What is Embodiment? A coffee and conversation talk

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.


Everybody has a what is embodiment?

Good morning, community -

What is Embodiment?

Having dedicated my life eight or so years ago to this concept and having called my business by that very word, I had thought I knew what I meant by the term “embodiment”.  That was until a few months ago, when a client asked me,

“Everybody has a what is embodiment?”

After tripping over my tongue several times and uttering a handful of disconnected, graceless, grasping fragments of thought on the matter, I began the journey of finding a way to express in words what I knew and know in my body.

Embodiment is a practice.  It is a sense of self and a sense of the world that one can have in one’s everyday life with practice.  Without practice, I believe it is the rare adult human, especially in what is known as the “civilized” world, who has access to this way of being.

What Others Have to Say

One of my mentors Susan Aposhyan of BodyMind Psychotherapy ( defines embodiment as “the moment to moment process by which human beings may allow their awareness to enhance the flow of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and energies through their bodily selves.”  This is the working definition that I started with in my quest but I want more than this basic description of this concept for my purposes here.  I have found that the written word often, at the worst, falls flat and, in the best of situations, struggles to satisfy my understanding of embodied concepts.  Nonetheless, this is the challenge I have asked of myself, and so I go deeper.

Moshe Feldenkrais ( has been noted to have said, “Movement is life  Without movement life is unthinkable.”    In the introduction of his first published writings on movement, Mastery of Movement, Rudolf Laban (   said, “...movement evidently reveals many different things.  It is the result of striving after an object deemed valuable, or of a state of mind.  Its shapes and rhythms show the moving person’s attitude in a particular situation.  It can characterize momentary mood and reaction as well as constant features of personality.  Movement may be influenced by the environment of the mover.”  Embodiment is, for me, being open to and conscious of the process of all of this.

My Thoughts on Embodiment

Embodiment is the moment to moment process of moving and being moved with awareness.  It is noticing the inner impulses and outer information that prompt or inhibit movement.  

Embodiment is not just how one moves, nor is just about what one moves or where one moves the parts.  It is a daily practicing of noticing how, where, when and what one chooses to move or not move, whether consciously or unconsciously.  It is be aware of the initiating factor(s) and the why of the choices made in response to those prompts.

Embodiment is not only relevant in applications of movement such as dance, or in mindfulness-enhancing activities like yoga.  It is not only important in the large, grand movings through space.  Embodiment is not a buzz word for some new fad only available to those with money or privilege or education in professions such as counseling or dance or acting.   Embodiment is a life practice.  I would say it is a practice that supports health in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of the body. It is the basis for resiliency in relationships to all of one’s environment, not only with that which is human or that which lies outside of one’s skin.   Embodiment can deepen one’s relationship with all aspects of one’s life:   everyday tasks, social justice issues, one’s spiritual path, interacting with one’s partner and co-workers, with communication, with creativity, with lovemaking, with doing the dishes.  The list is only as long as your desire to be curious.

Embodiment was a gift given to us and is intrinsic with our early development.  It is a birthright that, for most of us, was then dis-encouraged and, in some cases, even demonized.  

I am here to tell you, however, that I know that Embodiment is a practice and a process that every human can access, if they so choose.

Everybody has a body.  Not everybody chooses to embody it.  Embodiment is yours for the claiming.