About Me + The Invisible School

I have worked in many countries and cultures. I have been teaching various body-based practices for 30 years. My earliest training was a decade in natural horsemanship. I worked as an artist in performance for over a decade. I have navigated intense mental health crisis and healing in myself/family. I studied at ISLO’s Education in Dance and Somatics in Finland. As well, I’m certified in somatic sexuality/mindful work. I’ve tried/had exposure to many styles of practice. The ones I have spent the most time with include art making/dance, time in nature, working with horses, running, some hatha yoga, and some vipassana meditation.

I’ve been researching cognition, behavior and neuroscience for the last several years. That is, I regularly read science studies dealing with these topics, as well as books and lectures written by scientists studying this work. I also research via sensation based inteviews dealing with social interaction, and I have just begun a slow path towards a neuroscience degree. (Just a few scholars in this field, whom I am particularly drawn towards include: Robert Sapolsky, Francisco Varela, Ginger Campbell, Catherine Kerr, Sarah Lazar, Michale Yellow Bird, BJ Fogg).

I currently live in Confederated Salish and Kootenai lands (Polson, MT, USA).

Hello. My name is erin christine bell. This is a bit of my story: My strongest, earliest influence comes from working with horses. I was able to ride, free of any bridle, rope or restraint; the communication between my horse and I was such that he would gallop, stop, or do fancy ‘footwork’ on request, all through the subtlest of communication. I developed a particular and keen awareness of non-verbal communication. Most importantly, as opposed to ‘breaking,’ forcing one creature’s desire upon another, I learned to find calmness before delving into further conversation.

Along with learning from horses in this way, I also taught youth and adults to work with horses. Teaching in this experiential learning setting fostered my ability to teach others how to listen and communicate in nonverbal ways.

My degree in Cultural Anthropology worked as a doorway through which I entered the world of art making. In my mid-twenties I began independently studying music, learning to compose and play in brass bands under the guidance of my expert friends. I began to paint, make puppetry and work in theater. Through theater, particularly my time working with Peter Schumann at Bread and Puppet Theater, I fell deeply in love with movement and dance. This love, combined with a longstanding interest in healing work, led me to ISLO’s Education in Dance and Somatics, in Finland.

I come from a family which struggles with many mental health difficulties including depression, addiction: anorexia, schizophrenia, alcoholism, compulsive eating/shopping, childhood sexual abuse, and other difficulties which evade psychiatric or DSM diagnosis. Through this, I have had experience as a patient, and as a first line of support, within the structure of psychiatry and psychotherapy.

As well, I’m neuro-‘atypical’. Im still in the process of learning how to describe my experience. One example is that many everyday sorts of low-key social moments have the possibility to derail my ability to process information – my thinking gets scattered, chaotic, I am not able to keep track of information, I experience a fog over of my mind/go blank, things along that line. Thus, I tend to need to socialize less, do less in general, and/or to do things in idiosyncratic ways.

In my experience of my nature-nurture feedback looping, it feels like I have found a lot of therapy methods which have changed-healed many aspects of my mental-emotional childhood trauma. For example, for a great portion of my life I felt extremely depressed; now, I have not experienced major depression in several years. However, as related to my neuro-‘atypicality’, it seems that my autonomic system is still deeply oriented towards hyper-activation/anxiety. This is to such an extent that – while I will likely continue to change over time, experience neuroplasticity and so forth – some parts of me/my system may be more on the nature end of the nature-nurture loop – and thus, not-so-likely to change in dramatic ways.

I suspect we are all neurodiverse. I suspect that the amount and speed at which we can learn, heal or grow varies a HUGE amount, from person to person – and depending on ones phase of life. Thus, when I teach and work with people one-on-one I continually try to find, with them, how much and which sorts of practices fit them, exactly where they are at. Whether or not someone is considered typical or a-typical seems relational to me – that is, it seems to be saying ‘does the way your entire being processes information fit in relation to your society’s structures/norms?’ If so, you are considered ‘neurotypical’. If not, you are considered ‘neuroatypical’.

In terms of what therapy styles have helped me, I find that the being-ness or the vibe of a practitioner/therapist/teacher is far more important than what modality they offer. That is – whether body-based/awareness practices, psychotherapy styles, or any other type of teacher/healer – the presence, life experience, world view, compassion, and whether or not I feel ‘seen’ by a practitioner – all of this feels more impacting than whatever particular style they might offer.

I have found the greatest support – the most useful tools for my daily life – via body-based and/or awareness practices, as well as via studying about behavior and cognition sciences (learning more about how molecules within me are in inter-relation with all the parts of my body and in relation to my environment.) These have been some of the greatest sources of my healing and continual learning – that is why they are the tools I offer.

Why the name ‘The Invisible School’? It’s because most of this work deals with phenomena which are invisible. I didn’t invent awareness practice. It’s been around forever – practiced in formal and informal ways, all over the globe. I teach about it with my particular flavor of elbow grease, seasoned by my life experiences. Too, I felt that a name other than my own would make it easier to share this healing-focused work –  loosely differentiated from – my more art-making + social cognition-focused work.

I find that teachers all arrive with their personal strengths and weaknesses, sharing the knowledge of their own experience as humans. I come from a perspective that ones personal life experiences influence how a practitioner thinks, works, relates. If you are looking for a practitioner with a related approach but different life experience, please do write for a recommendation. If my words and experience speak to you, I hope to meet soon!

Sources which I have found to be especially helpful through the years: All My Relations, Dr Ginger Campbell’s Brain Science, Re-Rooted/Francesca Maxime, Queer Nature, Pema Chodron, Gabor Mate, Dr Yellow Bird, Tara Brach, James Baldwin, Madness Radio, Francisco Varela, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, Peter Levine, Robert Sapolsky, and – especially – Art, Movement and Nature.

“To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread.” – Baldwin