EMBODIMENT + SOMATICS
What Is It?
Everything we do, we do within a body. If we want to deeply understand the systems that we are trying to shift, then we need to also deeply understand our bodies.
Along similar lines, if we want our systems to shift, we also need to shift, to bring our bodies along with us. Typically, most work in the public sector relies heavily on using mental energy, and it’s easy to forget what’s going on with our bodies. Somatics is a practice to strengthen mind-body-heart connections so that we can notice signals that our bodies are sending us, and regulate between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. This helps us move away from a fight-or-flight state of tending to what feels urgent towards a state in which we can pause to observe and reflect on what’s currently happening, to imagine what else might be possible, and to integrate and enact the different ways of being that we’re practicing.
How Is It Used?
There are many ways to draw on somatics. When facilitating workshops and gatherings, our team has drawn on embodiment exercises at the start of the session to bring people into the present moment, as a way of indicating that we are stepping into a different kind of space and way of being with one another. We also draw attention to the body along the way, encouraging people to check in with themselves and their needs when in an innovation process. Embodiment exercises are infinite and should be adapted based on comfort levels of the group and reasons for gathering, but here are a few fundamental practices for both yourself and for when inviting others into a moment of embodiment:
Grounding: Plant your feet on the floor or sit up tall in your seat. Notice yourself being supported by the floor or chair. This simple act of noticing helps us to slow down and become present.
Breathing: Focus your attention on your breath. Practice changing your breath (e.g. inhaling for 5 seconds, and exhaling for 5 seconds)
Orienting: Knowing where we are in time and space helps to bring our bodies into the present moment as well as figure out what kind of response to have in that moment. Is it safe to be here? Will I be able to leave if I need to? A simple exercise is to look behind you - this helps the body know where it is in time and space.
Keep In Mind:
Bodies show up with different abilities, ages, traumas and experiences. Offer a range of options for connecting into the activity (e.g. stay seated, lay on the floor, stay standing, eyes closed or softly focused in front of you)
Each individual knows what’s best for their body. Allow them to participate to whatever extent they feel up for, and prompt folks to stop if they feel like something is too much.