‘You are not a drop in the ocean; you are the entire ocean in a drop.’
I’ve sensed these words of Rumi weaving like a thread through the thoughts and ideas I’ve read and listened to the last few weeks and I’ve let it drift gently in the background of my mind. My half formed musings roam this territory – of the creative tension between the self and the collective; I find it immensely satisfying that such questions will be with me my whole life. It delights my deep self that it is richer to stay with the question and swim in like an ocean rather than get to the seeming safe shore of an answer.
Building an embodied sense of ‘selfhood’ is the foundation of my somatic work and enquiry; through the pioneering work of Linda Hartley who weaves in the Body Mind Centering map of ‘body systems’ to explore how each layer of oour tangible body can contain aspects of consciousness and therefore selfhood. Through ‘the mind’ of my skin I discover the possibility of a boundary of myself that is an intelligent, discerning sensory membrane – my image is of a hedge rather than brick wall – a place where I can find my ‘yes’ to allowing the world in and a place from which I can offer myself into relational contact with the world. Equally it can be the place of my ‘no’ should I chose, consciously and more often unconsciously keeping out that which feels unwelcome or unsafe. A different aspect of my ‘selfhood’ is in my bones, my muscles and and my organs. (See below for details of my new monthly offering BODYFUL which explores these themes). It seems that the more places that I can occupy with my awareness, the more flexible and resilient my sense of self can be; and that it’s from this place that I can engage more comfortably and confidently with others and the world.
Conversely, many spiritual practices seek to overcome this sense of the ‘small self’ or what we in the West might refer to as the ego self, perceived as an obstacle to our relationship to the collective and Source, God, Pure Consciousness, Creator. It seems that most Eastern and Indigenous cultures arise out of a primary sense of the ‘collective’ and Spirit whilst here in the West the concept of individuation has shaped our lives personally and culturally; individualism is the paradigm in which we unconsciously swim. The tensions between personal and collective interests appear to be increasingly exposed and reveal the limitations of the structures built upon individualism; on the other hand, in many societies individuals feel the oppression on freedom of individual expression.
I have long been drawn towards ideas and understandings that bridge apparent paradox and I sense my cells expanding as I read these words of Czech born psychiatrist Stan Groff;
‘Human beings somewhat resemble the particle-wave dichotomy of light and subatomic matter. In some situations, they can successfully be described as separate material objects and biological machines, whereas in others they manifest the properties of vast fields of consciousness that transcend the limitations of space-time and linear causality. There seems to be a fundamental tension between these two aspects of human nature, which reflects the ambiguity between the part and the whole that exists all through the cosmos on different levels of reality’
As we individually and collectively navigate our way through rapidly changing times may we hold the possibility that getting to know ourself more deeply and fully could be precisely the pre-requisite required in order to come into service of the collective wholeheartedly.
Ali ROSE, founder of The Soma Rooms is a Registered Somatic Therapist, combining talking, clothed touch and movement that can support you physically, emotionally and psychologically. Recognising body and mind as inseparable we give space to what the body knows to support the integration of life experiences. Click to find out more about her individual therapy work in Chepstow and Bristol.