“Embodiment is how you take your insides and show them on your outside. It is about feeling your own aliveness in your skin through sensations as you move through the world.” -Livia Shapiro
Embodiment is such an interesting word. To be embodied requires that we pay attention (witness) and be present to everything that is happening around us and within us. This doesn’t only mean the stuff that makes us feel good. It means EVERYTHING! It means staying connected to ourselves even when we don’t want to.
The interesting thing here is that the opposite of embodiment is dissociation – leaving one’s body when there is stress, trauma or anything that overwhelms us. Swami Kripalu said that most of us are walking through our lives half asleep. We don’t pay attention and we regularly shut down. Returning to the body and noticing, is what helps us not dissociate or sleep walk through our lives. Embodiment is about staying awake to our life.
Do you do any of these things when you are stressed out? Overeat, drink, sleep, numb out on TV, self-medicate or avoid your feelings? When you are embodied, it becomes harder to numb out. Instead we work on watching, breathing and feeling. We work to be with the experience and not push anything away.
And, embodiment doesn’t only have to do with us, it also has to do with our interactions with the people and things around us. As I write this I am gazing at about 35 hummingbirds fighting for space at our three feeders. Then there is the backdrop of the Jemez Mountains behind them. The hummingbirds and the mountain are also part of my bodily experience.
When we are open to ourselves and open to our own embodiment, we are more open to others and to everything that is going on around us. The important piece to remember is your connection to yourself, your connection to others and the things around you.
I end all my classes with the phrase, “may you know you are exactly where you are supposed to be.” I have been told by many students over the years that when they hear this they truly feel it. It is a felt sense, they belong and they are right where they are supposed to be.This is embodiment. I purposefully don’t change my closing statement because of their experiences.
Here is a way to practice embodiment:
- Start with any day this week. Decide this is the day I will pay attention.
- When you wake up, be thankful for the day ahead. Throughout the course of the day find things to be grateful for – write them down on sticky notes, in a journal or on a notecard.
- Have the mind set throughout the day that you are “right where you are supposed to be”. You might choose this as a morning journal topic. You can write it on a notecard and post it somewhere to remember through the day or put it in your pocket as a touchstone.
- Listen to yourself – what do you have to say during the course of your day?
- End the day as you began – thank yourself for showing up, feeling and being. Take some time to write about the experience of paying attention and being embodied before bed.
In addition to this exercise, every once in a while feel your feet. When you are exercising, pay attention to what it feels like in your body; when you are having a difficult conversation tune in to how it feels in your body. Body sensations are our bodies nonverbal way of communicating with us. Peter Levine, author of “Waking the Tiger” says that, “sensations are the language of the reptilian brain.” It is from this place that we can truly be alive and awake. However, it takes practice. Go forward and be gentle with yourself as you walk the path of embodiment.
Here’s to being embodied now and always.