Cultural Somatics

Fudou river (不動川), which along the grounds of the Takizawa Fudou (Acala) Temple, about 700m in the forest next to my mother’s parents home in Aizu Wakamatsu city.

As a person of the Japanese diaspora who grew up in so-called Canada, I felt for a long-time that I am living on lands abandoned by kami (神), or spirits.

Through my studies and practice as a somatics practitioner, I started to understand that there was also an embodied quality to this feeling of abandonment – a kind of feeling of floating suspension that is often called dissociation.

Dissociation of course means there is trauma there. This showed to me that colonialism and imperialism are no just causes of traumatization, but are themselves living breathing manifestations of ancestral traumas stored within collective unconsciouses that in turn live within collective nervous systems. This birthed a constellation of ideas that I developed together in collaborative study with animist counselor Dare Sohei, which has now become a part of a larger field of new politicized somatic work often referred to as cultural somatics.

Following this trajectory, my current work in cultural somatics is deeply influenced and inspired by the cultural practices of my homelands of what is now called Japan, a land that is said to be inhabited by “Yaoyorozu-no-Kami (八百万の神)” or 8 million spirits, with long lineages of embodied practices, from martial arts to energy work, impacted by Buddhist, Daoist, Shintoist, and various syncretized wisdom traditions.

I see that within the cultural wisdom of my ancestral lineage is the understanding that the human organism has a nervous system that requires a felt sense relationship to place and body to be well. From this, it follows that ritual, the act of intentionally engaging with Kami, and somatics, the act of intentionally engaging with the body, are inseparable from each other.

Incidentally, the Japanese character for ritual (儀) breaks down into the characters of human (人) and justice/righteousness (義). I hope to let this knowledge speak through all of my work.

Finally, below is a glossary of cultural somatic terms and concepts that I’ve brought into the field of practice.

Cultural soma
The invisible sensing, feeling, and thinking body that emerges out of networks of complex relationships.

Cultural nervous system
The nervous system of cultural somas.

Cultural attachment
The concept that we form attachment relationships with cultural somas that exhibit similar behavior patterns as in our attachment relationship that we develop in early childhood with our caregivers. Cultural somas can also form attachment relationships with one another e.g. white culture has an attachment relationship to ancestral European cultures.

Cultural somatic context
The cultural context of a body, impacted by everything from furniture, clothes, customs, medicine, and other key cultural elements.

Cultural dissociation
Cultural dissociation describes the dissociative mechanism in the cultural nervous system that protects certain bodies, especially those considered privileged, from processing trauma.

Trauma diversity
Trauma diversity refers to the phenomenon of how trauma held in cultural somas interact with our natural diversities in terms of race, culture, gender, neuro-divergence, and so on, to manifest diverse trauma experiences associated with different groups.