Recently many people have asked me, even almost in despair, why so many advocates of Embodiment come across as being so disembodied.
I think that part of the problem is collective, and not to do with the individual. This problem is the fact that we live in a deeply disembodied culture. One that has been alienated from the natural intelligence of the body, and of Nature as a whole, for a very long time.
Once upon a time, thousands of years ago, human beings and human culture were completely integrated with Nature. Technology was limited, and most effort and activity required of living was human. The human body was the principle implement of action, and the main medium of experience.
This has not been the case for a long time. The Historical Enlightenment brought the power of rational thought and scientific enquiry to bear on the collective human experience. This generated a massive, rapidly escalating, transformation of human culture and experience. Based on ever more sophisticated technology, and the thinking processes upon which they depend, such as mathematics, physics etc.
Once upon a time human beings learned from experience, through the body. Now most human learning takes place in the abstract, through the mind, by way of information.
We have been led to believe that we know about something if we have accurate and complete information about it. Of course this is true of many subjects, particularly those that are taught in schools and universities. Within the context of the body, it is true that anatomy, physiology, neurology etc allow us to know many things about the body. And to act effectively on that knowledge.
Yet, that knowledge does not really help us to be in the body. It may give us a little confidence to know that if a stretch reflex is over-ridden it can damage muscle tissue. This does not help us to know when to stop. It does not participate in our experience beyond shifting the balance of power away from the body and its sensations into the mind and its information. This shift only too easily and often puts the body at risk of insensitivity and imposition.
Likewise knowledge of the nervous system, which has become the latest power mechanism through which the disembodied mind seeks to assert its authority over the domain of the body.
We all of us learned to walk, run, clean our teeth and ride a bicycle possessing no anatomical or phsyiological information. Likewise we all learned to make love and use a smart phone without applying whatever anatomical or phsyiological information we had by then learned. A tennis player refines her skill by practicing, and only by practicing. Although her coach may be supported in his coaching by anatomical and physiological information.
This is where people get confused about embodiment practices. Physical therapies that rely on physical interventions require that the therapist has anatomical or physiological information. Otherwise they are as likely to cause damage as provide assistance.
You do not need knowledge of anatomy, physiology or meridian theory to practice Tai-Chi or Chi-Kung. You might need it to persuade somebody that it is worth doing. Even though the risks of Yoga Posture Practice are far higher, it is not anatomy, physiology or subtle-body theory, that protects against injury. It is a willingness to listen to, respond to and learn from the body. From the sensations generated by somatic intelligence.
However the cultural momentum within which all education takes place is itself a disembodied one. The mind is regarded as the principal, or even exclusive, domain of intelligence. The body is something that only the knowledge of the mind can effectively provide for.
This is nonsense. The intelligence of the mind is an extension of the intelligence of the body. It is also completely dependent upon it. Without the sophistication of human neurology you could neither read nor understand these words.
Your body is not an external object. It can be treated as one, and thereby provide us with lots of information. It is experienced however as a continuous flow of ever changing sensations: kinaesthetic, tactile, auditory, visual, gustatory, olfactory etc. It is within the experiential realm of sensations that physical experience takes place. Becoming embodied depends 100% on that realm of experience: the flow of sensations generated by the somatic intelligence of the body.
Embodiment can be more than a cherished idea. It can become the foundation of your life. Not by accumulating more information. Not by increasing your knowledge of how the body works, how it breaks down. Only by becoming intimate with your own body. This intimacy requires a practice, a somatic practice, that is undertaken as enquiry, not as a search for knowledge or self improvement.
This enquiry must be directed to the intelligence of the body. It must be focussed through its experiential vulnerabilities, rather than its theoretical potential. It must allow the intelligence of your body to release itself from the constraints of habit, and the limits of the mind. It must be based on nothing more than feeling sensations, as clearly and deeply as possible. It must become fertilised by nothing less than intimacy with sensation itself. This intimacy will ground the intelligence of your mind in its source. This grounding will allow it to feel safe and let go of its need to know and control more, into its ability to enjoy, create and play more.
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