I recently taught a zoom class for women titled “Race & Body: Dissolving Whiteness in Core Expression.” I have this belief that sensory explorations can dissolve the dissonance and unintended power over gestures that are being underscored in our society and which are often embodied in our corporeal being. This process is part of what I call rewilding psoas, which is an exploration that seeks to ignite a decolonizing medicine for rehumanizing our relationship with body, race, and innate knowing…
When the first edition of Core Awareness was published in 2003, I named the strictures and lack of expression prescribed for good posture as a misuse of the upper psoas. In an attempt to accomplish good posture or perform well there are controlled movements that exert willpower, or a powering over, to force a particular outcome. The recruitment of psoas is often used for performative behavior, to control emotional expression, and as a means of squelching or eliciting fear. By shaping our behavior, the constricted upper psoas is socially accepted, expected, and valued as good. I recognized this power over as a form of conditioning in regard to not only family, education, and religious influence but also the westernized protocol for fitness, exercise, Yoga, and dance. What I did not name at the time was that this systemic control of body also has an intimate relationship to race. In the past two years I have come to understand that our dominant conditioning in Western culture not only shapes the idealized white body but also militarizes our animal body. If you are curious what this has to do with your psoas, I encourage you to read my other blogs and books. In short, because the psoas is a primal messenger for our survival responses and expresses core integrity, it plays an invaluable role in understanding the relationship between race and body.
During this time of COVID, I have begun tracking “whiteness” within and through the lens of the idealized body as it sustains the colonized vision of dominance. By offering a variety of zoom classes, I have used conversations, movements, mythmaking, and journaling to sniff out and metabolize whiteness. When I asked the group of women who joined me for “Race & Body” what they sensed when they intentionally engaged their upper psoas (tightening the solar plexus), their descriptive language gave us all pause. It included words like proper, correct, comforting, and powerful. When I asked them to stop the pulling in and up gesture, what then? Their language became judgmental and discouraging with words such as poor posture, collapsing, slouching, powerlessness, depressing, apologetic, sad, and invisible.
This information not only reveals a truth about our conditioning but also exposes a lack of sensory based information essential for core integrity. It raises questions, such as what if kinesthetic intelligence was valued as essential for gaining core integrity; what is the experience of core integrity if it emerges at this moment within a sensory based woman; how do we, as women, embody a lived integrity; and what does integrity sense like within the very core of our being? As one woman wrote in the chat after a slow movement exploration “with the impulse to be good is the fear of getting it wrong.” Her words say it all. If we can physically experience our conditioning within our personal core, maybe white privileged women can collectively locate our authenticity within our flesh and bones and truly be anti-racist.
I have found that employing micro-fluid movements, which soften the freeze response and strictures in our spine, can spontaneously evoke emergent experiences that help to decenter ourselves as we access a larger field of bio-intelligent knowing. By not promoting exclusivity of movement but rather allowing bio-morphic expression, we discover our kinship with all living systems. Going deeper within our own biological terrain, we dive under the cultural and historical strangle-hold of arrogance and complacency to sense our animal body’s essential aliveness and potential. Dissolving this density in tissue also dissolves fear, freeze, and fawning responses, enabling our expression to no longer be predicated on inauthentic yet correct behavior. Spending time in these movement explorations followed by journaling and sharing, this group of women began accessing what lies deeper within — a sense of RAGE. They all spoke of a deep rage and a strong desire to strike out. Similar to the psychopathic assassin in the show Killing Eve, these very healthy, intelligent women quite literally started speaking about having the desire to “throw people under the bus.” The ignition of this energy, often referred to in Yogic practices as “Kali” energy, demonstrates to me the potency that is held within women’s nature to protect all life. I believe accessing this force with our integrity intact has the power to transform destructive forces into creative impulses to evoke real systemic change.
Collaborating with me on the “Race & Body” workshop was Kimberly Ann Johnson of Inner Jaguar fame. Kimberly helped delineate the difference between being centered and centering. She asked us to journal in response to two specific questions: (1) how do I control myself to feel safe? (2) What is the first signal I feel in my body when I start into my default response?
One woman, who was tracking her fragility, described her inquiry…“a crack in me. I cover it up and mask and manipulate as a way to exert a false self and control through fragility. Then it emerges as just raw vulnerability… just being with that “isness” of vulnerability. then I am not using fragility or hysteria to control. Lots of places where it feels hard to find comfort. Now little bit of nausea within the groundedness.” This woman was tapping into what I recognize as the banished animal body roaming ravenous. The questions across the group struck to the heart of the rage women are burdened with. What would it mean to go below the rage and metabolize the strictures in order to be fed by our deep wild knowing? What this one woman’s process revealed is that dissolving cultural and behavioral expectations into a sensory experience helps to ground us in the kinesthetic world of perception where intuitive gut knowing, authenticity, agency, inspiration, and core integrity thrive.
Somatic educator Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, illuminates the value of tracking sensations in relation to white supremacy. When Sounds Trueâ founder and purveyor of Insights From the Edge,Tami Simmons, was interviewing Resmaa she spontaneously reacts to hearing his explanation of ancestral white bodies fleeing human torture and how this created a structural system. Resmaa says “there is a particular time that the white body accepted the notion of whiteness, and at that moment it became supreme, it became the standard” (see Menakem transcription below). Tami responds to Resmaa’s spoken words, “it hurts to hear you say that.” Resmaa pausing asks Tami if she might be willing to track what it senses like to feel hurt. Accepting his invitation for both herself and as the person standing in for her audience, Resmaa asks Tami “Where does it hurt”? Tami reflects “for me it lands in my heart.” Resmaa encourages Tami to simply track the sensation. Is it a thud? A gradual landing? Does it move or does it just stay in that place? Tami responds, “it’s an ache in my heart and then it moved and changed…” Tami reflects and recognizes that she has shifted into thinking, “what I also noticed coming up was words that said things like, that’s bullshit, that’s wrong. So, a righteous thing too.” And at this moment in the inquiry, Resmaa stops to point out “that’s the piece… all of these somatic pieces are coupled together… and many times, both individually and collectively, these things go uninterrogated and unexamined.” (see Menakem transcription below). What Resmaa Menakem is defining as Somatic Abolitionism is this process of tracking our animal bodies sensory system.
Starting at this point of feeling “it hurts,” we are able to use our senses as a guide. Following our physical responses as well as our thoughts, feelings, habits, reactions we can drop under the social structures into animal body coherency. Failing to let our sensory system speak its truth, leaves us unable to fully experience the ruptures and repercussions of our behaviors. Fear keeps us on the surface and yet rage continues to boil below. Sensing what fear tastes like, smells like, and feels like enables us to begin a powerful conversation of coherent proportions. It is no longer enough to tag ourselves as chronically traumatized and in need of healing as an excuse for not taking on race. To do so leaves us on the surface of life constantly looking for homeostasis rather than dynamic structural transformation.
Personal and cultural health, however, dictates nature’s longing to innovate. To innovate, we have to begin exploring uncomfortable topics and sensations. The current climate of the world reminds me of Steven K. Baum’s book The Psychology of Genocide: Perpetrators, Bystanders, and Rescuers. The themes addressed in this book highlight to me how essential it is to embody core integrity. Without core integrity, we often remain bystanders to violence and it is far too easy to unintentionally become the perpetrators. Recognizing the inherent power of perceiving our kinesthetic sensation fosters the manifestation of a different social order. When we experience bio-intelligence from within the animal body, we nourish our autonomy which can result in an integration of inner conflict that restores resiliency and social justice in the face of an incoherent system called racism. I invite you to join me.
TRANSCRIPTION LINK: https://resources.soundstrue.com/transcript/resmaa-menakem-somatic-abolitionism/
UPCOMING COURSE: Coming to Our Senses: A Kinesthetic Sensory Inquiry for all Women
PHOTO: photo credit Allyssa Olaviar (unsplash)