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  • Writer's pictureIkariaAcupuncture

Picking up Sticks...

"Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet."
-Thich Nat Hanh-

In my practice, I try to weave Somatic theory and education into my treatments. Somatics has to do with how we live in our bodies; how we move, feel, perceive, balance from an internal perspective. Proprioception, or our awareness of the position and movement of the body, is possible due to special sensory neurons found in the muscles, tendons and joints. This information is relayed to and processed in the cerebellum and then sent back out initiating the next part of the movement. This internal process is incredibly rapid and nuanced. Just think of the feet. You have an amazingly complex system of small bones, connective tissue, muscles, vessels and nerves all working in concert, a constant symphony of articulation, perception and exchange, providing the foundation for how we move through the world. Largely, the constant movement, adaptation and adjustment of the feet to provide balance and support is unconscious and taken for granted, communication defying language. That is until there is some sort of disruption or pathology like fascitis, neuropathy, broken toes, turned ankles and the like. Then, we are painfully aware of the importance of the feet, as the rest of the body scrambles to take up the slack, keep us upright in gravity and moving forward. Thus requiring conscious intent, effort and connection to other parts of the brain. Somatic awareness, even when we are physically compromised is what allows us a sense of grace. How we eat, sleep, work, play and respond to people and the environment can either enhance or sublimate our connection to our inner landscape. The opposite is also true, that our inner awareness can support or deny our connection to the world at large. It is a dance of the senses riding the rhythm of the breath.

When I ponder somatics, I often think of my great aunt, Vernice, who lived to be 103. How was she able to choreograph a dance that lasted over a century? Vernice lived on the family farm with two of her sisters for most of her life, I think she was in her 80's when she moved into town. On the farm they raised livestock, had cash crops, and a large vegetable garden. I remember my grandma complaining that "the girls" were always pushing asparagus on her when she would visit. My best memory of their place was the basement. It was an unfinished basement but always warm and cozy with a huge, cool old stove that you burned corn cobs in, instead of wood. If you have ever smelled burning corn cobs, it is a smell like no other, not unpleasant, very earthy, and it permeates everything, including the food. They had a tradition of Sunday dinner and my favorite thing was my aunt Leona's chicken dumpling soup, even after following Vernice out to the chicken yard and learning where meat comes from. In the basement, there was a big long farmhouse table covered with those checkered vinyl "cloths" and the cement block walls were lined with shelves full of home canned fruits and vegetables that gleamed in the light that filtered in the small high windows. I remember too, adults exclaiming how that old basement floor was so clean you could eat off it! Everything was organic, though that concept did not really exist, it was what it was. The cycles of life and death, abundance and scarcity were honored in simple, straightforward ways and depended largely on the weather and work ethic. All the work was shared and each did what they were best at, Leona cooked and cleaned, Vernice gardened and took care of animals, Viola did maintenance and repair. Later in life, Vernice said her one regret was not taking better care of her teeth and attributed her longevity to picking up sticks in the yard. Even in town, in her 90's you could often find her out in the yard, picking up sticks....

Being embodied, somatically present, is really that simple and yet in the modern world it can be so difficult. In the Age of information, it seems like nothing "is what it is" or perhaps we move too fast and are so distracted, we don't notice. There are great distances to travel internally and mentally to manifest clean air, clean water, clean food and clean, soft, hummus-y earth to stand on. We dissect everything to the Nth degree and then are too tired or overwhelmed to re-integrate the pieces back into the whole picture with a sense of wonder that supports us internally.

As I write this, in the time of Corona, we are collectively putting together a new picture of life on Earth. We are re-connecting with what is truly important. Despite my expertise in Somatics or inherited wisdom, I suffer from overwhelm and confusion too. In turns, I am grieving, paranoid, defiant, worried, relaxed, joyous, faith-full, exhausted, angry, reverent, spacey, sad, fearful, focused, sarcastic, witty... the whole gamut. Yet I also find I have this intense sense of being "nailed to the present moment". This allows me to feel whatever emotion is expressing itself, define it, locate where in my body I'm feeling it, stretch and move and honor it for what it is and release it, without judgement or expectation. It's not hard but it takes practice. As the saying goes, Chop wood, Carry water.... and maybe pick up a few sticks along the way...

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