Steps to Remain Present with the Body (Mind-Body Part 2)Jan 31, 2023
Last week we discussed the thinking of a few Western philosophers on the mind/body connection. These men siloed the mind from the physical body, which has influenced our present day fragmentation of the self.
Since the physical body and the mind are NOT meant to live in isolation of one another, what are some practical ways we can integrate the two into our daily lives?
Remember: You Were Born to be Embodied
According to the therapist and writer Hillary McBride:
Embodiment is a kind of re-remembering of who we really are, because what we picked up along the way was disembodiment. But disembodiment is not how we come into the world. It can be unlearned, while embodiment, our birthright, can be remembered. So embodiment is a coming home, a remembering of our wholeness, and a reunion with the fullness of ourselves.1
If you see yourself as a whole, complete being, then there is no dualism. If you see yourself as these philosophers saw themselves, separate entities that need to be controlled or managed, then you are a fragmented being. Remembering that embodiment is our birthright is an important first step in acknowledging our wholeness.
Slow Down & Listen
Who determines the pace of your life? Society? Your children? Your work? There are many aspects of our day that we do have some control over. Slowing down will give you the space to recognize which activities are instrumental and which are prescribed by the culture around you.
So much of our day is habitual: what we do, our thought patterns, what we eat, etc. Taking a moment to pause and evaluate which habits are working for you and whether what you are doing is even what you want to be doing. This will create space in your body to fully express your deepest desires. What do you truly want?
Journal to Notice Patterns
As you pause, consider journaling as a way to express your human experience. Journaling doesn’t require eloquent prose; you just show up and write. The act of writing is embodied. You are physically using your hand to communicate thoughts.
Perhaps, carry a journal around for three days recording each negative thought. What were you doing when these negative patterns emerged? Were you fully engaged with the present? Or, were you ruminating about the past? Were there recurring thoughts about your body specifically? Rewiring some of these thought patterns can change not only our thinking, but our brain as well. This is called neuroplasticity. Substituting some of those negative thoughts with daily affirmations can also help with the circuit restructuring.
Somatic Exercises: Regulate the Nervous System
Nervous system dysregulation is a significant factor in disembodiment for many people. Breath work is a powerful way to alter the state of our bodies, reduce stress, and restore balance. Many of us breathe from our chest instead of our diaphragm, which leads to shallow breath work. Breathing from the belly calms the nervous system and allows emotions to flow again more freely.
Meditative prayer, dance, stretching, walking in nature, and moving for enjoyment are all somatic exercises that can aid in the grounding process of becoming more embodied. Life is uncertain. Adding a few somatic exercises to your embodied toolbox will help you feel safe and relaxed when unforeseen circumstances shake your reality.
Watch: Somatic Grounding Exercise
Connection is Belonging
Part of becoming more embodied is spending time with other bodies. This includes bodies that were raised in a similar culture to us and bodies raised in different cultures. I spent ages 9-16 living in India. Embodiment practices such as yoga and meditation were foreign to me as a young adolescent from San Diego, CA. However, these experiences became instrumental to my growth during those formative years. I would not have had learned about these cultural practices if I was not actively engaging with others.
According to author Sebene Selassie, “Learning to listen (and hear) the experiences of others is key to connection, to belonging. Connecting is the test of belonging."2
Embodied Reading of Scripture
How can we take what we have learned about embodiment and incorporate it into the reading of Scripture? Instead of reading silently in your head, try some of the following:
- Remain fully present in all your senses when reading: what do you hear, smell, taste, see?
- Read passages out loud. The Bible was primarily read out loud in antiquity.
- While listening to a Psalm, move your body however it wants to move: sway, dance, etc.
- Lie on the ground outside and listen to Scripture
Today, we have discussed several methods for greater mind-body connection. Try something that resonates with you, but know that some things will not feel right for your body. It is up to you to figure out what embodiment means to you. Consider the following questions as a starting point:
- What does embodied mean to you?
- Describe a time when you last felt embodied.
- Do you notice the mind/body dysfunction in your daily life?
- What is one practical thing you can do daily to practice living a more embodied life
by, Jennifer Metten Pantoja