When Our Bodies Betray Us

Last night as I gathered with a small group at a local yoga center, I listened to several participants describe how they have felt betrayed by their own body.  Injury, illness and severe emotional loss had combined to overwhelm their usual self-care practices of thoughtful nutrition, yoga and insight-based meditation.  The result for these caring and conscious people was a profound loss of trust in the innate wisdom of the body to recover physical, emotional and spiritual health.  They wondered, “Where do we go next?”  They were interested in how the knowledge and practices of Somatic Transformation could help them access their diminished vitality and restore trust in the innate healing processes of their own bodies.  

Somatic Transformation has lately been going through a renewal.  Since the publication of my book, “Relational and Body-Centered Practices for Healing Trauma: Lifting the Burdens of the Past”, I have discovered a new depth of knowledge through the regular practice of somatic meditations.  Each day, after a personal stretching and gentle yoga practice, I enter into a somatic meditation, guided by ancient Buddhist wisdom.  My personal practice of meditation  has been integrated with the research insights from neurobiologist Stephen Porges and his Polyvagal Theory and with the knowledge of right hemisphere emotional processing from the research of neuroscientist Allan Schore.  

For the past two years, I have been intrigued with an innate urgency to personally incorporate somatic mediations into my daily life.  This daily practice, under the guidance of a five-month retreat called Meditating With the Body from DharmaOcean has awakened in me a renewed interest in the development of somatic meditations that respect the bodies and souls of people who have been wounded by physical, emotional and spiritual trauma.  People who feel betrayed by their bodies.  The healing process of neurologically and empathically based somatic meditations are finding their way into my private psychotherapy practice with people with trauma as well as into the educational work of Somatic Transformation.     

The roots of somatic meditation lie deeply in ancient Tibetan spiritual practices, as well as the practices of other traditional societies, and have been the focus of the profound work of Reggie Ray.  Reggie, known more formally as Dr. Reginald Ray, is a former historian of Buddhism, and founder of DharmaOcean, a world-wide organization for the advancement of somatic meditation.  In his radical life work, Reggie is bringing the vast healing resources of ancient generations into a healing modality that is most needed and appreciated by people who are interested in exploring the innate intelligence of the body.  In “The Training and the Path”, Reggie synthesizes his trust in the organic wisdom of the human body:

“(The body is) a coherent intelligence with a point of view, a process with direction, a source of wisdom, and a limitless benevolence… (It) constantly communicates information about life.”

When I ponder the above statement, I am affirmed in the trust I have placed in the body to reveal and transform “all that is not yet love”.  The historical legacy of trauma has resulting in the suffering of millions in our world and often a deep sense of cynicism, dissociation, and despair that comes with a feeling we have been betrayed from the inside—from within our own essential being.  

I am excited to incorporate the new knowledge from the practice of somatic meditations in our training program for helping professionals, the consultations with practitioners of Somatic Meditation and now in community based groups of people interested in how to restore an innate aliveness of the body, soul and spirit in our wounded world.  I will be posting new practices for somatic meditation on this blog.  Please feel free to participate in this exploration and let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page what is clinically helpful.