These days, the concept of Embodiment is one that is being employed by both new age proponents and increasingly more traditional modalities.
I always find it fascinating when a word or concept is used by seemingly opposing extremes as it means we are finding ourselves one step closer to a more holistic approach of what it means to be human.
It also usually means it would be useful to create some definition as to what a term can mean. While I recognize everyone may have their own view of Embodiment, this is my best understanding of this seemingly abstract concept.
I have found it useful to work with Embodiment as three aspects: Locational, Sensational, and Emotional.
The Locational or physical aspect is perhaps the most accessible place to start, even though any physiotherapist or somatic practitioner will tell you it’s often the most overlooked.
At this level, Embodiment is viewed as “How much awareness do I have of my physical structure and movement of my body?” “How does my shoulder connect to my collar bone, which muscles mobilize when I outstretch my arm, how would I move my body more efficiently and with less effort?”
As we increase the awareness and familiarity of our bodies, we begin to invite more physical and mental agility and awareness into our daily experience. Movement and exercise are increasingly confirmed to directly affect our emotional and mental well being and thereby deeply intertwined in our ability to deal with stress, recover efficiently after injury, resilience in processing emotional struggles, as well as having a more full-spectrum life experience.
Going for a run, dancing ecstatically, or even mindfulness practices such as feeling and relaxing into different parts of our bodies at the end of a yoga class can give us a broader sense of how we relate with our physical, material body.
The next aspect of Embodiment is at the level of Sensation.
Now that I have an awareness of the physicality of my being, what sensations or experience am I having in my body? Being able to identify the flavor of sensation within a particular part of my body opens up a more in-depth way of communicating with myself and others.
At this level it is recommended to keep it simple. Sensations could be remarkably nuanced (“I’m feeling a pulsing heat that feels like it’s radiating out of my chest”) to the seemingly mundane (“I’m feeling a slight tingling in my right shoulder”).
Approach all sensation with equanimity and know it is merely the body’s way of sharing information. Perhaps the tingling in the right shoulder is a sign that its time to get a new desk or just that it’s time for a break.
The plot twist here is there are always sensations happening within our bodies. The question is whether or not we are attuning ourselves to hear our body wisdom. Our bodies are always speaking and the more we give them attention, the more the dialogue between our awareness and our physical experience gives us access to higher states of intuition and at times an almost superhuman ability to adapt to our environments.
The final aspect is Emotional Embodiment.
At its core, what am I feeling in this moment? What is the texture of my emotional landscape? Emotions can be scary and all too often we think we are ill equip for what lies beneath our deep waters. The result of closing ourselves off to this well of vital information is we become stilted, disconnected, restricted, and even a bit boring.
I can share there have been many times in my life when I’ve asked myself what’s happening inside, and not liked the answer. While avoiding an inner landscape that seems turbulent or even painful is perfectly natural, as long as there is an unwillingness to truly feel and acknowledge what is alive within our experience we lose access to the vividness that a rich emotional life offers.
The trick to Emotional Embodiment is to simply ask the question, “how am I feeling?” or “how does that experience have me feeling in my body?” and to hear the answer without analyzing, making wrong, or needing to do anything about it.
Sometimes, we just feel sad, mad, or glad, and it’s all ok.
This can seem overly simple but we live in a culture that tends to view emotions as liabilities and avoids those considered as negative (anger, fear, shame) and often even shuns positive emotions when they are strong.
Bring patient, innocent curiosity to these emotional inquiries. Often what is felt is our tender inner child asking to be heard in its desire to make better friends with us.
Keep in mind these are all simply tools and access points of awareness. Embodiment isn’t a magic trick, doesn’t require chakra alignment, vocabulary in anatomy, or spiritual jargon.
Like diligent carpenters, the more we use our tools and give them care, the more skilled we become in their use and utility to create the life and relationships we want.
The more we share ourselves with others from this place of inner knowing and integration we share the gift of a full experience and invite others to do the same.
I recommend with my clients a simple practice of documenting throughout the day what they are feeling (Emotion), how they are feeling it (Sensation), where they feel it in their bodies (Physical). This is best done every few hours and as simplistic as it may be, setting an alarm to do this every three hours is a great way to begin.
Embodiment is often an intangible felt experience, a gateway to our inner world. When we desire to be in authentic relationships with others, whether platonically or romantically, the more we experience ourselves, the more others experience us.
With the courage to honor and acknowledge what is happening for us, we can learn to expand our ability to build ecstatic bridges between ourselves and others, a distance that I believe we are all seeking to cross.
By combining these three aspects, we become wise to the matrix of our inner being. As our different aspects are permitted to recognize and happily co-exist an alchemy of human magnetism that lights up a room is created.
I wish this for all of us, I wish this for you.