SOME THOUGHTS ON EMBODIMENT
Whatever connotations this word might bring up for us, the need to embody what we stand for, (whether that be socially, politically or spiritually; whether in tending to the mundane details and commitments of our lives or in response to the profound), seems more and more relevant to each of us as individuals, as community and as a global body.
This can be difficult to grasp in our culture; to reach out beyond our agendas which create the illusion of a fragmented life requires some effort and patience… We need to be prepared to look at where what we our embodying has either been imposed and somehow does not ring true to our deeper values, or has been adopted by us as a useful tool in the past but no longer carries the same sense of clarity and direction.
The reality is that a real process of embodiment, in its deepest sense, is never imposed; it is never second-hand but belongs uniquely to each one of us, and lives itself out uniquely in the vaster scheme of things.
Like an ever-present gravity field, the great process of life calls from near and far for us to respond over and over each in our own unique way (Caroline Lang)
By exploring the body through yoga and meditation, we can investigate some of the inner and relational processes that enable us to embody more of who we are when we move beyond our habitual ways of seeing and doing things. In yoga we are gently being asked to relax and be strong; to let go and challenge our impulse to fix, mend and impose, and give ear to the intelligence of the body with more and more subtlety, giving birth to increasingly vivid insights into who we are in the world around us. In meditation we are being invited to become more and more simple, slowly becoming aware of how much our mind takes control so that eventually the wisdom of silence becomes stronger than our mental noise.
Most of us find in ourselves that life is full of paradox and mystery which words like ’embodiment’ can only point to but the body itself understands. Two facts about being human we are is that we are embodied and in relationship; to be alive we need a body, and to relate to others; the biggest challenges and joys follow from these truths that at times seem contradictory! Therefore part of the process is not trying to escape, seeing that our life task becomes the process of integrating body, mind and spirit. This integrative journey is embodiment; not a place we arrive at but a pilgrimage taken step by step as our life unfolds.
As well as this inner process, embodiment also carries a meaning that hints at a ‘resting into’ what it means to be ‘us’ on this planet, globally, locally and personally. It carries with it a sense of responsibility. All the spiritual traditions emphasise the need to let go of the impulses of the ego and surrender to a state of being less self-centred and more spacious, so that life itself can flow through us more freely. This is a process of re-aligning to our centre, the ground of our being where, like a river, we find lightness, depth and support and therefore the ability to listen more vividly to ourselves and our deepest impulses and motivations. And like the hills we discover stillness and an enlivening, spacious perspective from which we can listen to others, to our friends and those who think differently to us. Therefore embodiment is not just for our own state of well-being, but has implications far beyond.