The practice of orienting

When I was being introduced to the power and practice of orienting, I was at a training in an old monastery in New York here in the United States. Orienting in this context is a focused awareness on what can be seen in the environment. Orienting also encompasses what is noticeable through all of the five senses. The instructions as I remember were to see if I could listen to my system enough to notice where my visual attention wanted to take me. As someone with years of experience in body-based or somatic explorations, I was baffled at how challenging it was to explore my perception of what was happening on the outside. I had spent years tuning into internal processes through my trainings in Rolfing, yoga, pilates, continuum movement, and somatic experiencing. The felt sense is something I thought I had an incredible attunement with and that had served me well. Being able to feel the smallest of experiences in myself was important to me and being able to feel and sense the same in others has been incredibly helpful in supporting the understanding of their experience.

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One thing I found incredibly helpful as I learning, was a practice of orienting. I remember taking walks in the woods outside the monastery and allowing my attention to be free enough to notice where my attention wanted to go. Like a meditation of sorts where I am consciously trying to free my thought patterns enough to live into what is happening at the present moment outside of my internal experience. This speaks to the importance of the conscious observer but what I found in the beginning was that my attention only focused on threat and responded with a self-protective reaction. As my eyes would take in the environment and be attracted to something, I could feel subtle levels of tension, often times through my face. I would see a clumping of leaves, and a slight tensing would follow. I would see a rock outcropping, a tensing would follow. I would notice at the time that all of my reactions where self-protective in this way. I lacked the ability at that point to be drawn to things that were pleasurable in the environment. Eventually, I have a bird to thank, for helping my system understand how to shift from self-protective response to a settle response.

As my attention that day in the woods was drawn to a bird that was moving through the forest with me, instead of feeling a tensing in my system, however small, I began to notice a softening would come with seeing the bird. I remember my attention being drawn to the bird song as well. The bird would fly ahead. It would eventually come into my visual field. I would see it and my system would begin to relax or settle even more. It was one of the most profound experiences in understanding how the nervous system works. Understanding it more in the coming months, it would shift in the most profound way, how I came to understand how visual cues in the environment supports nervous system health.

Happy Transitions

I’m excited about settling back into my private practice after a dedicated couple of years in graduate school. I have fallen in love again this summer with my work as a Rolfer after having to set it aside while I completed my yearlong internship at Swain Recovery Center in Black Mountain, North Carolina. 

I finished my Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in August and I am awaiting my Licensed Professional Counselor Associate license from the state licensing board. My concentration in graduate school was in Expressive Arts. Here is my definition of Expressive Arts as I experience it:

Expressive Arts is the use of creativity for greater understanding, self-exploration, mediation, and process. So much in this world is defined, mapped, discovered, labeled, pigeon holed, reduced, discriminated against, oppressed, misunderstood, banished, targeted, ignored, etc. Expressive Arts is an alternative to this kind of thinking and being. Expressive Arts is an opportunity for experience, ritual, and meaning making. In this way, it is part of who we are and how we came to be through the evolutionary process. Creativity is part of being human just like breathing, sleeping, eating, and sensing. 

In addition to loving Expressive Arts work, I’m excited by how the use of creativity enhances what is possible when resolving trauma. Experience is such a huge component to both EXA and trauma resolution. Being with the experience that arises is necessary to solve some of the mysteries of how trauma affects day to day living. Most often, good trauma work is understanding the right time to facilitate experience. Expressive Arts is no different.

I am grateful for the skill set I have and I am looking forward to serving those in my community. I am additionally grateful to work with the online communities I help through the work I do as a trauma consultant and program moderator with Irene Lyon and everyone on her team. Irene has created some amazing online programming that has been particularly helpful to so many wanting to know more about nervous system health. You can find out more about her programs at Irenelyon.com. I help moderate on Facebook in the Healthy Nervous System Revolution group, 21-Day Nervous System Reboot group, and the Smart Body Smart Mind group. 

Thanks for reading my blog! I look forward to hearing from you about your questions and what is happening in your experience of the world.