my hand

small pieces of granite, pyrite, schist.

Each one, just now, so thoroughly asleep.

 

 

With much appreciation for your presence in our lives,
-Carl

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Erin

By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.