In Gratitude For My Teachers

Being a teacher in the field of Somatics is one of the most vulnerable things I can imagine doing. Our students deeply learn from who we are, from what we embody, and not as much from what we tell them. This is why I have always skirted around the edges of teaching, not really wanting to create a community of learners who take on my struggles as their own.

When you’re teaching embodiment, you have to be clean. You have to give voice to your own somatic shape and work with your students to not take your shape on as their own.

When I think of my teachers in this field, I feel tremendous gratitude for the work they do. I have learned something different from each of them.

From Richard Strozzi-Heckler, I came to understand that learning and transformation is lifelong, and that it is joyful. In being his student, I have had the pleasure of witnessing him be so in love with what he is teaching that it flows through him with grace and transforms the dojo into a kind of church–a place of deep worship. I define church here as a community of people who allow themselves to take in love and be transformed into people who are kinder, more grounded, more connected to themselves and each other. To rest inside of a deep connection to our own humanity and one another’s. To allow ourselves to be greater when we are connected than when we are separate.

From Denise Benson, I learned to reclaim my ground over and over again, and in doing so, to trust my own feet and their connection to Earth, even as they led me away from that community of learners. In Denise, I also got to witness love with such deep roots that its extension into the ground, deliberate as a cat’s stretch, was expansive and restful, all at once. I witnessed the relationship of love with ground that was as simple as breath, where I had ever only known it to be fraught with severed roots and the residue of Persephone’s irretrievable innocence sinking into the dirt. From Denise, I learned that being connected to the Earth was not a punishment, a banishment from the sky, but a source of love and connection. To this day, when I need help staying connected to my ground, I see her in my mind and feel myself start to rest on my bones, and my bones rest on the Earth.

From Donna Diamond, I learned that to love is to hold a whole human being in your heart, not just the fun, pretty, useful parts. That means loves requires us to hold a whole lot of contradiction. Donna taught me, and still teaches me, how to insist on someone’s wholeness, and how to hold all the contradictions of love joyfully. Donna also taught me to be a fierce ally, for myself, for my clients, and for the people I love. To stand next to Donna is to know what it feels like for someone to see all of me and still have my back. I feel grateful to know her, to learn from her, to laugh with her and to call her my friend.

From Mary Wagner I learned the power of quiet, consistent practice. How a little bit every day creates big change over time. And I learned the joy of following my curiosity the way a cat follows a laser pointer–that it’s the questions that build our lives big, not the answers we get, if we ever even get them.

Michael Lasevich, who is not technically a Somatic Coach, but who has the embodied hypervigilance of a great one, is my most important teacher so far. Michael taught me that love lives in actions more than words. That love shows up even when it is tired. That “never go to bed angry” is a stupid rule, because things always feel better in the morning. Michael shows me every day that listening is always more important than knowing. He has taught me that being distracted and being patient, while not the same thing, sometimes yield the same positive result, and when that happens, it’s okay to just revel in the result sometimes and cut your partner some slack. Michael has taught me that having a fight doesn’t mean we are breaking up. And he taught me to think things through before I react, in a way I didn’t know how to do before I met him. I am lucky to be his partner, his co-parent, his friend and his love. I must have done something good.

Wendy Palmer taught me never to apologize for what I see in people, and to move into action quickly, instead of sitting around processing about things. And she also taught me one of the most important lessons of my life–and she did it while shrugging and picking lint off her shirt. She said, “Remember, we learn two things from our teachers: how to be, and how never to be.”

Staci Haines taught me that length and vision is nothing unless it has deep roots in the ground. That length goes down as much as it goes up. And she taught me about my own resilience–that it has been there all along and that it will not leave me.

My clients have taught me that to listen is the fundamental building block and practice of love. That to think I know something before I have listened is a small act of violence that has a big cost over time. They have taught me that we tend toward healing, not destruction. They give me hope about the world and they are so easy to love.

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