Somanaut's Blog

Just another weblog


Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a very interesting writer. He is an economist, and a philosopher. His book Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder offers some useful insights into dealing with uncertainty and chaos.

I look at most things through a somatic lens. My interest is in bodies and the experience of embodied living. It’s odd and refreshing to me to find information in the writing of an economist. The parallels in finance and physical reality are fascinating.

Taleb implies a bold and wonderful idea right in the title- Some things gain from disorder. Entropy is not automatically a drain on the system. The challenge of disorder can stimulate a growth response. An example of this in a physical context is running over rough ground. Variation in terrain is certainly a challenge, but it is in some ways a lesser challenge than the numbing sameness of artificial surfaces. Running on pavement or other flat surfaces tends to allow us to lose focus in a way that natural ground does not.

A good test of long term strategies is to see how they respond to introducing some chaos. If the highly improbable happens, do we still have a viable response? If not, we are fragile- at least concerning that particular challenge. Doing something to change that status seems wise.



July 25, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

That is NOT the way it is!

The way it is… a common saying, for sure. And it has its uses. Acceptance is good, often wise, and can be a great relief.

Resignation is not. Resignation is defeat, a choice to withdraw, to bail out, to endure pain and loss- all without engaged response. It is an abdication of our adult capacity. It always comes with a price.

What are you thinking is written in stone? How do you come to that conclusion? You might be right, especially if you set the bar for change too high, or make your time frame too short. Even stone expands and contracts with temperature changes. And water and wind will erode it. Everything changes.


We get leverage when we look for the tiny signs of change. Dynamic processes are often quiet and small. Remember being a child and getting a new math book? The problems toward the end were usually incomprehensible. By the end of the school year, some of that made sense. One page at a time, with some rest on the weekends, and we learned. We changed.  Did we remember it all? No. We changed again.

We get stronger. We get weaker. We learn, we forget. How do we forget we always are changing? Perhaps some of our mistaken belief in unchanging nature comes from sources who profit by suppressing our awareness of change. Fear is a powerful tool. We use it on each other, and we all use it on ourselves.

It’s worth asking “Do I have to scare myself to live well?”

Next we can focus in a bit closer asking “How am I limiting myself by feeding my fear?”

Is there some small way to experiment? Finding a useful perspective allow a sense of safety. It’s possible to learn to feel safer by working in smaller increments. We don’t have to change everything at once.

Looking closer at anything deepens perspective. Letting ourselves see more accurately is a skill, and skills can be built and strengthened. What is really written in stone? Maybe only stones.


July 19, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Staying connected

I was teaching a movement exploration during an advanced training for massage therapists. They were all successful working practitioners, many extremely intelligent. The material was complex, and some people were intensely challenged.

One of the therapists was struggling, and had backed out of the group. I valued her contributions, and I had a lot of respect for her insights and capabilities. Not wanting to lose her, or for her to miss out, I tried to think of a strategy that would keep her involved- without changing the class for anyone else!

Necessity is the mother of invention, so I improvised. I went near her and quietly spoke these words,

“Find a way to stay connected.”

Not brilliant perhaps, but the best I could muster on the spot. It worked. She solved it for herself. Along the way she taught me that I also could become more resilient, more creative in my learning, and more committed to my own development.

How did she overcome her fears? Honestly, I never asked. She did it, she benefited, and about 15 years later she told me that she chose to continue to live by those words.

We all have moments where we want to withdraw. Withdrawing can be a very good thing. But it also helps to know we have a choice.



Amy Olson and Nancy Carter

July 13, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What’s an Umwelt? And why does it matter to you?

“What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” Werner Heisenberg, physicist, and author of the uncertainty principle.

An “Umwelt” is the perceptual world of a being (person or animal). It’s a bulky concept, but easy to understand. Think about what a dog can hear or smell, which includes so much more than we humans can sense. But dogs are color blind, and they can’t read this. You can  probably see in color, and you definitely can read. Each species has powers of sensing and perceiving that are unique. And so does each person.

What we see is determined by how we look, and our perceptual faculties. How we look is based in how we move, because your eyes have to point toward something for you to see it.


Someone who hikes sees a different world than someone who is house bound.

Once you know you have an Umwelt, you can act to change the range and flavor of it. Some actions are simple. If I clean my windows, I see the outside more clearly. If I open the door, I can smell the air outside. Noticing how these choices impact my emotions can create and accumulation of experiences. From there I can deliberately change how I am sensing the world, and how I am feeling about life.

Recognizing you have an Umwelt is a critical part of maturing. Acting to shape it is one of the most powerful skills an adult human can possess.

July 4, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment