There is a phrase I’ve heard here and there while living in Australia that I love for the sense that it evokes– “I can feel it in my water.” The usage is similar to the American phrase to “feel it in my bones.” It is that sense of knowing through the body that something is happening or about to happen. There are different explanations that posit to what “water” the phrase refers. I’ve been told it means urine in the bladder or it refers to the fact that the human body is truly mostly water. But, admittedly, my favorite explanation is that it points to the water of the womb. People of all shapes and sorts may use the phrase. But to date, I’ve only ever heard it from women, which gives some anecdotal credence to the womb theory. Any way you look at it, if you feel it in your water or your bones, you are connecting with the deep wisdom of the body.
I feel this somatic wisdom, this feeling of the bones & water, is something, as a group of modern Western cultures, we do not engage as often as we could. We have a tendency to see the body as a means to an end. It gets us from one place to another, yes. But it also seems so high maintenance some times. If only we didn’t have to sleep so much, or eat & drink at regular intervals, we could get more done. If only we didn’t get sick. If only we didn’t have to take time out of our busy lives to exercise & stay healthy. If only our bodies would get with the program, so our minds and spirits could achieve their lofty goals and be even more productive. For women, this is further compounded by layer after layer of patriarchal programming about what we should or should not do with said body. We have national debates in the public forum over and over again pertaining to this. We struggle in private with the intimate relationship between body & other parts of self.
So how to those of us who are committed to both feminist and spiritual paths process this? What can we do to heal this rift between mainstream life and the wellspring of somatic wisdom just waiting for us to connect with it? We can practice somatic spirituality- a spirituality that mindfully includes the body, not just as a means to an end, but as a source of sovereign wisdom all its own. Our bodies are our vessels. Without them, we couldn’t trance dance under a full moon, take Communion, walk an ancient labyrinth, sing a chant or hymn, break sacred bread, light a candle, sink into a yoga pose, strike up a rhythm in a drum circle, or kneel to pray. When we do any or all of those things, are we paying attention to our bodies? Have we simply used the body to engage in that sacrament, that ritual? Or have we truly felt our knees bend, our palm connect with the head of the drum, our fingers strike that match? In that moment, what do we feel in our bones and in our water? What does the body have to say about this rite of spirit?
At first, cultivating an awareness of somatic wisdom is arduous. For many of us, it does not come naturally. So, I encourage those looking to bring this dimension to their existing daily and spiritual practices to choose a small area to focus on at first. This could be a small part of a weekly ritual observance within one’s tradition- not necessarily even the whole service or rite, but just a piece of it. Or it could be a part of one’s daily round- breakfast, the moment before you first check your email, doing the dishes after an evening meal, even brushing one’s teeth. Just one or two places in your life where you can commit to bringing your full awareness to your body and whatever it might be telling you in that moment. In that space, at that moment, what do your bones have to tell you? How is the Sacred moving through your water? Look for an opening. In what circumstances does it start to become easier and easier to engage the somatic wisdom waiting for you?
I recently completed a year-long engagement with the study and implementation of food as spiritual practice as a part of my Seminary studies and will be teaching a workshop on the topic later this year. Since my pregnancy with my eldest daughter, I’ve come to believe strongly in the importance of a whole foods based diet to my health, but this personal study brought me deeper. I came to see food as an energetic conduit between Land and Tribe, and therefore, a direct line from the macrocosmic Body of the Modron, of Mother Earth to the microcosm that is my body in this lifetime. I began to pay less attention to the latest whole foods nutrition debates, which engaged primarily my mind, and more attention to what my body—the entity actually connecting to and consuming the foods my mind chose for it—had to say about what I did or did not need to be healthy. And not just physically healthy but spiritually healthy, as well. This was my opening into a deeper understanding (and more importantly, deeper practice) of somatic spirituality.
We can each find an opening. We can learn to feel our bones again and to seek spiritual counsel from our water. In doing so, we exert our sovereignty in our own physical form and tap into yet another reservoir of ancient wisdom. When we ask our bones for their wisdom, we come home again to the Sacred Body.
Kate Brunner is a freelance writer & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon, studying at the Avalonian Thealogical Seminary. She is an American expat, living in Queensland, Australia and homeschooling her children, with the world as their classroom. Before motherhood, Kate earned a Bachelor of Arts from Tulane University, while studying Economics, International Relations, & Religion. She served four years as a logistics officer in the US Army, after which, Kate became a doula and holistic birth educator. She is a regular contributor to The Sisterhood of Avalon’s online journal, The Tor Stone and is active in the Red Tent Movement. Kate volunteered in Houston as a presenter for monthly Red Tents and semi-annual women’s retreats before relocating overseas. She enjoys international travel, perfecting her cooking, reading great books, & having fascinating conversations with friends, old or new.