What is embodiment?

Acknowledging the physical reality

“Having a body that is like a musical instrument, open enough to be able to resonate, literally resonate with what is coming both from the inside and from the outside, so that one is able to surrender to powers greater than oneself”

— Marion Woodman

Embodiment starts with seemingly simple things, which nowadays are at high risk of becoming the most difficult. That is: acknowledging your physical reality. “Being in one’s body” doesn’t necessarily mean doing a split or having ripped abs. It starts from acknowledging, noticing, registering, tasting, recognising. Those are not simply mental operations I’m talking about here. Embodiment means recognition of the reality, recognition of what is required here-and-now. Are you thirsty, do you need more water? Is it time you change your body position?
And then it extends to whatever surrounds your body. Is the air in the room stale? Is there too much dust? Does your car needs cleaning?
And then it extends even further. How healthy is the air in my town? Does this garbage belong here? Am I aware of the toxic emissions in my area? Recognising the cycles of nature also belongs to the basics of embodiment. Is it the right time of the day/month/year to do what you’re doing?

To me, ecology and embodiment are close to being the same thing. They both deal with the right time and space, those basic physical dimensions, for doing what we do.

Even professional dancers can live dissociated from this basic physicality time to time. We might try to train a separate group of muscles, completely unaware of how much pollution we absorb from our own apartment. Pursuing the goal of apparent “embodiment” in training, we might forget to drink clean water, to have enough sleep, to empty the stinky garbage bin.

Communication with physical reality is the first and very fundamental step towards embodiment. Communication requires relatedness. And relatedness requires courage to give in. Relatedness is something different from pursuing the goal or hunting the enemy down (whether this “enemy” is a rival, addiction or unwanted fat tissue). To be “related”, to become one family with the body, means to respect the time, the space, the situation and other bodies involved. To have a clear sensation of what is needed at this exact moment. Those are the things they don't train in fitness centres.

One might say it requires a high amount of vigilance, but awareness doesn't equate vigilance. Also, you cannot muscle your way to embodiment – there's nothing to do but to dwell in it. The real discipline of body and mind relies upon surrender and registration rather than "doing" something. Being embodied is simply to give the right answer to life in the right moment. But, as one of my teachers, Imre Thormann, likes to say: "Don't give the answer by yourself. It's too complicated".

Remember, reality is ready to welcome you back at any moment. And so is your body.