Foundational to the Study-into-Action process was our practice of Somatics, an integrative approach to healing and transformation that understands and treats human beings as a complex of mind, body, and spirit. With support from Staci Haines, founder of generative somatics and long-time Somatics instructor, who co-facilitated our first sessions, we incorporated somatic practices both to become more aware of our embodiments of privilege and power and to practice taking action in the world that is more aligned with our commitment to challenge male supremacy.
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When introducing Somatics to the group, we made clear that we incorporated Somatics not simply as a practice of self-help or self-improvement—which is often socially decontextualized and strongly individualistic—but because we believe that we cannot just think and talk our way out of male privilege and male violence. This felt particularly important to us as so much of this violence manifests in relationship to bodies and what we do with and to them. As we shared in the group, we need to work with our whole organisms and transform ourselves at the level of everyday behaviors in order to shift our practices of male privilege.
In partnering with CMS, and other movement projects, generative somatics (gs) seeks to integrate a transformative change theory and practice of Somatics into leadership development, community organizing, transformative justice, and politicized healing work. As with any praxis, it requires learning, mentoring and development to create the depth of understanding and skills that are needed to translate transformative change theory into practice. The somatic practices used in the Study-into-Action are described here, but it is important to remember that practices are just one aspect of embodied transformation. While somatic practices are powerful in and of themselves, they don’t create embodied transformation for individuals or groups, without the other aspects of the transformative change theory also being applied. Please see these practices in that context. Feel free to connect with CMS or generative somatics if you would like to learn more about gs Somatics, embodied practices or to integrate transformative praxis into your work.
Brief Description: Develop and declare a commitment toward your own personal transformation and another toward collective transformation. Determine measurable outcomes for each that will let you know when you embody the commitment, actions you will take to get there (including daily practices) and who you will you ask to support and hold you accountable in the process.
Brief Description: Bring your attention to your sensations, emotions and internal dialogue. Come into the feeling self. Center in length, width, depth and what is meaningful to you (commitment). Length – dignity for you and others, Width – connection and belonging (I, you, we), Depth – history and ancestors, deep longing, meaning and calling. Center in your commitment and what matters most to you.
Brief description: Yes, open palms to the side. Maybe, arms extended at 45 degrees, palms down. No, arms up in “stop sign” position. Center in all three. Practice each of these with a partner moving up to you. Have your partner add language to their approach that is relevant to your commitment.
Brief description: Whether sitting, standing or walking, move your attention (and if walking, your body) throughout the room. Practice moving and navigating the room from center. Try on different circumstances (rush hour, after receiving alarming news, etc) to learn more about how you organizing yourself in these conditions, and practice coming back to center.
Brief description: Person A place your hand on the chest or shoulder of person B (this can also be done energetically without necessarily touching), centering, pressing slightly in and down. Feel your self and sensations while also feeling and noticing the other. Ask a question of your partner, listen to their response. Switch hands and ask another question.
Brief description: Partner A grabs the forearm of partner B from the side. B feels the automatic reactions.
Brief description: Partner A grabs the forearm of partner B from the side. B feels the automatic reactions, centers and turns toward A (what has grabbed them).
Brief description: Partner A moves toward B with hand extended, B moves toward A and turns A around – saying no or something relevant to their commitment.
Brief description: Practice extending from center. While the practice of extension usually involves the arms at first, we are practicing extending from center and the whole body and being can extend.
Brief description: In groups of 3, person A is practicing being allied with around something that they are struggling with, person B is practicing allying with person A, and person C is ‘grabbing’ person A. Each group decides what the cause of the ally request should be and come up with a statement that can be spoken by person C, acting as the non-physical ‘grab’. The person playing role B responds by allying with person A in the ways that they had requested – this could be standing alongside, behind or in front of them, etc.