We are all born the same, without language or the ability to make sense of the world through thoughts. Instead we are aware of and interact with the world through our senses. As a new-born, we recognise all our needs through our body – when we are hungry, we cry, when we are happy, we smile. We are fully embodied little beings.
Like many people, at some point, I moved away from being embodied and learnt to live ‘in my head’. For me, this process started to occur during adolescence, when my changing body became a source of fear and shame. As I moved into adult life, I continued to live in an increasingly disembodied state, disconnected from both my body’s needs and, perhaps more sadly, from its wisdom. I learnt to ignore my body’s signals, to push through when I was tired, and to numb out when the cries of an increasingly distressed soul became too much. Inevitably, one day I crashed, my body (and soul) shouting and screaming at me to listen, to stop, to rest.
That was 15 years ago, and I have been on a journey of recovery and healing ever since. On this long and winding road, I have learnt how to pace myself better, how to look after myself a little more, and more importantly have been slowly becoming more embodied again. As I have crept back into my body, I have discovered a wonderful thing – that it is a source of tacit knowledge, embodied intuition and wisdom. That my ‘gut instinct’ is truly felt in my gut, and that it pays to listen to it.
When I am embodied, consciously experiencing the world through my senses in each moment, I am more grounded and stable, less likely to be buffeted by life’s ups and downs. When I retreat to my head (which I still often do) I am more likely to feel anxious, unrooted and lost. For me, both receiving and giving massage are embodying experiences, and I am so grateful to have experienced the healing potential of bodywork for myself, and for my training in holistic massage that enables me to offer massage to others.
The following exercise is a simple way to practice embodiment:
Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Feel what it’s like to close your eyes. Feel where your body is in contact with the chair and floor – along your spine, your thighs, your feet.
Take a deep breath and notice the feeling of your breath. Where does your breath begin? Can you feel your breath moving through your body? See if you can tune into the rhythm of your breathing.
Ask your body how it feels. Listen and feel for a response. How are your energy levels? Do you feel tired, energised, strong, weak? What does your body need right now?
It tells me
It tugs and pulls as I fall back on my pillow
It waves, trying to catch my eye
To get me to look, to see, to know
As it knows
My body will pour its wisdom in my ear
And fill my heart with joy