Somatic Learning in Action: Centering, Declaring, Entering

Through practice, we build our capacity to move toward what we deeply care about. Richard Strozzi-Heckler says: “We are what we practice, and we’re always practicing something.” So, why not have conscious practices that create change in us? Building awareness about what we are practicing and how this affects how we live our lives helps us to make choices that are more generative. We practice to become more alive to what pulses in us as the heart of what matters.

When we practice with others, in community, the learning takes place in what I have often called a cauldron. There’s a bubbling to the surface that can occur when practicing in the presence of others — a way into seeing ourselves that is otherwise invisible. By learning in community and taking the time to tease apart the practices, participants can deepen in their understanding of the practices themselves and, more importantly, the relevance of practice in their lives. Let’s look at some of what comes up in learning about centering, making declarations and entering into what we’re committing to.

Centering is the place we can arrive at that is made up of “what is” rather than “shoulds” or our striving. When we center along the physical dimensions of length, width and depth, we allow gravity to hold us and we let go of our habit of holding ourselves up. We become present, open and connected in this state. It’s a state of responsiveness and capability—we know what to do when we’re centered because we’re not pushed and pulled by our habitual desires, needs and wants. We simply are what we are, no agenda, and we see with clarity what’s inside us, beside us, in front of us and behind us.

As centering is taught in Strozzi Somatics™, the fourth dimension of center is our commitment in the world. When we arrive at the luscious state of centered presence, we also bring in a declaration that represents what we want to step into, what we desire to come into form. Declarations or commitments are grounded in our deep care and move us into our next embodiment, our next embracing. We make declarations so that our lives can take shape in a particular way. This declaration galvanizes us, and it also moves others toward us in support.

In group work participants have the opportunity to hone their declarations. We often notice the ways in which naming and speaking our declarations can put us in a particular mood. In one session, one woman noted that when she spoke her declaration she felt that it was impossible to achieve, and she recognized her mood of resignation and how it lives in her body. In this sharpened somatic awareness, she could begin to understand something about moving toward what she wants and the mood that can create in her. With this awareness she can have choice around that mood. What would a more generative mood be? How can she practice in her body-self to enter this more generative mood? These are the issues we explore, always relating what happens in our body-self to what happens in our life outside the training space.

In these sessions we also work with what it’s like to take centered presence into action in the form of the two-step practice. Invariably as we step deeper into the world with our commitments, something comes along that stops us in our tracks. This something can be an inner voice (that’s impossible, you can’t have that, you don’t deserve that, etc) or something real in the world (you get fired, your book gets published/rejected, you find out you have to give a talk in front of 400 people). Centering alone in a room is one thing; bringing that centered presence into the world where you will have to make necessary transitions is another. The two-step helps to build the capacity to move toward what you care about from a centered presence. It’s also a great practice for aligning your energy with another and building trust and support through such alignment.  It’s a great practice for stepping-into your commitment, for learning how to enter into what you care about from a place of deep alignment.

We can practice the two-step alone, with a partner and as a group in a circle. The learning can be astounding! For example, in one group a participant noticed that as she let in a sense of support from the group rather than stumbling alone through the movement, the movement itself shifted and became more fluid. This helped her to see the difference it would make to ask for support in her life rather than feeling left to her own devices, and that reaching out and feeling support around her could make her life more fluid.

Sometimes fascinating things happen when we two-step in pairs. For example, in another group session, one duo quickly got into a rhythm with each other, while the other proceeded to two-step without facing each other. Each person kept turning her back on the other. Through this practice we were building presence and coordination with another around one’s declaration as well as around coordinating with another in partnership. So, what does it say if one’s body automatically moves into not facing one’s partner? The question for this participant became: How else might you be turning away from what you care about, from support, from feeling-into the other? And how is this affecting what you want to create?

Another interesting thing happened in the switching of partners, which was that the women who were really in a rhythm with each other, and clearly “got” the two-step, suddenly came apart with their new partner. One started two-stepping with her back to her partner. The other got entirely frustrated that her new partner wasn’t “doing it right”. We looked at ways this shows up in everybody’s life—as well as the ways in which trust can get built and broken in our relationships to ourselves and others, and how to work through these breaks into a more fluid communication.

What is consistent in these sessions is that everyone becomes strongly present—with themselves and with each other. Through awareness of our habitual patterns and shaping, we can begin to make huge shifts towards choosing the life we most want to inhabit. We can shape the river. We can embody our most distinctive voices.

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