Somatic Experiencing

How Good Can You Stand It? by Ariel Carson

What is your capacity for pleasure, delight, and joy in every day life? 

As a matter of survival, we are biologically wired to look for threats in any situation. We often therefore become accustomed to noticing our pain and discomfort, rather than luxuriating in the more pleasant experiences of life. The more time we spend focusing on our pain, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, the more it intensifies and grows. Even when we’re committed to resting, releasing, and receiving in our yoga, meditation, or other self-care practices, there are often parts of us constantly fighting to keep our systems on alert. Our relationship to pleasure is intimately wrapped up with our capacity to experience safety. This can breed an exhausting subconscious conflict of interest, which interferes with our ability to freely inhabit a place of joy.

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How You Get What You Want by Ariel Carson

What happens in your body when you think of wanting something very badly?

Give yourself a moment to really envision something you desire, and notice any changes through your breath and muscles.

Did you observe any kind of tightening, a sense of restriction, or shortening of your breath? 

Wanting begins with needing, food and sleep, and connection with other human beings for example. As babies and toddlers, on an embodied level, needing and wanting may be expressed through crying and reaching out to grasp. The baby reaches for the mother’s breast, the bottle, as a plea to be picked up and held; later on we may cling tightly to our favorite toy.

However, the ways in which we express and aim to fulfill our desires may develop inefficiently. We may learn to reach out and attempt to grasp what we want both literally and figuratively in restrictive ways, or to try and deny our desires in full. This diminishes our connection to living in the flow that leads us toward more embodied freedom and the fulfillment of our desires in the first place.

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Vulnerability & Defense by Ariel Carson

Photo by  Miriam Miles  on  Unsplash

Photo by Miriam Miles on Unsplash

Let’s take a moment to thank our defenses.

Established out of necessity in response to physical, mental, emotional, and energetic boundary breaches, our defenses are what have gotten us through to this moment. They may arise as attempts to exert control over our lives when we feel unsafe, unmet, unseen, unheard, helpless and overwhelmed. We lock down, shut down, and close off when our boundaries are overridden. Another person may initiate these ruptures, for example, in obvious cases like abuse. However we may also be responsible for overriding our own boundaries, like in instances of empathic individuals who give more of their time and energy than they are able to without taking care of their own needs first.

Sometimes though, our defenses interfere with our ability to connect with those we care for and love. They may hinder us from becoming the people we wish to become, and doing the things we want to do. So what’s the alternative?

There are those who might tout radical vulnerability as the answer, total openness. And because so many of us are so closed off, this may seem like the obvious answer to move in the opposite direction. However, just as a turtle has the option to retract its head, arms, and legs into its shell, we want our systems to be able to contract and expand with manageable conscious ease. We want body-mind-selves that respond appropriately to the demands of whatever situation is at hand, wherever that lands us on the spectrum of choosing to put up our defenses or choosing to open up more.

Repairing boundary breaches and becoming conscious of our habitual defenses helps us achieve a greater sense of wholeness and agency. Somatic Experiencing guides us to detect how our boundary breaches manifest psycho-biologically, and discover our innate capacity to repair these ruptures.  Alexander Technique helps us understand how our coordination may be keeping us trapped in defensive postural patterns. Excess tension can act as a suit of armor against sensing and feeling. We learn how to gently unwind these fortified patterns and experience greater safety and freedom in more open, vulnerable, embodied coordination. Both modalities cultivate a more accurate internal barometer to judge when something is an actual threat or just perceived as such.

We are filters for a vital life force moving through us, permeable beings in connection to our environments and one another. Healthy boundaries mean we are more capable of choosing who and what we allow in, and more intentional with what we share with the world. 

Surviving to Thrive: A Union of Intuition and Reason by Ariel Carson

All living things are survivors. We are built to keep going forward until our last moments. But rather than just plodding along in survival mode, how can we move in the direction of thriving?

When we have unresolved trauma in our lives, it’s as though some part of us does not understand we survived. Even if the perceived threat has long passed, some part of us believes that we are still in danger, and our nervous system behaves as such. This affects everything from how we digest our food to how we interact with our friends and loved ones. It informs how we sense the world around us, and therefore how we move through it.

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Let's Organize Ourselves Around Spaciousness by Ariel Carson

What would it mean to organize our mind-body-selves around spaciousness and move from there? If there are an infinite number of points between any two points, then we can infer that there is an infinite amount of space between each of these points as well. It follows that between every atom in our bodies there is an infinite amount of space. We can therefore consider ourselves permeable, interconnected, affected and affecting our environment near and far. We are not closed systems acting in isolation.

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