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Somatic Resonance is So Good Y'all
I'm done being coy - here are 7 things I absolutely adore about Somatic Resonance
I backed myself into a strange little corner at some point. Very silly of me. This corner, like so many of them, is entirely of my own making—and more importantly, it’s entirely of my own sustaining. It looks something like this:
Years ago, somatic meditation fixed my life.
I’m not going to say that somatic resonance is a panacea that cures all problems—but it certainly dissolved all of my biggest problems at the time. Problems that had dominated and shaped my life since before I could remember were simply—poof—gone in a matter of months. The relentless thought loops and inner monologue; the self-loathing and inner critic; the sense of watching my life in the third person; the feeling of being scattered and unsure what to do, unsure what path to take out of the seemingly infinite variety of paths at any given moment. All these intractable issues that dominated my moment-to-moment experience were simply gone within a few months, all because I spent 30-60 minutes most days letting my body sense itself, and spend the rest of the day moving in and out of that awareness in the rhythm of remembering and forgetting to do so.
“Somatic resonance is a panacea that cures all problems”
-River Kenna, 2023
So my loyalty to (and relentless shilling of) somatic resonance is perfectly understandable, perfectly justified. My entire day-to-day existence shifted from Trapped-in-Misery to Oh-Wow-What-A-Nice-Day. It’s felt ever since like I literally live in a different, more open and alive world from the one I was inhabiting before.
So that’s all great. No corner to be backed into there.
The trouble, such as it is, started from the fact that I started noticing that the type of somatic work I do (the kind that’s intimately connected to mythopoetic reality, and oriented towards deep integration with the Heart, Mind, and Soul) wasn’t really in the water, so to speak. This stuff had changed my life, and no one else had ever told me about it. I had to stumble into it on accident and tie it together from a hundred different sources, many of them from domains completely disconnected from each other.
So if no one else was talking about this, if no one else had done the work to tie it together and make sure people just starting out had access to it—I was going to have to take a shot at it.
Which is what I’ve been doing. I ran somatic-imaginal workshops, I’ve put together a Somatic Resonance course that builds the somatic foundations necessary for imaginal and mythopoetic work, I’ve written a whole lot of tweets and essays on the subject. The past couple years have been more or less dedicated to putting this stuff in the water supply, making sure as many people as possible have access to the tools and views I wish I’d had starting out.
So where’s the problem?
I, uh, am very uncomfortable with self-promotion. I can shill for other people and ideas and frameworks all day long, but when it comes to talking about my own stuff, I get shy. I get constricted.
This causes a series of knots. The whole point of all the work I’ve done is to get these ideas and practices in front of more people, to make sure other people have something I didn’t: clear, compact explanations, evocations, and practices to move more deeply into the body, so that they can move more sure-footedly into the heart and soul, and eventually reintegrate the mind into healthier relationship with their wholeness.
If I’m unable to speak enthusiastically and uncomplicatedly about that, simply because now I’m the person who’s putting out the materials, then why did I bother? What was all the work for?
So here’s take one at getting over that block, at dissolving the walls of this corner. I’ve got 7 broad-stroke qualities I absolutely adore about Somatic Resonance, and I’m just going to say them—and I’m going to invite you to explore them further in the course, the mini-workshop, and/or the Mythosomatic Dreamwork course I’m putting together.
Let’s get at it.
1. Untangled Thought-Loops
When I talk about my early life, how my mind was constantly looping looping looping, always reaching our for something to chew chew chew on—I see a lot of oof on people’s faces, and hear a lot of moans of sympathetic recognition.
I don’t know what proportion of people are regularly exhausted by their inner monologue, but it doesn’t seem small. People stay up late at night, not because they want to, but because the endless go go go churning in their head won’t stop. They lie awake staring at the ceiling while their mind reaches for anything to chew on—old embarrassing memories, conversations from the day, hopes, desires, revenge schemes, whatever’s at hand.
Social interactions and conversations feel intensely stressful for some folks, because their mind is revving the whole time: thinking about what the other person is saying the whole time they’re saying it, thinking of a response at the same time, thinking about tangential topics that come up and whether or not you could move the topic to those, thinking thinking thinking.
The first side-effect of somatic meditation for me was that this whole mode of being dissolved.
From probably age 10 onward, I hadn’t had a single moment’s rest from that revving engine in my mind, and after a couple months of the Somatic Descent program, it had all calmed down. In conversations now, I simply listen; and when it’s my turn, I simply speak. I fall asleep in 10-15 minutes most nights. When I look out at a beautiful vista, I’m not thinking about how to describe it, I’m just looking.
The before-and-after difference here is literally unthinkable. It’s like living a different life.
From a lot of conversations I’ve had around Somatic Resonance, I’ve gathered that this benefit feels like the most immediately relevant to most people. Luckily, it seems to also be one of the quickest side effects. For me personally, this effect was only the beginning—I kept following the thread until much more unfolded. But even if I had stopped here, done nothing else, this untangling of my thought patterns would have been enough for me to be grateful for Somatic Resonance for the rest of my life.
2. No More Just Sitting Please
Meditation is, generally speaking, a good habit to pick up.
Sitting is, generally speaking, a terrible habit to do more of.
I’m not the first one to feel an ambivalence here; maybe a dozen people I’ve talked to over the past year have mentioned some level of concern in the basic register of “I sit at work; I sit a lot at home; regardless of the other benefits of meditation, I’m not sure picking up yet another type of sitting is the best call for me right now.”
This is one of my personal favorite aspects of Somatic Resonance—I can practice it in basically every area of my life. While I’m walking, I allow the walking to be aware of itself. Playing with my cat, running around the living room, I bring expansive open awareness and playful physical resonance to the situation. Several musicians have mentioned that pairing somatic practices with their music practice brings startlingly deep and delightful results.
Towards the beginning, it’s best to spend some amount of time in seated and/or lying down meditation, to let the pure practice build itself. But more and more as the practice takes over, Somatic Resonance pairs with just about any activity you choose to intentionally explore it through.
This isn’t purely a health concern either. It’s also about integrating your practice into a coherent life.
There’s a lot of lip service around “taking meditation off the cushion,” and bringing meditative awareness into daily life. But the message never quite matches the medium, does it? “Proper” meditation tends to happen in times and spaces set apart from daily life, using techniques and modes of attention that don’t show up in daily life.
Somatic Resonance is a lot like the Alexander Technique in this way: the point isn’t to have a continuing schedule of times and locations dedicated to the activity. The point is to move beyond that, bringing this new type of awareness into everything you do, and allowing it to deepen into the specific life that you live.
I wake up, stretch, take a walk to the park and watch the ducks—and the whole time, I’m somewhere in the spectrum of open somatic awareness, connected with the intelligence of the body, inquiring into each motion, each velleity—checking in with how this passage of my day feels, what it’s qualities are, how it flows relative to the forces driving my lived experience. It’s an absolutely lovely way to go about a morning.
3. Open Awareness is a Nootropic and an Entheogen
This point probably deserves to be its own article, and undoubtedly will become one later on, but for now it’ll suffice to say: I am confused by the loosely agreed-upon “Meditation 101” that gets pushed a lot of places. It begins with focus-based meditation, every time. Always concentration on an object, usually the breath. Always this movement of narrowing awareness down to a single thing, holding it there, and returning to it over and over again.
We live in a culture that values and enforces focus, a culture that cultivates in each of us a habit for ignoring anything we deem irrelevant, for blinkering ourselves to anything but what’s right in front of us. I really, really feel it unwise to continue this pattern when people come to meditation and contemplative practice. Which is why my foundational practice, Somatic Resonance, is deeply rooted in open spontaneous awareness, rather than leaning even harder into the prevailing narrowed focus of our culture.
Maybe more to the point: spontaneous open awareness feels absolutely amazing.
You know that feeling when you notice you’ve been clenching you’re jaw and tensing your shoulders—so you take a deep breath and let go? Open awareness is kind of like that moment of relief, but for your entire field of experience, and much more enduring. I cannot tell you how lovely the feeling is—it’s like you’ve been wandering for days through narrow alleyways and crawling through tunnels, and suddenly you turn a corner and emerge into a vast open meadow, the broad bow of the sky greeting you as the universe itself lets out a long, slow exhale of total relief.
If inner silence was one of the first side effects of somatic meditation to reach me, the availability of open awareness was maybe fourth or fifth. It opened in degrees, bit by bit, as my sense of the body opened up.
I first meditated just with the body-map that my intellect provided (limbs, bones, blood, muscle, etc), and finding that I could relax and open up those experiences was a huge relief. Noticing the tension I was carrying and letting go of it was helpful, in a quotidian way.
Then I started noticing that my experience of the body didn’t necessarily correspond to anatomical body maps—it felt fuzzier, buzzier, a little more flowy. When I was able to also connect with and open up that layer of experience, much more of my life started to feel workable. Things didn’t feel so baked-in.
Further and further senses of the body opened up (and continue opening up) one by one, and as I’m able to connect with and open up to each one, ever-wider senses of openness become available. Not only can I let go of muscle tension, I can also, when I’m in the flow, notice emotional and relational tensions I’m carrying, and decide to let them go. I can notice my sense of space being constricted, and simply let go of the ways I’m supporting that constriction. I can notice when possibilities in my life-path feel off-limits or impossible, and inquire into those knot-complexes, loosening them here and there until they become workable.
Concentration meditation has its place and is really helpful for particular things—but for my money, few things improve my sense of peace and aliveness more than regular access to states of expanded open awareness; and few things improve that access better than Somatic Resonance.
That feels good for today—I’ve got four more on my list, but they can wait for another day. I’ve got chicken to bake for dinner.
If you’re hungry for more and you simply can’t wait (how could I possibly blame you?), you’re of course welcome to:
take the Somatic Resonance course
dip into the Somatic Silence mini-workshop
give Reggie Ray’s Somatic Descent program a try
and of course simply start googling things like somatic meditation and somatic healing and mythosomatic dreamwork to see what comes up
On a parting note, just to wet your whistle, I’ll let you know how the next list will start: #4. The Coherence to Eros Pipeline.
[Continue on with Part Two]
Not only from the meditation world, but from acting and improv, breathwork, depth psychology, the anti-psychiatry movement of the 70s, placebo-hacking, vajrayana, ufology somehow??, shamanism, neo-Pythagorean philosophy, scattered bits of fiction, dance, trauma work, self-therapy… anywhere I could follow some scent of somatic resonance and some trace of imaginal emergence