The Physiology of Belonging

A note from Carl:

Good day!

Because we cannot be reminded too often to pause and return to our direct, embodied, sensory experience, as you are reading this, could you take a moment to feel the support of the ground beneath you? Could you open to receive the sounds around you?  What are the smells that are present? Might your eyes relax just a little as they take in the light of the screen on which you are reading, along with whatever else is in your visual field?
For me, the computer or phone is one of the more challenging places to stay embodied, so I need all sorts of reminders. I’ll probably do that check-in again every 5 or 10 minutes as I write this.

Last month, when Erin and I were attending a grief ritual facilitation training with Francis Weller, he shared this poem from the Portuguese poet, Sophia de-Mello Breyner:
I’m listening

But I don’t know

If what I hear is silence

Or God.


I’m listening

But I can’t tell

If I hear the plane of emptiness echoing

Or a keen consciousness

That at the ends of the universe

Deciphers and watches me.


I only know that I walk like someone

Who is beheld.


And known.


And because of this

I put into my every movement

Solemnity and risk.

Isn’t that a beautiful poem? I’ve been holding those last lines as an inquiry in these last weeks. What does it feel like to walk like someone who is beheld, beloved and known?



Imagine yourself walking, imagine the people around you walking with a clear, unmistakable sense of being beheld, beloved and known. What is the pace of that walk? What is the facial expression? What is the quality of breathing? How loud is the inner-voice of criticism? What is the inner-environment of the neck and shoulders? What is the quality of interaction with others?

I’ve been experimenting with leaning a bit more into those qualities and really letting myself take in the bodily experience of being beheld – by the Earth in this moment, how I was beheld by BayoAkomolafe and the rich field of connection in our local Salt Lake community in his workshop last weekend. Beloved, by Erin, by our son, Mesa, by family and friends. And known, again by Erin and Mesa, by my teachers, my homies, my colleagues, and known by my own curiosity and care. Letting myself experience that is damn good medicine.

Of course, none of us are beheld, beloved and known perfectly, and without some kind of intervening intention, we will more often steep in the bodily experience of how we are not known, not seen, not loved well enough, and miss or skip right over the many ways that we are.

Could you give yourself a little dose of this in this very moment? Could you take a few moments and take in the ways you are known, loved, held?  Thinking of your dog, your best friend, your lover, your children, a canyon, a tree, the poets, your significant teachers…
If you really take it in, it might change the way you walk much more than any instructions on gait or posture.

I love how in the next line of the poem, she goes on to say,
And because of this, I put into every movement, solemnity and risk.”

That is a pretty sweet quality to put to your every movement.

May it be so.



We'd love it if you'd consider sharing with your networks.
Share on Facebook
Pin on Pinterest
Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn
Email this to someone
Don't miss a single post. Sign up here to get them delivered straight to your inbox.
Posted in


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.