Somatic Spirituality

In a review of the the book “The Awakening Body” by Reginald Ray, I came across the term “somatic spirituality.”  What is somatic spirituality?  According to Ray, it “involves tuning in to the vast interior world of wakefulness, freedom, and joy that lies just beneath the surface, in our body.”  He explains that the body is capable of an awareness beyond what our conscious mind can achieve, that our bodies are aware in ways that our minds are not.  The consciousness of our bodies transcends that of the mind.  Perhaps it is ironic that the word “mindful” is most commonly understood as meaning present and aware.  It is our bodies that are “mindful” in a way our logical minds cannot be.  Our logical mind judges, rationalizes, and worries about the future, whereas our bodies experience directly, unimpeded by conscious bias and prejudice.  And direct experience, especially to Buddhists, equals awareness, which facilitates enlightenment, or “spiritual” awakening.

How can tuning in to the body help us emotionally? Tuning in to the body helps us access sensations, emotions, and information unavailable to the logical mind. The body is a warehouse of wisdom. Somatic therapies such as body-centered psychotherapy help clients gain precious insight by listening to our “body-talk.”  In the words of Reginald Ray, “Until our emotional blockages from trauma of any kind are known directly within our somatic awareness, no actual psychological transformation is possible.”  Trauma, in this sense, could mean an angry exchange, an unmet need, as well as violent abuse.  Overwhelming pain or even mild irritation often bypasses our mind and lodges in our bodies. A liver can “own” anger to spare the conscience. A sacrum can hold pain to spare the heart.  As a body-centered psychotherapist I will often facilitate a dialogue with the liver or sacrum (or toe or throat or inner child), and attend to its (their) needs.  Many times just listening brings clarity and relief.  The client may gain healing insight, and/or benefit from physiological changes/energetic shifts. By attuning to and listening to our bodies, we can viscerally know ourselves and begin the process of healing.

Some might call that somatic spirituality.