What is Embodiment & 5 Reasons You Should Care
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It's a term and a concept rapidly making its way into more mainstream vernacular as people's 'embodiment practices' are shared daily over social media and turned into sacred, ritualistic self care.
But I'm still often asked what embodiment actually is, what does it really mean, and do you need to be doing it?
Despite the fact it's having a trendy moment, embodiment really does matter, and yes, you should be doing it.
So what is embodiment? And why should you care?
What Is Embodiment?
To embody, means to manifest—to make visible, tangible, and real. By virtue of this, embodiment is how we experience and contribute to the world through our movement, emotions, breath, posture, voice, and gesture. These together communicate and inform how we feel, how we hold and express ourselves, how we receive information, and how we act.
We are all in constant communion with the world, a perpetual dance of experiencing, contributing to, feeling, and communicating with, 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.
Embodiment, then, also means being able to cease giving sole ownership to and filtering the world through only the mind.
But there's a problem...
As modern humans, we like to think.
We have a habit of thinking about life instead of feeling it. But embodiment encourages tuning into felt sensations, intuition, energy, and inner knowing to be fully present in the now moment but without over-identifying with or attaching to whatever is happening in that moment (as the mind is constantly asking us to do).
Being embodied means being able to constantly check in with yourself and your needs in any given moment 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 addiction and unsustainable coping strategies.
Despite it’s focus on the body, embodiment doesn’t mean deserting the arena of the mind entirely to pay attention only to bodily sensation.
It 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.
Although embodiment is interconnected with and an integral part of spirituality, (in short, because it keeps us grounded and heightens intuition) embodiment itself is very physical and tangible and you don’t have to consider yourself a spiritual person to get embodied.
We can therefore consider embodiment as a conduit to wholeness and reunion within yourself in a world which fosters fragmentation and separation of the self. It is gnosis.
We're taught from the moment we shoot from the womb that to get by in this life we need to be small, we need to say things that aren't true for us to please other people, we need to outsource our power, and we need to hide the parts of ourselves that make others feel uncomfortable.
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 rather than being led only by our exrinsic conditioning. It is the knowing that we hold answers to our greatest questions within us, and having the ability to both uncover and apply them.
So how do you know when you're embodied?
When you’re embodied, you:
Feel your feelings, yes, even the 'bad' ones
Are able to self-regulate
Have harmony between your body and mind
Know and speak your truth
Are fully aware of the seen and the unseen
and are deeply connected to self, Source, other people, the environment and the Universe simultaneously.
The tricky thing with embodiment is that it really can only 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!
“[Embodiment is] a direct experience with no intermediary steps or translations. There is no guide. There is no witness. There is the fully known consciousness of the experienced moment initiated from the cells themselves. In this instance, the brain is the last to know. There is complete knowing and peaceful comprehension. Out of this embodiment process emerges feeling, thinking, withnessing and understanding. The source of this process is love.” — Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen
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 I speak of being ‘disembodied’ it refers to being unconsciously in one’s body. Which is an alarmingly common phenomenon in the modern world.
To understand embodiment, it can be helpful to understand dis-embodiment.
The nature of the modern world that we live in gives us so much to distract and disconnect from, numb to, and attempt to ignore, and our culture only encourages this. 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 that make us human.
5 Reasons You Should Care About Embodiment
If you can identify the ways in which you are not embodied, it can be easy to see why bringing embodiment into your life can be a good idea.
Here are 5 ways to recognise disembodiment, and why you should care about embodiment.
Experiencing any of these states doesn’t automatically mean you’re disembodied, nor are these all the ways in which disembodiment manifests.
1. Your emotions are manifesting physically
Holding onto emotions and suppressing them rather than feeling them can lead to physical manifestation of those energies, such as postural adaptation (slumped shoulders to protect your heart), pain, tension, soreness, poor digestion
2. You can't slow down
You're always on the go, thinking ahead, and find it hard to be still and in silence.
3. You self-regulate with external crutches
You self soothe and/or distract with food, social media, shopping, media, other people, etc.
4. You're numb to stimuli
You can easily be exposed to excessive loud music/noise, shouting, crowds, pain, extreme flavours etc without noticing a reaction in your body
5. You treat your body like a machine
You stick to workout schedules, meal plans, bed and wake times, and 'push through' even when your body asks for a change in routine and/or more rest. Treating your body like a machine can also look like over-exercising, over-working, perpetual busyness, lack of sleep, restrictive eating or over-eating.
Most of these forms of disembodiment I speak to from having been there myself, and I still find myself in these states regularly. It’s never about judging ourselves for it. It’s a constant practice to bring our bodies into the conversation.
The difference is that now I can notice when I’ve I’ve lost touch with my body—the flags for me are bloating, fatigue, and bad digestion—and check in with what I need to do to get back to an embodied state.
Usually that involves slowing down, feeling the feeling I’ve been subconsciously ignoring, grounding, and doing some form of breathwork or movement practice to move that feeling along.
Why We Need Embodiment
You see how leaving your body out of life can feel quite awful?
So awful, in fact, that I argue that the atrocities, injustice, racism, homophobia, hate and systemic oppression we’re living amongst right now could not thrive in a society of embodied people. What the world needs more than anything else is for more individuals to get embodied.
As Mark Walsh says,
‘The first place terrorists win is in the body. Angry, scared people are easily driven into the arms of those who promise safety through violence and revenge. This is how both terrorists and oppressive, war-mongering governments win in the world.'
If you’re in your body, and therefore tuned to intuition, compassion, and your own ability to influence the world around you, it’s incredibly difficult to commit harm upon other people and the planet, simply because it’s misaligned to do so.
Yet, under many, multi-layered guises, our society perpetuates the lack of connection we have with our bodies.
An example: to counter the harmful affects of diet culture and a society that grossly favours an ever-changing but always very specific aesthetic and physical build, we’re told over and over, ‘you are not your body’.
You are not your body, that’s true. But in many ways and on many levels your body is YOU.
Without your body, you would not be here, alive on Earth and experiencing the ecstatic, sad, painful, sticky, joyful, delicious, sumptuous, sensory delights that make you human. Your body is the physical accumulation of every action you’ve taken, word you’ve spoken, experience you’ve had, emotion you’ve felt.
That anger at your sister that you hid so your mum wouldn’t get mad, that’s in your body. The crying you fought back from unleashing and the sting on your knee that caused it, they’re in your body. The heart ache of love for your child, that’s in your body. The explosion of flavour and rush of joy you felt as you bit down on triple chocolate cake on your eighth birthday party, that’s in your body. The opening notes of that song you listened to all of summer 2001 that makes your heart stop a moment when you hear it today, that’s in your body. And across generations: even your grandmother’s flight from Nazi invasion decades before you were born, is in your body.
Many traditions even hold the belief that our accumulative karma over all lifetimes is also imprinted within our bodies and that you are therefore carrying around a whole lot of somatic wisdom and intelligence in your cells—a wisdom that can be accessed through conscious embodiment and embodiment practices.
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 so that it can process not only your present-moment emotions, sensations, thoughts, and feelings, but everything 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.