Have you ever felt that you were so aware of your body that you could feel yourself as a living, flowing field of presence? Have you ever gazed out at a beautiful part of nature and felt a stirring inside of you? Have you been so deeply embedded in an experience that you felt a heightened attentiveness to your physicality and breath? Or have you touched something – a cool stream, a lovers body, warm sand etc. – and felt the reverberations through parts of you?
Embodied awareness is a feeling. It doesn’t usually involve our thinking mind, but brings up our ‘feeling mind’ – that part of us that experiences something in our body as a felt sense. Sometimes in meditation, for instance, you can become so completely present that everything else falls away and you become aware only of the now and the experience of now – perhaps waves & vibrations or a flowing field within. And how do you know this? ..because you feel it. It seems to me that embodied awareness is both a felt sense of the present moment, and a lasting experience of aliveness. It is through the body that we know the world.
As an example, if I asked you to take some deep breaths you could probably do so and continue reading this. Yet if I asked you where you felt the presence of each breath inside you, and to feel the actual expansion and subsequent condensing in your body while you were breathing, you’d likely have to move into the present moment with your breath and feel where it is and what else you’re noticing in your body – the reverberations of breath and what it touches inside. That makes for a very different experience. And herein lies the key. you experience the breath, and you’re aware of its totality in the moment. The basic meaning of the word experience is ‘to go through something completely without leaving a trace’. This can apply to many things we do, people we are with, environments we are in, a stone we pick up. When we bring ourselves completely to something, not just the thinking mind and its desire to think about things, we can be with it with a depth of perception we don’t regularly use. This opens our world to a richness that feeds the soul!
Perhaps you remember as a young child how the smallest things could draw you in. Pleasure, intrigue, and the amazing world all around filled us with wonder. We could be 100% in the moment and all our senses were engaged.
We’ve become accustomed to living in our heads as a way of navigating the world, but we can develop a more embodied awareness to enrich our experiences and to live more fully in the body. To really feel something, we must at the same time find our own flexible, sensitive, inquiring nature. Then we find that everywhere, just beneath the surface of our conventional objective world, lies a forgotten world of overwhelming authenticity, which is not foreign, but is ours.
In most of my classes, I guide and encourage people to drop into the body – not as other or object – but to experience what they feel on a sensorial level; but even ‘knowings’ can come through while one is connected to the felt sense. If we recognize that our bodies are wild and mysterious worlds that we can ‘visit’ and inhabit more & more, we give ourselves the opportunity to release from our constant processing and interpreting with the thinking mind and become held and made real in the knowing body.
Another way to experience embodied awareness is meditation. As in shifting into a deeper meditative state and feeling the energetic flows, if we can avoid the possible urge to encapsulate the experience in that moment and simply follow the energy, we give ourselves an opportunity to be aware and at one with the flowing fields of ‘us’. Even just sitting and feeling breath brings us into embodiment. Sometimes though, one moves into a very deep state of meditation and it is as though the body ‘drops away’, then we are left with a state of Pure Awareness.
We need to experience and cultivate embodied awareness, otherwise we risk forever objectifying the body and living through our beliefs and stories. We risk seeing the body as something to be fixed, or something that is ageing, rather that a field of awareness and an experience of aliveness. Also, we have the opportunity to become more fully awake and to enjoy the creative forces and aliveness inside of us.. to heal, to find peace & to dance our wild dance with feeling.
“Life with soul is filled with felt experience” ~ James Hillman
If you’re interested in more, this fall I am offering a course called “Journeys Through The Body”. It has been many years since I’ve offered this course, and I’m very excited to present it again! In these 9 monthly meetings, we’ll explore embodied awareness and sensory awakening. Look for the flyer later this spring.
Coming Next: How Tension Masks Experience.