Home » Blog » Embodiment

Tag: Embodiment

The Reality of Embodiment: Coming Fully into Form

By Fiona Robertson.

During the nineteenth century, phantasmagoria – or theatrical horror shows – became a popular attraction throughout Britain, Europe and the United States. The creators used lighting, projectors, smoke, sound effects and electric shocks to conjure all manner of apparitions and frighten audiences. Sequences of terrifying images played on screens and theatres were often decorated accordingly. There were even rumours of patrons being drugged.

As I was inquiring last week, the word phantasmagoria appeared. I realised – to a greater extent than I had done previously – the exact nature of the phantasmagoria going on in my mind. I’m sure it’s the same for many of us. We play and replay scenes from the past. Imaginings of future catastrophe or suffering take hold. These images can be vivid to the point of occupying most or all of our awareness, in spite of what we are doing in physical reality. They seem all the more real when accompanied with thoughts and feelings, of course.

The capacity to fantasize and imagine is a wonderful aspect of the human psyche, in my view. The mind’s creativity brings us such wonders, including art, drama, music and literature. And yet this same capacity appears to torment us too, at times. Is it possible to turn off the projector and smoke machines, to leave the apparitions behind and simply exit the theatre?

My hunch is that the phantasmagoria takes hold partly because we have not been able – thus far – to face what is actually here. When we have been traumatized – particularly as children – it is natural to dissociate, retreating from the painful reality of the body into the supposed haven of the mind. At least, here in the mind, we can imagine what could or should be. We can imagine what we want and haven’t got. We can fantasize about what might have been or what might yet be. In our imagining, we retain a sense of control in circumstances in which we are otherwise powerless.

Even though the phantasmagoria is frightening, it often feels less painful or terrifying than actually facing the truth of our experience. Facing the truth means letting go of the possibility of something other, even if that possibility exists only in fantasy. Facing the truth means coming into the feelings and sensations we have tried so hard to not feel. Facing the truth means admitting to ourselves exactly how bad it was.

Coming out of dissociation and denial in this way is not easy, yet it feels like a relief. It is certainly a relief to the body, which has inevitably been holding the truth of our experience even as we have been unconscious to it. It is natural that the mind – with good intentions to protect us from the reality of painful truths – is sometimes reluctant for us to face whatever is here. It whispers or shouts warnings. It attempts to distract us. And yet, at some point, despite the warnings and distractions, we become willing to clamber onto the stage and look at the mechanisms that lie behind the phantasmagoria. We become aware that we are sitting in the theatre, projectors whirring, smoke machine billowing.

The more we look, we more we come to realise what lies behind the horror show. As we feel unfelt feelings, the projectors begin to power down, at least a little. As we admit how it was  for us, we are able to make contact with our bodies in a deeper way. As I continued my inquiry last week, having acknowledged just how low my self-esteem had been throughout my life, I began to see how mesmerized by the phantasmagoria we tend to be. Once fully and deeply acknowledged, the reality of our past no longer needs to hold sway in the same way. We are left in now – this body, this moment, this chair, these sounds.

What happens when we start inhabiting actual, physical space rather than the phantasmagoria? It seems our focus shifts into the reality of the body and we begin making direct contact with the world around us in a subtly different way. There’s a deliciousness to embodiment which goes overlooked when we are hooked by the phantasmagoria. For me, subtle levels of dissociation have continued to lift and I’ve been able to enjoy the pleasures of the senses more deeply. There is a joy to coming more fully into form – both our own form as well as the solidity of form around us. We are no longer held hostage by the theatrical spectacle going on in our heads, yet neither are we dismissive of it.  As we become ever more incarnated, the separation between mind and body lessens and we inevitably feel more inclusively whole. Our relationship with ourselves, our bodies and the physical stuff of life begins to transform. It seems there is no end to this journey of embodiment.

 

Willpower And Food

By Sumitra Judith Burton.  Something sweet is happening along my path of mindfulness with eating.

Using the Living Inquiries or other tools to help unravel an addiction with food is tricky in the sense that it’s not possible to totally abstain from eating. My relationship with food and eating for emotional comfort has provided some great teachings over my lifetime. I would do well using willpower for a while with a new diet, with the new intentions and restrictions, and then somewhere along the line I would give up as it became impossible to stay restricted over the long haul. Many times I lost weight, and then later gained it all back.

Recently I was noticing this failure of mine to use willpower to manage my eating. With willpower I can feel a contraction in my gut as I steel my will to power through with something, to force compliance of this naughty and weak self that can’t seem to accomplish the simplest things sometimes.

What came to me then is so lovely – an intention to investigate using, instead of willpower, a sense of “willingness” – to simply ask myself with respect and compassion, “What am I willing to do in this moment?”

I am truly amazed at the difference I feel, talking to myself in this kind and gentle way, opening to sweet possibilities. Willingness offers choices in each moment rather than the strict adherence to certain rules. Each moment brings new possibilities.

I’m noticing a willingness to consider things like, “How will I feel in half an hour if I eat this?” and wanting to feel light and strong. There is a sense of spaciousness with willingness that seems missing with willpower. Instead of holding myself stiffly within set boundaries, there is open space in which to create a new and gentler pathway.

In this way, “will” is still being engaged, but in a much gentler and more respectful way, which allows speaking to myself with loving kindness, such as when I slip and overeat, “It’s okay – no problem. Perfection is not required….” With “willingness” there is room to breathe, and smile.

The Living Inquiries process is allowing me to feel kindness towards myself, to quiet the judgmental thinking. It may take a bit longer to dissolve the compulsive behavior – using willingness rather than willpower – as there are many thought patterns, emotions and sensations to inquire into; but in the long run I am hopeful the results will be lasting.

In the meantime, the process itself is heartening, as I gradually learn to love myself.

An Experience of Deep Release

By Paul Galewitz.
.
This is a story about me and what I went through, but this may be about many of us. This is fairly lengthy, just so you know.

Every time I have come to the Hawaiian Islands, and Kauai in particular, I have always felt that I was coming home. Not necessarily an earthly home, although I have lived on Kauai for ten years, off and on. But along with that, it is more the feeling that being here engenders, the feeling of home that many of us have probably felt at one time or another. Kauai has also been a place of refuge, deep rest, and great healing, no more so than this particular trip. My connection to the land and ocean here has never been more pronounced, and it was that deep connection that brought about this latest healing.

A group of us were taking a hike to a spectacular lookout on the North Shore in an appropriately named community called Sea Cliffs. The views all the way up to the lookout are spectacular enough. But upon reaching the lookout area itself, as I was overlooking the ocean expanse, a searing pain went through my being, and I was brought to tears. I attributed this to not only how much I love it here, but also my reluctance to leave the island, as we were scheduled to leave in less than a week. I allowed this pain to be there, but as we were in a social situation, I didn’t give it its complete due.

As we walked down the trail and back to a friend’s house for lunch, I noticed that I was becoming more contracted, angry and just plain off, which was a puzzlement to me at the time. Over the lunch period and the entire next day, I remained contracted and very guarded, which was a very real trial for my wife Juliette, who bore with me as best she could.

The next morning, we were scheduled for massages with Ocean, a friend who is a very gifted massage therapist. Juliette asked me if I wanted to cancel, and I said no, I needed to do this. As I write this now, I can feel in my body the keen sense of anticipation I felt at the time, despite knowing that massages can often be painful events for me. I knew there was a lot of stored pain being held in my body, and had been stored there over the years. Despite this, I wanted very much to go, knowing it was an opportunity to actually let go of whatever this contracted mood was. Little did I know what was in store.

Immediately upon lying down on the massage table, I started sobbing. I have never before experienced this kind of sobbing, as my entire body was trembling and shaking as the tears flowed. It would come in waves, as a certain thought or a word spoken by Ocean or by me would trigger the crying again. During an early wave of this releasing, I could sense that a window was opening into the unconscious (thank you Christopher Moon), that deeply buried memories and information was now available. So as my body went through its process of releasing and spasming, many realizations came to me. I will recount them as best I can.

I could see that the sadness I had been feeling about leaving the island was more about another life I had lived on the island, and that the details of that life were not going to be shown to me at this point in time. It didn’t matter, as I well knew what had happened to the native Hawaiians in the past, both near and distant; the only detail that was important here was that my heart was broken. I could feel many, many hearts being broken along with mine, and I could also feel so many broken hearts in present time. I have been carrying so much heartbreak into this life, without being consciously aware of it. In fact, I was shown that my personality had been formed in large part to protect me from feeling this heartbreak. So many personality quirks, mannerisms, qualities that I thought were just how I was in the world, were shown to me to be compensations for deflecting my awareness from this deep sadness and heartbreak I was now feeling acutely. The key here is that until this window opened, I was quite unaware of any of this.

My body was still sobbing, shaking, releasing, and I could no more control that than I could physically move a mountain. A timing mechanism had gone off. This was my time to release the armor I had been carrying around for this entire life, and other lifetimes as well.

I could sense my connection to Juliette during that past Hawaiian life, and I saw the face of another good friend as well, revealing the depths of our connection. I also was seeing the wisdom of what Scott Kiloby, author and founder of the Kiloby Center for Recovery where I worked for 10 months, has written and said so many times – that our bodies carry around a lot of unfelt pain, and until that is addressed, all the mental understanding of spiritual principles, non-dual concepts, deep realizations and years of meditation will not bring a person the freedom from our patterns that will come when we can release this pain from our bodies. Well, through whatever miracle of timing was occurring for me in that massage, I knew that this was my body, in its own wisdom, dropping its load, its armor, its shielding.

During the rest of the massage, Ocean was the perfect guide, using her intuition to give me some of her feelings on my process, using various essential oils, and basically being the perfect companion for this journey. I stopped sobbing when my body was finished with its releasing. Again, it was not up to me – a greater wisdom was at work here.

Afterwards, I slept for a bit, awakening when Juliette was finished with her massage. I was aware that I felt different, although the words to describe what I was experiencing were still unclear. That I had dropped a load was certain, but what this would mean for me was still integrating. It has been three days since that massage now, and many realizations have settled in.

I knew during the massage that in some mysterious way, what I was going through was for many of us, not just me.

My gratitude to my body for its innate wisdom, its courage and its strength is profound.

I have noted the absence of my defense system, and now when someone says something or does something that I would previously have defended myself against, I feel a neutrality instead.

My heart is so very wide open now.

I am very primed right now to meet each sensation in the body when it comes, and not defer feeling it to a later time. I also am not taking these sensations personally.

That despair is a feeling that lies deep within so many of us, and when we can get in touch with that, and actually feel it, miracles can occur.

I also want to reiterate that so much of how we behave in the world is actually our defense system making itself known. If we can simply notice  that, and not judge ourselves around our thoughts and the ways we may behave, then this defense system can weaken. We may also become more compassionate towards others as a result of seeing this in ourselves.

I feel that this despair that lies so deeply buried in the unconscious is at the heart of our addictions, be they to substances or behaviors. Until our time comes, we can only be as ready and willing as possible to seize the opportunity to release this deeply buried feeling when it arrives as a miracle on our doorstep.

And speaking of releasing addictions, and miracles, my sweet tooth has been totally inactive since that massage. Those of you who have known me for a while can fully appreciate the enormity of this. That’s right – no cravings, no desire for chocolate or sweets. Now that my defense system has been dismantled to the extent that it has, maybe I can enjoy and appreciate sweets when it is appropriate, not when I need them.

How long this lasts is unknown to me. My appreciation for the peace and freedom that has awakened inside of me is off the charts.

In closing, I wish to express my deep gratitude for this event in my life.