The Gift of Embodied Living & Why it Matters.
Over the past few years, we have been witnessing great awakening moments in the global community’s subconscious.
It feels like the whole world is finally starting to wake up from a very long sleepwalking phase, or a scary scene from the zombie apocalypse TV show, “The Walking Dead.”
We are barely starting to scratch the surface of our collective underground and long-forgotten wounds, which we have learned to suppress by using all sorts of coping mechanisms: constant busyness, hyper-consumerism, dissociation from our problems and from one another, addiction, the illusion of separateness, and the inability to simply be with ourselves without needing external distractions.
As human beings, our internal ecosystem thrives when we learn how to balance two major components of our biology: the sympathetic nervous system (our fight-or-flight), and our parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and digest). These two, which belong to the body’s autonomic nervous system, are the oldest adaptation tools to navigate the world in all mammalians, including in the fully erect and functional modern man and woman. It is an intelligent system that relies on instinct, gut feeling, and the body’s ability to fully utilize its five senses to make sense of the world.
However, if we look around us, we can easily see that this is not the case today.
Many of us live a reality where we have become so disconnected from our own bodies that we have lost touch with our own sense of being. In other words, we have become “human doers” instead of “human beings,”—constantly chasing, but never fully arriving to a destination.
This beautiful quality of embodiment, where we are able to fully tune into the body and use our sense of smell, sound, sight, taste, and touch to enjoy what the world has to offer us, is an experience of the parasympathetic nervous system.
But, if we’re constantly running around, fidgeting, escaping, or are simply scared of being in our own bodies, or worse, of sharing moments of intimacy, closeness, and vulnerability with other people, then it is no wonder that many of us live unfulfilled lives, devoid of passion, freedom, and expression—the kind that sends chills down our spine or turns our belly into a beautiful garden of butterflies.
In fact, most of the wonderful, embodied experiences in life that we crave spontaneously happen when we learn how to relax, listen, and simply be—a state that is easier said than done in a world that keeps spinning without allowing us moments to pause or reflect.
In sex, one of the most enjoyable and liberating embodied experiences, for example, while arousal happens in a parasympathetic state, orgasm happens in a sympathetic state (or, really, is a process that is interplayed between both the sympathetic and parasympathetic states, as well as different regions of the brain). We realize how the experience of making love is a beautiful, organic flow between being aroused, using our senses to connect with and navigate our partner, and dropping our tendency to control, to spontaneously reach a state of orgasmic bliss, connection, and explosion of wonderful sensations.
Perhaps, part of the surge in spiritual awakening over the past few years is because many of us are finally feeling the disgruntlement from being disconnected from our bodies, and being deprived of all the experiences they allows us to enjoy, not just by realizing it on a cognitive level, but by fully feeling it on an embodied level as well.
The popularity of embodied practices including yoga, meditation, dance, and expressive arts are signs of our hunger as humans to claim our right to be, by learning how to feel our bodies, despite how scary it can be sometimes. When we have existed our entire lives disconnected from ourselves, from other humans, and from our environment, it can feel overwhelming to be in our bodies and to suddenly experience the strong sensations that manifest as we lean into our five senses.
But, if we want to live a more meaningful life and and experience the wonders of the mundane in every day life, like the smell of freshly mowed grass, the sight of the first blossoming of spring or falling crystal snowflakes, the sip of our morning cup of coffee or flavoured tea, the stillness of nature or hearing our favourite band in a live performance, or the reassurance and warm, fuzzy sensations that engulf us as we snuggle into the arms of our favourite person, we have the choice of learning how to tune into the wisdom of our bodies.
Like everything else in life, learning how to be in the realm of the body requires discipline, consistency, and compassion.
The next time we go for our occasional walk in nature, instead of using our frontal lobe to judge, label, name, or analyze everything that we see, maybe, we can train our bodies to notice the smell of the pine trees that are gracefully carried by the cool, wavering breeze. Or the pace of our footsteps, and the familiar sound of dry autumn leaves being crushed under our boots. Or the ethereal sound of nature in some faraway distance, calling us to be quiet, still, and present.
Instead of labeling these moments as mundane, perhaps we can think about them as the necessities that accentuate our appreciation for being alive, and for experiencing the beauty of fully feeling—on a cognitive, embodied, emotional, energetic, and spiritual level.
The American professor and founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program, Jon Kabat-Zinn, once said: “The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.”
More than ever, and with the continuous political, social, health care, and environmental upheaval that we are witnessing all around the world today, the urgency to drop into the body and to use our senses to better inform how we live our lives is crucial to our sustainability as humans.
The collective fear, frustration, anger, and anxiety that we are witnessing are primitive survival emotions that happen on a deep subconscious level. If we want to dismantle these emotions, we must first learn how to fully feel them in our own bodies, to understand how we can feel them in other humans too.
Compassion and empathy are embodied experiences that start with ourselves, as we can never fully understand what we cannot personally process or feel.
Some argue that we are spiritual beings living a physical experience. By this definition, our bodies are the vehicles that carry us through and allow us to experience life in all its contradiction—the beauty and the suffering.
And it starts here—by surrendering to the timeless wisdom of our bodies.