Somatic tools for a joyful reality

In the upcoming six-week online course with Aisha Paris Smith, Joy and the Body, we will step into somatic awareness, exploring body-based practices, and observing the openings, shifts, and releases they facilitate. Ahead of the course, advaya converses with Aisha about what somatic tools are and how they can be so powerful in creating a joyful reality.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): So good to be here. Thank you everyone for joining.

So, just to kind of briefly introduce this, very briefly introduce the conversation. It is with Aisha Paris Smith, whom you all see right now, who is a somatic sexologist, bodyworker and life coach. And you can find her longer bio on the course website And so Aisha is the curator and facilitator of the upcoming course, with advaya, that's starting very soon. And it will be happening for six weeks. And we'll have, I think, seven sessions. And during the course, we will be stepping into somatic awareness, exploring body-based practices, and observing the openings, shifts and releases that they facilitate. And so today, we are going to be getting into a little bit more about the somatic side of the conversation. I think the last time we spoke to Aisha, we talked a little bit more about everything else. And maybe this time also, just inviting people who are in this room with us to ask any questions you might have about embodiment, if this is your first time, I don't think that it would be anyone's first ever encounter with somatics, but maybe it's not something that's very practiced. So feel free to ask all your questions. Yeah, and Aisha, do you want to add a few words before we start officially?

AISHA PARIS SMITH: Yes, what do I want to say? I want you to know that the course is not about it's not about pushing anything on you, like "the right way to be in your body". I know that you're the expert of yourself. And I see my role as offering a space, a safe and intelligent space for you to explore what's moving in your experience of yourself, through your body and to explore your reality through your body as well. And so every session is an invitation. And every session is made up of many different micro-skills that I've weaved into how you're invited to participate, so that you can practice, you're not just being spoken at, but you're living, breathing the practices that are being taught, and you can immediately feel what is that like for you, and that is a space of inquiry—for you to discover what feels good for your body, what your body needs, what your body is carrying from past experiences, past conditioning, what messages your body wants you to hear. So in that way, I think this is a really beautiful way to self-discover.

And I think it's a really different way than what we're used to when we think about, how should I feel good? And most people are like, oh, I should like go and, get a better job or get a better partner or, spend more money, or whatever it is. And this isn't like, looking at the external. It's looking at the internal and it's not looking at it allopathic-ally, or pathologically, like, what's wrong with you, and what is it that needs to be fixed? It's instead looking at it from a whole, like the whole of you, and what is moving there? And what is the intelligence doing now, and why is it doing that? Let's explore that, let's unpack that. Instead of making it wrong, staying curious about it. And so you'll find agency in this course. This course is about you having choice and permission and learning... finding confidence in using that, because our agency is our personal power. And it's fundamental to how we feel, and the life that unfolds in front of us.

There was something else. Let me feel.

I believe through this course, you'll gain a lot of respect for your body, you'll come into a new relationship with your body: that's the invitation, and how you choose to participate in the course is a choice. You won't be made wrong, if you are eating during the course, or if you're constantly going to the bathroom during the course, or if you're with the kids during the course. There's like so much to it. Or if you're laying down, or like stretching and doing your yoga during the course—it's all an invitation. So that's, yeah, that's what I would like everyone to know, because it's kind of radically different to how so many spaces are.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): Yeah. Thanks for that introduction. And so again, I just want to invite everyone who's here to just ask your questions. But if not, we'll kind of start with the more broad questions. So for the people who are new to somatics, or may not be familiar with it, or comfortable with using it, or I guess, haven't discovered it as a tool in their lives, Aisha, could you share what it means and how it can be particularly powerful in people's lives?

AISHA PARIS SMITH: Sure. So somatic psychology is the study of body intelligence. So imagining that we're not just intelligent in the brain, and empty flesh, with no intelligence everywhere else, but that, actually, it's all one system. And somatics uncovers the intelligence of the body, [and] the intelligence of the body as a whole, and also intelligence of the different systems, and explores how we can tap into that intelligence so that we can know ourselves better, so that we can regulate ourselves.

And a lot of people, when they think about somatics, they think about embodiment. And embodiment is a key piece: how much are we able to live in and experience ourselves through our body? A lot of people are mostly experiencing themselves through their brain, and through the responses of the world to them. And that's a heady, as we say, a heady way of living, and we fit in when we do that, but we don't always have the most fulfilling experience. And a lot of people question, who am I? What am I about? What are my gifts? What's my purpose? Should I be with this person or that person? Should I be eating this or that thing? And listening mostly from outside of themselves? Somatics is an opportunity to really get clear on your internal authority, and in what is true for you, not what is right or what is wrong, but what is true for you.

And as I've said already, for me, it was the birthing of my personal power, getting into somatics. I had a very tumultuous relationship with my body: a lot of projections, a lot of judgment. And this work supported me in going, Oh, body, mmh, body, body, body, like, my body is now my constant companion. And like, I actually do wake up and I'm like, Good morning, body. And if I wake up in the middle of the night and I have insomnia, then I'm listening to my body and soothing my body. My body guides me between, like, if I say yes to a work invitation, or a no. And it cuts out so much chatter, to just be able to listen to our bodies and to not need to bring thought, overthinking analysis, evaluation based on external values, but to actually feel my internal values.

And the phrase that I like to use is letting things make sense backwards. When we're at logic and being rational... And rationalism was a result of there being so much civil conflict from a system where people were very superstitious, and where religions were fighting each other over beliefs. And Rene Descartes came in, I think that was the early the mid 17th century, and was like, this is messy, our world is messy, because everyone's fighting over their beliefs. Let me show them what's measurable, and let me qualify and quantify, and hence now, we have rationalism, like, pretty prolifically everywhere. But we sort of throw out the baby with the bathwater. And somatics is that place of, we honour the brain, we honour all levels of our experience, but as highly level... we as highly, uh, what is the word that I've lost... We as highly regard our body. It's a key piece of the puzzle, of all parts. I'm just gonna feel into the question again, I think there was something else: somatics, embodiment...

Yeah, okay. And also, they say state follows story. It's true: depending on how we're feeling on the inside, determines how we perceive things that are happening for us, and therefore how we react or respond to them. And so many people want to... they feel badly about the way they behave, or they're stuck in like, a recurring negative experience with the world outside of them, feeling no power about how to affect that, and somatics allows us to do this.

Ah, I think I need to take a breath! Maybe move that around!

TAMMY (ADVAYA): I was going to help you out with the word, and I was just about to unmute myself. And then also just didn't know. So I was like, oh, no, I can't help. So I'm sorry, I couldn't find the word.

What you were saying about, interestingly, about enlightenment, and about the rationalisation part, Rene Descartes and everything, throwing the baby out with the bathwater, that's something that aligns really well with our other upcoming course with Minna Salami. If you guys have checked out Minna Salami's work, in the conversation that we had recently with her, she also talked about, which I'm thinking about now specifically, is like the knowledge of the gut, when she weaves that in with Yoruba cosmologies.

And so, there's a whole lot of history there, but to cut that kind of story short, it's basically that like, to have only one kind of knowledge, which is the rational knowledge, is to be, she says, partly wise, and to have knowledge of the gut—and knowledge of the gut is kind of a placeholder for a lot of other things as well, so like knowledge of, you could imagine like any other organ, any other body part—and having that together is the only way you can be like, fully wise. And yeah, so it's also to highlight that when we set up those two opposing things, they're not necessarily wanting to cancel each other out. And it's, I think, we can think about in a kind of a yin-yang way, right? I don't think that we should be... I guess for so long, science has been, and the rational has always been the primary way of thinking about things. But when we advocate for more body-based knowledges, it doesn't mean that we have to throw that out as well, like things can be existing together, and not necessarily in opposition. And that comes together with like non-dualism, all that kind of stuff. Just really rambling.

AISHA PARIS SMITH: No, I love that. And it makes me think about... there is the school of thought, I think that's Marion Woodman, who speaks about embodiment over enlightenment. And a lot of people reject their body, because of stigmas attached to the body, because of misunderstandings of like, how they're receiving their body, feeling discomfort, having chronic pain, having had received abuse through their body, and just not feeling safe in it. But the unfortunate thing is that, when we leave the body in that way, when we check out from the body, we also check out from all the good that it can offer us. And for me, I've always been... really, like my kink is this idea that I can feel in and know what's happening in my body before any scan or test would show me, and building that level of interconnectedness and intuition and instinct about what my body needs and what's moving there. And it... honestly, it takes time.

Also, like borne from Marion Woodman's work is like spending an hour a day with the body, just listening to it. And I love doing that, like when I'm in a leisurely place, I'm just gonna lie down and just, let's have a conversation. And it's been an incredible aid to me, I have "irritable bowel"—because really, it's just a collection of symptoms. It's like a non-diagnosis, we don't know what's going on, but we're gonna give it this term. And listening to my body has done way from way more for me than any of the doctors have been able to. And my body's told me more about what's going on than any doctor has, and I've gone all the way up to specialists! So yeah, there's a lot of good stuff there.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): I love that. I'm sure people have questions about that. So I'm not going to ask a question about that. But if anybody is curious about it, please ask. And we'll be getting into also modifications around the course, or like, how the course will take into account those things, later on. But so... I mean, we titled this conversation, Somatic tools for joyful reality. So the second question that I have, is, what does it mean to be joyfully embodied? And how can we use somatic tools to create them? And I guess, also worth asking, Aisha, how do you define "joyfully embodied", like joy, specifically, the joyful part? I think a lot of people have different definitions of joy. And just curious about how you define it, and maybe like, a good jumping off point, also, is how it differs from other commonly associated terms, like happiness or pleasure; they all mean their own thing, but I mean, just as a way to distinguish it from the rest.

AISHA PARIS SMITH: Yeah. Okay, got it.

Yeah, so there are sort of two joy themes on this course. One is a joyful reality. And the other is embodied joy. And they are two distinct things. The first one, joyful reality. Well, when I asked people, what does it mean, like "reality"? And people say well, it's like, the circumstances, the situation, what's happening. And actually, reality comes from: related to, how and what are we related to, the experience of being related to things. So, a joyful reality is being able to bring joy into how we experience the things that we're related to. How to be in joyful relationship, I guess, is another way that you could say it. So that feels really important to sort of discern.

And so a joyful reality, the way I've been able to create a joyful reality for myself is through embodied joy. And embodied joy is the pleasure. The pleasure of the body. And I'm not talking about like sexual or erotic pleasure. I'm talking about, like, as I'm sat here, now, I have the experience of warmth on my lower back, and I feel anchored and held. And then I have the pressure of the cushions, and I feel supported. And then I can feel the softness of my hair on my face and against my neck, the softness of my top, the containment of my jeans, the freedom of my feet, with no socks on. So these are all places of embodied joy, embodied pleasure. And we seem to be in this place of either not having any joy in our body, not having any pleasure in our body, and then like, sexual pleasure. Which is... there's lots of stickiness and entangled stuff there, for people.

And I'm interested in this space in between. So it's separate from the other two, but just: what feels good about being in my body, and how can I use that to resource myself, alongside the not so nice things about being in my body, the things I might struggle with, like, pain, and disease, and psychic pain, of huge emotions, for example. So that's really interesting. Yeah, how can I use this, like this tenderness here, to resource myself, to manage, to find extra capacity to work through that stuff. And then the other place... The other place is, how does moving from that place of I'm putting my attention on embodied pleasure and joy impact my relationship with my body, how I view my body, ah, how I view myself, how I behave, how of view other people, how I view my reality. So it's like a domino that we can start by tuning into our body and finding out what feels good there, we can push the first domino, to actually moving into, Well, what feels really good about my life? And how that creates more of the good.

So those are sort of, my thinking right now, in this moment, because I am someone who changes all the time. But that's what I would say about embodied joy and embodied pleasure.

The other piece to it that feels important is pain is... Pain is, in some ways, very subjective. So what someone finds painful, isn't painful universally. It's down to some factors, that they'll be tuning into and experiencing that sensation, that stimulation through, and they'll say it's pain. When we learn how to tap into what feels good, when we develop a high level of somatic awareness, we go deeper, we have a more granular experience so that we can teeth out, Oh, is it pain? Is it pain? Like is that really me? Oh, okay. It's actually my tummy is telling me something, or my womb is telling me something.

It was fascinating, and now I'm really chatting away, Tammy, so to tell me if I need to stop. But it was fascinating. I was on my bleed a couple of weeks ago, I was lying on my bed with my supervisor who's like... think of them like a professional therapist in my ear, like we were on a phone call. And I had my hand on my womb, and as we were talking about things, my womb went from being... I don't really have like, I don't get pain from my womb during my bleeds anymore. But when we spoke about things that I was struggling with, suddenly there was this like, earthquake cramp through my pelvis. And then as I continued talking, and started to resolve it, by tuning in about what was true for me and what I needed to do, Ah, the pain soothes down, and it just like dispersed. And then again, when something came up and I doubted myself or I felt, like a loss of personal power, or I was struggling with the way I felt about something and judging myself... yeah, all sorts of things, it would come up again.

So is it pain? And what does it mean if it is pain? What is that pain about? And so this somatic awareness, this body-based awareness, being able to tune into all the different channels through which our body is communicating with us, we get to distill these messages. And it's not just something that's happening to us, it's now a valuable part of our experience that's a contribution.

Actually I want to just stop it there, because I could just talk for ages, and that's what the course is for. But, yes. I hope that answered the question, at least in part, Tammy.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): Yeah, no, at this point, I feel like whenever people say that, I'm like, No, it's fine. Like, I don't think that questions are meant to be answered anyway. Hopefully, that makes sense to people. It's not that questions aren't supposed to be answered. But it's kind of a portal to different things.

So those are the two big questions that really I have, and actually, I kind of wanted to skip ahead to the question about the learning objectives. And so I think maybe it might be good to start by talking about a little bit about what the course is. So, like what Aisha has been kind of gesturing towards, the course is really just, at its heart, like about listening to your body, and developing an ear for listening to your body. But more specifically, there are a few big pieces of things that you'll, quote unquote, take away from the course. And so I would love for Aisha, for you to run us through not all of them, but some of the bigger ones, and kind of talk a bit more generally about why it's important to learn those things and, bring these specific practices and skills and back into our lives... because I think we all kind of have them already, but just kind of actively calling them in, is what the course is for.


I feel like I want to start by just... I've already spoken about personal power. Personal power can be defined as our ability to influence ourselves, other people, our lives, what happens... And, for me, my sense of personal power is rooted in choice. And one of my teachers defined trauma, actually, as a loss of the ability to participate. It's like a loss of choice, maybe we're choosing, but we're not able to act on that choice, and so we feel not good at all. So I want to just set that up first, like, thinking about choice, thinking about personal power, being able to influence our lives, as a place of creating what we want to create, being the contribution we want to be, connecting with who we want to connect with. We can't control what happens to us, but we can influence how we feel. And a lot of people control their feelings by shutting down, or shutting off their emotions, as an act of strength.

I think we're all very aware of like, that way of thinking, but strength to me, is being able to feel it all: feel everything, feel the sadness, feel the cramps, feel the injustice, feel everything. Feel the grief... being able to feel it all whilst maintaining a flexibility to resource ourselves through moderating our suffering, our difficult experience, with joy and pleasure, being able to... I think of it, like, tripping in the street. If I trip in the street, and like, we can trip on the street and we can fall, and we can feel shame and humiliated, and make it mean all these terrible things, and feel like disconnected from our body, and then like, let that ruin our day, and feel like, I'm so incompetent, I'm tripping in the street. Or we can trip, and we can be so present with our experience that we even feel the fall, like in slow motion. And then when we get there, we realise, I tripped. Okay, stand up, and feel our feet on the ground, and giggle, and then look around to the people who saw it happen, giggle with them too, and with that routine that we've gained again in our body by just slowing down and feeling and letting what came through us be felt, you know... feeling the fall, feeling the trip, feeling that instability, feeling that overwhelm, that sense of vulnerability in that moment, that sense of confusion about what our body is doing. And we can instead feel just what it is. Just be there with it. And when we let ourselves feel things, they just move on, they just release, they just go.

So like, really, fundamentally, across all the areas of the course is that. Total acceptance. About your experience. Total welcoming embrace of what you're experiencing, and what you want to share, and not making it mean anything; just being with it. And when we do that, when we take off the judgment, the negative perception, the need to fix or rescue or intervene, and we just trust that that's just what it is in this moment, we create this space, for a shift in the way that ourselves, our bodies, are organised. And then that creates a shift in how our lives are organised. So that's like very much what we're like sticking our hands into, for the course, and in order to do that, I'll be inviting each of you into understand[ing] what is pleasure, what is this embodied joy for you, not for me, because I'm sharing from me, but this is to inspire you to feel into it for yourself and to find your own relationship to it, within your own body. And then by coming into conscious relationship with it, you can then choose to live a life of self-created joy more often.

This isn't about rocking around happy all the time. This is about finding flexibility in our response, being able to feel everything and it be okay—be more than okay, that it can be delicious, that even the sorrow tastes sweet, when we know how to tune in with our bodies. So those are big parts of it.

Another important learning objective is then to increase our capacity for pleasure, to increase our awareness of sensation, to increase our self-expression, being able to say what we're experiencing, especially if it's different from what everyone else has shared. If we just go for what feels good, what feels good, we're missing the second part, which is like, did I receive that? Like, I found what feels good, I met someone who's great: can I receive them? I found a part of my body that I really liked touching and exploring, can I permit myself to stay there, and to just enjoy it and receive it and not shame myself that I should be doing something else? Or not shame myself that this isn't a proper way to be engaged with my body. To not get bored and and agitated and then push those feelings down, but to be like, I'm bored. I'm agitated. And look at what that is, what message that's being communicated to you.

The body is a physical manifestation of our subconscious mind. The things that we can't see, but that are available for us to access with the right tools, and so being able to hang out in those areas and increase our capacity to be with ourselves, to be with our bodies, allows us to therefore, increase the amount of intelligence that we have access to, increase the amount of joy that we're able to engage with, and be with. A lot of people come to me about orgasm, and I don't know how to orgasm, I've never orgasmed, and that is so often just a fear of receiving. A fear of surrendering and relaxing into the pleasure—a fear of what will happen after we do that. And so, much of the course is also about looking at that shadowy part. The shadowy parts of us, and like, oh, well, what's there that's blocking your joy? What's there that's blocking you feeling good today? And how do we unravel that, without making it wrong, whilst being self compassionate? How do we do that?

And through out every lesson, you will be initiated into simple somatic tools, so that you don't need to wait for the next classroom to feel good. You have something to explore on your own, to make your own, every day in between. And that after the course is done, you just... it's just the beginning for you. Next is: how do I keep bringing in the tools that I enjoyed? How do I want to shift my lifestyle around that? I have one client who will do body drop-ins in the middle of their busy work day, they'll just go, Oh, I'm noticing I'm stressed. I'm going to lie on the floor, I'm going to like, just tune into my body, I'm gonna listen to this recording, and they now know what they need to regulate their system, to come back to the good feeling, instead of blowing up because something isn't right.

I think that's it. I want questions. What questions are there?

TAMMY (ADVAYA): There are so many questions, I was gonna say, I hope we're going to be able to get through all of them.

So the first question that we got, and we're gonna go through these, like, fairly quickly, if we can, some questions are bigger than others in terms of scope. This one is just about the course. So this person asked what is the value of doing the course versus working one to one together? They want to develop a deeper understanding of somatic practices as they hold space for people and personally explore sensual pleasure as a portal for deeper empowerment. We kind of briefly touched on this in the previous session, so maybe we can like, answer this, like fairly quickly, and then point you in the direction of that recording, because we go into that like, a lot. But for now, Aisha, you can respond.

AISHA PARIS SMITH: Yeah, so, I mean, what's standing out for me there is like one to one versus group. And what I would say is that often when I'm working one to one, I'm like, we would be like flying ahead, if we were in a group, that's my experience... Those are my experiences of group work. When we're in a group, and I think... did I speak about this last time, Tammy? Yeah, I did. Okay. So, when we're in a group, we're learning what's coming up for us, and we're increasing the memory of it by sharing it and relating it to what everyone else is experiencing. But also, we're seeing other resonances of our own lives in the development and progress, process, of other participants. So whilst we might have an intention to work on one specific channel and stay there, through other people's intentions, we also much more prolifically shift and transform.

Yeah, I think I'll just leave it there. But definitely, the other recording that we did definitely has a lot of good information about this. And it's also like, start here with feeling into what your body wants, just: what feels good to you? Does group feel good to you? Does one to one... Trust yourself. I feel like, that's such a huge piece of it. And, of course, from a financial standpoint, it's much... the cost of this course, is less than the cost of one session with me. So there is a huge benefit, if you want to start making your way in, and staying at sort of like the lower end of the money investment.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): Great. Moving swiftly along to the next, we've got quite a few. So I really want to get through and make sure we answer everyone's questions. So someone else asks, totally differently, Aisha, who, or what are some of your influences and teachers? I'm guessing not just for this course, but just generally, just so people get a sense of who you are and where your work comes from?

AISHA PARIS SMITH: Yeah, that's a good question. I have to say that a lot of my influences are actually just my life, and growing up in really challenging circumstances, and finding that I was naturally really good at soothing myself through my body, in just really challenging circumstances.

I've mentioned Marion Woodman, Hilary Hart, or Audre Lorde, adrienne maree brown, Ram Dass. There are so many people that have influenced me... and Katie Sarra is an incredible sexological bodyworker who I'm close to and I've trained with, and Stephen Porges, and... affective neuroscience is very, very, very interesting to me. And Gabor Maté with psychoneuroimmunology... very, like, this is, Oh, so good. Ellen Heed... she's very, like, off the radar, but she's fabulous. Yeah, there are many, there are many. But I like reading, I like nerding out, but I also hold everything against my chest and find what resonates, and what's true. There are many different truths, I can only stand for the one that I've experienced, and I really interrogate my experiences, which sounds kind of harsh, but I am very... like, internally I have a very critical mind. And I feel a huge amount of responsibility that people want to learn what I share in the spaces that I hold. And so I don't want to rock up there, on a whim, with some feeling that I have, about how things are. And it's hard for me to be between that place and what's scientifically proven, and navigating that. So yes, those are some of my influences.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): And I don't think I caught all of that. But in the recording, I will ask for those names. So if people are worried about not catching all those, we will have them in writing, in a little bit. So next question. Someone asks: what practices do you suggest in those moments of head spinning, waking up anxious, when we feel on the edge of the shadow? I think we could go on forever and ever about those, a whole list, but maybe share like one or two, Aisha, that you've used recently...

AISHA PARIS SMITH: Yeah. Okay. Head spinning, waking up anxious. It's gonna sound... so I think... This is a saying that I have. One of the hardest things that we learn is that the simple things work. If your head's spinning and you're waking up anxious, you need to slow down, maybe all the way to stillness. I love... a thing. I always live by a park and I, multiple times a day, when I'm in really stressful periods in my life, will go and lie down on the grass, and let nature regulate me, and let lying down in that passive space regulate me. And I love, like I already spoke about it, but... talk with your body, some of this is just real obvious stuff: talk with your body, talk with the anxiety, have a conversation, that will in itself slow you down, and try if you can go there from a place of curiosity, rather than a place of, I need to fix this, or judging, or like, resisting, but just... have pockets of going in.

Yeah, I'll just share really, really quickly that when I had a mental health ill, thing, an eating disorder for 13, 14 years, and for me, things really started to change when I stopped shaming myself. And when I stopped needing to not do those habits, and when I could just slow them down, and just be with them, and then all this understanding started to come up, and that understanding allowed me to like, behave differently, but also see things differently.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): I hope that answered your question. And thank you for asking it. And I hope that you do try out some of those moments. And I'm sure that's useful for a lot of people... I found it useful as well. Yeah, simple things, simple things. Simple, easily accessible things that don't require a lot of steps and thought processes.

Yeah, and then one more question before we go into the more course-related questions. So this person asks, at what point does moving towards a joyful reality become trying to force yourself to be joyful, creating tension within yourself? How do you create a feeling of oneness with it?

AISHA PARIS SMITH: Yeah, I mean, this is a really good question. I think that it's a question that a lot of people feel. I would love for everyone to know that, stepping into this course is not about faking happiness, judging, or shaming yourself into feeling better than you do. It's not about that at all. It's about coming into relationship with, it's about connecting with and identifying the parts of you that already feel joyful, and building on that. So part of somatic work, and part of my sexological bodywork is that we look at... where are you already, like, doing the thing? If you come to me with no arousal, okay, tell me about the last time you felt arousal, or tell me about like, little moments of arousal that you've had, or tell me about what arousal feels like in your body. And when we do that, people naturally start to engage with and discover those parts of themselves that in this case, feel joyful. And all it is, is about really having access to that. Not so that you need to walk around like a Cheshire Cat who never gets aggravated, but so that you can bounce back, so that you can have resilience.

It's a place from which we resource ourselves. It's for us, it's not to be right. It's not better to be joyful. It's not. It's just an option. And it's an option that I think you're drawn to, because you are here with us. So definitely... there's like lots for us to do there about, like breaking the stigma off of our emotions, and our experiences, and what experience we're having. There is no hierarchy. There's just what we want, and being able to access that, so that we can live the lives that we want to live, for ourselves, not for anyone else. I've spent a lot of my life feeling very, very sad. And that's okay. And there are going to be more sad times. And now I can feel sad. And I can feel joyful, sometimes simultaneously. And otherwise, I just have this, like, flexibility in my system, that I can go into that part of me and like, process that. And then I can come up and like do a webinar, you know? And it's not it's not forcing, it's not faking. It's really knowing myself and really supporting my system to express its multifacetedness, so that I can live a whole, fully well-rounded expression. Yeah.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): That was way more eloquent, and so well said. Thank you Aisha, for saying those things so well. Yeah, I think something that really stands out to me from what you're saying is just like, really, like, radical acceptance of where you're at. And I think before you get to anything, it's just... you have to come to terms with where you're at. And yeah, it's like, if you're sad, you're sad. You're not joyful, you're not joyful. And we're not going to be like... the course, and this space, is not at all a space where you would be shamed for any of the feelings that you're feeling, or judged, you know. I think the most harsh judgment can only come from yourself. So that's also why the acceptance is so important, why we have to start from there. So yeah, I hope people find, in this course and beyond, outside of these spaces, find that self-acceptance, first.

AISHA PARIS SMITH: Someone I didn't mention is Tara Brach. And she... radical acceptance. She's all about that. Yeah. You said it perfectly. To me, that's absolutely the way the course is. Just come as you are. Yeah.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): Okay. So I will... I think so this one last question. What does a typical weekly session feel like and include? We have that briefly on the website as well, more specifically broken down, so maybe Aisha, you can kind of just quickly answer that. And then we'll also... following that, Aisha maybe you could answer the question about how the course takes into account folks with chronic pain, with hypersensitised bodies, hyperfixation, anxiety. So I think generally the answer will... all of these kind of collapse together. And any of the questions that we didn't get to, we'll have a note, somewhere in the transcript. So if we didn't answer that, as clearly as you would like, please, drop us a DM or email or whatever. And then we'll just answer more formally there... but for now...

AISHA PARIS SMITH: Okay, so the sort of the structure of the class each week is, we set the community, so every time we'll come together, we'll set the community, we'll do our community agreements, then we'll do a grounding embodiment practice, to drop in and to learn where everyone's at, to co-regulate together, and then we'll go into a teaching, so I will be sharing with you a certain aspect of this work, and then I'll have like—not for too long, you know, like, it's really more about exploration than it is about you like taking something into your head and your memory—then there'll be a part for Q and A's immediately after that. So like, what came up for you there? What questions do you have? Then we'll go into a practice of what we just learned. So you'll get to immediately bring it into your system, and see how it is for you, to see what it brings up for you, to see what you discover about yourself. To know what it's like, how your body shifts, in its state, and then how that shifts your reality. Then we'll have shares, group shares, altogether. If you're live with us, we'll also have breakout rooms, so there'll be additional exercises, you'll do one on one with other people who are there, for like 15 minutes, then we'll come back, we'll have more questions. And if there are things that people are finding difficult, I'll also be offering some in the moment coaching, too. So yeah, that's the structure of the classes.

When it comes to chronic pain. One thing I'll say is that chronic pain disrupts the body maps we have. So our brain maps, all these different parts of our body, and the body maps get distorted. And so therefore, we don't actually experience ourselves as we are, this work will support you in remapping yourself accurately, and will be a place to... We'll act very, very positively on your system to restore and, again, create resilience inside of that experience. So usually people with chronic pain, that's all that's going on for them. It's really hard to get out of it. But this, slowing down and being with the body will support them breaking open past and beyond that experience. Number two, people who are hypervigilant, and hypersensitised. I understand. Been there. And the course is trauma-informed. It's about titration, not catharsis. So this is, what is the least that we need to go into something, in order for you to feel it, not making something happen, not pushing you into an experience, not like starting an engine somewhere in your body that you don't know where it's gonna go. It's about feeling in and finding out what's going on, in a way that you're there, but you're also still here. So you don't need to go into defense mechanisms, you won't need to disassociate, you can literally tiptoe, very safely into and out of it. And actually, for those who are hyper sensitised, you're actually usually very naturally good at this work. And the third, for participants with ADD, I don't actually know too much about ADD, I have had clients who wrote it down that they that they had it, but I haven't done specific training around that and I want to be very clear, but the space is inclusive, this space allows for, with each invitation you to choose, if I'm chatting away, well, how do you want to be listening to me chatting away, you don't need to sit still and be here with us in that way. And when we go into the exercises, you can adapt them and you'll be supported in understanding the best ways to adapt them for you and your system, and how your system is functioning.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): And I've almost forgot about the last one which is about modifications for people who struggle with PTSD from systemic injustice and oppression. I don't know, Aisha, if you had any specific thoughts about that one.

AISHA PARIS SMITH: Yeah, okay. So, systemic injustice and oppression. This is just a long time exposure to discrimination and traumatic events that are connected to our social identity, so like, our race, our gender, our sexuality, our ableness, our socioeconomic status. And yeah, that can lead to PTSD. But, like I said, I'm a trauma-informed practitioner. So my methods are not modified, they're like, born out of managing these sorts of experiences. So this course is trauma-informed, you will be supported to make further adaptations you need to for yourself, in that moment, whatever you're experiencing. Everything on the course is about consent. I'm not telling you what to do. You're invited into, feeling if you want to follow an invitation. And if not, what would you rather do? So you discover choice, you discover autonomy, and that's reparative. So if we've had those experiences, we then doubt ourselves, our ability to participate. And, a lot of it is the fear of it happening again, as well as that recurring experience of what's happened. And the more we can feel safe in our bodies, is the more that we can process and release those experiences from the body. And so this is an experience of choice. Autonomy, consent, titration, a supportive, safe environment and community where you're accepted and embraced just as you are, with someone—me—who role models self-care, and saying yes, saying no, there'll be at times when I'm like, you guys are gonna do this, and I'm gonna go to the bathroom, because I need to listen to my body. And so those sorts of things are really important for us to experience when we've experienced traumatic marginalisation in this way. So it's not about being done to, you won't be doing to yourself, you'll be checking in and finding what feels good. No one will be saying, this is what you need to do, you know? Yeah. And you're the expert. I'm not the expert. You're the expert of yourself.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): Amazing. And so more information on I'll just put that out there. Beautifully designed website, please go look at it. It's so pretty! And yeah, I think it'd be nice to end it off. I did not share this with Aisha, but I think it'd be nice to end this off, Aisha if you can... I've been really into affirmations. So maybe you can end us off with some affirmations, for everyone in this virtual room, everyone who is watching, to take to the rest of their day, rest of the week. Yeah, and then after those affirmations, I will end the meeting and then we can all go back to the rest of our days. But Aisha, over to you to end it off.

AISHA PARIS SMITH: Tammy, you're throwing me in the deep end!

Okay, so this is an affirmation that I love, especially when things are tricky, when I'm maybe not getting the things that I want all the time, or I'm getting exactly the things that horrify me. And the wording is very specific, it uses the word incarnation. To incarnate, to become flesh, that feels like a very... a big part of how I understand that word. And the affirmation is: I trust in this incarnation. And just inviting you to explore that for yourself, to make any changes to that, that you want to make that feel good for you. But you know, that thing of: I trust, I trust I trust I trust in all the sensations and bloating and etc, etc. of my tummy. I trust in that. Yes. So inviting you to trust in your bodies, in your incarnation.

TAMMY (ADVAYA): Amazing. Thank you, Aisha. And thank you everyone for joining us today. And I hope you all find acceptance in yourselves. And yeah, if you guys are joining us on the course, or not see you around. And of course, if you would like to ask more questions, please do drop us an email or drop us a DM. You can also DM Aisha of course. And it was very special to share space with all of you today. So thanks so much, everyone.

AISHA PARIS SMITH: Thank you Tammy. Bye.


Aisha Paris Smith

Somatic sexologist, bodyworker and life coach. Aisha blends her conscious approach to life with the profound experience of being in a body. She embraces all that it means to be a human with flesh, blood, bones, ego and eros. She experiences every day the wisdom of her body and has seen clients transform through the power of somatic methods.

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Tammy Gan

Tammy (she/her) leads on content and storytelling at advaya.

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