Tag Archive for 'generative somatics'

attention liberation, attention reparations

attention is one of our most valuable resources.

in your own life, attention is what determines the quality of your lived experience. if your attention stays on what’s wrong, on your powerlessness and pain, you can become identified with a victimized, power under narrative, and that will grow.

if your attention is instead on gratitude, collective power, experimentation, curiosity and celebration, these things will grow in your life. brené brown and oprah and ava and all the manifestors know this.

to be able to pick your attention up from the main stream of crisis and commercials (and other competitions for your money), and to put your attention where you want and need it, is something i’m starting to think of as attention liberation.

with this administration it’s clearer than ever that there are many forces who benefit from keeping our attention on a reactive string, puppeting us through fairly predictable responses that usually don’t change underlying conditions or power dynamics. we listen to stories that leave us feeling furious and helpless, and we get engaged in our prescribed response (lately it’s usually a hashtagged post about how messed up the story is from every possible angle) – until the next time our attention is directed, to the next scandal or controversy.

but we can train our attention, train ourselves to pick our attention up and place it where we want it, where we need it to be. i do this with meditation, learned from various teachers and through generative somatics.

i meditate by focusing on my breath for 10-30 minutes daily. when i forget to practice, i quickly become reactive. i start to scroll the news obsessively, feeling my powerlessness and hypocrisy more than anything else.

when i meditate daily, when i intentionally liberate my attention, i find i have enough focus to make healthier life choices, feel my agency, and to do work that has a longer, deeper arc of transformation.

it’s not that i ignore the news. i dose myself with current events in the news cycle – i’m still learning to balance and measure how much is useful and when it becomes a distraction or a trap. i accept mainstream news as fairly cyclical, generally overwhelming…and as another way that money moves. there’s a ton of waste information, useless filler. the things we should know about are declawed, pitched for greatest affect, or told to us in a way that makes us scared, vulnerable to the suggestions and sales of others.

and there’s a compulsive and hyperbolic liar in the highest office of this land.

so i scan for what i believe and what i can impact. i take the impactful action as soon as i can – make the donation, spread the word, sign the petition, etc. if there’s not more i can do, i get back to my work, work i deeply believe is my calling.

i don’t want to spend my life reacting to other people’s cycles, their mistakes, lies, or ignorant projections, or the domination cycles of those who measure their humanity in false supremacy. those things will continue. but what we pay attention to grows. so i pay attention to the places we as a species are learning, changing, getting free, experiencing pleasure and joy.

my life feels so different when i liberate my attention that it almost feels like the universe is gifting me attention reparations. instead of being frozen by hopelessness and fear for my species, which is often my reaction to the news, i experience a lot of days where i’m full of awe, laughter, work that induces pride, noticing the small and massive miracles that are part of each day.

it’s taken a long time to train my attention even a bit, and i’m still super beginner level with it. but the results in my daily life are already so powerful. i feel somewhere between productive and prolific on the days i wake up and set my mind on freedom.

i want to see people with a transformational world view be as productive and prolific as possible. it’s a ways off yet, but i imagine it all the time, that we burst the shell of the old world with our vibrant, biodiverse, generative resistance in the form of willful, manifested ideological evolutions.

let us put our attention on a revolution for our species, and grow it until we earn the miracle.

love love love

i believe we are living on the precipice of the next phase of our species. and i’m with such good people, people who cry hard and laugh harder. and do one to move through the other, rolling across the full emotional span in epic waves. we feel what’s gaping and yawning underneath both of those releases, that scale of lovegrief that can’t be captured in any words i know…we let it be in our eyes, at our core.

the more i learn/remember how to feel, the more in love i fall with the particular aliveness that only sparks between us. that met longing felt when the interior world unfolding in me comes to a border and longs to be porous, expansive, vast, one, multitudes. this opening, these moments, this work, this makes a viable future possible.

today i remembered a song i was taught over a decade ago:

“oh i say thank you
oh i say thank you
oh great spirits
in this way
i long to give my life to you
in love and devotion
in love and devotion”
(this was taught to me as a gwitch’in song from haida gwaii)

even now, especially now, with a mask over my mouth and a storm at my back, i am learning what i must realize in myself, what i must defend and protect, what i must cultivate in the face of fear and death and supremacy: love, love, love.

centering saves lives

I want that.
I want something.
something wants me.
someone wants me.
I was told that would never happen.
that I was unwanted and unwantable.
she wants me with a sharp tongue.
he wants me but with bruising hands, with such speed.
she wants me if I change.
I want to be wanted.
this is not tender, this is not what I wanted.
even now I am in my dignity, I belong, I exist in real time, and I want something.

I know this.
I know something but it’s small.
I’m always learning.
everything I know slips from under my feet.
I know nothing.
I am an inbreath and a question.
I know what I want.
I knew this before I existed, I’ll know it forever.
I know from cell and from marrow, from dream and from whisper.
I love this feeling of knowing.
I love not knowing.
even now I am in my dignity, I belong, I exist in real time, and I want something.

I need you.
I need to be better than this.
I need my species to grow.
I need these babies to continue.
I need to taste my own life.
I need to feel unsettled.
I need to fly, to look down on the clouds.
I need help sometimes.
I need to help, to be needed.
I need forgiveness.
I need all this love and even more.
even now I am in my dignity, I belong, I exist in real time, and I want something.

..

we have completed the first transformation in action course in Detroit. somatics is intentionally remembering what we know about love and dignity, safety and belonging, the long and beautiful life in each of us that predates any trauma.

doing this work with people who have given their lives to community, to justice, it’s the greatest honor.

I think centering, organizing ourselves towards what we long for (vs what we’re against), saves lives. I think it will change our collective existence. one small room at a time.

I want that.
I know this.
I need you.
even now I am in my dignity, I belong, I exist in real time, and I want something.

how does crying work?

last weekend i cried in front of people. i suspected it could happen – i was teaching a somatics course and was being vulnerable in front of the class.

it wasn’t just a few tears, it’s the kind of crying where you feel ugly and want to be smaller and picked up by someone who has the answers and will carry you back to some time before you knew adult suffering.

it doesn’t much matter what i started crying about, when it was time to be done, my tears were not done. they felt non-specific and available, like new thoughts, old memories and ongoing longings would float up in my mind and they also wanted tears.

the crying, the feelings made me pale and tired and prickly and pushy and honest without sweetness. thank octavia i love so many patient people, or i think i would truly have to go find the castaway/lost island and learn to open coconuts on rocks.

yesterday i was driving from one home to another and in a pause between two songs, more tears came, suddenly, strong enough that i pulled off at the next exit. my tears almost always come at the sharp point of a singular true thought – “this person is gone”, “i was thoughtless”, “someone scared my nibbling and i wasn’t there”, “why is my species suicidal?”, “i miss my grandparents”.

later i drove through a storm and finally, for the first time since crying in front of people, felt just right. lightning shot down bright fingers trying to scorch earth, thunder clapped and undulated overhead saying “wrong way, wrong way, turn around”, and the rain was so abundant.

i saw how you can’t rush the rain, can’t rush a storm.

i’ve been trying to rush through my amazing life, my own transitions, rushing to share everything i learn, rushing to be everywhere at once. leaving no time for big messy beautiful storms, for my rage, my overwhelm, my celebration.

tears are another way the body takes time. slows things down.

my body says: “slower.

slower.

know nothing, know nothing, just listen. no, listen. fill up your cup and then, maybe, pour into others.

slower.

it may even seem like you stop for a moment. slow like that.”

i spent time with my bestie-nibbling yesterday. she’s been in this world nine months now, and she is learning about crying, testing out her lungs and her discontent. we stepped onto her balcony and the rain had just cleared. her face was calming, a fat tear lingering on her cheek. she looked up in wonder and watched a flock of birds fly by us. i just watched her face, the full range of feeling there.

i want to live at this pace.

my face is wet, my breath is deeper, i’m catching up with myself. i want to really be here for my life.

i’m thinking of rewriting the tortoise and the hare as a shapeshifting story. with my body.

report back: loving on st louis

“we need this. we have needed this.”

spannaltaderrek

that is what we heard over and over from the people who showed up to saint john’s church on grand avenue in st. louis this past week. i am now reflecting at home after an incredible and intense week as part of a healing justice team from generative somatics and BOLD who flew in from detroit, new york, cali, hawaii, miami.

lisaalta

deniseprentis

we were invited and anchored by patrisse marie cullors-brignac, cofounder of #blacklivesmatter, founder/co-director of dignity and power now, and general sister goddess extraordinaire. she collaborated with the brilliant ashley yates, one of the first st. louis activists to call the nation to attention. it’s something else to be in either of these women’s presence. both at the same time? black girl magic.

patrissestarsky

ashleystarsky

our host at saint john’s UCC was reverend starsky, who really does give me andre 3000 pulpit edition, and president marco, who gives hugs that feel like rearrangements. they are flanked by uncle/brother cornelius and kara, who took care of everything we could need, and camielle, who hung in with every single thing we did the whole week.

these blessed people have been offering up a space and structure for healing, gathering, song, prayer and growth for a long time. seven months ago their church became one respite in the war that the st. louis police department is waging against the people. so that’s where we went.

i tried to write y’all while we were there, but i couldn’t. the place is both too beautiful and too heavy. and i actually wasn’t even alone to write or reflect the whole week, except for a few ten minute showers. those who know me well will know how incredible the week was, because i didn’t notice not being alone, i just felt love, love and purpose, the whole time.

adaku

octavia butler reminded us that ‘god is change'; st. louis is a city overflowing with god. the conditions and mood change constantly, and each person we met showed that same ever mercurial energy, along and under the surface. they had other jobs, and loves, lives and grief, often very fresh grief, when they were called on to become the front line of a defensive battle.

that is, when mike brown was murdered.

mikebrown1

i have to share with y’all about where mike died. not anything new, but something deeply felt. it is different to see something on the news, and then to touch and breathe it.

on our last night in town, after days of healing and loving up on st. louis, we went to the place where he was gunned down. i always knew it was out in the open, i’ve seen the pictures and film. but there are so many windows looking at the street he ghosts. there it is…on a major street in a housing complex where a thousand eyes of all ages were able to easily look out from their living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens.

as we pulled up, a young boy walked across the street. as he stepped off the curb i wanted to build a fortress around him, knowing it’s impossible, knowing there are so many boys like him. one of the grown men we did healing work with wept as he spoke of being young, large, awkward and black – feeling the fear people had of him in the face of his innocence.

mike was murdered in a neighborhood ringed by three story apartment buildings, many of which now stand empty. he was murdered on a road folks speed down, between a busy parking lot and a slew of yards and balconies. there are two monuments where he died, one long and slender in the middle of the street, the other a mountain around the base of a streetlamp nearby. they are primarily constructed of stuffed animals – teddy bears, toy elephants, soft floppy birds, pink puppies. mixed into this pyre of toys are candles, letters, protest signs, sandals and shoes, v for vendetta masks, flyers, folded banners, cardinals hats, jerseys, photographs.

mikebrown2

mike’s face looks out from the pile, his beautiful young face. his familiar stranger face.

the fur of the toys gives the effect of a muted rainbow in the yellow lamplight, pressed upon by time, slumped, tainted. these teddy bears have been through the first winter mike missed. toys. it’s so sad, so devastating, so enraging.

rage. there is no other way to speak of it. i can’t find anything beautiful in it.

when i stepped from the sidewalk onto the street, my gut started shaking and didn’t stop until we drove away. it’s a stained tar middle passage – the body knows when it crosses a place of hate.

“we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”

after the memorial we went to the ferguson police department, one night after the police chief stepped down and two officers were shot. there were black activists holding the center – ‘if we don’t get it, shut it down’ – white activists, clergy, politicians.

i have been many places where we yelled ‘no justice, no peace’, and then, for a million reasons, we went home. but in st. louis right now, the truth of those words is so palpable – i feel it in my bones. this is the gift st. louis has given the nation. this small, tight knit, intimate, imperfect place has been showing us, for 216 days now, what it means to deny any myth of peace in the absence of justice.

brittanycamielleprentis

being black and loving black people in an armed and militarized police nation infected with unchecked institutionalized racism is traumatizing. the shivers that journeyed my body standing across from the ferguson police department felt like intelligence. i could see the fear, the desperate longing for control on the police faces before me. armed and dangerous humans, and they are in a war against people who are…living and black. some of us are flagrantly and radically living, resisting and calling out the truth.

but the ones getting killed in this war…there’s so much innocence in the murdered ones.

and in the survivors.

“it’s so much scarier when it’s just in your head.”

the people who came to sit with us each day are the heart of this local movement that has captured international attention. they are warriors, comrades, beloveds and people of faith. many of them are young in that way that feels lit from within. several older folks came to check us out and it was humbling to see them look the younger activists in their eyes and say ‘you changed me’.

wiwo

every single person who came through our doors had trauma before, after, inside and outside of the moment on august 9 when they learned mike brown’s name and story, when they drove to ferguson and wouldn’t go home.

spannprentis

our team was led by lisa thomas-adeyemo and included alta starr, denise perry, prentis hemphill, adaku utah and myself. we centered, taught, did one on one sessions and story circles, sang, saged, practiced, listened and held everyone we could reach. we worked with people as individuals and groups to move trauma out of their bodies, and to give them practices for bringing what they care about to the center of their lives and decision making.

theteam

each day was emergent, and each day we learned more about each other’s capacity and the place we had come to. there was a lot of awe, wonder, resilience and love.

adakulisa

denisepatrisse

the work we came to do, somatics, is not about healing for the sake of individual wellness, though that is a radical act for any people slated for extinction. it is about healing trauma such that individuals and communities are not operating in reaction to oppression, and not relinquishing control over and over again because of changes outside their power. it is about organizing our lives, ourselves, around what we most care about and long for. and then living positive, generative, whole lives from that place.

ambandprentis

there is always going to be so much devastation to react to, especially for those of us on the wrong side of racism. the trauma won’t stop. if we hope to advance, we have to find ways to move through and out of the vice grip of trauma that so drastically limits our choices.

it felt like a beginning. so much more is needed.

lisa led us in a song the last day that keeps rolling through me:

‘we gonna rise with the fire of freedom
truth is the fire that will burn our chains
stop the fire of destruction
healing is the fire running through our veins’

trust the people

‘if you do not trust the people, they will become untrustworthy.’ – lao tzu, tao te ching

i am writing from biloxi mississippi where i am co-facilitating a gathering of activists coming together around extreme energy extraction – organizing around the processes and impacts of a society run on coal, oil, natural gas, uranium. we had an amazing gathering, and it inspires me so much to put the emergent strategy approach in action.

one of the primary principles of emergent strategy is trusting the people.

often, facilitation seems to do the opposite of this. we sit with the organizers of a gathering and try to figure out ahead of time every single necessary conversation we want to see happen, and then create an agenda that imposes our priorities on the people who we have invited to gather, ostensibly because they are the experts and front line thinkers on the issue. then, a few hours or days into the gathering, we are harried and desperate because the people have realized what we are up to, or simply aren’t feeling heard, and/or we have missed something crucial that is at the center of the gathering. there emerges a sense of facilitators and participants working against each other, instead of everyone working in collaboration to meet the goals.

i have been experimenting with what it means to ‘trust the people’ in practice.

i’ve been facilitating for a while, and although i know that the common wisdom is that every meeting has a flow of ‘form, storm, norm’ – the group comes together, then explodes in opposition to what is happening and creates what they need, and then a norm emerges where there is a sense of accomplishment and deepening into their united identity – i have often wondered if there was another option, one that would save us time, resources, stress, division and energy.

it’s happening. none of the meetings i have facilitated this past year have had a significant storm component. facilitate means to make it easy, and i feel like finally it is happening, it is getting easier for the participants and for me and my cofacilitators.

here are some of the practices for trusting the people in practice.

1. goal setting.

why are we meeting? what can this group uniquely accomplish?…i have to thank taj james for this clarifying question. there are always a ton of relevant conversations that could happen, but there is usually a very small set of conversations that this particular group, at this particular moment in history, can have and move forward, given their capacity, resources, time, focus and beliefs.

the organizers should have this question at the center of their planning for the event. i also find that it helps to survey the group of invitees to sharpen the goals.

2. invite the right people.

we invite people to meetings for a lot of the wrong reasons – obligation, guilt, representation…even love. the questions to ask when shaping the invite list are ‘who is directly impacted by this issue?’ and ‘who can move this work forward?’

inviting the right people means we aren’t wasting time by renegotiating the goals nonstop throughout the meeting, and/or managing the dissonance that occurs (righteously in my opinion) when a participant who shouldn’t be at the meeting tries to make it worth their time by derailing the process of advancing the stated goals.

now, right people doesn’t mean easy people – conflict and difference are often an important part of advancing the work, bringing the real issues into the room. trust is built when the right people are in the right room, and can bring their opinions and work into a container that advances their individual and collective goals.

the right facilitators are also key. i love co-facilitating with people more creative and meticulous than me. inca mohamed, hannah strange, autumn brown, raquel lavina, kavitha rao, jodie tonita, anasa troutman, alicia garza, the generative somatics teaching body, many more – this is a time of brilliant facilitation!

3. individual participant articulation.

there are real language barriers, both literal and cultural, that mean we often think we are hearing each other, but really we have no clue about what others are saying. we all have filters, only some of which we are aware of.

in a gathering, this can create the utmost confusion. folks are using different cultural references, different touch points and acronyms, coming from widely different experiences and passions – even if what they are saying is similar, they can’t hear and understand each other.

giving everyone room to say what they want to prioritize and discuss, and then synthesizing that set of topics as a group, grows the common tongue of the participants, and allows for genuine clarity to happen in the dance of organizing all of the desires into a manageable number of conversations. my friend allen gunn taught me a way to do this with post its and a blank wall, and i just keep iterating off of that exercise to create self-generated agendas.

when trying to determine which articulation to prioritize, go with that of the most impacted people in the room – it is usually the most relevant, and often the clearest and most accessible.

4. a living agenda.

develop a spacious adaptible agenda where the participants can shape the meeting. again, our tendency is to fill up every minute from the beginning to the end of the day with formal session time, creating schedules that are hard to change when new information comes along. not to mention, these agendas sometimes underestimate how long conversations may actually take.

most conversations need at least 1.5 hours to adequately cover orienting around the content, identifying what is needed and identifying clear next steps. and that’s conservative. a meaningful full group conversation for thirty people or more needs roughly a minute person participant. underscheduling means that energy will start to build up looking for release.

folks are so used to not being heard. so used to not getting their needs met. when folks feel heard, the time starts to expand as people move past expressing and start to be able to listen.

it is a beautiful thing to give people space and time, but within the agenda also point continuously towards collaboration. in the u.s., which is where i do most of my facilitation, there is a socialized tendency towards competition – ‘my idea is the best and i am just here to sell it!’. well…no thank you. what can we do together from our passions?

collaboration can only be built on relationships and shared vision. relationships have to be respectful (‘oh i totally see why you are here and why i would want to work with you’) and real (‘what you just said offended/disrespected me, and i can tell you about it because i want us to grow!’). and shared vision doesn’t mean a ten point shared utopia – it means you can generally state that you are moving in the same direction.

the spacious agenda often leads to ending the meeting early, or right on time. try it! it’s magical.

5. listen with love!

the participants absolutely mean to be listening to each other, but their own agendas might fill up their ears with misunderstandings or frustrations. your work as a facilitator is to listen to the needs of the group, help the participants to be clear to and with each other, and make sure you actually understand what folks in the room need.

listen to the feedback you request, and to the other feedback that flows in from the edges, the participants who need something more. my confession here is that i have, at times, grown annoyed with those participants who tend more towards deconstruction, anxiety or frustration…they are the ones often less able to state clearly what they want. however if i can drop in and set my annoyance aside, those folks are sometimes trying to get at the heart of the matter, or name the root schism in the room – the thing that is unnamed because it hard to name. taking time to hear the participants in the margins of the agenda can actually help get the event on point. and i can’t count the number of times a disgruntled participant was actually just misunderstanding something that, when clarified, made them a star participant.

6. know when to say yes and when to say no.

yes to those things that deepen the gathering – cultural grounding, local welcome, clarifying questions, learning in real time, suggestions to slow down. no to manipulative efforts to quiet others, pontification, ignorance. yes to singing, bio breaks (bathroom, fresh air, snacks, self care), ending early (when the group has run out of energy for the day), talent shows, parties and efforts to synthesize. no to judgment, delays, circular conversations and people who are rejecting the process.

7. what you gonna do?

my friend gibran rivera once articulated a question to me: ‘what is the next most elegant step?’ oh i love this question. too often we come up with plans that don’t take into account the fog on the horizon. then we go off and the work doesn’t happen, perhaps can’t happen, and then we feel demoralized because our energy doesn’t flow into action. an elegant step is one that acknowledges what is known and unknown, and what the capacity of this group actually is. an elegant step allows humility, allows people to say ‘actually we need to do some research’ or ‘actually we need to talk to some folks not in this room’ or ‘actually we need a full day to build this plan out into something realistic and attainable’.

in any conversation – and i would say in any moment in life – there is a next elegant step – one that is possible and strategic based on who is taking it and where they are trying to go. find it and you cannot fail.

as with all things, these practices are emerging as i learn them. feel free to add on. love y’all, and let’s keep learning to do our movement work better and better.

dropping into body

spent the day today driving down the coast of california, hiking, dancing, laughing. i have never regretted saying yes to a road trip in my life, it is sweet to my body to journey at this pace, touching the trees and rocks along the way, watching the sun set over the vast pulsing ocean.

this last week i was in the second weekend of my somatics teacher training. i love being a student in this way. i will write lots about it sometime soon, but for now i am just sitting in gratitude.

i feel my body like a returned homeland.
i am dropping into my body as a falling in love: thrilling, learning, easy, impossible, there, there, there, here.
glimpses of my wholeness soften me.

the longing i have always had for a world where wholeness is celebrated and encouraged and possible feels closer as i expand to be in my whole body, to feel home in myself, in relationship to others, as something small in the face of the massive and mysterious, as something which belongs, which could not ever be apart.

one of the teachers shared a quote from shuji maruyama, founder of aikido: ‘you cannot defeat me, i am one with the universe.’ this release of the possibility of loss or failure, stepping into alignment with the universe, is the aspiration in me right now, for myself, for this species of which i am a part.

tomorrow i land in l.a. for another octavia butler event, its exciting and educational to continue this work. i will also get to meet the founder of the octavia e butler legacy network! it’s an exciting and appropriate time for this octavia renaissance.