Self

Why Embodiment Is Important For Self-Awareness

Photo: SFIO CRACHO / shutterstock
woman doing yoga

First things first — We need to define embodiment and its critical contribution to our full intelligence before we jump into why embodiment is important to self-awareness.

What is embodiment?

The word embodiment means to express a thing, feeling, quality, experience, or idea in a tangible or visible form.

It also refers to the process through which something becomes part of a living body through incorporation and incarnation. Note, both "corp" and "carnate" refer to the body.

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What is our embodied mind?

Human brains are highly oriented to sensory (our senses) and movement-based learning. From birth through the first few years of our life, our primary window onto the world is our somatosensory cortex and its affiliated body parts.

Only around two years of age do we begin to interpret the world through language. As our language capacity grows, our thinking evolves and deepens.

However, we never stop sensing. In fact, through the insula, somatic information stored within the body plays a significant role in brain prioritization and decision-making.

Embodied information adds up to a lot: a whole lot. In fact, 90 to 95 percent of brain activity is held within the subconscious, not all of which is accessible to the conscious mind.

Furthermore, 80 percent of our nerve fibers are dedicated to the communication of information from the viscera (our body) to the physical brain. And this isn't just a data harvesting process.

Through neural-signalling, biochemistry and physics, our embodied mind informs and influences our analytical mind through iterative orientation and prioritization.

Mind-body-spirit communication and integration is an ancient concept.

In fact, many Eastern worldviews maintained this holistic relationship over centuries and even today.

Western cultures are waking up to the importance of the body and its significant contribution to our full intelligence (mind and body) as well as decision-making processes. Hence, the renaissance.

Movement-based wellness practices such as yoga, dance, physical therapy, and even some psychotherapy (e.g., trauma work) use embodiment to create conscious awareness around how the body senses and stores experiences.

The idea is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual awareness can promote healing and wellness. It's in this vein that we'll look specifically at why embodiment is important to self-awareness; although, not necessarily through physical or explicit movement.

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Accessing Embodied Information and Wisdom

The Embodied Process

Essentially, in order to access embodied information, you turn your attention toward the inside of your body and sense. You listen with curiosity and without judgment.

Through the process, you may notice particular sensations and felt senses. These may feel restrictive and uncomfortable or open and scintillating. In other words, your body expresses what it wants to avoid and it wants to embrace.

Through the process of turning inward, you can become aware of how you embody specific past, present, or future experiences. Similarly, you can sense how your body responds to different aspects of your life (a job, friendship, hobby), as well as to choices and impending decisions.

Overall, embodied awareness informs you of how your body experiences your life and forms into a model of the shape of who you are and how you are. Maybe that shape is hunched and withdrawn or maybe it's upright and outwardly oriented.

Tools of Embodiment

There are literally thousands of ways to turn inward. Self-directed meditation, Focusing, yoga, dance, and guided meditation are just a few examples. And there is enormous variation within each practice.

Some practices put you in touch with how your body organizes to achieve an action (e.g., yoga). Others help you access the energy and flow of your emotions (e.g., dance). Still, others go deeper into subtler and more implicit felt senses (e.g., Focusing).

The growing body of embodiment knowledge and practice is broad and, at times, complicated. Furthermore, the structure and function of the embodied mind are complex, dynamic, and always evolving.

Fortunately, you don't need to understand everything to relate to your inner experience and access the vast and completely unique intelligence within you. Doing so will enhance your experience of your life and facilitate your ability to guide your life forward in an original and authentic way.

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Patricia Bonnard, PhD, ACC is a leadership and life coach, and energy healer. She blends conventional coaching, embodied practices, and energy healing in ways that best suit the needs and preferences of her clients. She offers virtual and in-person sessions, and workshops to workplaces and the general public.

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This article was originally published at Starchaser-HealingArts.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.