This story is about holding a baby... and... taps into much more... trusting you find some resonance... in what ever aligns with your lived experience. Poly Vagal theory is a description of how our nervous system operates in ways designed by millions and millions of years of evolutionary experiments… to keep us safe… to keep us connected… to enable us to create life and community. It appears that evolution has an agenda… and the parts of this agenda that I can understand from my lived experience and from my own academic studies… are that, given time and relative stability, life produces greater and greater diversity of species and moves toward metabolic cycles that keep the energy in the ecosystem… without much loss or leakage.
Things become more and more niche over time. The tropical rainforests are an example of this… most of the energy in these ecosystems is held within the living matter… which as it dies and returns to the soils… is fairly quickly broken down and regenerated... taken up by microorganisms.... and then used by the fungi and plants for nutrition and growth.
This rapid, continual recycling of nutrients creates a broad spectrum of species and then creates it’s own climate conditions that further the harmony and longevity of this life producing emergent ecological beauty.
You and me are part of this evolutionary theatre of ever increasing diversity… and yet recently… over the last ten thousand years… we seem to have misunderstood something… interfering with this well designed life producing and diversity driven pattern… we are now a possible threat to the planets ability to self regulate… as effectively as it might. How can I not see an overlap in the history of our planet… our human species as a whole… and the ways the we recent humans are suffering with a loss of connection to each other… and most importantly… with a loss of connection to our nature... to
our own true selves. Last week I was facilitating a group… in a local cafe not far from where I live. I call these group sessions;
An Introduction to Somatic Coaching, Practices and Principles. As the first early arrivers for this 90 minute session… arrived… I noticed a couple with a young baby on the other side of the cafe finishing their food. As the baby was being handed from the mother to the father… I went across and smiled at them and asked how old the baby was… she was just three months and was called Carmen. I mentioned that it was ages since I had held such a young baby… and the mother asked if I wanted to hold her… the father handed her over… and Carmen was no more comfortable with me then she had been with her dad… so I went into a role I practiced for many years ago with my own four daughters.
I held her in my arms… at first on my shoulder… and as she was not keen on this… I held her so she could still see me but could look around too… gently moving on my feet and humming quietly… she calmed a little… while still turning her head looking for her mother whom had gone off to find the toilets.
I checked into my own excitement at seeing her… holding her… and regulated my breathing… slowed down my energy… and just stayed present with her… not taking much notice of what else was going on around me… and Carmen stopped wriggling… stopped crying and making noise… and relaxed into my arms.
She noticed the evening lights coming through the window next to us… so I stayed with this for a few minutes and she got curious about what she could now take in with all her senses… moving her tongue a little as if the she was tasting the smells in the cafe… and following the lights as they passed by the window with her eyes… while turning her head when she noticed other voices in the background… and finding the confidence to look me in the eyes once or twice. This level of communication… amazes and thrills me… in a quiet… soft… deep way.
And I struggle to agree when people say… babies don’t do much do they.
I love spending time with new little people… people who’re too young to have learned that there are cultural expectations and understandings around the ways we use our senses and the ways we communicate.
Just being with this tiny young person… took me into a deep sense of gentle connection… and into my own ancient abilities to communicate without words… becoming connected by co-regulating our shared energy.
All of this happened without me thinking… without a plan or a conceptual awareness of what I was doing… it came from my somatic wisdom… from my embodied self awareness…from opening up to my felt sense… to what felt available.
Carmen was not hungry… not tired… she was just unsure about about being separated from the one person in her new life who she had total trust and faith in… being handed from her mother… she was letting me and her father know that she was not comfortable emotionally… and was missing the security she feels when being in close physical contact with her mother. So… I thanked Carmen… told her quietly that she had made my day… smiled at her father and handed her back to her mother.
This whole interaction probably took five or six minutes.
Her mum had been to the toilet… her father had paid for the food they had eaten… and they were ready to leave… and I was ready to host this somatic coaching group… which was now made up of about twelve people sitting in a circle… chatting with each other.
Carmen had such an impact on the way group panned out… and once the group had described to me what they wanted to know and understand… they split into smaller groups and shared their own experiences of finding resources in other people whom they trust… admire… look to for inspiration and generally feel good with.
Mapping where we are in our nervous system... self regulating to bring us back to safe and secure connection... is a skill that we learn through using somatic practices... and working with others who can help us notice what is going on for us when we get lost in the stories... and lose sight of the story teller... lose sight of our real... true selves.
Regulating our energy... co-regulating with others and our communities... and self regulating... are core skills in this somatic healing practice.
If we are well cared for when very young this gives us a better chance of finding ways to do this as we grow and mature... it seems that in our modern communities... many of us are taught to ignore or deny difficult or uncomfortable nervous states... and this may show up in later life as repressed and unresolved trauma.
Being authentic and being accepted is not an option for many of us in the suck it up culture we are raised in.
So we skip the being authentic as we need to feel accepted in order to survive... learning to switch off our spontaneous and intuitive responses to relationship and connection.
Somatic coaching for me is tricky to describe in words… it relies upon stripping out some of the cultural conditioning that we have been raised within… opening up towards the agenda that evolution has designed and invited us to join in with.
Being able to connect with myself… my needs… my desires… my creativity… and then being able to express all of this and more… while having trust in my community to allow me the space to express honestly… is the core for me… of living a meaningful life.
Struggling with recognising my deep capacity for connection… falling into the doubt that has been imprinted within me via the cultural conditioning that goes along with being a white man… living in the UK and growing up in the 50’s and 60’s… I am re-learning… re-pairing with the richness in those tiny moments when I can dip back in to my evolutionary gifted somatic wisdom… enjoy those moments when I trust my abilities… hold and sooth a slightly distressed three month old baby… and… or… host a small group of people who feel more able to trust and connect with themselves and each other… as a result of me sharing my lived experience and my learned skills with them.
Phew… way too many words to describe something that I feel in sensations rather than create in words… and yet… I know I am driven by forces I don’t understand… to make this effort… towards communities filled with individuals who trust they may express what they really feel… using a wide range of mediums and modalities… and be given the space and respect for doing so.
If you have got this far in this piece here… thanks for your trust and your energetic input… and as I type these last few words… I notice I stop… breath more consciously… and tap into the feelings I felt and stored when I took a young baby in my arms and gave her my total quiet attention.
Pic; Hartley Bay last week on a morning walk with a friend and his dog.