About Somatic Descent
Through the Somatic Descent practice, we train ourselves to read our experience and learn to understand the language of the Soma. Soma means not only our physical body, but also the entire neurological network within which it is embedded, including the right brain, the intelligence centers of the limbic system, the brain stem, the heart, the gut, and the neural pathways that exist throughout the entire body. In this practice, we learn the language of our direct experience, without the mediation of the left-brain, top-down processing of the conceptual mind. We learn the Soma’s own way of being and knowing and, in particular, the ways in which it communicates itself to us on the most fundamental level. This practice shows us how to remain rooted in our body throughout life, on the cushion and off. It gives us a solid and reliable somatic foundation for the meditation practices of any stage of the path, and is a profound resource for our lives.
The original inspiration for the Somatic Descent comes from the yogic practices of Vajrayana Buddhism, and its way of understanding and being present within the body, but it is not a specifically Vajrayana practice. It is known in various forms in the other practicing lineages of Buddhism and Taoism, and it also draws on the well-known Western somatic discipline of Focusing, first developed by Eugene Gendlin in the 1960’s.
The video and audio recordings on this page are from the 2014/15 Winter Dathün, where Reggie Ray and Caroline Pfohl first publicly taught the Somatic Descent. They feel that this practice is a vitally important addition to the Dharma Ocean core practices, and has much to offer all of us, regardless of where we are on the path.
Overview of the Stages
In this talk, Reggie provides an overview of the stages of Somatic Descent and provides key instructions for working with the practice.
Notes on Learning the Practice
As you will see, in the videos and the outline provided below, the Somatic Descent is described in a number of steps that unfold in a progressive manner. While these are best learned and most often practiced in the order described, when you are doing the practice itself, you need to trust what is happening. For example, you could go into the mid-body to Zone 1 and all of a sudden, an image or word or scenario—Zone 2—pops right up. Generally, though, try to follow the steps even if you don’t have much time and need to move through them more quickly than you’d like.
Please watch the videos before trying the guided practice. The outline is intended to be an accessible reference that can be used while you are learning the practice. After doing the practice several times with the audio guidance, try it on your own, referring to the outline as needed. Please note that while the numbering of the steps in Reggie’s “Overview” talk varies slightly from the outline, all the steps are included in the outline.