Somatics is both a science and a philosophy but it also includes holistic manual therapy as a practical application of its principles. Because it is a new inquiry into the nature of the body, it demands new eyes and bold forward thinking investigators who have freed themselves from the artificial divisions of the past.
There was a time when I couldn’t imagine how to integrate my spiritual path and my Western training as a psychotherapist. I was traveling down to Peru periodically over a 10-year period, stepping into the mystical non-ordinary world of the shaman, while working as a clinical supervisor in a psychiatric hospital. I felt hurled down to South America, as if literally picked up and thrown down there by the circumstances and synchronicities in my life. I knew I had a choice, but not really. Destiny was calling to a tradition so foreign from my upbringing, but it activated a deep knowing and memory of ancient wisdom and truth. My first book, Eyes of the Jaguar, was about the beginning of this mystical journey. I didn’t consider myself to be a writer and felt as if this book wrote itself through me. The words of the book refused to stop moving through my thoughts until I put them down on paper. It felt as if it was part of my spiritual initiation process, with a life of its own and an impact that I could not have known. I believed strongly in a holistic interrelated paradigm of body/mind/spirit, as taught in the shamanic tradition. I meditated on how to integrate it all, and the inner wisdom of my soul whispered back, “It will integrate.” I learned to trust my inner guidance, and as time went on, I was able to see the integration within myself. As the therapist and the shaman became one within me, my work became more integrated.
“It is hard to believe for me, but I started the project in 2005, 10 years ago!” Weiss shared. “Finding the right team was very difficult for me in the beginning, and it took years until I finally found my team. But it is really my fault that it took so long to realize that Gregory Johanson and Lorena Monda were the ones that I should have asked from the beginning. Once we got working as a team it was fantastic.
Stanley wrote his landmark text, Emotional Anatomy: The Structure of Experience, to map the geometry of somatic experience in 1985. As founder and director of the Center for Energetic Studies in Berkeley, California (1971-today), Stanley developed his therapeutic and educational approach, trademarked as Formative Psychology, based on his methodology and conceptual framework for the life of the body. He has spent the past 50 plus years creating, teaching, researching, writing, presenting. He shared that it was time to bring his seminal text to life in a virtual way.
At age 74, Carl Greer wanted to give back to the collective consciousness that fueled his journeys into clinical psychology, Jungian analysis, shamanic healing, teaching and private practice, thus the creation of Change Your Story, Change Your Life. Carl culled a decade of journal entries detailing his experiences. Initially, the stories were jotted down for himself. Writing was a useful tool to help him capture ideas, sensations, considerations, to make sense of all the experiences he was having in the jungles and mountains with various shamans.
In her new book, The Body Remembers Volume 2: Revolutionizing Trauma Treatment, Babette Rothschild includes what she calls a new ‘tool’, which is, in effect, a table and chart that identify the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the effects of ANS arousal in the therapeutic setting. It is designed to help therapists better monitor, evaluate, and regulate client ANS arousal states thus making trauma treatment safer through observation and modulation. The information as graphically depicted in this book represents what I call a ‘map’. Babette and I have been colleagues for many years in the same professional field, and we share a common passion—we like making maps. Furthermore, we like to keep working with them until they have reached a level of precision that is helpful not only to ourselves but also to other trained trauma therapists – and to clients.
From an expanded sense of creativity, I suggest that all psychotherapists, whether engaged in somatic work or in traditional talk therapy, are simultaneously artists, and that all effective psychotherapy is co-creative by its very nature. The art of psychotherapy is in the precise timing and subtle choices of what gets said or how touch is delivered. From the perceptual side, psychotherapists pick up on tiny cues that allow synchronous rhythms of body, mind, heart and soul. Likewise, it is a creative act to encourage, inspire, and welcome in emergent products from the relational unconscious, such as images, symbols, metaphors, or dreams that guide, light, or unblock the path forward.
I’ve loved writing regularly for Somatic Psychotherapy Today. The initial writing brief for my first Bodywise article back in the summer of 2012 was to say something about my work from ‘across the pond’ - as many contributors are based in the States. Brief sounds chilly and formal. The reality was a warm invitation from Nancy Eichhorn, the founding Editor-in-Chief, to reflect on my current work as a relational body psychotherapist, my Buddhist practice, and my work as an ecopsychologist, and then to write about them. So, I did, associating as best I could the work I was currently doing with the theme of each edition of Somatic Psychotherapy Today. It was an enjoyable challenge! Somatic Psychotherapy Today’s themes over the past five years have been many and varied, from diversity, diagnosis, and trauma to pre and perinatal psychology, embodied spirituality and societal embodiment and disembodiment, amongst others.
Moshe Feldenkrais (1977), who developed the Feldenkrais method, considered walking as a series of controlled fallings. With each step we lose our balance and retrieve it. With each step we fall forward and block the fall with yet another step. Instead of perceiving falling as an undesired process, it becomes a prerequisite for moving forwards. Movement necessitates falling.
“I never started out to write any of my three books,” Karen Kissel Wegela says with a hint of laughter, a sense of humility. She is present, personal. She shares her own journey in person and in her books. And no, you don’t need to be Buddhist to experience contemplative psychotherapy.