Our embodied intelligence is available to us at every moment. The vast, responsive interactions of our many biological systems are processing our experiences and guiding our choices all the time. We just often fail to listen, or we don’t know how. If we began simply by sensitising ourselves and responding to the world through our senses and our sensations, we would already feel more fully present and alive. There is a limitless intelligence in our interactive physiology and biochemistry, creating an embodied knowing that shapes our relating to our world. These internal systems are already part of how we give and receive, adapt and balance, support ourselves and try new things out, find safety and rest. This is our embodied self.
And embodiment is a practice. It takes attention. As the old saying goes, energy flows where attention goes. Cultivating your body-mind needs awareness, awareness of the sensations that give rise to your feelings, and drive your motivations. These inner textures and rhythms shape and tone our behaviour. Listening to them is an invaluable personal resource. When we are tuned into our embodied responses, we are able to differentiate subtleties of feeling and resonances. So how did we get alienated from our instinctual feelings? We are fully in touch with them as infants. As Gabor Mate says, any two-year-old will let you know what they are feeling in a fully embodied way.
Sometimes because of all the crazy-making difficult things that happen to us, or just one derailing experience, checking out of our body becomes the safest thing to do. Or we survive in high alert, vigilantly holding on tight, contracting against new physical sensations, getting through by knuckling down and bearing it but not feeling it. When you have survived overwhelming experiences in your body, it can seem very risky to get in touch with your body. That proposition goes counter to all the signals that are sounding from within. Those signals are working, they are doing their job. But when that is happening, it is hard to imagine the body could be a source of empowerment and self-knowledge, but even then, it can. See Trauma Recovery
Nowadays the body is big business, and there are entire industries devoted to both their unchanging upkeep and miraculous transformations. We are somehow more body conscious, but not more embodied. Society tells us our body is meant to be fit, healthy, and young and we ought to devote lots of time and money to maintain that. We are told to ignore or annihilate its pains, disguise its aging processes and hide its messiness.
If we stopped controlling our body, we could begin to follow its guidance, responding to its perceptions. Our body articulates with alive vividness whatever it is we are experiencing. In fact, our body tells us what we are experiencing! Our fluids transport our tears and pain, our bones hold us steady in our seat when we need to ground, our enteric gut begins to flutter when we anticipate something deeply rewarding to us, our energy rises and our muscles fire when we are angry, our heart is heavy and our chest slumps when we are defeated.
We are all somewhere on an embodied continuum. We all have just the one body, and just one mind that requires our body to know and feel itself. As neuroscientist and psychologist Antonio Damasio says, our minds are shaped by our bodies. Your embodied presence is a result of your contact with this vast reservoir of knowing, and it is freely available to you. There is no final destination, the body always has more to reveal and more to offer ad infinitum. It is a life-long relationship.
Susan Aposhyan in her simple and immensely helpful book, Natural Intelligence, endorses how the body houses all of our experiences and is expressing and sequencing them continually. Many people have “gut instincts”, responses to circumstances that are inexplicable yet reliable. Ignoring our bodies eloquence and wisdom, merely pushing our body through life’s paces, comes at great cost to our presence, aliveness, intelligence and inner richness. Our bodies’ true nature is a far deeper experience.
Before becoming a psychotherapist, I spent 25 years as a dancer and somatic educator. This way of being in the world, this way of knowing, is still the foundation of everything I do today. I spent 15 years at an extraordinary institute in Amsterdam, Holland, as a student and as a faculty member. The way we moved and studied movement was greatly influenced by Body Mind Centering, the work of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. Other great masters of somatic practice and world leaders of movement technique and improvisation also regularly taught there. This was a place of profound exploration – a living laboratory of embodiment and the body’s place in art, creativity, and our social structures.
I invite you to discover how alive you truly are, by exploring the inner territory of your body, coming to know it as a faithful and limitless resource. A call to get back to your authentic embodied experience. The textures and rhythms of your body’s inner worlds give you agency and vitality, help you move through and express emotional transitions, regulate your survival responses, enhance your contact with others and your sense of yourself. Bodily felt experiences such as bonding with gravity, renewing inspiration with breath, fuelling your imagination with subtle neurochemical energy, help you feel fully here in whatever is happening. You become congruent inside and out, and live with full bodied three-dimensional support. There is a wise integrity at the core of you.
Come to my workshop, Embodied Intelligence: Contact, Presence and Possibilities to experience more. Or come and share your life stories and current situations with me in therapy sessions and rediscover how your body-mind truly does know how to respond and what to do.
Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen https://www.bodymindcentering.com/about/bonnie-bainbridge-cohen/
Susan Aposhyan https://www.bodymindpsychotherapy.com/
Ruella Frank https://somaticstudies.com/
Roz Carroll http://www.thinkbody.co.uk/
Linda Hartley http://www.lindahartley.co.uk/