The word embodiment grabs attention as of lately. It’s certainly a buzzword but it points to something that every person is connected to: the idea that we all have a body that we live in and experience everything through and with. But how many of us are actually aware and curious enough of this fact to be in relationship with our body? Are we connected to our bodies and listening to them enough to take care of them well? I’ll be the first to admit that I have neglected, mistreated, and tried to escape my body many times. My journey of realizing I have been disconnected from my body has slowly transformed into the worthwhile journey of learning to reconnect with it.
Our bodies are part of us. We are seen through our bodies and we have often been treated according to what our individual bodies look like and how they can function. Depending on who you are and how you have been treated (or how you have treated yourself), perhaps it can be easy to dismiss your body as just a representation of external experiences or use it as a tool. But our bodies are so much more; they are carriers of all that is within us and holders of our stories. Our bodies are intertwined with our emotions and our history. Our bodies speak to us. They are constantly reminding us of our stories and presenting us with information on our current and previous states of being. When we learn to listen to our bodies it can help give us insight into ourselves and reconnect with ourselves.
Sometimes it may seem too complex or confusing to know where to begin a journey of connecting with our bodies. We may have tried to silence our bodies in the past, escape from them, control them, hate them, or be scared of them. Often we learn these ways of disconnecting from our bodies because we were taught to or we had to as a way to survive or cope with situations. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to try to change our ways of relating to our bodies when we decide those disconnecting mechanisms no longer serve us as they once did.
Since each of us have different stories and different ways of engaging our bodies, the ways we end up connecting with our bodies may be different. There are numerous tools and practices that we can explore to help us get in touch with our bodies (ourselves) and the stories they hold. One of the very first things we can try is the simple practice of noticing. Noticing our bodies can lead us to awareness which merely means being present without trying to change or interpret things. This allows us to listen to our bodies and hear what they are saying without judgment or immediate analysis. It eventually allows us to bring curiosity and compassion to our bodies and the emotions and stories they hold. This is much easier said than done if we aren’t in a practice of noticing. This is where practices such as mindfulness and meditation can come into play. Mindfulness and meditation are practices that encourage noticing and listening in the present moment. There are other ways of practicing noticing, too, such as using our five senses to engage our bodies. Maybe begin with only looking at or touching a part of your body and noticing what sensations or feelings come up. Noticing can come in many shapes and forms.
Eventually we may be able to move into a space of taking what we notice and being more curious about it. What are the sensations or feelings we are beginning to notice telling us? Are they reminiscent of something? Our bodies give us information if we are listening.
Each of us have stories related to, shaped by, and held within our bodies. Perhaps abuse has caused confusion or disconnection. Maybe the media or entertainment has caused shame and hatred. Certain communities or ideologies can tell the body it is unimportant or “bad” and should be ignored. To challenge some of these things we can start with small practices such as noticing and listening. Eventually maybe we can befriend and give our bodies compassion and care in ways they specifically and uniquely need and want.
About the author – Intern therapists at Pacific Mental Health contribute their expertise to help people through writing regular blog posts about mental health topics. You can read more from our team here.