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What is Embodiment?

Embodiment isn’t about sitting in the head and paying attention to the part of you we call the body—it’s about fully inhabiting the intelligence of the body and attuning to the world through it.

In this talk Philip Shepherd shows that disembodiment has been part of Western culture for so long – since before the time of Plato – that we no longer understand what true embodiment is. Philip brings clarity to that issue as he addresses six questions, and then offers a simple embodiment practice. The hour closes with a Q&A with participants.

The questions Philip addresses are:

1) Why do we need to talk about embodiment?

2) What is embodiment?

3) Why does embodiment matter?

4) What are the characteristics of disembodiment?

5) What are the characteristics of embodiment?

6) What are the two stages of embodiment?

The practice Philip shares is called The Goldfish Bowl.

silhouette of person dancing in grasses

What is Embodiment?

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The word 'embodiment' is appearing everywhere these days so I thought I'd share my definition, excerpted from Radical Wholeness:

So the undoing begins with the basics. If it doesn’t, we will remain stuck in the place where so much contemporary work on embodiment finds itself—where we gently turn our attention to the body and listen to it, or observe its sensations, or patiently notice the breath. All of these practices have value, but it’s hazardous to mistake them for embodiment.

Embodiment isn’t about quieting the thoughts in the head and noticing the sensations of the body from there—it’s about bringing the abstract intelligence of the head into relationship with the body’s intelligence. Wholeness is never either/or—it’s both/and. So the popular advice to “listen to the body,” well-meaning as it is, is stuck in the Story of division. The phrase itself suggests that you are in one place and your body is in another. It implies that you are separated from your body as though by a wall, and the best you can hope for is to put your ear to that wall once in a while and listen to what’s happening on the other side. So although its intention is to foster embodiment, the advice to “listen to the body” actually reinforces the very divide that it’s seeking to overcome.

Similarly, the instruction to “notice the breath” assigns you the role of spectator of your own life: sitting up in the head you observe the sensations of your breathing. What a different thing it is to allow the center of your awareness to descend from the penthouse suite and merge with the thinking of your being as it lives through those sensations, so that the here-and-now experience of breathing is the here-and-now experience of ‘you’—of your embodied presence in the world. You are the breath, alert to what the world reveals.

Embodiment isn’t about sitting in the head and paying attention to the part of you we call the body—it’s about fully inhabiting the intelligence of the body and attuning to the world through it. It’s about listening to the world through the body. It’s about feeling the world through the breath. For our purposes, then, we might say that embodiment is a state in which your entire intelligence is experienced as a coherent unity attuned to the world. In that state any distinction between ‘mind’ and ‘the body’s energy’ becomes meaningless.

The TEPP philosophy understands that the wholeness of an individual can only be understood as a quality of relationship: your wholeness is not contained within your skin – it exists as a dance with the energies of the world around you.