What Does Embodiment Actually Mean?
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What Does Embodiment Mean?
Embodiment means to relate to the body as a subject, rather than an object. It is the process and state of being sensitised or re-sensitised by bringing the whole body online and aligned with the way you want to feel, act and express yourself. When a person is embodied, they’re able to intimately listen to the subtlest parts of themselves, the parts that are constantly whispering messages but which often go unheard because we’re moving too fast, feeling too little, and thinking too much.
Being embodied is recognising the body as not just a container for the mind, or what Francis Briers terms a ‘Brain Taxi’, but as a living, evolving, intelligent ally through which we can meet, feel, express and experience ourselves, our personality, senses, memories, relationships, passions, sensuality, and spirit and act and be seen in the world according to these.
Embodiment recognises that we cannot access any of these things without a body, and we are therefore, far more than just our minds.
Becoming embodied means transcending the duality of both ‘you are not your body’ and ‘you are not your mind’ to find wholeness, harmony, and coherence between all facets and dimensions of yourself. It’s the full integration of all aspects of you.
You can therefore consider embodiment as a conduit to wholeness and reunion with yourself. It is gnosis.
Yet, we live in a culture that enforces the opposing view.
Why Do We Need Embodiment?
Ever since Decartes philosophised ‘I think therefore I am’, we’ve been compartmentalised into the realm of the mind, deconditioned out of our bodies and led to believe that we exist only in our heads.
Indeed, throughout culture, medicine, education, consumerism, philosophy, even some spiritual traditions, the body is viewed as an object to fix, heal, analyse, modify, function and transcend:
Medicine chops us up into separate parts and systems to be ‘treated’ in isolation.
Beauty has transformed us into ornaments for extrinsic pleasure.
Sports and fitness have mechanised the body and turned it into a machine to be used, an object to push and challenge.
Sex and consumerism have made the body something to be bought and owned.
Religion has made the body shameful, something to hide, something that belongs to others rather than ourselves.
And some branches of spirituality ignore the body entirely, seeing it only as a weighty, cumbersome hindrance to altered states of consciousness.
Consequently, we've become fragmented. But embodiment reunites our parts.
In a culture that encourages the reverse of accepting our bodies as conduits to our subjective experiences and instead teaches us to objectify them (and therefore ourselves), being embodied then, is a radical, revolutionary, liberating state to reclaim.
Embodiment Returns Us to Our Inner Power
We're taught from the moment we shoot from the womb that to get by in this life we need to disassociate from our body. We do this when we’re taught to make ourselves small, say things that aren't true for us to please other people, look a certain way, outsource our power, and hide the parts of ourselves that make others feel uncomfortable.
Embodiment proposes the opposite of these limiting viewpoints.
Embodiment recognises the body as a part of us, and a channel through which our soul, spirit and self are expressed. By this token, we ourselves are made manifest, visible, tangible, and real through the body, too.
When we return to our body, we remember that we hold answers to our greatest questions within us and that we have the ability to both uncover and apply them in everyday life without needing to constantly rely on people, systems, beliefs, and institutions outside of us to tell us how we should be.
Embodiment allows us the freedom, space and autonomy to return back to who we were before life told us who we should be; to give ourselves a say in how we want to live rather than being led only by our extrinsic conditioning.
We are in constant communion with the world through our movement, emotions, breath, posture, voice, and gesture; a perpetual dance of experiencing, contributing to, feeling, and communicating with the world and people around us through our bodies. Yet most of the time, we're unaware that any of this is happening—embodiment is when we are part of this relationship consciously.
Most of this interaction happens at the level of the body, which means to be embodied we must be attuned to feeling.
But there's a problem...
As modern humans, we like to think.
We have a habit of thinking about life instead of feeling it.
The nature of the modern world that we live in gives us so much to distract and disconnect from, numb to, and ignore, and our culture only encourages this. We drink instead of feeling our emotions, we watch Netflix instead of acknowledging our pains, we shop online instead of listening to our intuition. It’s no wonder most of us live largely outside of our bodies, up in our heads where it feels easier and safer to experience the world.
But when we distract from feeling, we might placate our minds for a while but our body feels it all, so we cut ourselves off from it, too.
This becomes more painful in the long run than the things we were trying to shield ourselves from in the first place—the result is that we’re never really fully alive, because we’re not feeling the emotions, sensations and spirit that make us human.
Being embodied means being able to constantly check in with yourself and your needs using the information your body is constantly sending you, so you are able to tune in before distracting and numbing and to choose self care and kindness over mental escape, addiction and unsustainable coping strategies.
Being embodied means that when you inevitably find yourself in one of life’s stressful, scary situations, you are able to centre yourself through the physicality of your body rather than analytically through your mind. When uncertain and scary things happen, our minds tend to go off into catastrophising --- which only perpetuates the loop of stress.
But through your body, you are resourced to be able to step back from the chaos of mental analysis to find stability in the present moment, and thus are able to more effectively recover from and process the event than if you weren’t consciously embodied.
Embodied resources can look like:
Knowing how to use your breath to calm your nervous system during stressful encounters
Knowing how to ground yourself when you’re caught in mentally processing fearful, scary, or negative thoughts
Being able to hold your centre when the world outside of you is uncertain
Knowing how and when you need to slow down and rest in order to process an experience
Being able to give an firm ‘no’ or ‘yes’ response that feels resonant and true for you to set and hold a boundary
So how do you know when you're embodied? Let’s start with the feeling, seeing as that is what embodiment is!
When you’re embodied you feel:
Like you’ve come home
Free and flowing
When you’re embodied, you can:
Feel your feelings, yes, even the 'bad' ones
Have harmony between your body and mind
Know and speak your truth
Be deeply connected to self, spirit, other people, the environment and the Universe simultaneously.
Embodiment Has to Be Felt
The tricky thing with embodiment is that it can only be understood through direct experience. It has to be felt, otherwise you are continuing to dwell in intellectual analysis and attempting to understand a feeling by thinking about it!
It sounds like quite a feat to achieve, doesn’t it?
But the good news is, we are all embodied, either unconsciously or consciously. When we refer to ‘embodiment’ and being ‘embodied’ we’re usually referring to conscious embodiment, the practice of becoming consciously embodied
When you get into it—your senses, aches and pains, points of tension, tight spots, injuries, mobility, breath, energy and sensations—it’s remarkable how much you can uncover about yourself and the world simply by paying attention to your body.
Which is why embodiment is deeply healing. Because it teaches you how to listen to what your body is communicating with you and to respond to what it’s asking of you in any moment. When you're able to respond to these messages in the moment, your body is able to process not only your present-moment emotions, sensations, thoughts, and feelings, but all of the repressed versions of these you have stored within you, too.
So, I invite you right now, to start the journey of embodiment, by taking a breath and asking your body the question:
What do you have to tell me?
If you're ready to go deep into embodiment to alleviate overthinking, anxiety and overwhelm, to make a superpower of your high sensitivity, and to step into your inner power so you can navigate the world with clarity, confidence and self love, check out Emergence, my 1-1 coaching programme for women ready to finally meet themselves.