This morning I share my thoughts on the topic "What is Embodiment" at a local free Saturday morning event called "Coffee and Conversation." Here are the notes that I have prepared along with this previous blog entry.
As embryos, fetuses, and infants we did not have thoughts or emotions as we have them as adults. We began as an organism, a collection of cells, with sensory receptors and movement.
Our movement abilities formed from amoeba-like to the most complex of walking, jumping and running as a naturally organized process of development in response to the information we received from our environment through our sensory receptors.
Given this, embodiment is…the sensory experience of breathing and of our weight on the Earth, of pressure, texture, temperature, light, smell, sound, taste and rhythm. These are all the things that prompted us to move in the earliest days of our existence in the body we are in. We experienced a sensation and we responded or reacted, in pleasure or in pain, in response to comfort or discomfort.
Then we learned words. Words give a symbolic form to our experiences, a way to communicate sensations, thoughts and emotions. Words are valuable and words can be spoken from an embodied perspective, but words are not themselves embodied. Similarly sensory and emotional words are just labels, not things themselves. Emotions are actually a collection of sensations we associate with a specific experience.
The map is not the territory.” A. Korzybski
We learn, as individuals, and have learned, as a culture, to override the sensory information of our body for many reasons. Pain. Traumatic events we witness or experience. Devaluation by other people’s words or actions. Descartian split of mind from body. Some religious beliefs, especially dogmatic Christianity. Consumerism that views sensations as something to market to. Capitalism that views sensations as a nuisance, diminishing the value of the workforce. Incompatibility between the design of our sensory systems & the sensory information in our environments.
My perspective is that the result is overwhelm, anxiety, depression, disease, disconnection from ourselves, each other and the Earth. And that a regular practice of noticing, deepening, inviting, enhancing embodiment is healing and powerful, in all ways. This includes breath awareness, sensory awareness and conscious movement exploration to re-pattern what we have learned, as young children and into adulthood, about our body.