There are some ideas that may be useful to bear in mind as you enter the world of somatic practice. These ideas are foundations that support our continued unfolding, and our experience of our selves. They are valid no matter where we find ourselves, from the very beginning of our journey into the world of somatics, to our ongoing explorations of the territory years later.
I have structured this advice as little prose-poems, to be read and absorbed (slowly). Sometimes I repeat myself, in slightly different ways, because different things catch and resonate with different people. It is the same when we practice. Take what supports you.
and patiently; do not be afraid to pause, or stop entirely for some time. There is no rush to complete anything, or to experience anything. Everything is waiting for you in every moment. You can take your time.
Also, when you end a practice, take enough time to re-orient yourself to the outer world. The softer and smoother your transition, the easier it will be for you, and the more your practice and life will be integrated.
If you do nothing else: relax. Relaxation is the keystone of somatic practice. It is the ground from which we begin. Without it, things become very difficult to sense, feel, explore. See if you can find a sense of ease and rest in everything you do: no struggle.
Relaxing gives us space to move, softens our inhibitions, and allows for our natural curiosity to guide us. Relax the way a baby does, and trust that you will find your way.
The practices are for you, to experience yourself in new ways. Sometimes they are nourishing, and other times may be scary. You do not have to force yourself into anything. Just dip your toes into the water, and see what happens. You have everything to gain from being gentle, kind, soft with yourself.
Somatic practices by their nature are exploratory. They are process-oriented. We are not striving for anything, or achieving anything, or arriving anywhere. The moment we are in, the experience we are having, is the best one to explore and open up to.
Exploration means, and needs, curiosity. It is difficult to see anything, if you think you know what’s there already. Our many expectations, opinions and judgments only get in the way of discovery.
Somatic practices are a learning process. You may not be able to sense or feel what is guided immediately, or even after a long time. It doesn’t much matter. The act of connecting in an embodied way will give you what you need in the moment, and carry you onward.
your own process, your feelings, your intuitions, your reactions. Follow your own sense of what is right for you, and what is not. Your body is your guide.
Again, and again
Repeat things as many times as you need to. Every time you do something, it is different, because you are different. So in this sense, there is no real repetition.
Sometimes things will be repeated in a practice—elements that are foundational, or the same idea expressed in different ways. This is so that each individual has a chance to absorb what means something, or sparks something, in them. So if you don’t understand something the first time it is presented, wait, and see if there are different ways into that experience that you can try. You never know what will click.
The journey is a spiral, no backwards or forwards or upwards or downwards. Going on brings us into the past and into the future, all at once. There are no levels, stages, grades. Only where you are now, and where you are going.
Inward and Outward
Somatic practices take us deep inside, and deep outside. It is an ongoing cycling, connecting the ends and the parts of us into a whole. Give what you explore time to resonate, settle and express itself, both internally and externally.
It can be very helpful to draw, write, doodle, or use another equivalent tool to integrate your deep-inside experience after a practice. Automatic writing is a favourite of mine for this purpose.
Sometimes we need help—to process, to see our way through murky waters, to feel safe and supported. Reach out to those you trust to ask for, and receive, what you need.
to other ways of knowing. The world of thought is not the only world that you live in. There is another world, underneath the level of your skin, that is known through sensing, feeling, imagination, memory, touch, sound…Remember that these are valid ways of knowing and experiencing. Not everything exists, or can be communicated, in words.
Also, open to your experience. There are no certainties or predictabilities with the body. It is a process, constantly in motion, changing, living. Nothing to hold on to, or to expect.
The Body First
Whatever you experience in your body comes first. Thoughts and evaluations come later. While you are practising, put your body first. You can untangle your thinking later, once you’re done.
Also, try not to second-guess yourself afterwards. What you feel, and felt, is real, even when you can’t explain or understand it consciously.
Somatic practice is about sensitivity, subtlety—the things that normally pass under the radar. They are the important ones now. Your skill at detecting these nuances will improve over time, and with practice.
There is a great deal of precision and clarity available in somatics—but nothing is objectively or universally exact. Precision will come from your own closeness, and, over time, repeated familiarity, with your experience.
The body functions as a unified whole, a field without internal or external boundaries. In experience, this means each part affects all the other parts, and the whole. You do not have to experience the effects of a practice in the same way, or in the same part, as anyone else.
When you practice, move between focusing on the part in question, and its relationships or place in the whole. This can occasionally help clarify things. Sometimes connections that seem illogical or contradictory can bubble up to the surface of our awareness—take them as they are.
Doing less is usually the way, especially when in doubt or distress. Letting go of doing is the idea. So mostly we are being, with very little doing.
At the end of a practice, let it go. You do not have to carry it with you, heavy into your life. It is already in your bones and your cells, and will be with you as you go on.