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Where Does Spirit Live?

healing nature spirit Jan 24, 2024
reflection of hand in water

Where Does Spirit Live?

By Ariana Strozzi Mazzucchi, 2009

“Some professions focus on the way the soma itself responds to the environment, others focus on the way the mind interprets the soma’s response. What I am particularly interested in is the interconnectedness of the soma to the environment: the unity of soma and the living environment (Wherein the lack of unity between the soma and the living surroundings creates dis-ease). I believe that this is where spirit lives. The simple but bold truth that we are all part of a whole. “ Ariana Strozzi Mazzucchi

The raven, sitting atop my prayer tree, talks to me. The horses in the field whisper words of wisdom.

The wind nurtures my face with her gentle touch one day and the next whirls dust into my eyes so I cannot see. The earth holds me up when I am sad and wish to be invisible. She is always there for me, always waiting to catch my fall or enjoy my success. Sometimes she asks me to look at her beautiful spring poppies dancing in the wind. She tells me through the hawk’s call that I already know the answer to my own question. I listen. I remember that I belong. The sand feels soft and warm as I walk upon her. The taste of her berries makes me smile. It’s hard to feel sad and lonely when I am with her.

The wounded child, who cuts herself so she can feel her pain, (labeled in a mental institution with words I do not understand), sits on the ground as the black and white mare stands over her. The horse mother nurtures the girl. She was not asked to care, she just knows that this child needs her love and patience. Her human mother knows this too so she drives her the long hour and half to the ranch. She knows that no human can save her daughter, but a horse can. She sits outside waiting, healing herself in the sun and the cool afternoon breeze. The girl talks about getting behind in school, her friends doing drugs and pushing sex, her mother’s disappointment with her. She loves her mother but she is not who her mother wants her to be. She does not want to disappoint her mother, but she has to be true to her own inner calling, one her mother doesn’t understand.

She touches the horse’s soft coat, and breathes the same breath. The breeze tickles her face. Her heart opens. She talks about the girl she draws on paper over and over again, with dark lines under her eyes and tears running down her face. Her mother says that her drawings are morbid. But the horse thinks otherwise. And so a healing occurs. A girl learns to be herself and give her mother appropriate boundaries. Rather than cutting herself she tells her mother that her comments are hurtful. And the mother learns to listen to her child, to see her with new eyes. This child of hers is an artist, one who walks lightly on the earth. She will not be an accountant, she will not live a ‘practical’ life, it is not her destiny to do so. And so the mother, without knowing it awakens to the wisdom of the earth. She no longer sees her daughter through human eyes. She finally recognizes and embraces her daughter’s spirit. They drive the long road back to the city holding hands.

The somatics of the girl and the mother resonate with the somatics of the environment. Each is healed by the other. Where one begins and the other ends is inexplicable. The mysterious and magical healing of the horse and the girl, the mother and the sun cannot be defined in textbooks or recorded on tape. And yet witnessing such beauty brings tears to one’s eyes and warms a tired heart.

Somatics is the pulsing, connected nature of all things. It is the sensate wisdom within all living beings; mind, body, spirit in its wholeness. Perhaps the human’s first angst begins with disconnecting from the great mother, the ultimate nurturer of the spirit. The notion that we can heal our hearts and find ourselves by just getting outside and listening, feeling, touching, smelling, tasting is too easy. It doesn’t require an education. It doesn’t need an MA or PhD at the end of its name. It’s scary to think that the years we have spent training our minds might be somewhat insignificant. It’s just too easy to go outside and let nature do the healing. Nature is not scientific; it needs no explanation, logical reasoning or justification. She wasn’t trained to justify her reasoning, to quantify her results. She is ever-present, all accepting, non-judgmental, patient, resilient.

Some professions focus on the way the soma itself responds to the environment, others focus on the way the mind interprets the soma’s response. What I am particularly interested in is the interconnectedness of the soma to the environment: the unity of soma and the living environment (Wherein the lack of unity between the soma and the living surroundings creates dis-ease). I believe that this is where spirit lives. The simple but bold truth that we are all part of a whole.

By seeing the self as part of the whole, we transpose the symbolism of body/mind/spirit to self/other/world. The body is the self (it’s own unity) as it relates to, contributes to or takes away from the environment. The body is the only unity of self that we can control. I like the saying, “ I take full responsibility for myself and therefore contribute to the safety of the group.” This implies that we cannot control others, but can only change ourselves, and by changing ourselves, we contribute to the potential change of our greater environment.

The mind is in the domain of ‘other’, the social domain. How we think about and relate to others, how others relate to us is the next immediate interface we have with the whole of the environment. We are a social animal; our instinct is to care about how others perceive us. Often times it is either our perception of how others see us, or how others tell us they perceive us that can produce either a healthy or an unhealthy self-perspective. For example, the story of the girl and her mother illustrates that the original dis-function arose out of mental interpretations by both the mother, daughter and then traveling outward to the daughter’s interpretation of others-friends, teachers, etc.

The spirit correlates with how the self orients with respect to the world, how the self connects to the environment and the larger cosmos of reality. This includes an individual’s beliefs, ethics, and values that he/she is born with. It includes the underlying destiny or life purpose of the individual. The mystery of past life experiences and the innate desire to contribute to the whole lives here. This seems to be the least studied area of somatics, perhaps because it is the most indefinable, the most mercurial and mysterious of the somatic domains. Historically reserved for witches, shamans, and quacks, this domain of somatics is the missing piece to current studies of dis-ease and what causes dis-ease. By re-connecting the girl to her spiritual longing, she was able to create a healthy interpretation of herself in relation to others in her life.

In many indigenous cultures, the shaman or medicine person’s primary function is not to actually heal the individual, but to heal the dis-harmony between the community of people and the natural environment upon which the people live. I like the shift from disease (a focus on what is wrong with the individual’s physical body or mind) to dis-ease, meaning more directly that the individual is not in ease or ‘flow’ with its surrounding environment which is made up not only of family, friends and the human community, but also the rocks, trees, wind, birds and animals that surround the individual (or lack thereof). Transferring the focus from what is wrong with the individual (loaded with human judgments) to locating where and how the individual is mis-aligned with his/her relations to others and the environment, allows an important shift in the individual’s ability to develop a healthy self-image and more effective habits of relating.



The body is the primary information gatherer, whether you are a human, dog, horse or bird. The body responds to the environment first, the mind comes along after the fact and interprets the energetic stimuli present and makes an interpretation. At a biological level, the body responds with immediate speed, before thought, determining safety vs. danger.

Each person is a soma contributing to the energetic aliveness of the environment. Each animal, plant, tree is also a contributing soma. Even the wind, the sun, the mist, the rain are contributing somas. And so begins the realization that each is influencing the other all the time, before thought, before cognition, before rationality. What can be gained by feeling the soma at its beginning; at its first and continuing interface with the environment? A stick can become a fairy wand or a weapon to defend the self. A shell can become a treasure giving us strength and power.

Animals and nature teach us that our mental processes get in the way, literally clouding our ability to feel ourselves. We are the judgmental animal, and often our interpretations, self-directed or felt from others, is where we first begin to disconnect from the world at large. We learn not to trust our feelings, because someone told us not to. By reconnecting to the land and animals, we re-member that our immediate environment holds the answers, not our mental acuity. Answers to primal questions like, “Do I feel safe?” “Am I scared?” Answers to existential questions, “Do I feel connected?” “Am I doing what I am supposed to be doing?”

Nature reminds us, forces us, insists that we not only feel, but we become aware of how we feel. Sometimes the wind is soft and nurturing and other times it is scary. As we awaken to the deeper meaning of the inter-relatedness of all things we are forced to realize how disconnected we have become. The feelings and sensations that arise from the earth can become overwhelming for some. Perhaps some of the modern day angst that many people are experiencing is really the angst of the earth herself. Perhaps the girl who cuts herself is truly connected to the pain of the whole. The hope is that she continues to re-source herself by being with animals and nature, to give her the emotional/spiritual and physical strength to let her own unique voice and expression grace all those around her.

Ariana Strozzi is a somatic coach, Equine Guided Educator, biologist, artist, and steward of the land. Her commitment is to re-connect people to nature so that each can heal the other. She lives and works on her ranch in Sonoma County, She offers public and private programs in which horses and the environment work together to encourage self-inquiry, somatic alignment and spiritual awakening for leaders from all walks of life, coaches and youth.

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