Criticality and Compassion

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Criticality and Compassion
I have always been good at critical thinking. I ask questions, look for holes in logic, and question assumptions. As an academic I was proud of my abilities. Then, at a somatics conference a few years ago, a colleague provided me with a new view of my criticality. He suggested that a critical situation is one in which our life is at stake—it’s about life and death. Suddenly my critical abilities turned on themselves: If I’m always behaving like I’m in a life or death situation, then no wonder I have tended to feel a bit anxious and uncomfortable! Heck, I’ll give myself a heart attack! Ever since that realization I’ve been actively seeking a new balance. I value my criticality: I’m good at keeping myself safe. Yet when I AM safe, then what?
The dictionary definition of compassion revolves around concern for the suffering of others. I use the word compassion to suggest love and generosity. Compassion is a balancing force in relationship to criticality. Ultimately, we will each die, and no level of critical thought will be able to prevent that. Compassion allows me to meet whatever in myself or someone else is not perfect and to find love and acceptance. As a bodyworker and teacher of movement, my ability to be both compassionate and critical at the same time is essential. My goal is not to ‘fix’ clients—we are not machines—but rather to help people in their healing process. We often have the opportunity to find a way of being and moving that brings us greater vitality. Healing requires acceptance of what is so that new paths can be discovered. The more I learn about compassion the more honest and accepting I am.
My wife Kendy and I are teaching Embodying Compassion at Sage Yoga this Saturday in Boise, ID. We began teaching workshops together last summer while traveling the country that combine permaculture, somatics, communication, and even nutrition to better our relationships with each other, our selves, and our live Earth. We call our work Embodied Ecology, and you can find us at If you’re in Boise, please join us this Saturday from 2-4pm by registering at You can also find additional upcoming events below. If you’re not local, we’re starting to plan an Embodied Ecology tour for next summer—let us know if you’d be interested in hosting or working with us!

Body Flow at Yoga Tree begins Sunday Sept. 25th at 4pm and will run weekly!
Come home to your body with somatic practices melding Pilates, Bartenieff Fundamentals, Feldenkrais, and yoga. We’ll explore the functional connectivity of our fascia along with the expressive connectivity of dance through compassionate non-judgement. We’ll learn the feeling of our own anatomy so that our intentions can be revealed in our actions. We’ll move gently and fully so that when we’re done, we feel like we just got a massage: Connected, in love, and alive. 75min.

Moving Beyond Pain is a therapeutic curriculum launching at Matthew Nelson Movement this fall. The premise of the program is that pain is a valuable signal from our bodies that the ways we’ve been doing things aren’t working anymore. When we learn to listen to the language of our own bodies we can literally move into new possibilities. You can attend a free introductory workshop on Wedsnesday September 21st or Saturday September 24th. Space is limited—sign up now at, where you can also find a fuller description of the program!

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