When we say “health”, it includes not only physical health but also holistic wellness, which is often related to the intersection of systemic oppression. In an effort to continue nurturing a culture of health, we decided to start a new section – “Pillars of Our Shared Work” – in our monthly newsletter to talk about the foundation that Six Degrees is built on. We are eager to share with you thoughts and resources on some of the topics that we are passionate about. In this section, we ask: How can we together build a community that values awareness for inclusiveness, respect for shared labour, and creative fostering engaged participation? We would also like to invite you to get in touch with us on any related topics that you are interested.
As we strengthen our core in 2017, we began to invite practitioners who are part of Six Degrees to be guest writers of this section. This month we connect with the Pillar of Healing. We invited somatic practitioner Nazbah Tom at Six Degrees to be a guest author of this issue. In this article, Nazbah speaks of the importance of personal healing and how it relates to the healing of others, through the lens of somatics. Hope you enjoy and help us share!
by Nazbah Tom
I am a Somatic Practitioner. My work uses a holistic approach to working with individuals and groups to move through an arc of transformation. We do this work by using breathwork, gestures, bodywork, new somatic practices, and conversation. I studied somatics through Strozzi Institute and generative somatics starting in 2006. I was studying drama therapy at the time and was thrilled to come across a practice that had a political analysis of trauma. Somatics understands that “we are deeply impacted through systems of oppression and conditions of violence. generative somatics holds that both personal and collective healing are essential to building a more effective movement and to systemic transformation.”
Furthermore, “the mission of generative somatics is to grow a transformative social and environmental justice movement — one that integrates personal and social transformation, creates compelling alternatives to the status quo and embodies the creativity and life affirming actions we need to forward systemic change. generative somatics envisions a movement guided by cultivated wisdom, love and rigor.” (source: http://www.generativesomatics.org/)
So, how do we begin to integrate individual and collective healing? We start with the individual. I introduce a practice of centering to folks I work with. It is a practice that builds somatic awareness. This practice allows the person to become more present, open, and connected. We notice and feel in to the aliveness of our body along the length, depth, width, and core of our body. Sensations we notice and feel include temperature, pressure and movement. The length of our body represents our dignity, our width represents our interdependence and connections to others, our depth represents our ancestry at our back and our future at our front. Our core, also center of gravity which is two inches below our belly button, is where we place what we care about initially followed by our commitment to healing. It’s this practice that we cultivate daily that allows us to connect to the four dimensions within ourselves which invariably connects us with others including our ancestors and future.
If we learn to tolerate our own aliveness, our emotions, memories, thought processes, and reactions, we can manage our selves, our interactions with others, and live in such a way that we are also aligned with our values and what we care about. We center our values and what we care about in our core each time we center so that when we return to our bodies, bring our attention back to what’s matters the most to us, we are allowing that to inform our psychobiology, our actions, thought processes, and it shapes our future.
This practice informs all the other new practices as well as highlighting embodied practices of survival and attending to our safety. We move through our lives with skills that we have learned living inside of systemic oppression. We have embodied the world we live inside of, and this embodiment of trauma and violence to whatever extent, often pushes us along in a way that seems out of our control or consciousness. By practicing centering, we begin to build our somatic awareness, learn how we have been shaped by systemic oppression, and begin to build in new practices so that we can have more choices available to us in our responses.
Through the development of somatic awareness, new practices, and somatic opening that folks experience through various practices and bodywork, we can allow the new practices to root deeper and offer us sustainable practices that help us to meet our lives with dignity, visceral sense of interdependence, and awareness of our history/ancestry that guides us in to our future all connected to our values. Folks will begin to understand the practice of being pulled by a vision of their healing and ongoing transformation rather than being pushed by their pain. This orientation reflects how they feel about themselves, interact with others including partners, family and friends, co-workers, and informs how they work.
Connecting individual healing to collective healing becomes evident as folks begin to see changes in relating to others, different responses to challenging situations, and a ripple effect of the work an individual has done with regards to their own healing. A beloved elder of mine once remarked that the only thing we have control over is our own breath. She is so right in her observation and practice of this statement. I feel so honored to help folks move this process. I leave you with these questions: What are you practicing? What are you willing to transform? Who are you becoming? How do you want to let life touch you?