“There is no such thing as independence, only responsible and irresponsible dependence” Wendell Berry
Making life-enriching choices, sensing one’s needs and balancing them with the needs of others, speaking your truth, and being receptive to others within the bonds of relationship are important and learnable skills. Somatic Consensus—the name I’ve given to both my personal practices and the work I love to share is about developing and refinement of such skills. Somatic Consensus builds an internal consensus between thoughts, feelings, and intuition and consensus with others as one integrated practice.
Somatics is the art and science of sensing the soma, which translates from Greek as "the mind, body, and spirit together in wholeness.” The soma is the whole person, functioning as a potent, embodied presence in the physical world. Somatics sees the self as inseparable from the body and the body as a microcosm of the greater ecosystem.
Consensus comes from the Latin consenstio—to feel together, agree—a fusion of con (“together”) and sentio (“sense, perceive, feel”). Consensus, through practice, builds a capacity to stay open, transparent, responsible, and accountable in the ups and downs of relationships. Consensus decision-making within group settings cultivates the capacity to move rapidly between self and other in order support decisions that consider the individual and are in the best interest of the whole.
Somatic Consensus, in daily practice, centers attention on the signals of our bodies and the present, direct, immediate experience of the life we are living. Our bodies put us in touch with our emotions, and our emotions, when consciously listened to, tell us what matters and what we need. This is where we can access discriminating wisdom; develop reverence for the sacred, and where we feel the suffering and grief that give birth to compassion. Here is where we can regain our footing again and again as we walk into the mystery of life and love.
What we carry through our lives emotionally and physically is never far from the foreground of all that we do, perceive, and express. The sum total of our histories is in our bodies. And though we can’t lose our histories, by working with the primary needs that our historical habits were initially set in place to serve it becomes possible to transform old habits into resources that will serve us better now. Somatic Consensus practice is an agent of change that can embed consciously chosen habits into our being, replacing habits and patterns we previously developed that may no longer serve us.
Two themes are woven throughout Somatic Consensus principles and practices:
- Reclaiming our empathic faculties for listening inwardly and finding common ground with all our relationships, human and nonhuman.
- Finding and empowering our voices by aligning what we deeply value with our words and actions.
I believe these are essential for any of us who want to deepen the quality of our relationships, generate community, and effect positive change—personal, social, environmental, or political—at home or out in the world.
But to affect real change, to do more than talk a good game, requires us to come back time and time again to rediscover what we love about the path we are choosing—and through deliberate, committed, intentional practice over time become the person we choose to be. Learning through Somatic Consensus is fun. It goes deep. It’s reconnecting, surprisingly direct, sometimes startling, and always informative. Its practice is a means to transform a lifetime of habits and reactions into resources for connection and healing. Our hope is that Somatic Consensus practice helps you come face to face with the history you’ve embodied, your deeper self, your greatest gifts, and the motivation to stay the course of becoming what you need.
All of our programs place an emphasis on creating a safe space to learn about ourselves, that honors diversity and grows trust. Working together speeds the process of changing habits. Individual and interactive evaluative processes help clients become aware of their own cultural and historical reflexive and automatic behaviors. Choice enters where there was previously only unexamined reaction. This allows for more effective collaboration and cooperation. All this together unfolds a process where each student chooses deliberate practices that help him or her cultivate natural strengths and talents on the road to becoming who it is they wish to become.
To live our lives fully, it is essential to understand and articulate what we deeply care about. This is where Somatic Consensus begins. Somatic Consensus training engages our physical, emotional, linguistic, intellectual, and intuitive resources and helps them work together so we can build our capacity to manage mood and emotion, take skillful, decisive action and relate compassionately. In our busyness, relationships are often not given what they need. Somatic Consensus training brings our attention more squarely to our bodies and emotional and intuitive resources. By paying attention to the signals of our bodies and senses, we can access a discriminating wisdom and be more balanced, resourceful, and centered as we face the uncertainty of life, business and relationships.
With Somatic Consensus, internal consensus and building consensus with others become one integrated practice. Its practice cultivates an environment that is generative for both the individual and the whole and it represents the best of what a new paradigm for the world might be.
These programs draw from the fields of:
- Somatics and Somatic Psychology
- The non-aggressive martial art of Aikido
- Nonviolent Communication
- Consensus Decision-Making models
Objectives and Outcomes in a nutshell:
- Skill building
- Caring relationships and fostering empathy
- Empowerment for the students and the school
- Enhanced critical thinking and performance
- Accountability and personal investment
Core Skills and Knowledge
- Empathic listening
- The Foundations for Mastery
- Nonviolent Communication-verbal and non-verbal skills
- Leadership Training
- Earth/Body connections
Through this Program students will learn to:
- Transform self‐limiting beliefs and habits
- Effectively manage and regulate moods
- Take decisive action
- Trust their intuition and improve their sense of timing
- Embrace a greater community vision while attending to details
- Recognize and cultivate/ natural strengths, talents, and intelligence
- Bring to a more conscious level what they communicate beyond words
- Build the ability to take action gracefully under pressure
- Develop their ability to self-regulate self-organize and self-motivate
- Practice becoming a more receptive listener and offer greater support to one another
- Reveal and enhance their unique leadership style, deepening the capacity to listen and speak their truth
- Make requests that produce results
- Take decisive action that aligns with values
- Declare their commitments and more effectively fulfill them
Practicing consensus within a community, the skills of Aikido, Nonviolent Communication, and Somatics are the cornerstones of Somatic Consensus. These currents join to present a way to synchronize language, emotions, and actions through meaning that is deeply felt.
Somatic Consensus distills processes for the practice of community. It addresses a politic based in the reclamation of more whole and healthy relationships that grow our ability for living more collaboratively and thinking more collectively. This is where choices are made from a broad moral commonwealth that can sustain and generate a nurturing future for generations to come.
- Nonviolent Communication
Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Based on the work of Marshall Rosenberg, NVC’s core teachings illuminate how our feelings put us in touch with our deeper, universal human needs, and that when these become the source of our words and actions, we create conditions conducive to enriching, healthier relationships through compassionate exchange.
This introductory workshop brought up more questions than it answered, but the power in its principles was evident, so we pursued it further. Soon after, at another workshop, I was given the instruction to sit and listen with empathy to two women who were engaged in a role-playing conflict. At the time, I found the explanations of empathy somewhat vague, so I filled them in with my imagination. As the role-playing got underway, the women began to argue. I quieted my breath and thoughts. I imagined a listening field as a bubble around me that grew to include and gently hold the women with care. This produced a heightened sensitivity to who these women were underneath their heated words. The space felt charged with an aliveness that bridged the distance between us. Something felt familiar, and then I was struck with an epiphany. This is Aikido! I realized that empathy in Nonviolent Communication was the same as a ki field in Aikido, and that giving empathy to these two women was something that I had been practicing for 20 years while training in the peaceful martial art of Aikido.
Aikido develops practices for aligning your words, movements, and being with your deepest values.
Aikido’s intention is powerfully grounded in loving protection for all life. Training builds the capacity for staying present, skillfully inclusive, and creative in the midst of uncertainty and conflict and for compassionately and powerfully walking your talk in ways that nurture Community. On the surface, Aikido technique is an efficient and unique nonviolent martial art for any form of attack. As you explore its deeper layers, it is a way of strengthening and harmonizing mind, body and spirit as a way to heal the violence within and around us.
Aikido teaches you not to resist force, but to harness it -- a technique that can prove invaluable in dealing with change, maintaining a positive attitude, and connecting with other people. Aikido helps people refocus and regain their balance. By working with your body as well as your mind, you can learn how to better manage your reactions to stress and conflict. It is an excellent program for all-around physical fitness, flexibility, and relaxation. Aikido training increases self-awareness, and physical and mental strength improves mind-body coordination and stimulates good health.
- Somatic Coaching
The emergent field of Somatics clarifies how repetitive responses to life’s situations become lodged in our nervous systems and muscles and how independent and often inappropriate or unproductive our habituated responses can be from what is happening in the present moment. Simply put, your body will do what it has repetitively learned to do. Daily, we see messages that commercialize and distance us from our bodies instead of acknowledging the body as a source of learning and an ever-present wealth of information about ourselves. When you train your attention to shift from the dramas you perceive to what is happening in your body, your body becomes a place to come home to when you lose your bearings.
Somatics address historical habits with the promise of intentional recurrent practice in learning new skills and interpretations. It confirms the instinctual wisdom of our own bodies to participate deeply in our own healing. By tuning directly into our sensory experience, we can discharge the anxiety held in old embodied reactions, contact deep needs that have been habitually ignored, and cultivate resources for connecting with one another more capably and enjoyably. Our bodies put us in touch with our emotions, and our emotions, when consciously listened to, tell us what matters and what we need. Love is truly felt and followed by listening to our body’s most subtle messages.
Consensus was the model my community chose from the start. In its fullness, consensus processes, I imagine to be remnant of the ancient ecosystem of human relationships that is disappearing, and by its practice reclaims and teaches us the meaning of community. It invites self-reflection, honesty, and transparency in relationships. Its ever-changing dance of interdependence trains those who practice it to pulse more fluidly between “me” and “we” and offers insights for entering the profound mystery of relationship with dignity and grace. Its dynamic processes develop an appreciation for the messiness inherent to enduring relationships. There are no straight lines. Insights from working with consensus show up in their own time. In the middle of the conflicts and protective stances that occurred in my community, a sweetness arose that created the bonds and longevity of our community, and that birthed an intense devotion and tolerance for our differences. Far more than an alternative to Robert’s Rules of Order or parliamentary procedure, the consensus process we have nurtured over the years has revealed itself to be a way of life. It is about who we are and how we show up with each other within and outside meetings.
“Thank you so much for such an inspirational and life-altering workshop. I have never experienced such peace, belonging and connection. The workshop and the group were amazing. It has had a very positive impact on my family, my friendships and my business. I also have a sense of excitement that the workshop’s effects are by no means over.”
~ Julia Boles ~BC