Updated: May 6
Image Description: A small bird's nest formed of mud and dried grasses, filled with an empty half blue robin's egg, a red, orange, and yellow ranunculus blossom, a small abstract red, yellow, and black watercolor painting, and a fluffy white feather, sits on a wooden floor. Photo and artwork by Stefanie Cohen
“Part of the process of healing the nervous system is to establish an environment in which we can let down our guard and be supported, without the pressures of alertness for survival”.
-- Andrea Olson
Over the past fourteen months, so many humans, those who’ve been fortunate as to have been housed at all, have spent a considerable amount of time inside home spaces. Some of us navigating more consistently around others than we might have otherwise, and others of us alone for much longer stretches than we had been accustomed before. For many, the home spaces have served in capacities they’d not been designed — as places of work, schooling, worship, and so on — and the lines between activity and rest, private and public have often blurred.
The notion of safety itself, both out in the world, and within our bodies -- so many of which have consistently been targets of racialized, and/or gendered, sexuality, and ability-based violence -- has also been challenged and amplified for many more of us during this time.
A few months back, with my own nervous system more highly activated than I’d experienced it in recent memory, I found the need to lean into any and all skills of grounding that I could muster. To find the ways that I could signal to what Resmaa Menakem calls the "soul nerve", (also known as the vagus nerve), that my body and my home environments were safe containers.
I committed to access the most direct routes to the sensations of settledness and ground. So, I brought a practice of speaking my morning invocation to the place of the very most warmth and security I could find:
Sometimes, I'd sit, regulating my breathing and whispering these prayers next to my still-sleeping partner. Sometimes, snuggled into the smooth black and brown fur and large, soft ears of our Shepard/Doberman, Vesper. Whether or not I could consistently believe it from moment to moment, I'd remind each cell of my body over and over again that they were safely, firmly, and closely held; my skin warm, and my connection and belonging to the Earth deep and ancient.
Once I'd established this felt sense of warmth and containment, as well as the feeling of yielding to gravity, I was then able to let my senses scan beyond the bed to the rest of the room and then out into the rest of our home....
experiencing each cozy nest tucked in to successively larger ones.
The past several months have had me more consciously re-engage with my home-spaces as these nests conducive to feelings of first, safety, and only then, with that ground in place, as entry portals to exploration and inspiration. Acknowledging their components -- the human and non-human inhabitants, the light sources — both natural, from the outside, and augmented from within; the views to the outside; the furnishings and floors that support our bodies, and importantly, for me, the art works by family members and friends that engage one another in conversations of image, color, texture, weight, light and shadow across various surfaces throughout our home.
May you and I each remember to offer gratitude to the spaces, relationships, and practices that hold us snugly against the elements,
from which we can soar,
and to which we may return for nourishment, replenishment, and care.
With love to you,