Occupy This: Reflections on Embodiment
This sacred vessel of our Being, this flesh and bones and heart and mind, is the grace through which we can touch, and be touched by, life. What does it take to land inside ourselves fully, to truly incarnate our messy, fleshy, tender selves?
In the Trillium path, we begin by radically embracing our experience, allowing ourselves to be as we are, moment by moment. This life-giving and transforming embrace softens resistance, contractions, frozen places, thawing us back into our wholeness, relaxing us into both material and transpersonal dimensions of self.
We grow our capacity to occupy this body-mind, in this world.
Spectrum of Embodiment
Embodiment can be viewed as a range of matter, from subtle to dense. On the most obvious, dense end of the spectrum, there’s your physicality – bones, muscles, sinew, organs, nervous system, digestive system, lungs, blood, etc. Flowing through your body are emotions and thoughts, and also various energies. More subtle yet is your personality, your very own spark of divine uniqueness. And on the farthest end of the spectrum is what Trillium teacher, Krishna Gauci, calls our Energetic Presence Identity (see Krishna’s beautiful new book The Tapestry of Being, that aspect of your self where you are radiance, vibration, energy.
While our radiant, vibratory nature can be seen as a movement from the spacious emptiness of pure consciousness towards something perceptible, towards something materializing, it’s still possible, and even common, to bypass the challenges of denser material life by focusing here. Thus, in Trillium when we talk about embodiment, we mostly mean the denser aspects of self: body, emotions, thought patterns, temperament, traits and preferences, so as to avoid spiritual bypassing. Nonetheless, people experiencing and cultivating energies such kundalini can use them to deepen embodiment.
There are many pathways into embodiment across this subtle-to-dense spectrum. Radical embrace, or greenlighting as we call it in Trillium, is fundamental to all of them – it’s really difficult to inhabit that which you deny or reject! And, if and when we feel moved to do so, we can engage specific modes of inquiry before, during, and after whole-being realization to help us know and occupy ourselves more and more fully.
Key to embodying the denser end of the spectrum of our being is working with our resistances. We must embrace with kindness all those parts of ourselves – body or personality – we’ve been conditioned to dislike, disallow, dismiss, hold at arm’s length, or exile. It’s really hard to occupy This when there are things about yourself you don’t want to be or are afraid to be (body parts, shape, size, age, illness; introversion, extroversion, selfish, angry, sad, smart, sensitive, loud, commanding). Encountering resistance – which is often composed of shame, fear, and/or grief – is an inevitable part of the process of reclaiming that which we’ve exiled.
Because embodiment, by definition, involves being here, in this body in this world, resistance usually includes not wanting to feel the essential, existential vulnerability at the core of being a tender, fleshy body that is going to die, in a wild, wacky world we have absolutely no control over. We must meet this existential resistance in order to fully land in, and inhabit, our bodies.
The necessity to feel and drop into the vulnerabilities beneath the resistances – which are held deeply in our bodies – is a key reason we emphasize somatic work in the Trillium path. Coupled with our fundamental orientation of radical embrace, we can gradually soften resistance and feel and be ourselves more deeply and viscerally.
I believe we all long to be welcomed into the world as we are, to have our brilliance, weaknesses, passions, weaknesses, uniqueness, quirks, loves, doubts, limitations, seen and held in warm embrace by community. Is it okay to be this? Will I still be loved if I reveal this? Can I be this and still belong? A big part of the medicine needed to encounter resistance and drop into – embody – who and what we are in the moment is the love from another human who listens whole-heartedly and holds our flawed humanity and our perfect Wholeness. This profound alchemy of unconditional love and trust is the gift we give each other in Trillium sittings and circles, and is what helps us “walk each other home” and land in This.
You may have noticed that I haven’t said anything yet about moving the body. That’s because it is possible, and common, to have a whole-being realization and land in your body without having to do any movement practices. One can move the body without really occupying it. I did this for years as a competitive athlete, and believed I was a pretty “embodied” person, especially compared to other people. Only after having my whole-being realization did I recognize how deeply split I had been from my body!
In fact, we have been using one form of movement which is our voice, moving thought and feeling into word and sound and sending it into the world. But on the more gross level, it is useful to consider how might we employ movement so as to know and occupy ourselves more fully, before, during, and after awakening.
Moving slowly, with attuned awareness, allows us to sense the nuances of how our body works. This can lead to wonder and appreciation which draws us into the miracle of our fleshy home. Movement as expression helps us discover, embody, and give shape to what’s true for us, while expressive movement in community can deepen the experience of witness and welcoming that permits us to occupy this. Practicing conscious, whole-being, embodied movement can help us take our awakening out into the world.
Sensuality, Sexuality, and Touch
Sensuality can be a doorway to delight in the physical dimension of being, and this delight can draw us further into embodiment. Pleasure in our bodies interacting with the material world is a kind of birthright, and though pain and danger certainly exist, touching and interacting and enjoying are essential to embodiment. All the senses – sight, smell, taste, touch, sound – can be sources of pleasure and can help us inhabit ourselves more fully. We would do well to practice noticing where and how we are closed off from them, and practice cultivating more capacity for pleasure in each.
We are, at root, animal bodies. More specifically, communal animal bodies, wired for contact and relatedness. Our limbic systems attune to and regulate one another. I’ve witnessed great healing and openings into embodiment when people have let themselves be physically held in a safe setting – either one-on-one, or in a group.
Finally, our sexuality – our creative life energy – is intrinsic to embodiment. Even if don’t consider ourselves particularly sexual, there’s still a potent life energy inside us that can be attuned to, cultivated, and expressed. Like all other aspects of self, our sexuality can be narrowed or distorted by conditioning and/or trauma, limiting access to our embodied wholeness.
In our Western, dissociated, logic-centric world, we have lost our connection with the deep wisdom of our bodies. We are taught to supremely value the mind, reason, rational arguments, science, evidence, and that there is a “right answer” out there that you can figure out with the brain. The collateral damage of this orientation is a profound distrust of our bodies, which can make it difficult to value and inhabit our own.
This disconnect from our body-centered knowing is actually a form of trauma, and it takes time to heal from it. In our Trillium sittings and circles we practice whole-being listening and whole-being speaking which involve sensing and honoring what’s real in our physical experience. Our bodies are ultimately trustworthy, and are the source of our true “yes” and “no,” our “turn left, not right,” and our “stop” and “start.” By embodying ourselves deeply, we have more and more access to this innate somatic intelligence which is intimately webbed into, and responsive to, the fabric of life.
Definition of Embodiment
From the glossary on the TrilliumAwakening.org website:
Embodiment: Living as the core paradox and embracing the experience of being simultaneously finite and infinite, with nothing left behind or rejected. Embodiment is a paradox unfathomable to the mind that can only be experienced as a lived reality. From this ground, we deeply investigate and embrace the messy, juicy, delightful, uncomfortable, joyful, and sorrowful mystery of being human. With compassion and insight, we explore our patterns and broken zones. Energy and attention become liberated for deeper levels of aliveness and expression.