Generosity Beneath Our Feet
Lauren Wadsworth explores the interconnectedness of the mycorrhizal network as her teacher, when walking in the forest merges with her Continuum practice.
April 23 , 2020
During my first Continuum workshop with Emilie Conrad in 2000, I had the delightful and surprising experience of “becoming a glow worm” during a Continuum dive. In addition to the joy of simply playing with other ways of moving, experiencing, and perceiving the world, the experience of embodying another creature’s somatic life invites resilience and adaptability into our bodies. Given the challenges and instability of modern existence, adaptability is an enormously beneficial potential to cultivate.
The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing us face-to-face with so many of the gifts and challenges of our human co-creation. We see the extremely harmful dysfunction of our systems; economic, health care, food production and dissemination, housing and so many others. We also see our profound interconnection, our inter-being, illustrated in overt and stark ways. We see humans expressing kindness and mutual aid, collaborating in new creative endeavors, expressing gratitude to health care workers, and offering other beautiful expressions of an understanding of our interconnection, and a caring for that interconnection.
In my Continuum practice I have also deeply appreciated communing with beings that are not usually considered in our cultural context. This idea is embedded in the practice of Continuum. In this practice we are informed by the vast bio-intelligence of water, as a living entity and a wise and expansive teacher. We invite an understanding of water, as well as the rest of nature, as living entities we can learn from, rather than as commodities to be consumed and utilized for our personal use. Similarly, my experience of relating with stones as living beings opens doors to a slowed down equanimous relationship to time, while connecting with trees awakens a generosity, groundedness and interconnection. These ways of knowing are new to those of us raised in a western cultural context, but are old ways that are still alive in indigenous cultural systems of knowledge.
In the last couple of years my exploration of rooting like a tree awakened an awareness of the fine filamentous network in the soil, which I later understood to be the “mycorrhizal network”, a network that forms an interdependent linking of the above ground plants and the underground fungi. Underground fungal hyphae filaments bundle to form mycelial networks that connect individual plants together and transfer water, carbon, nitrogen and other nutrients and minerals. I am profoundly inspired by Suzanne Simard, a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia-Vancouver, who describes that beneath one footstep on the forest floor, there are about 100 miles of these intertwining mycorrhizal networks.
Another profound fundamental principle in Continuum is the process of dropping below the analytical intellectual part of our mind, and into the direct felt sense of our experience, without evaluation or analysis. In my Continuum dives during my shelter-in-home time, I have very intentionally explored the question of, “what might I learn from the mycorrhizal network as a teacher of interconnection, in a similar way that I learn from water as a miraculous substance that provides sustenance and life to my cells, tissues, and all of life in this planet?”
I perceive this fungal network beneath us as similar in function as the network of our fascial system, which functions to bind and release water in our tissues, as well as being a perceptual and communication system. In the process of dropping beneath my intellect, can I get past the fear-based strategies of my human ego and frailties, and have a direct experience of deeply understanding the mutually beneficial network, generous and generative, which entwines for 100 miles beneath my every footstep? By doing this, can I be informed about how we, as a species, might rebuild and reorient our social systems, centering the knowledge of our shared vulnerability and the strength of recognizing our inter-being in ways that support all of us? This is a profound, sometimes heartbreaking, often inspiring practice of opening to the wisdom of the mysterious.