Over the last eight years as a healer working with entrepreneurs and leaders who have a particularly energetic and spiritual nature, I’ve encountered one consistent theme that is both incredibly important and massively problematic – “embodiment”.
The issue seems patently positive on the surface, but I can’t tell you the number of people who I have specifically recommended to not be “embodied” in the way they were doing it and they, for the first time in months, or occasionally years, finally felt peace, rested and relaxed in their being.
The fundamental argument for embodiment (or its kissing cousin – being “grounded”) is simple. We, as humans, spend too much time in our heads and that creates all kinds of issues that can be resolved by “coming back into our body”, ostensibly, meaning noticing the sensations of our physical form and being able to hold the awareness of those sensations while going through our day to day experience.
Often this advice is designed to help resolve a tendency toward dissociation. Not just “going into your head”, but in a sense leaving the body or “checking out”. Dissociation has multiple levels of severity from being lost in thought to a sense of being numb to the world, life and its events, all the way to neurological “freeze” responses that are near catatonic.
In these cases being embodied (in the definition used above) is a great step. A sense of coming back to the physical form is the first step to creating an internal experience of safety – the foundation of mental and emotional health.
The group of people this particular piece of writing may fully speak to is those on the spiritual path, those who are “waking up”, energetically aware and inquiring into the nature of their own being. The yogi’s, the would-be-shamans, the seekers, the highly sensitive, the meditators and empaths.
Before we go any further we need to resolve some definitions. The first is “body”. Most people consider the body to be the physical, tangible, gross matter – the coherent collection of cells that we’ve given an identity as “me”. That’s a good starting definition but an incomplete one. If you look at any serious spiritual tradition you will find some reference to other “bodies”. The Buddhists have the bliss body, the Catholics have auras painted over the heads of all their saints, the Hindus have the subtle body and its chakras.
One of the most useful syntheses of these world traditions is Integral Theory. This framework in Integral is largely based on the work of Huston Smith, a renowned professor of comparative religious studies. Integral describes a human as having a gross (physical tangible), subtle (energetic), causal, and non-dual bodies. If this intrigues you and you’d like to go down the Integral rabbit-hole, I recommend starting with a book called Integral Meditation.
Each of these bodies is experienced as holding space outside and around the physical form. An apt, albeit too matter-bound description, would be Russian nesting dolls, with the physical gross body at the center.
So why then is “embodiment” an issue? Simply this, as we are in our spiritual waking up process our definition of “self” must naturally both loosen and expand. As we move toward the enlightenment experience, a singular self-identity becomes increasingly preposterous – we naturally come into an identity of all reality as the self. This plays out in our bodies as well. As we are climbing the ladder of our awareness, we must expand the sense of ourselves beyond our physical form. We must feel our energetic self, we must know our eternal self, and we must know ourselves that is all things. There is a sensation, a felt sense to that as well, not just a cognitive understanding.
As we climb, as we grow, the truth of it is our physical body is simply too small of a container to hold the truth of who we are.
Now, here’s the caveat. Being multi-embodied doesn’t mean that we escape the physical form. That is certainly problematic. We can’t be a part of the Oneness – except for, you know, my physical vehicle. That is not sustainable and when I’ve had clients with that tendency, their lives are almost always chaotic.
We learn to grow into our spiritual selves so we can make a bigger impact in our physical realm.
So be bigger than your body, be outside yourself, be expansive, let your awareness wander. Find the right mix of being in and out of your body – this is the deal. Practice this and measure by tracking the sensations and seeing the changes in your life. Does this allow for more flow and ease? Does it bring the next level of your shadow material to the surface to be seen, and healed so your growth is more sustainable?
There is a mix of what works best for you for this season of your life. That’s the magic.