Biosphere & Beyond Making & Moving Somatic Support

Moving Metta: A Simple Ritual to Connect

A simple gesture pattern came to me as I listened to the sound of howling wind and ice crashing against my yurt recently. I heard thuds and bangs in the distance; likely trees falling in the storm. Anxiety panged in my heart, as I hoped nobody was hurt from the falling trees. Sidling up to me quickly was also the realization that something could crash onto the yurt and possibly damage my home. Life is fragile (it is also resilient, but in these moments I felt the preciousness of it more acutely). 

From recognizing pain and sensing an inner desire to wish for wellbeing for all, I started to move as pictured below. 

Music: “Journeys” by h hunt

As I merged awareness, intention, and movement, the process began to feel like a ritual. I will note the basic progression of focus that emerged below, in case you are curious to incorporate some aspect of this into your own daily practices or maybe to use it as a warm-up into somatic dance improvisation. This ritual reconnects me to love and yearning for more life; I resonate with these words by Anita Barrows, as quoted by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown in Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work that Reconnects:

I would stand

next to you in the forest’s

final hour, in the wind

of the helicopter blades, police

sirens shrieking, the delicate

tremor of light between

leaves for the last

time Oh I would touch with this love each

wounded place

Anita Barrows. “Psalm.” We are the Hunger. Unpublished Manuscript, 1998.
A dance in a clear-cut electrical-line trail through dense forest; “touching with love” wounded places within and among

Metta Movement Progression

  1. Concentrate on the feeling of your hand connecting with your heart, perhaps also with the feeling of the other hand on the lower belly/ “sea of chi” (a phrase from Qi Gong practice). Feel the soles of your feet soften into the ground, knees slightly bent.
  2. As one of your feet steps in a particular direction, slowly begin to draw the hand away from the heart, in the same outward line as the foot stepped. I particularly resonate with the feeling of letting the back of the hand lead, while the fingertips are still curled in towards myself. 
  3. Ask yourself who or what you are reaching out to. Who do you connect to in this moment? Perhaps you start with what you easily see before you, your environment. Perhaps eventually you reach further to connect with those just beyond your immediate environment, or perhaps ancestors; perhaps loved ones who are far away; perhaps strangers; perhaps those you have a difficult time with; perhaps non-human companions; perhaps various beings and aspects of Nature and Life….see what resonates for you in this moment, or what spontaneously arises
  4. Focus on the sensation of space that your hand is traversing, feel this bridge between “self” and “other,” how do you feel your own ground but also feel a shift of some sort as you reach towards the “other?” 
  5. As the hand and arm reach their extension, let it begin to flow back towards yourself, perhaps with the heel of the hand drawing in first and letting the fingertips point in the outward direction as long as they can. The foot will draw back in as well. Feel, again, the space you are traversing and how you may be changed from your connection. 
  6. Moving in a counter clockwise circle, take a step just slightly in a new direction and repeat the movement pattern, drawing the foot and hand gently outward from the heart center. With this new change of direction, take in your new perspective of your environment. Contemplate giving and receiving as you move, and the somatic awareness of what your body is like when it gives and when it receives. Feel a sense of flow between the outward reach and the inward return (or notice any lack of flow or tension).
  7. Continue changing directions slightly with your steps until you’ve completed a full circle. Perhaps you continue shifting your focus of who the “other” is in each moment. Try wishing well towards whatever you are reaching toward. I often internally repeat part of the Metta meditation with each turn of direction. Such as “May you be happy,” or “May you be healthy,” or “May you be free from inner and outer harm,” per one cycle of reaching and coming back.
  8. Continue for a few rounds, perhaps changing which foot or hand reaches outward. Contemplate your awareness of togetherness and separateness as you continue. Can you still sense your own heart fully even when your hand is fully outstretched? 
  9. Begin to let the form alter in small ways: perhaps changing directions of the circle, perhaps reaching above and below instead of outward, perhaps changing which foot and hand extend. Perhaps you focus your awareness of the back of the heart center rather than the front.
  10. At some point, give permission for the form to morph even more, morphing organically into other shapes and patterns that emerge in the moment. Follow and observe your mind, heart, sensation, and perceptions as movements morph. How are you still connected to your environment, how can it become more of a duet/trio/etc. than a solo movement exploration?

May your growing care for all beings, especially wounded and marginalized people and places, guide you to take healing and just actions aligned with your values.

Biosphere & Beyond Somatic Support

What is Ecosomatics?

A meandering and non-definite definition of Ecosomatics

Ecosomatics is…

A word that points to inseparability. Just like we may use the word “mindbody” to illustrate that the duality is an illusion, we use “ecosomatics” to illustrate that ecology, environment, and the lived experience of the body are inseparable (see this ISMETA article for some definitions of somatics, and my previous article on Nature & the Nervous System for more on bodies in/as environments)

Becoming more conscious of biology, anatomy, and our organic dependencies (how our makeup and needs intersect with all of life on tiny and macro scales)

Moving from a sphere of personal practice into social/communal practice, including the more-than-human

Restoring sovereignty to the land and indigenous people

Perceiving yourself as a bodyworker for the earth and the earth as a bodyworker for you

Being moved by energy from the environment; allowing land to lead

Understanding the cultural contexts of places where you live and understanding that places hold deep meaning, living history, and knowledge. Asking, “What happened here?” and “Which indigenous people belong to this land, how can I understand their total embodiment of this land, and what are their names for these places?” and “What is it like for me to inhabit this place now; what is my sense of belonging or not belonging? What role do I play?”

Also asking: “What are my ancestral homelands? Where do I come from? How does my body remember that land connection through the generations? How might this influence what my body longs for, and when I notice myself feeling most at home?”

Also asking: “How has my body-knowing and bodyfreedom been co-opted and/or manipulated by corporate, colonial, capitalist systems?”and “How do I participate in that or resist that?” and “What can I do right now to drop into my body as it’s relating to the immediate environment? What are the ways my body participates in my immediate environment—what routines, gestures, feelings do I inhabit? What agency do I have over that? What do I receive from where I am, what do I give back to where I am? From whom and to whom?”

Waiting and listening to the elements around you, recognizing these elements within you (i.e. Earth/Air/Fire/Water, or another system of noting natural elements); covering yourself in water, or stone, or…

Listening for all the sounds around you; hearing the overlaps of ecological diversity (or lack thereof); feeling sound in your body

Noting the texture, smell, etc. of plants nearby; making respectful contact with animals and noticing how that relationship feels

Resonating with compost and the life-death-life cycle

Participating in embodied rituals that honor place and connect you to cycles of seasons and nature (being conscious not to harmfully appropriate, giving credit to lineages that have taught you…ideally, connecting with rituals from your own ancestral culture)

Becoming. Butoh. Allowing your humanness to be permeated by other life forms, being moved by animal, plant, mineral, spirit 

Feeling kinship with human and more-than-human, exploring what kinship feels like in your body. How do you know when you are in a kinship relationship, or another kind of framework (such as extractive)?

Planting a seed

Noticing how you feel-think-sense-intuit-perceive differently in different places (in particular types of buildings, outside, inside, around certain smells, dampness, landscape, shape, colors, temperatures, spaciousness)

Being and moving consciously through webs of relationship; understanding what impact your actions have on your ecosystem 

Finding resilience in diversity

Feeling grounded, literally 

Learning the history of plants around you, noticing subtle and big ways the learning changes you and the way you move in the world

Dancing, or singing, as a gift to earth; letting the earth teach you a dance or song

Noticing the suchness and presence of the river, the soil; merging with that surety of existence

Being a rose and embracing your thorn

Respecting places that you are not welcome to enter

Lying down in moss, if the moss consents 

Contemplating the idea that what is good for the earth is good for us humans; our bodies are connected 

Sometimes putting down the books and intellectual inquiry to go outside. Chop wood. Gather herbs. Carry buckets of water. Swim. To move, and sometimes, to be still. 

Recognizing that this is not a new field; our naming it as a field of study illustrates the ways we have moved away from it (as a result of capitalism, colonization, patriarchy, whiteness), and the ways we recognize the need and yearning to re-inhabit right relationship, accountability, and reciprocity

Some references/the books & trainings that most immediately and recently influenced this writing:

EastWest Somatics “Moving Consciously” workshop, taught by Sondra Fraleigh, Michele Ikle, Kelly Ferris Lester, and Amy Bush

“Rituals of Alignment & Balance” class taught by Ananya Chatterjea, especially, but also nearly all of the other lectures that were part of the 2021 Embodied Social Justice Summit

The Voice of the Earth: An Exploration of Ecopsychology by Theodore Roszak

Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language among the Western Apache by Keith H. Basso