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Embodiment: Teachings from Redwood

This past weekend I journeyed to visit the Redwoods in Northern California. I hadn’t visited them for 10 years and was immediately taken. I cried and laughed in awe multiple times over my two-day visit. I learned so much from being in their presence, and felt indescribably interlinked with the ancient mystery of this Earth. I think the most important teaching I received while there was regarding embodiment. Interesting, that a non-human form had so much to teach me about being in a body! But I soaked up every moment of these lessons and would like to share what I learned with you.

One of these lessons was to embody from the GROUND UP. Whenever I’ve tried to “get in my body” in the past, I generally draw my energy down from my head, where it is usually residing, spinning in my mind or out in the ethers. I root down, I call myself back to feeling my body, feeling my feet on the ground. I generally feel an overall a wave of relaxation and a slow-down, where I can take a deep breath of relief. The Redwoods gave me a new perspective on this way of grounding, not necessarily as quick of a fix, but a method to slowly transform the way we move through the world in a more sustainably embodied way.

They showed me embodiment as opening my body to receive the energy that emerges from the Earth and allowing it move up into my body. Where I am not actively “trying” to do anything (like put roots into the ground, or draw my energy back). It is simply an allowing process. Opening my feet, opening my root chakra, and letting the wisdom of my body take over.

They transmitted the importance of this being a S L O W process, of it not necessarily being a “quick fix” but a lifetime practice. And with this embodying from the earth up, it is a much more sustainable and manageable way of living in a fast-paced world. In this way, embodiment is actually very energizing. It not only allows us to live from a place of rootedness, but also facilitates the rising of our energy up from the Earth to inhabit our full selves.

It allows us to move from a different place. It sets the stage for our bodies to lead, rather than our minds. When we allow our minds to set the pace, our bodies most often fatigue and cannot keep up. When we embody in this way, the way of the Redwood, we can be motivated and energized while being in direct relationship and communion with our bodies. And what could be more helpful for lasting health?

Disembodiment is an interesting concept. Because yes, we are still walking around in bodies. This concept has more to do with the subtle ways in which we inhabit our bodies with our energy.

If we are disembodied we often:

  • Move really quickly

  • Think constantly and over-actively

  • Feel like we have to keep doing things to be successful or ok

  • Feel numb or detached from what’s happening in our bodies

  • Feel emotionally numb or cannot access feelings we know are there

  • Like to “compartmentalize”

  • Have chronic tension and/or pain in our bodies

  • Feel stiff

  • Feel anxious or uneasy

Redwood showed me how life-force follows our consciousness. When we disembody and walk around consumed in thought, not present in our bodies, then life force moves up and out, leaving our bodies tense. This creates a very slight trauma for our bodies when we “abandon” them like this. Fear enters. When we return back to our bodies with our presence, our intention, our breath, our senses, our bodies automatically relax as the life-force enters again.

It is subtle, but try for a moment now to sense into your body, take a deeper breath, and let your mind scan down your body. Did you notice any tension releasing?

What I notice when I do this, (and I have to do it often!) is a sensation of moving “down” into myself and a feeling of the slight outer constriction around my entire musculature release outwards and downwards. Redwood showed me how to inhabit both my body and mind simultaneously, which requires more awareness (mindfulness as Buddhist’s describe it), as well as slowing down.

To piggy-back on this idea, Redwood showed me that the places we have chronic pain and tension in our bodies are the places in our lives that we are afraid of embodying fully. The same body part could represent something different to everyone, but I’ve found in my practice that there tends to be certain overlapping themes amongst similar areas of the body person-to-person. For example chronic neck tension often (not always) has to do with control - What are you trying to control in your life? Where would it be helpful for you to actually let go and allow? How can you embody this acceptance? What are you unwilling to face (or embody) that is causing this excessive control?

Practice: Feel into an area of your body you experience chronic tension. Allow your breath to move into this space, bringing more awareness and focus. Let yourself sit with this body part in complete acceptance and curiosity. Ask it to show you why it is feeling this way. What does it want you to know?

Remember that bodies move slowly, and that you may have to sit for several moments before an answer arises. It may arise in words, it may arise in a feeling, it may arise in a visualization. There is a way in which you will know the truth of your body speaking vs. something your mind is making up. It comes from a deeper, slower place. It is simple truth that will hit you in a place of knowing. And it arrives without judgement or blame.

You can ask follow up questions: What I am unwilling to do/be/embody in my life? In what area of my life am I cutting off life-force that wants to move through me? In what ways am I trying to control or force against the natural flow of life? What truth am I not willing to face?

I understand that pain is complex, and that there can be various reasons for it. This is not a grand sweeping statement declaring all pain stems from disembodiment. But I will say that I believe a lot of it does.

Our culture does not like to slow down. Our culture demands us to keep up with the pace of modernization and to move much more quickly than our bodies desire. We are addicted to caffeine, a substance which facilitates disembodiment and movement into our heads.

I dare you to walk a different path. A path of change that our world desperately needs. I dare you to slow down. I dare you to embody. I dare you to move from the ground up, walking through the world in a way that is sustainable for your body and the Earth. “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Thank you Redwood!

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