Ways I’m Beginning to Practice Embodiment Throughout the DayJune 11, 2023 by savannah
In a culture that seems to do everything to pull us out of our bodies, I find that it takes practice to come back to my present, embodied experience of life. So here I’ve written out a few ways that I attempt to stay connected to my body throughout the day.
I do a morning movement practice.
It includes: Lots of snuggles and cuddles with my boo, getting outside and getting sunlight in my eyeballs as early as possible, mobilizing my joints, some light stretches based on what feels tight or stiff in my body usually found by organically moving and encountering these places, some body weight strength exercises to increase my overall stability and prevent back pain, and a little walking/hiking/biking. I strive to do these things everyday and make time for them. I’d say that happen most of the time. If I do this everyday I can almost guarantee that I’ll have a good day. I have more patience and softness. I’m flexible and strong physically and somehow that translates to being flexible and strong mentally.
I’m beginning to live from my body’s capacity.
My definition of capacity is the energy I have to be present with what is happening. Capacity is built dominantly through rest and through skillful, gentle exposure to new experiences. There’s this distinction between desire and capacity that Luis Mojica teaches. It’s basically that you may desire to get x things done in a day or a week, say. You can push yourself to get them done, but in the process you might also push past your capacity and not tend to your body’s needs. This could result in not having the capacity for everything else in your life that matters (like being meaningfully present in your relationships or doing the practices that help you feel your best). It could also result in doing things that subtly or massively harm your health. Things like maintaining poor posture, sitting in a static position for a long time, focusing on a very small area of your visual field (like a screen when our eyes were designed to focus and look at the horizon all throughout the average day), and on the whole, not responding to the body’s signals of pain and agitation that encourage us to move.
So when I make a list of all the things I’d like to achieve in a week, I’ve been trying to cull it down to what’s most important and what feels within my capacity, what feels like I’m genuinely capable of doing. If I have a full day of work and meetings, I do my best to not agree to go out that evening because I just know I wont have capacity for that engagement. If I want to go out another evening, I do my best to not schedule my day too full with things, or I block out at least 2 hours for something especially nourishing (definitely offline in nature or a nap sort of thing) during that day so I can give myself a better chance of having the capacity for the evening endeavor. Then as I schedule out my week, I do my best to create time between commitments for me to tend to my body’s capacity.
In the present day-to-day, I seek to create cultures where I operate that give slack for the very human needs that arise in all of us. “We aim to be on time, but it’s ok if you need to be 5 min late” for example, or “You might see us moving around a little bit on these calls. We’re just taking care of our bodies and we invite you to do the same as you need.” My cofounder and I are both women who menstruate so if we need to drop a meeting bc one of us is bleeding out of our genitals and it feels like we need all of our energy to just do that today, then we drop the meeting no questions asked.
Generally, I make a practice of literally asking my body/myself “what do you need right now?” and then listening for an answer. Then I do my best to give it that thing within my healthy means and within the time constraints I have.
- That could look like pausing to sit in stillness for a minute between zoom calls.
- That could look like walking outside and laying in the grass for 5 minutes.
- That could look like standing still and crying in the supermarket.
- That could look like asking my partner for intermittent snuggles between meetings (necessary and completely recharging).
- That could look like a dancing break to 1 song or an hour of music.
- That could look like setting my desk in standing mode and gently circling my hips as I continue to work.
- That could look like leaving the party.
- That could look like painting hot oil on my skin and turning the lights off and taking a candlelit shower while massaging my entire body in the middle of the day.
I think self care isn’t about bath bombs. It’s about being in conversation with your body, listening deeply to its signals and acting on them many many times a day.
I’m letting myself express my emotions whenever they come up.
Sometimes I don’t know if it’s safe to express my emotions in front of certain people or in certain cultures. Sometimes I need to process them in private before sharing them with others so their meaning is clearer. But more often than not, the raw, human emotions that come up in life are the stuff of art, music, poetry and a meaningful, beautiful life. I would rather be honest with the people around me and show them it’s ok to be real too.
I’m interested in co-creating cultures where we can be honest with each other about how we’re actually doing, where it’s safe to feel and not bottle up everything inside of us. Cultures where it’s more normal to be honest about life than dishonest. If softly crying in the supermarket increases the prevalence of humanness in everyday life, I’ll be there doing that.
How does this relate to embodiment? Emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations are all bound up in each other. The distinction between emotions and sensations is hard to parse and may not even be necessary. Some say emotions are just groups of sensations. Emotions cause thoughts. Thoughts cause emotions/sensations. They’re all just information at the end of the day. Not information that is objectively true, but subjectively true on some level. Letting emotions flow through me keeps me soft and connected to the moment, to life as it’s occurring, rather than hardened and dissociated.
I’m beginning to listen to my body’s sense of expansion and contraction.
This is a new one. I’ve started making a practice of listening to the subtle contractions and expansions of my body.
What does this mean? See if you can get still for a moment, close your eyes and feel your chest, feel the area around your heart. Take a few moments and just get reacquainted with this zone of you. Now think of someone you love, someone who you feel safe around. Alternatively, think of something in life that gave you a deep sense of purpose, that you just loved so much. Now watch your chest, watch your heart. How does it feel? Does it feel expansive, soft, relaxed? My heart gives me an expansive feeling when I do this exercise. Now, conversely, think about something you’re dreading, think about someone who makes you feel unsafe. Does something shift in your chest and your heart? Does it feel like pressure? Squeezing? A tight, sinking feeling? I call that contraction.
In me these two somatic directions are the basis of my intuition. I hold my intuition in concert with my logical, rational thinking. Both matter to me. You wouldn’t want to only date someone who looks good on paper (rational), you’d want to feel great, open, alive, relaxed in their presence (experiential/intuitive/embodied). You wouldn’t want to spend the rest of your life never caring for your financial needs to have fun all the time (experiential/intuitive/embodied), there’s a balance of prudence and purpose we get to dance with in life. So here are some prompts that I give myself to make use of this expansion/contraction information:
- How does doing x thing make me feel? Then I just imagine the thing and watch what happens in my body in response.
- I’ll read a sentence I’ve just written and run it by my body. Does this resonate with me?
- Someone will suggest we do such and such thing and I’ll feel into my body for how it responds.
I’m beginning to stop over-scheduling myself.
I know that I have about 4 really solid hours of great work time on a computer in the average day. 2 more hours of medium value work time, that could and often is allocated for meetings. I think my effectiveness is limited by the fact that I’m looking at a screen. I would bet that if my work was not on a screen, I could do more. Knowing this, I try my best to not be overambitious with meeting scheduling and commitments. There’s sometimes a balancing that occurs where the real need to make money supersedes my scheduling preferences. It’s not a perfect balance yet, but we’re slowly moving towards ease as we go.
I’m putting things down and picking them back up later.
Sometimes I’ll make a to do list and sometimes I’ll make a “Not To Do List” wherein I list things I’m not doing this week like house projects or things for x work project because I need to prioritize more urgent or important other things. I’ll look for ways to simplify or reduce the energy I exert in certain areas of life to make more space for my priorities. Additionally, undone projects that are out in the open (like unfinished paintings strewn around my room, or a half-finished home improvement project) subtly stress me out. They feel like a living reminder that I have so much to do. Each thing pulls at my precious attention. So in order to counter this and also have a clean space, I have a cabinet in the kitchen and a spot in our storage closet that I put things that I would like to work on, but am actively not working on. That way I can stay focused on the projects that have set out to create. If I want to remember to do something I’ll often leave it out to catch my eye and thus it’s best to not leave out things I don’t want to be reminded of.
I’m removing people I feel unsafe around from my life.
This allows my body to relax and feel safe, allows my nervous system to enjoy the fact that it’s unthreatened. Then instead of maintaining an ongoing state of clench and contraction, my nervous system can unfurl and enjoy all the beautiful sensations in my body. I’m more available to deeply feel myself and the world.
I’m honoring what my body wants and doesn’t want during sex.
This is a juicy one. This looks like telling my partner I don’t like the way he’s touching me or asking for the kind of touch I want. It looks like only letting things into my body when it feels like a full body yes for them to be inside of me. It looks like initiating touch and moving in the way that is most true for me in that moment (rather than performing and moving the way we’ve seen pornstars move and act). The more I listen to and honor what my body is a yes and a no to during sex the more zones of numbness seem to reintegrate and the more sensation I can feel. The more sensation I can feel the more ecstasy I can embody.
Embodiment Can Be a High
Have you ever been high on something that allows you to feel your body, like really feel your body? (It’s 1:1 CBD to THC weed or MDMA for me.) This substance puts you in touch with more sensation than you ever noticed before. I’m convinced that that state doesn’t require drugs to achieve. One of my intentions is to create that same delight of embodiment in my daily life without the use of substances.
There’s an inherent elation to being embodied. I dip in and out of it depending on how I live my life. I’m excited to keep deepening into it and one day make it the default state of aliveness.
What practices support you in being embodied? I’d love to know!