Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a training program for professionals assisting individuals in trauma recovery that was developed from the work Peter Levine, author of Waking the Tiger and many more books on trauma recovery. You can learn more about Somatic Experiencing here.
If you’ve read much of my blog, you know that reading Waking the Tiger was instrumental in my trauma recovery, that I spontaneously released blocked energy from a major childhood trauma while reading the book decades later, which not only was amazing but initiated a huge paradigm shift toward health and well-being for me.
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend several trainings and workshops with Brian D. Mahan, who’s a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP). Brian teaches SE to help people learn to help others with trauma recovery. Check out his website here: Brian Mahan, Body Centered Therapist.
(I particularly love his blog post When Is Prayer, Yoga, and Meditation No Different Than Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll? Because you and I know people who are addicted to prayer, yoga, and meditation, trying to bliss out while avoiding feeling what they’re actually feeling! I think I may have been one of them….)
Back to Brian’s workshop. It had the longest title of any workshop I’ve ever attended, and the title conveys the content: Imagine feeling present, grounded, centered, boundaried, embodied, empowered, in the moment, safe and joyful! It was so much fun! I recommend this if you ever get the chance!
Also, schedule an SE session with him next time he’s in Austin or remotely via Skype. (You can email him at BrianDMahanSEP@gmail.com and view his Facebook page. Here’s a link to his YouTube videos. Here’s an offer for a 5-minute meditation video. To set up a session, his phone number is 323-459-1845, and he’s on Skype as SomaticExperience.)
I’m going to write about what attending that workshop brought up for me about some of these energies, with Brian’s artful facilitation in directing our attention to the body and using the “felt” sense. This content is universal (we all have bodies and awareness) and I’m running it through my personal filters (writing, yoga, NLP, massage).
This felt sense is available to everyone with a nervous system. My NLP training is that we represent the world through visual, auditory, and kinesthetic channels, often favoring one at the expense of another. Therefore many people do not develop the felt sense (kinesthetic awareness for you NLPers), and they don’t know they don’t know—until someone starts talking about something they’re unfamiliar with, like boundaries, energy flowing in a certain direction, internal sensations/emotions (both kinesthetic).
I had a doctor once who had never heard of chakras. You get the idea.
Using and developing this felt sense is actually very significant to your overall well-being, and if you don’t experience much kinesthetic awareness, you can benefit from learning about it and experiencing it. I’ve been there. I know.
Many forces conspire to get us to numb out, to go to sleep, to not know who we really are. Think of TV, food, alcohol, drugs, work, sex, busy-ness, perfectionism, emotional drama—the things people get addicted to serve the purpose of distracting us from experiencing our real, essential selves and all those feelings.
You know what? You don’t have to give any of those things up, right now or ever. Follow along if you’d like to add a new dimension to your aliveness, to wake up a little more, to put a little more life in your life.
If you are someone who wonders what the heck people are talking about when they say things like “I’m not feeling very grounded right now,” “He’s not his body,” or “Wow, that really threw me off center,” this is for you. If you’ve felt grounded before but feel ungrounded now, this is for you.
Being grounded refers to your body’s energetic connection to the planet, to the earth, to the ground. This energy always flows in the same direction in your body:
To experience this, do an exercise (and you may want to have someone read this to you):
Right where you are, without doing anything else, check in with your body. Scan it from head to toe and notice the sensations and lack of sensations.
Now take your shoes and socks off and stand up. Put your attention on the sensation of your feet against the floor. Take your time and really feel.
Feel the entire weight of your body squishing the skin cells on the soles of your feet into the floor.
Feel your heaviness. Just walk around and feel your weight.
Now stop and feel as if your feet have suction cups on them holding you in place.
Feel as if each leg is a tree, sending roots down deep into the earth.
Now roll more of your weight onto one foot and feel the strength in that leg. Now lift the other heel ever so slightly. Switch sides and repeat. Now lift each foot higher. You’re rocking from foot to foot!
Do you feel a sticky sensation on the sole of the lifted foot? Can you sense its desire to return to the floor? Can you imagine invisible elastic between each foot and the floor?
Now stand still, evenly on both feet. Imagine the earth’s energy field embracing you, pulling you toward it with a gentle hug. Imagine mother Earth, Terra, Gaia, Pachamama holding you closely like a mother holds her baby. You can even prostrate yourself and surrender to it, hugging the earth back if you like. (If not, that’s okay too.)
Stand back up and imagine there’s an opening in the top of your head that opens to the sky/spirit/God/the cosmos. Imagine this energy flowing into your head and going down through the center of your body and down each leg and out your feet and into the earth.
This is you, fully grounded. Check in again, fully.
End of exercise.
Notice that our language has many ways of describing this energy: being grounded, feeling ungrounded, holding your ground, standing your ground, standing on your own two feet, without a leg to stand on, being sure-footed, steady on your feet, sticking a foot in the door, getting in on the ground floor.
Being grounded gives you a position on this planet, a space, a place that belongs to you and no one else, and it also connects you to this planet. You belong to the earth.
What does it feel like to be grounded? Remember what you felt like before the exercise, and compare that to feeling grounded. How would you describe the difference?
More importantly, when could feeling grounded be useful in your life? When might you particularly want to feel grounded? What ungrounded you?
Just for this moment, bring your attention back to your feet. Notice if you feel any shift of energy in your body.
Realize you can play with this, enjoy this, practice this as often as you like until it comes effortlessly (because the body is attracted to joy and pleasure, even the subtle ones). Then you can forget about it, knowing that whenever you need it, the resource of being grounded belongs to you.
Next: how to get centered.