Elephants, Ethnography, and Somatic Psychology: On Trans-Species Fieldwork with Elephants

Posted by Nikole Hollenitsch on Jan 18, 2017 2:42:45 PM

A guest post by Bonnie Bright, Ph.D.

When Jonathan Erickson entered the M.A./Ph.D. program in Depth Psychology with a Specialization in Somatic Studies at Pacifica, he probably never imagined he would end up working with elephants in Cambodia as part of his curriculum. Admittedly, he has always been interested in highly intelligent animals, and he had encountered the Elephant Valley Project in Cambodia[1] during some prior travels in southeast Asia. Elephant Valley focuses on conservation and rehabilitation of elephants, maintaining a highly ethical stance. Eco-tourists who flock to the area are not allowed to ride the elephants, for instance, as the elephants are not there to serve humans, but rather to live their lives in peace, notes Jonathan. When it came time for Jonathan to conduct requisite summer fieldwork in the Somatics program, he found himself contemplating what it would be like to conduct his doctoral fieldwork in a sanctuary where elephants were treated with respect, and it seemed like a natural fit.

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Posted in: nature, somatic bodywork, Ecopsychology, animals

Mindfulness, Compassion, and Social Justice; An upcoming training at Pacifica

Posted by Nikole Hollenitsch on Nov 9, 2016 3:01:23 PM

A guest post by student/alumnae Hala Khouri, M.A.

Graduating from Pacifica’s M.A. in Counseling Psychology Program in 2004 gave me a foundation that has nurtured my work since then. Today things have come full circle. This year, not only have I begun the Community Psychology, Liberation Psychology, and Ecopsychology Specialization of the Depth Psychology Program, but also the non-profit organization that I co-founded in 2007, Off the Mat, Into the World ®, will be offering a training intensive entitled, Mindfulness, Compassion, and Social Justice at Pacifica this December, 2016.

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Posted in: Pacifica Events, Social Justice, somatic bodywork, leadership

Gurdjieff Movements Intensive in Jirisan, South Korea

Posted by Nikole Hollenitsch on Oct 28, 2016 4:35:35 PM

A Faculty Spotlight on M.A. Counseling Psychology's Core Faculty Member Avrom Altman

After an incredible journey last winter to Goa, India for an eight-day Gurdjieff Movements Intensive, professor Avrom Altman set his sights on Jirisan, South Korea. In Jirisan, Avrom taught a seven-day Gurdjieff Movements Intensive from August 9th through August 15th. Many of the 37 participants are group leaders and/or teachers of the Gurdjieff Movements in their respective countries.

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Posted in: somatic bodywork

Remembering the Role of the Body in Culture, Trauma, and Everyday Dynamics: An Interview with Dr. Rae Johnson

Posted by Erik Davis on Aug 1, 2016 11:30:20 AM

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, The Power of Myth

If you’ve ever had the experience of being fully in your body, you can likely relate exactly to what Campbell meant when he referred to the “rapture” of being alive. I remember hiking through a rain forest in Belize a few years ago in a mighty tropical rainstorm, boots sliding on slick, wet, red clay earth as I grasped at vines to pull myself up embankments. My leg muscles felt infinitely powerful as they worked in perfect harmony with deep rhythmic breaths that seemed to form in perfect accord with the sound of the rain beating giant fronds all around me. I felt lithe, powerful, sleek—almost panther-like—I remember thinking at the time. And, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. I was truly fully embodied in the midst of one of the most powerful places in nature that I have ever been, and I have never felt so euphoric, nor so alive.

This powerful image of my felt experience while in the jungle re-appeared instantaneously for me when Dr. Rae Johnson reminded me of this powerful quote by Joseph Campbell when we recently sat down for a conversation together. Rae is a somatic movement therapist, educator, and researcher, and also the Chair of the Somatic Studies Specialization of the M.A./Ph.D. Depth Psychology Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA, and she offered some captivating examples of just how transformational embodied awareness can be—especially if it’s grounded in a depth psychological context.

Click here to Listen to the full interview with Rae Johnson (Approx. 37 mins) 

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Posted in: Trauma, Social Justice, somatic bodywork

Yoga Meets Depth Psychology: Union, Consciousness, Healing

Posted by Erik Davis on Jul 11, 2016 4:28:09 PM

A Guest Post by Bonnie Bright, Ph.D.

“The body is merely the visibility of the soul, the psyche; and the soul is the psychological experience of the body” —C.G. Jung

“Yoga is most often understood as the union of the individual with the transcendental self, with what Jung terms the Self.” —Judith Mills

In recent years, the practice of yoga has made headlines in the mainstream media as parents in U.S. school districts challenged its inclusion in the curriculum at public schools, insisting it amounts to religious indoctrination and that it violates religious freedom.[1] In the U.S. today, while mainstream yoga is largely focused on physical poses and breath work, historically it evolved over millennia in the context of the spiritual and religious traditions of India. As such, it is not a religion, but rather a philosophy that enables mindfulness and a sense of well-being, among other benefits. No matter where you fall in the debate on whether—and where—it should be taught to children, practitioners of depth psychology and those seeking positive transformation appreciate yoga for its powerful potential to heighten spirituality and increase consciousness.

C.G. Jung, who valued yoga for its evidence-based experiential approach, perceived “important parallels” with psychoanalysis. He made a comprehensive study of yoga, delivering multiple lectures over the course of several years focusing on a psychological interpretation of kundalini yoga. He asserted that as yoga, being the oldest practical philosophy of India, is the mother of psychology and philosophy (which are one and the same thing in India) and therefore the foundation of everything spiritual.[2]

Yoga, meaning union in Sanskrit, seeks to create awakening through somatic experience, cultivating states that connect us more wholly with something larger than our ego selves—the ground of being, the web of life, or what Jung termed the “Self”—effecting a transmutation of consciousness that stems from attention to inner experience. The experiential, embodied practice puts us in touch with our physical being and grounds us more fully in the earth, anchoring us to something immutable, even as our breath and movement serve to make us more consciously aware and to shift inherent patterns and blocks we may be experiencing.

 “Yoga teachers are well aware of how the practice of yoga brings awareness through the layers of the body, often dredging up previous traumas and somatic awakenings,” Cheri Clampett, who is a certified yoga therapist with over 25 years of teaching experience, and the co-author of The Therapeutic Yoga Kit confided. “When these two complimentary fields come together, they offer deep avenues of healing for the soma and psyche.”

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Posted in: somatic bodywork

Teaching a Gurdjieff Movements intensive in Goa, India

Posted by Nikole Hollenitsch on Feb 9, 2016 10:31:34 PM

A Faculty Spotlight on M.A. Counseling Psychology's Core Faculty Member Avrom Altman

From January 18th through January 25th, Pacifica Professor Avrom Altman taught an eight-day Gurdjieff Movements Intensive in Goa, India. The intensive was attended by 47 participants from 20 countries. The participants were primarily teachers of the Gurdjieff Movements in their respective countries: India, Israel, Japan, South Korea, France, Norway, Germany, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Italy, Taiwan, Iran, China, USA, Mexico, Ireland, Ukraine, UK, Romania, and Russia.

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Posted in: somatic bodywork

Dr. Tina Stromsted, a scholar and practitioner integrating body, mind, & spirit

Posted by Nikole Hollenitsch on Nov 18, 2015 2:23:13 PM

For the November, 2015 Public Program Coming Home to the Body: The Legacy of Marion Woodman, a conference co-sponsored with the Marion Woodman Foundation, Pacifica welcomed a group of scholars and practitioners who honor the connection between the body and psyche. Attendees had the opportunity to participate in lectures, movement workshops, and connect with like-minded individuals who hold sacred the dynamic interplay between body, soul, and mind. One of the scholars and speakers from the weekend was Dr. Tina Stromsted, who is involved in many organizations working to bring this work out to the wider community. The following is the introduction speech from Dr. Rae Johnson, Chair of Pacifica's Somatic Studies Specialization, welcoming Dr. Tina Stromsted to the stage for her plenary session Stars Beneath the Sea: The Gifts of Marion Woodman.

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Posted in: The Psyche, Pacifica Events, somatic bodywork

Becoming an Embodied Ally

Posted by Nikole Hollenitsch on Feb 9, 2015 8:45:00 PM

A guest post by Rae Johnson, Ph.D.

Like many of us over the past several months, I’ve listened, read, and talked a lot about the issues arising from the recent tragic deaths of black men at the hands of police – about systemic racism, institutionalized violence, and intersecting forms of oppression.  Although the words exchanged in these important conversations have been necessary to my developing understanding of the issues, it is the images that have haunted me. I've found myself poring over photographs of hundreds of people lying down in Harvard Square as part of a "die in" mass protest, replaying the surveillance video footage of Tamir Rice’s sister running to his aid, and returning again and again to the photograph of Devonte Hart hugging Portland Oregon police officer Bret Barnum. The potency of these simple bodily gestures strikes a chord inside me that the words alone don't quite reach. 

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Posted in: transformative, Social Justice, somatic bodywork