How do we inhabit the world we live in? We can partly answer that question by another one, more defined in space: what is our relationship with our primary container, with the unexplored wilderness that lies beneath our skin?
How do we relate to this primary territory? I use the word territory because we mammals have a body plan that spatially delineates our form and differentiates as well as connects each of us.
Is your relationship one of indifference, of moderate interest, of fascination? What archetype(s) would you say you are when it comes to this primary relationship with how you inhabit yourself: explorer, magician, tyrant, victim, artist, healer, alchemist, adventurer, story-teller, dancer, musician, performer, jester, mystic, scientist, inquisitor, abuser, conqueror, warrior, mother, father...add as many as you wish.
There are many 'passengers' in this container. Many expressions and much layering of habits over past generations, of conditioning in the present, of a not yet born future whose form is already in motion in the 'now'.
How we inhabit this primary loop is influenced and impacted by many external factors, a context, a milieu but also temperature, moisture in the air, the quality of the soil, the diversity of our 'natural' habitat, the food we eat, the beings we meet, the books we read, the shows we watch...
This circular relationship between internal and external territories is what is also called metabolism. How we 'make the world‘ or how we perceive and perform in the world depends on how we metabolise or digest it both physiologically and emotionally, and how we 'communicate' with it through the billions of microbes we share and host.
I am asking these questions because the word 'invasion' has once again been making headlines, and I have felt its resonance in my clients' bodies.
In the past two years, we have been told we were at the mercy of another 'invader', a virus called Sars Covid 2. This is an interpretation through the prism of one or a few archetypes as listed above.
On the other hand, a movement of military troops with sophisticated man-made weapons striking and killing civilians for the purpose of conquest of land and the wielding of power is a clearly intentionally offensive act of invasion and destruction.
Microbes are part of this layering of past generations that have inhabited us to make us. That have symbiotically partnered to create the conditions for homo sapiens to emerge, evolve and survive. They are not an invasion. They are who we are and will be. They are all at once our ancestors and our descendants. Our cells and DNA would not exist without them *.
Corona opened us to the world of the infinitesimal that inhabits us. Some became terrorised by this 'alien' wilderness, others interested, fascinated even by this hardly explored, mostly unknown internal habitat on whose diversity we depend to live.
Interestingly it also brought front stage, and probably for the first time, the possibility of a collective body politic acting concurrently and more or less in unison with a common purpose of 'defeating' and 'fighting against' what was seen by the vast majority of governments as an archetypal 'invader'.
Both the relationship to territory of a calculated all-out war and the powerful emergence of microbes as major agents of change and mutations in our midst show us how we metabolise, how we 'digest' the world we live in by how we react to what we perceive as its 'impossibilities', i.e. what radically disrupts the everyday, the norm; what was thought of as impossible previously.
Ethologists and philosophers** tell us that a territory for a bird for example is not just a space chosen for its easy access to resources, for mating and protection. It is also one where activities are 'suspended', where one stops in the quietude of just being rather than doing.
It is a place of habits and routine, of comfort. 'Impossibilities' on the other hand are major intrusions and interruptions that completely challenge our relationship to our internal and external spaces.
Both the emergence of new viruses such as Sars Covid 2, Ebola and Aids before it, and the many wars that are waged throughout the world are consequences of broken down metabolisms due to our destructive relationships to our ecologies. Just like the increase of autoimmune and other metabolic diseases such as diabetes and cancers denotes our excessively unbalanced ways of inhabiting the world. Our bodies mirror the disruptions and encroachments on the collective Earth metabolism.
As territories change with biodiversity plummeting, with wild places disappearing under the continuous invasive onslaught for resources that feed our modes of production and consumption, we are having to stop at the wall of 'impossibilities' with greater unpredictability and uncertainty than ever, and find new possibilities, different ways to move, to work, to perceive, to create, to dispose of waste, to live and die if we are to survive as a species.
We must learn other ways to relate, to metabolise in sync with the wild, not against it or in spite of it.
And we know this. We see those we label as 'marginals', 'outliers' leave modernity's ship and apply regenerative, restorative, culturally diverse ways of being in the world In tune with Earth’s metabolism.
We read about and listen to how indigenous tribes have been the custodians of their thriving territories for millennia.
Wars, extractive industries, and all the drivers of our modernity that fundamentally destroy and kill life are so many auto-immune metabolic diseases edging us closer to extinction.
The ‘louder‘, more visible they are, the more unbearable and harrowing, the more they affect the basic parameters of our living ‘container’ —the temperature, the weather, the soil, the water...—the greater the emergency, and the greater the need to discourage and rebuke the illusion of modernity's comfortable routine and create new ways of producing, moving and being in the world.
As the territories change radically so must we.
In this context, it is interesting to witness the timely revival of Irish as a native language not just among Irish people in Ireland and the Irish diaspora. I am originally French and I know I came under a spell of some kind when I first camped on Ireland’s Western shores at the age of 12. When I subsequently moved here 28 years ago some of my heroes and heroines were James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, WB Yeats, Edna O'Brien, the Pogues, Sinead O'Connor and U2. I consciously and unconsciously explored and 'metabolised' Dublin and the rest of Ireland through their lenses: a mix of the sensual, poetic, tragic, melancholic, wild, magic, rough and raw...
I am not an Irish speaker yet immersed myself in 32 words for field by Manchán Magan as if under another spell, and experienced it as an enchanting companion that held my hand during my wanderings in the forests or by the sea while deep in the uncertain pause of 'lockdown'.
Immersion as a response to the overwhelm of 'invasions'.
Conveying his deeply rooted love, knowledge and awe for the language forged by his ancestors, wordsmiths of the land, the sea, the wind, the rocks, all that they lived in each moment, this ode to Gaeilge, the Irish language, felt like a longing for a lost world.
Healing medicine for words threatened with extinction, for the loss of kinship caused by the waning diversity of what was once a richly descriptive and thriving tongue.
A sacred tying to a sacred territory, "...languages offer a connection to the inner lives of our ancestors," he explains. One could argue that the words of a language are a form of metabolism, a transformation (or translation) of the multiple relationships with land, sky, the elements, the living and otherworldly into sound.
His book prompted a huge revival of interest for Gaeilge. It was reprinted dozens of times since its publication in 2020.
Its popularity matched a yearning for meaning, for magic, for a return to being deeply immersed in the certainty and solidity of grounding in territory, in the stories of the land. Manchán's longing met a collective longing and ignited it like wild fire at a time when our ‘imposed’ slowing down allowed for the emergence and exploration of that yearning.
It was a line of fugitivity away from the trappings and enclosure of 'confinement' and towards the wonders of land, and a people for whom the "moaning of the waves" was the sign of a storm coming. for whom a speck of flour called "cáithmïn" in Gaeilge was also the word for subatomic particle, "the tiniest specks of physical life", and the word for "goose-pumps you feel when, for example, you ponder the interrelatedness of things and how small we are in relation to the whole."***... Do you hear and feel the bodymind juggling between the playfulness and depth of entanglement?
It is no wonder this book has been bought and gifted and talked about like the healing balm of a re-wording and a re-animating of the world that could reveal itself when one stops, pauses, slows down and listens; what 'lockdown' ushered.
Irish is one of the few indigenous languages of Europe that is full to the brim with references to the otherworld, the world of spirits, of the sidhe, often translated as fairies and which means the other folk, the spirit world that the women of knowledge, the Bean feasa, (or wise women, healers) can communicate and connect with to bring back 'balance' between the worlds.
Microbes are these unpredictable otherworldly beings that teach us about the magic of shape-shifting, mutation and adaptation in their relationships to place, time and life.
They assist us throughout a considerable amount of tasks including digestion, metabolising the world we live in. It is no accident that there has been a recrudescence of courses on fermentation, sourdough bread-making and wild foraging during lockdown too.
These kinds of ritualised 'microanimism'**** are a relating to the other than human, the other folk, a bonding with radically different beings that are our kin and our ancestors. They open wide the doors of perception and the vistas of living to a whole other level and in saying "Yes" to these other worlds we unlock, accept, and trust the unknown: we begin a healing process.
During biodynamic craniosacral sessions I have felt the resistance of bodies saying "No" to the world they have lived in; the fascia matrix twisted in the unfinished business of a "No" to whatever circumstances, tragedies, abuses, violations were thrown at them at the time. Like a defence against the 'invasions' of life, their contorted tissue patterns are a 'pushing away' that stayed imprinted and around which the whole reorganised.
We call them fulcrums of inertia in craniosacral speak. They are places where the potency of our inner Intelligence, the inner healing wisdom of the body, is dimmed down. They can translate as places of numbness, of higher density, compression, where vitality is disabled, and are often accompanied by patterns of protection, of resistance which I can feel as "No" zones.
A craniosacral session is about bringing different parties back in dialogue: 'Yes' helping 'No' to a more cohesive health resonance, with a potency that is free to roam with greater intensity and renewed aliveness, and a peaceful settling of the whole.
In this sense, healing is the relief of a return to the homeland of our bodies, to a sense of possibility regardless of what's happened and happening; to the healthy metabolising of re-ignited symbiotic relationships, to a re-wording of the world.
Likewise the revival of a native language and its rich treasures of lore and myths, is a knowing that is of the bones and connective tissue rather than just of the brain. It is the "Yes" deployed when potency is felt arising anew in our inner worlds, in our metabolism, flooding the whole with its luminous flow, or "glas" in Gaeilge. 'Glas' is also the colour green that is prevalent on the moist land here and it sometimes means grey too, the subtle gradation of greys of skies. As I see how the language weaves the words between worlds I hear a melody that ties the sparkles of light with lush green fields and ominously intricate grey skies. How could you not become spellbound by the sheer magnetism of a language when one single word releases such imaginal power?!
Away from the cacophony of the world, our bodily instruments resonate to the healing properties of such sounds lifting us to meet and intermingle with the poetics of the wild, re-igniting a rich conversation between our corporeality and the land's, between our metabolisms.
Health and healing are this reorganising of metabolic fields as a response to disruptive, chaotic forces. An adapting to new ways of inhabiting the entangled worlds of the living.
Our bodies know the ways of our longings.
* See Symbiotic Planet by Lynn Margulis
** See Vinciane Despret’s “Living as a bird” for example.
*** See 32 Words for Field, by Manchán Magan, 2020.
****For more on Microanimism see microanimism.com
Thanks also to Hospicing Modernity by Vanessa Machado de Oliveira, who influenced and accompanied my metabolism.