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Ecological Belonging Through Felt Thinking

From an ecosomatic perspective, ecological belonging means to develop a deeper awareness of our own presence within the natural world, as well as finding ways to engage with and nurture our relationship to the living environment. The methodology of Felt Thinking, as developed by Dr Anna Dako, is one way in which we can facilitate our sense of ecological belonging. This week, we explore the practice and how we can use it to promote our own ecological belonging.



What Does Felt Thinking Mean?

Felt Thinking is an ecosomatic methodology which has been developed by Dr Anna Dako over the course of the last decade. As she describes it:


‘To say it simply, to feel think is to wonder about what there is in stock for us, everyday, simply by allowing some time and space to listen and contemplate, whole-bodily, nourished by open landscapes of self, yet shared with all other, discovery.’ – Dr Anna Dako


The practice of Felt Thinking is a process if deep self-enquiry which enables us to explore and bring to the fore the connection between nature (and the natural world) and our selves. Through the practice, we create an opening in which the environment can speak to us through movement and creative expression. In so doing, we allow for an opportunity to emerge in which we can begin to engage in dialogue with the natural environment through movement.


As a result, we are then able to begin to connect to the living world in a more engaged and embodied manner. More importantly, through ongoing practice, we can gain better insight into how we are, how we exist and function, in the world and our place within it. For those looking to explore better ways of co-existing with the living environment and finding a more co-operative and ecologically mindful ways of living, Felt Thinking provides a start to the journey.



Practicing Felt Thinking

Practicing Felt Thinking may seem like a daunting experience, particularly for individuals who may not have experienced embodied practices before. However, it is a practice which is open to everyone, from all ages, abilities, backgrounds and experiences.


At its simplest, Felt Thinking is an improvisational activity, ideally practiced outdoors, which involves all the senses. It teaches individuals to open their awareness, including kinaesthetic and proprioceptive awareness, to all that it around them. Above all, Felt Thinking allows us to learn how to cultivate an open attitude towards listening and receiving, as well as supporting us in being present in the space, in the present moment.


In order to truly benefit from the practice, we must learn to stay receptive and responsive to external stimuli. In the case of supporting a sense of ecological belonging, this means being aware of and responsive to, the natural world and all of the stimuli that the different living environments have to offer. In so doing, we have the opportunity to begin to engage in a living conversation or exchange with the natural world.



Three Steps of Experiential Immersion

There are three core phases within the process of Felt Thinking, which Dr Anna Dako has termed the ‘three steps of experiential immersion’. During each phase, open questions are used to help enhance and shape the experience.


In Phase One, individuals tend to engage in free movement which is often wide-spread, leading to the creation of horizontal patterns. This phase tends to be characterised by sensual encounters with the environment through the senses of touch, vision and smell. It is a phase which focuses upon connectivity and is dominated by a desire by the mover to out-search, through listening, sensing and tuning in to the environment around them. This phase is shaped by questions relating to Where and When and focuses on developing receptiveness to physical time and receptivity in movement.



During Phase Two, a deeper psychological and more dynamic encounter begins to emerge. At this stage, movers begin to engage in experiential exchange with the environment, resulting in multi-dimensional patters of expression in movement. This phase, guided by questions of What and Who, tends to lead to more animated co-creation. At this point, the mover’s agency, together with that of the living world, is attended to in a more psycho-physical manner. It is at this point that exploration of psychological time of experience can be attended to and in which experiences in lived exchange, in remembering, imagining and embodying are explored.


In the final phase, Phase Three, movers tend to explore more vertical dynamics. The connectivity between the more grounded, earthly metaphysical and the more spiritual and soulful depths of experience are explored. This stage brings the practice full circle, guided by open questions of Why and How, and promotes the discovery of deeper insights and intuitions about the ontological relation between the self and nature. It is a stage which creates space for inner shifts to take place and fosters the process of ‘letting go’. Th