This is a quick and gentle introduction to one way that one of the primary modalities I utilize, Somatic Experiencing, can be practiced.
How did it feel when you saw my name in your inbox? Maybe you thought, “David! Haven’t heard from him in a while,” or, “David Rowan…who is that again?” or maybe, “Ugh, what does he want?” Ok, well, those are all thoughts! Or maybe the word “feel” had you scanning for which emotions were present. Both thoughts and emotions are valid, and they are also complex, and faster-moving than the body. So back to the original question, with a specific focus on bodily sensation: “How did it feel?” Did you (or do you) experience warmth or excitement or openness? How about feeling cooler or guarded or contracted? Can you “hear” my voice in this writing? Does that make you smile, remain neutral, or grimace? If you pay attention to whatever you felt or are feeling, just for a moment, what happens next, in your body? Does what you noticed move, expand, contract, change in color, temperature, or density? If it moves, is it more to the right or to the left; upwards or downwards; forwards or backwards in the body? Does the intensity of the feeling increase, decrease, or stay the same?
This is both the tip of the iceberg, and the core essence of my work. Trade secrets revealed! One of the things that I love about this work and practice is that it is so simple. It boils down to two questions, really: “What do you notice now?” and, “What happens next?” The first evokes a sense of presence and internal awareness (or, interoception); the second evokes a sense of curiosity—an open opportunity for the body (physical, but also emotional, mental, and spiritual “bodies”) to pause habituated patterns and investigate if there is a novel way to emerge. Developing an awareness of these patterns gives us the capacity to create more space between stimulus and response. It also helps us to get in touch with what’s really going on in our bodies, which can lead to a sense of being more fully here on Earth, as well as richer relationships with ourselves and others.
Why then, if it’s so simple, would one invest their time and money to do this work with me (or any practitioner) if they can just do it on their own? In the same way that a yoga teacher might attend another teacher’s class, it can be liberating to be guided. My interpretation is that this allows the most primitive physiological aspect of our being—our nervous system—to relax and surrender, to break free from the compulsion to figure things out in a cognitive (or, “top-down”) system. To take it a step further, imagine laying on a massage table (which will happen frequently in sessions where I integrate touch-work, even remotely), and coming into the awareness that, for one hour, you don’t have to do anything; instead just rest and receive support. Think of this like nurturing our inner child. Each of us comes into this world needing a tremendous amount of love, care, nurturance, attention, and support, and we can receive now some of that which we didn’t get then as a pathway to a more vital life. Furthermore, something magical can happen in the space of a collaborative, healing partnership that can be harder to come by when flying solo.