Mainstreaming Hanna Somatic Education, part 1


I'm too busy.

Between clients, consultations by telephone, filling orders, creating new instructional videos, writing, answering email messages, answering questions as a featured authority on, developing new somatic exercises and refining somatic education techniques, my days are used up, even working as fast as I can (Imagine what that's doing to my Landau Reaction).  I'm getting behind on my creative work -- and on the work of mainstreaming Hanna somatic education.

-- and I have the idea that it's time for somatics to get bigger. 

After twenty years since Wave 1 students gained certification, it's a good time for Hanna somatic education to get "mainstream" enough to make meaningful differences to public health and to national economics.  I would like to see that to happen (far better than it's happening, now).

Hanna somatic education can go beyond being a small discipline practiced by a number of people small in comparison to the general population -- to -- a discipline carried on and spread by the general population. With certified practitioners serving those with needs beyond what somatic exercises, alone, can do, and with us training people embedded in special advantageous positions in mainstream culture, who can teach somatic exercises in their own place, we can set the stage for somatics to go "mainstream".  Then, we can reasonably expect a stream of referrals from somatic exercise teachers to clinical somatic education practitioners.

I can't bring that about, alone, and I know that a few enterprising practitioners are making some inroads.  However, I believe we could go about this in a much better organized way, generate a smooth mindset for gracefully taking our place far more deeply in human cultures, take some artful steps, end up with a much more solid standing as a discipline serving the public, and fulfill the mission Thomas Hanna envisioned.

I need more hands.

But failing that due to my own genetic limitations, I'm asking people to lend me their ears.

We have an opportunity and we face a potential danger -- that being the definition of risk.

The danger?  the success of Thomas Hanna's contribution -- in other people's hands than ours -- at a lower level of contribution than we could make.

The opportunity?

The potential to have somatics integrated into mainstream culture with such poise, mastery and assurance as to take our place as a matter of course.

Why now?

Three reasons:

Thomas Hanna's Reason
1. It's what Thomas Hanna envisioned when he spoke of "the millions" in his lecture to his Wave 1 students.  He was speaking of a long-term project, since the thirty-eight people he was addressing, and the ~300 who practice, now, can hardly serve "millions".

The Other Reasons:

2. A need exists beyond the need for people to be out of pain.  

In today's health care system, disability, pain management, and rehabilitation are stupendous costs to the American economy and to the world-economy.  Somatic education can cut those costs down to size and transform people's health and aging expectations; it can be part of "health care reform" (where what we have with Obamacare is "health insurance reform").

3. Hanna somatic education could easily be "eaten" by two teaching streams well-established in mainstream culture:  Pilates and Myofascial Release (Barnes) -- and there's talk in the Feldenkrais camp about mainstreaming Feldenkrais Somatic Integration, a good thing, but also a contrast to how we are handling mainstreaming.

Both teachings are close enough to Hanna somatics that the addition of pandiculation and the "three-reflex theory" would put them well within eating range of Hanna somatic education.  Thomas Hanna's book, Somatics, is out there, and so is Jim Dreaver's book, Somatic Technique, with step-by-step illustrations of Lessons 1, 2 and 3.

They wouldn't necessarily be as good as Hanna somatics practiced masterfully and with right understanding, but they might be close enough to take top position in mainstream culture, doing what Hanna somatics uniquely does best.  Remember, "The race doesn't always go to the swiftest, nor the contest, to the strongest."

I have it from one of our practitioner colleagues that:

  • One school of Pilates has developed enough sophistication about movement and coordination that it could incorporate pandiculation.
  • John Barnes has said that his advanced training incorporates something similar to pandiculation, if not pandiculation, itself.

If we don't overcome their advantages, Hanna somatic education could, in effect, be eaten.

There are reasons why Hanna somatics isn't already mainstream, and I'll address those in a future message.  They surface when we ask, What would happen if Hanna somatics went mainstream?

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with, "I need your help."


What You Can Do Right Now:

  1. Feel whether you agree with the gist of this message.

Religion, Myth and Dreams

Religion is a placeholder for the imagination and aspirations of human somas.

Imagination is the field of desire and resistance.

Aspiration is eros, being drawn to the attractive unknown.

We perceive the mythic realm when attention rises from immersion in concrete actions and memory, and is allowed to spread out into imagination and memory.

The spreading is into what some call "subtle realms" or "dream zones" or "dream time",
the field of possibility,
a subset of the field of all possibility.

The mythic realm is an ongoing subtle pull upon attention by currents of the world-mind
a movement that pulls us into our memories,
induces drift of attention,
and submerges us in dreams and reveries.

There, one finds the world of myth --
"concretizations of mind" (memories),
a world of possibilities that may have or may yet
show up as actuality.

Actuality seems concrete.
But actuality is always in motion.
It is the reliability of the motions of something we take as actual
that indicates or suggests something is actually concrete.

So it is that the brain can't tell the difference
between an imagined occasion
and an actual occasion,
if their vividness -- or the spell they cast upon (and captivate) attention -- is equal.

Thus, literature may move us to tears or laughter
by the spell of words we call,

And so also may our own stream of thinking
move us to feel things,
whether the stream be about what is actual
or about what is imagined.

Myth is Dream,
saved and made common.

Dreams may be the precursor
of actualities.

is a placeholder for our imaginings,
upon which rests our faith,
save for us until we can take flight, for ourselves
in flights of imagination and acts of faith.

Religion is "training wheels"
supporting our own sense of integrity, of balance
before we have found integrity and balance, for ourselves.

Religion is "training wheels"
for our nascent intuiting of the field of all possibility
both those possibilities that seem most accessible
and those possibilities that extend our reach


Possibilities in The Field of All Possibility

and beyond.
Click below.

SOMATOLOGY | The Physical Body, The Field of Mind, Memory and The Great Mystery

Though it may be taken to be otherwise,
what we call, "body"
is a resonant field
imbued with feeling (sentience)
the property of occupying space
the capability of movement,
and with the ability to move among other resonant fields
living beings.
It is what we mean by, "soma".

Our minds are not entirely our own,
but resonate with the field of all minds
modulate that field of thought and feeling
through interaction with memory and original activity
and reflect it back into the field of all minds

What we call, "body"
is really, "soma",
resonant in the field of all minds,
accelerating the process of change
occurring in and as the Field of All Possibility.

Physiology resonates and physically manifests
the ways of mind.

The ways of mind
are not "the" mind,
since there is no fixed identity
no permanent identity
to earn the appelation, "the"
(though personal names imply such a permanent identity).

There is only a persisting and yet changing process
constantly inscribing upon memory
endless moments of time
connected by memory
or disconnected in amnesia.

The amnesia shows up,

as awkwardness
both in terms of clumsiness of movement
and in terms of dis-ease or disgrace,
as discontinuity of feeling during movement
as lack of sensibility during action,
of which we are unaware, oblivious,
since a long-term lack of sensation goes unnoticed

as lack of fluidity,
a kind of stodginess in certain movements, such as walking
slowed walking or unsteady walking

as dis-comfort in certain positions

as somewhat crude control of movements,
so that they're "all on" or "all off",
but not so well controlled in "the in-between"

This is part of clumsiness.
Elite athletes excel in "the in-between" between "all on" and "all off",
and not just in "the extremes" of high performance
and so exhibit uncommon grace.

The amnesia, the obliviousness
shows up as habits of behavior and memory
which we take to be ourselves
and which others recognize as ourselves

all lumped into one as our way of moving
and of going into and coming out of rest,

Psychology and the physiology are the same one
perceived from two different viewpoints.

Psychology is the experience of physiology
physiology is the play of psychology as living matter.

Experiential memory holds them as one.
Conceptual memory holds then as two.

We, somas, are the musical instruments that play
the Music of the Spheres,
the "music" (and noise) of the centers of influence we all are
resonant fields apparently centered as "selves"
located by others
and experienced by ourselves
as centers of memory

memory, embodied physiologically
memory, resonant with the Field of All Minds
the Field of All Possibilities
ever appearing to persist as a center-self
a resonant field of mind
transforming physiologically and psychologically
as changes of our level of rest or activity
as changes of our state of attention,
as changes of our muscular activity
of our neurology,
as hormonal changes
and changes of our blood pressure and breathing rate.

Thought is the flickering of attention among memory patterns
among arousal states
inscribed upon memory
as things sensed
things felt
and impulses to act or react
to feel or not to feel,
all inscribed upon memory
with gaps of amnesia,
things forgotten

like a Hitchcock tale.

Emotion is the tension set within which thoughts occur.

Emotion gathers related, mutually triggering memories

into a state of suspense

that may persist or that may change
over short or very long periods of time.

The physiology gets stabilized at a certain pattern of homeostasis
or "best approximation of 'home'"
which, as we know
has gaps and deviations

both physiologically (as perceived from one perspective)
and psychologically (as apperceived from another).

The kicker is that apperception (the perception of self-soma by self-soma)
has amnesias and unawakened potentials
and so soma-self's image
is subject to
"The 'not-knowing" of all I never knew I didn't know." (oblivious ignorance)
"All the 'knowing' that I've forgotten that I know, that's still running the show." (amnesia and habit)
-- in other words,
incomplete and inconclusive
beset by seemingly hidden influences,
but seeming, because of memory,
to be complete and conclusive,
present as physiological states of readiness
to take actions remembered
toward different things as they are happening, now.

And they call that maturity.

But it's incomplete.

The perspective of "the other", another person,
another viewpoint toward oneself that one is capable of taking in,
may reveal the hidden memories and blind spots
that have been running the show from behind the scenes.

And the two somatic perspectives,
from outside
from within
give a more complete view,
but still,
incomplete and inconclusive
subject to
"The 'not-knowing" of all I never knew I didn't know." (oblivious ignorance)
"All the 'knowing' that I've forgotten that I know, that's still running the show." (amnesia and habit)
-- whatever we may know in memory
and mistake for the present moment.

Why Spiritual Development Doesn't 'Stick' without Exercise

Traditionally, spiritual practices were always taught with two major components:
  1. a contemplative practice
  2. a physical or "action" practice
So, Buddhist meditation practices have support of yogic practices (as in "Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines", edited by W.Y. Evans-Wentz); Taoist practices have Tai Chi and Chi Kung; Hindu practices have Hatha Yoga. Zen practice has KinHin (walking meditation), Karma Yoga ("karma" means, literally, "action"), Carlos Castaneda's Toltec practices of "The Recapitulation" (contemplative) and "Tensegrity" (movement), Dreaming (internalized) and Stalking (action) and so on.

In the West, however, the two arms of practice have often been separated and dissociated.  Hatha Yoga practice is commonly taught without a meditation practice, even in a "competitive" or "athletic" spirit, or a "how well and far can you stretch" spirit, in some settings.  Likewise, Asian martial arts, etc., are commonly viewed as modes of combat in which one is supposed to live in a state of "relaxed readiness" -- without equally emphasizing contemplative practices needed to cultivate "relaxed readiness" -- which is a contradiction in terms, by the way, since to be relaxed is to be unready.

We see the "action practices" in the movies, all the time; the contemplative side, you may notice, is almost always absent.

And we commonly hear of the plight of spiritual practitioners -- the difficulty of bringing realization and insight "off the cushion" and into "real life."

So, I'll address the whole quandary, here.  It's a revelation.


Ken Wilber made a point that the fruits of spritual practice seem not to 'stick' without exercise.

His recommendation:  Resistance/Weight Training

For the moment, I'm not going to concern us with his specific recommendation; rather, I'm going to explain why spiritual transformations seem not to stick without physical exercise.  I'll be using the framework of somatic existence I've outlined elsewhere:  That all somas (sentient beings) consist, at their/our core, of four basic functions:
  1. attention
  2. intention
  3. memory
  4. imagination

It comes down to this:

There are two stages of going from rest into activity.

  1. The first stage starts with a departure from the state of "not ready", or "not prepared".  No intention is active at the moment.  The first stage has to do with activating an intention -- generally an intention stored in memory -- with getting aroused from rest.
  2. The second stage starts at the stage of "having an active intention" and carrying it out.

The two stages have correspondences to our physical being, particularly, the musculature.  It's where fine motor skills show up in gross motor skills and where intentions show up as well-performed actions.

Muscular behavior (i.e., movement) starts with an "orienting" stage in which the memory or experience of readiness mobilizes what Ida Rolf (developer of Rolfing) termed, "the intrinsic musculature".  The intrinsic musculature consists of the finest muscles closest to the bone (oversimplification, but adequate).  Examples:  the muscles of breathing, the muscles of seeing, the fine muscles that line the spinal column, the psoas muscles, the muscles of speech, the fine muscles of our inner ears that tune the ossicles (vibrating bones) so we can listen selectively.

The intrinsic muscles contract in organized patterns that set up the movement action we are about to do; they have little strength because they are fine muscles, but they do have "direction" or a "shape of pull" that gets us ready for the movements to come -- and equally importantly, they create a sensation in themselves, when they contract, that the brain registers (we register) as a direction of movement -- in a word, an orientation.

Once the "orienting" stage is in place (moments later), the extrinsic musculature starts to move, carrying out the movement set up by the intrinsic musculature along the lines indicated by the intrinsic musculature (again, oversimplified, but adequate for the moment), a movement set up by the intention that we are about to carry out.  Examples of extrinsic muscles:  the hamstrings, biceps, triceps, larger back muscles.

The intrinsic musculature sets action up; the extrinsic musculature carries actions out.

The set-up of the intrinsic muscles reflects the movements of attention and the formation of an intention.  Those muscles work from the inside, out, and the level of memory involved is short-term memory (because we must be free to change the focus of our attention and intentions from moment to moment).

Spiritual practice, particularly contemplative practices that don't involve much movement, activate and shape the behavior of the intrinsic musculature and don't involve the extrinsic (or power) muscles to any significant degree.  They involve a new intention and a new state of attention, but only in the latent or preparatory stage -- short-term memory.

As a result, the impression made by spiritual states on memory (the basis of persistent change), is faint, weak, short-term and easily overpowered by the momentum and habitual intentions of interactive life. Interactive life is "louder".

To make the memory impression strong, we must engage our extrinsic musculature (engage in actions) that carry out the intention present in the intrinsic musculature. Then, the impression made in memory is "loud" enough to match or exceed the momentum and habitual intentions of our interactive life and can get transferred from short-term memory to long-term memory.

That said, resistance weight training done after a session of contemplative practice can transfer the new intention held in the intrinsic musculature to the extrinsic musculature, and from there, to long-term memory.  However, because resistance training does not necessarily involve particularly sophisticated or well-coordinated movement (movement may be outright crude, particularly if weight machines are involved, but also if the individual has the residual patterns of nervous tension from stress and physical trauma so common among people), resistance training may also "smear" the attention gathered in contemplative practice into ungainly patterns of sensation  -- the kinesthetic "body" that resonates in the play of attention and intuition and that underlies thought.

Note that thought is an intrinsic function, so the short-term memory intrinsic musculature is involved -- and residual tension of the extrinsic musculature generally overpowers the signal of the intrinsics, and so affects thought and orientation, in general.

I suggest that a better, more sophisticated and compatible form of exercise, one that transfers conditioning patterns from intrinsic to extrinsic, with a high degree of fidelity, is somatic exercises.

Rather than concentrating on strength, only, somatic exercises concentrate on strength, feeling/sensation, pattern and integration; they involve attention, intention, memory and imagination in both subtle and strong ways.  They dispel residual tension patterns.  In that sense, they are far more suitable for bringing subtle transformations into interactive existence; they are far less likely to "smear" the patterns of more subtly awakened consciousness, than resistance/weight training.

So now, I've explained why spiritual development doesn't stick so well without exercise, what it takes to get it to stick, better, and why it sticks better.


Mainstreaming Hanna Somatic Education | 5: Transforming the Mood of Western Medicine

Now, here's the thing about mainstreaming Hanna somatic education:  It promises to change the tenor or emotional climate of whatever scenario is involved.

Case in point: The Medical Profession

Anyone who's been involved in mainstream medicine has experienced the brutality of it.  Procedures (and sometimes examinations) hurt.  The examination room contains instruments made of metal that promise to hurt, when employed, and prompt patients to fear, every time the doctor or attending nurse goes to that little table at the back of the room, what medical torture may be about to ensue.  Many drugs have side effects and those taken orally taste bad. Surgeries, however necessary, leave patients with a painful recovery and often, limiting after-effects. Therapy is expected to be painful.  Pain management is part of the speciality, anaesthesiology.  That, alone, is telling:  a person has to cease to feel to feel an approximation of, "ok".

Enter somatic education.

Our clients actually do feel better.

What would (or will) happen when clinical somatic education infiltrates the medical profession?

Our entry point may be nurses, who experience the brunt of difficulty serving patients.  Lifting injuries are common.  Stress and burnout are also common.

I imagine what happens as a nurse gets the relief from somatic education that she hasn't gotten from physical therapy.  She actually feels better.  She now knows that there's something available that can help not only her and her colleagues, but also the patients who come through their care.  The reputation spreads: At the end of the "tunnel" of medical treatment, they know, is a process that can rapidly still the anxiety of their patients, restore their comfort, leave them feeling whole, ready for life.  The medical procedure has resolved into a great calm that leaves them feeling OK, instead of feeling as if they've been through a war.  We are first a resource that helps the most beleaguered in that profession, the nurses.  Then, on to physicians' assistants and nurse-practitioners, who are very influential.

Am I exaggerating?  I don't believe so.  What do you feel?

Now, what happens within the larger medical profession, as not only word, but reputation and regard for somatic education spreads?  After the initial skepticism and dismissiveness and results have had time to show themselves, some of the emergency mood of medicine dissipates.  A kind of reassurance develops in the background, underpinning mood of the profession.  Why?  Better outcomes.

And what happens in the attitude of the general public?  They come to regard medicine as more nurturing, more humane because even though medical procedures may still be traumatic, the overall outcome is better, calming, reassuring because things actually turned out well -- and cost less, too.

Any improvement over the status quo has its beneficial effects.  Someone with vision can foresee them.

  1. Daydream the scenario I just described.
  2. Write to me.

Somatics Goes Bananas

It might seem odd, to some, the movements that I do and show and teach.  In some sense, they are odd; in another, they are as natural as can be.

Case in point:  The Somatic Exercise Pattern, Somatics Goes Bananas.

Somatics Goes Bananas involves two different movement patterns done rhythmically, synchronized, and combined.

I leave it to you to determine whether I've gone bananas.

It goes like this:

a side-to-side, standing rocking rhythm
a repeating, open-and-close breathing rhythm

The Standing Rocking Rhythm goes like this
(feet + or - shoulder width, parallel):

| pause | left - right - left | pause | right-left-right | pause |

So, that's a triangular rhythm, every pause, every right, every left, in constant, steady time.  Please.

Then there's

| pause | left - right - left - right - left | pause
  pause | right - left - right - left - right | pause pause |


| pause pause | left - right - left - right - left | pause
  pause pause | right - left - right - left - right | pause pause pause | 

The musicians among you may try to get the experience just by imagining the rhythms, which they may.  You others, on the other hand, may just have to make a fool out of yourself by trying it.


That's the one movement
Rocking Side to Side

The other movement is a breathing movement.  I don't mean, for a minute, to interrupt your breathing.  No, wait a moment, I do -- or more properly, I mean to teach you to interrupt your own breathing with deliberate breathing rhythms.  As a result, you'll change shape in unexpected ways.

Breathing is The Big Banana.

It's amazing to me how many people don't know how to hold their breath.  The words, "Hold your breath as if you were underwater," have no meaning for them.  I'd be afraid to let such a person get close to a bathtub.

But, there they are.

This exercise first acquaints those needful of acquainting with their coughing muscle, the epiglottis, which sounds like something that jiggles except when snapped shut.  And there you are.

Once a person can cough at will and feel what moves when they let the cough happen -- that feeling -- we introduce the notion of closing and opening their epiglottis valve without air passing back and forth.  Think fish mouth or fish gills.  Opening and closing.  No noise.

Once the person can do that, we add staged breathing.

You start with a lungful
and holding the lungful
practice opening and closing
in the same rhythm as the side-to-side standing, rocking movement.

| pause | open - close - open | pause |close - open - close | pause |

Again, a triangular rhythm -- every pause, every open, every close, in constant, steady time.

Then there's

| pause | open - close - open - close - open | pause
  pause | close - open - close - open - close | pause pause |


| pause pause | open - close - open - close - open | pause
  pause pause | close - open - close - open - close | pause pause pause | 

a pentagonal rhythm.

Finally, you allow a measured amount of exhalation and, with the air that's left, do the open-close rhythm of your choice. Then, you lose a little more air and do open-close, then lose more air, step by step, until empty, and then reverse, inhaling, doing the same rhythms.

So you do both for a while, alternating, one at a time.  Nobody can tell when you're doing the breathing one, but when you do the standing one, people may think you're off your rocker (although, more accurately, they should say you're on your rocker) -- or perhaps that you have to go to the bathroom.  Badly.

But, being the adventuresome chap (or lass) that you are, you don't let that stop you.

Suddenly a novel idea occurs to you:
What if I do both at the same time.
A crazed gleam shines in your eyes.
You think,
"Yes!  I'm breathing anyway, when I rock,
so I might as well get a little more mileage out of it."

So now, you've got this crazed look in your eye
and you're rocking side-to-side in synchronized rhythm.
Your breathing is staged, at times sounding like Quasimodo,
and each time you pause, whether "open" or "closed", you feel the pause
and suddenly you twist and then straighten up in a sudden way

I ask you. Where has Somatics gone?

So I can understand why you would want to keep this at arms length.

Still, isn't it a little tempting?

Do it in private.  That's the key.
This is not something we want to do in public.
If about 100 individuals got together on the playing field, one afternoon,
and lined themselves up in rank and file
and started up in unison.
Then, we would really have something
-- something that looks like an army of robots about to stampede.

No amount of chiding, cajoling, or outright capitalistic temptation can get me to divulge what What I expect to happen when you do this -- and by this I mean the rhythm combination of movements called, Somatics Goes Bananas. Just don't do it in public. Except in large groups.

I know that humanity is a spooky lot, easily spooked, and so I am confident that one or two of you may give it a try, and you, in turn, will frighten everybody else.  Get a hundred together and we'll frighten the Mayor.