What Does it Mean to be Embodied?
Embodiment is a term that’s thrown around a lot in both the bodywork and spiritual worlds. It can seem counterintuitive, as it appears that anyone with a body is innately “embodied.” But what is meant by this word is a layer deeper than simply physically having a body.
Being embodied means that we live from our bodies, not just our minds. It means that we have an idea of what’s happening at the level of the emotional and sensory selves, and that we can be connected to our lived experience in multiple ways, not just mentally. Being embodied means we can connect with our multifaceted selves.
It is actually pretty difficult learning embodiment in a world that encourages mental activity, and that puts the mind above body. We learn to override our body’s messages. We learn to operate our body like a machine.
When we learn to live in true connection with the sensory and emotional body, we find a whole new way of engaging with and relating to the world. We bring in a depth of experience that moving from the mental sphere does not provide. It’s the only place from which we can truly find a sense of wholeness. It is how we bring our spiritual truths into the tangible form of this material plane.
When I first started to become more embodied, I discovered a lot of old grief, fear and shame inside myself. It was just hanging out in my body, under the surface of my conscious mind. Before I connected with my body, it just felt like a constant level of nebulous anxiety.
But what was under the surface was much more real and tangible. Something I could actually contact, work with, learn from, and transform. If I had never made the journey from mind to body in order to acknowledge its presence, all of this pain would still be subtly operating in the shadow, causing not only physical pain, but also influencing my life’s choices, the way I perceive the world, and how I feel about myself.
I also found a level of deep relief when I started to become embodied. A big sigh of gratitude from my body. A relief that I’d finally landed in alignment with her and her experiences. I started uncovering what was in the way of me being my true self. The Shining One underneath all of the old, unprocessed shit. Truly, truly, truly, we cannot extract the Shining One without going through the muck in which they are embedded.
Folks have tried, believe me. There’s even a term for it: “spiritual bypassing.” This means trying to will yourself into being the gold, feeling the gold, without acknowledging the hurt and pain. It may work for a time. You may feel like you’re high on life, that everything is beautiful. But the shadow will always surface. Because the shadow is an integral part of you that wants to be seen.
The thing is, our shadow selves are not as scary as people fear. Our shadow is often distortedly large in our mind, like the shadow of a gigantic, fierce-looking cat against the wall of a cave. Only to find that when you shine a light upon it, it’s a small, scared kitten that just wants to be loved and held.
The body shows us what’s actually happening inside of us. Even if it’s an old story, memory, or emotion that doesn’t align any more with our current life. It’s still operating inside the body until it has a chance to be seen, loved, and brought into the fold of wholeness. Until it has a chance to learn something new. Our mind can absolutely assist this process. But we need to realize what the body is telling us first. We need to learn to listen.
Now, uncovering and processing what’s stored inside of the body can take time. And I recommend a skilled trauma-informed mind-body practitioner to support this process for you (someone who practices core energetics, somatic experiencing, or hakomi are some good places to start. I’m not trained in these).
But what doesn’t take time is making the first steps back into contact with the body. What doesn’t take time is extending a hand out to say, "hello body, I’m here and want to get to know you."
We can make incredible strides with our body, and being in our embodied experience, by simply learning how to feel our sensory body. Learning to acknowledge that there’s emotion being experienced. Learning how to love, care for, talk sweetly to, our bodies. Learning to slow down enough to truly listen.
And this is what we will be doing in the Gifts of the Body mini-retreat in 2 weeks, happening Sunday 2/6 from 10-1pm.
This will be a gentle but powerful entry into the embodied experience. You will learn a little bit about the science of the mind-body connection, including poly-vagal theory. You will learn the four basic tenets of body communication. We will practice exercises and guided experiences to help you feel and find yourself, and listen to your body. And you will leave with a load of concrete tools and practices to integrate into your daily life.
I’m so passionate about this. I hope that one day every single person on the planet will walk around feeling embodied and at home in themselves.
I want you to feel connected to yourself. To feel comfortable in your skin. To not be afraid of what's underneath the surface of yourself. To cultivate a loving sense of comfort being in your body.
So I hope to see you there!