Naturalness and Paradox

Before you read on, I invite you to soften your eyes and the muscles around your jaw, to feel the ground underneath you, and to notice if there could be a little more space in your torso to receive that next inhale.
I want to share a poem from Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer that Erin reminded me of last week:
 For When People Ask
Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
I want a word that means
   okay and not okay,
a word that means
devastated and stunned with joy.
I want the word that says
     I feel it all, all at once.
The heart is not like a songbird
singing only one note at a time,
more like a Tuvan throat singer
able to sing both a drone
and simultaneously
two or three harmonics high above it—
a sound, the Tuvans say,
that gives the impression
of wind swirling among rocks.
The heart understands the swirl,
how the churning of opposite feelings
weaves through us like an insistent breeze,
leads us wordlessly deeper into ourselves,
blesses us with paradox
so we might walk more openly
into this world so rife with devastation,
this world so ripe with joy.
May we be blessed with paradox and open more deeply into this world so rife with devastation and so ripe with joy. In these times it feels of utmost important to grow large enough to hold that stretch of paradox.
Over Labor Day weekend, Erin and I had the honor of hosting close to 40 people for a three day grief-tending ritual in Salt Lake City. There is so much I could share around the power, beauty, and potency of that weekend, but one element that stands out is how much more capacity people had at the end to hold the paradox and stretch that Rosemerry points to in this poem. The more deeply we touched the grief and loss, the more joy, vitality, and love were present. The more we turned to face the devastating realities of our times, the more awe, wonder, and possibility were present. As fellow grief tender Shauna Janz has said, “Our grief does not need healing. Our healing needs our grief.”
This was the first time Erin and I have taught an in-person live retreat together since before the pandemic and it was beautiful to feel how the all the streams of study and practice we’ve delved into these last 25 years – somatics, meditation, deep ecology, soul work, ritual, poetry, voice and rhythm – all came together to support a container for this sacred work with grief. We have been honored and delighted to be joining Francis Weller and our dear colleagues and friends, Holly Truhlar and Alexandre Jodun, in teaching a 5-month training to support a community of grief-tenders from all around the world in doing this work.
A few years ago, Erin worked over many weeks and months in her journal to distill the essence of our work into a beautiful term – Somatic Naturalists.
I love this term as it points to several elements of what we do and of how we are. First, that we bring a naturalist’s quality of attention; the reverence of approach that Mary Oliver, Jane Goodall, George Washington Carver, or David Attenborough might embody when present in the natural world.
That is the quality of presence we bring to our soma, to our movement, to our inner lives, and of course to our clients and students.. Not trying to fix, hack, or transcend, but rather to deepen intimacy; to apprentice ourselves to our embodied intelligence and the intelligence of the natural world of which we are both a part and an expression.
Another element of our work is that just about everything we teach is about returning to qualities that are innate and natural to us as humans, yet often need a little dusting off. We treasure practices that help us remember through the veil of forgetfulness. Being in a community ritual often feels familiar as humans have gathered like this for hundreds of thousands of years. Learning to rest at home in your naturally open mind and your naturally open heart in meditation can be a return to naturalness. Remembering how to move with the innate grace, ease, strength, and sensitivity that we witness in children and animals is natural.  It is all about returning to what is already here and accessible when we take the time to tune in.
I’m really looking forward to diving into this territory in my Natural Movement in an Animate World class that begins Monday.
There is an open secret that I wish more people could experience: When you experience the inner-world of your entire body as alive, intelligent, wild, and in ongoing relationship with the intelligent, animate world around you, it changes everything about how you move in the world. Your strength, sensitivity, mobility, alignment, your sense of pleasure and grace – they all emerge when moving from this experiential wholeness.
Like animals or children, we don’t have to pull our shoulders back or loop this or tuck that or bio-hack our breathing. We just need to be in ongoing, respectful relationship between the infinite inner-world and the infinite outer world, breath by breath.
You are most welcome to join us. Classes are recorded if you cannot make it live.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. We’re grateful to be connected.
With love and gratitude,
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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.