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What is Conscious Embodiment & How to Become Embodied?

There’s no denying that all of us live extremely busy lives today. In this busy day-to-day life, many of us often feel like we are lost in thought in our heads and not really focused on the present moment. Most of us remain focused on insecurities, worries, or other mental distractions. With a mind-first approach, you may end up losing touch with the onslaught of information that keeps coming from the environment, your body, and your emotions. When you feel like you are losing the ability to think, reason, and calculate, remember that it is possible to reconnect your mind and body through simple but intentional practices that focus on integration, thus becoming embodied. Here’s everything you need to know about conscious embodiment and how this can help you.

What is Conscious Embodiment?

Conscious embodiment is derived from the concept that consciousness can be best understood by ‘being in the world.’ According to the being in the world theory, a person’s cognition is influenced and sometimes even determined by the experiences you live through that are based on physical reality. To put it in other words, instead of being a brain walking around inside a body, the brain, and the body should both be deeply interconnected and constantly engaged in two-way communication.(1, 2, 3)

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For everyday life, this translates to mean that you connect to the sensual side of living life through movement, sensation, and touch. This can help you strengthen the mind and body bond. And in return, you can become more present, engaged, and an active participant in your own life.(4)

Conscious embodiment is also known as somatic movement therapy, and it makes use of gentle and conscious movements that focus on the internal experience of movement to gain access to the wisdom stored in the body.

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Sometimes also referred to as interoception, conscious embodiment focuses on internally sensing yourself with the use of movement to build and deepen the brain-body connection. This helps one become more attuned to your emotional, physical, and mental needs.

For your everyday life, the conscious embodiment can give you the tools your brain needs to reorganize itself. This can help change the manner in which you move your muscles and even perceive balance. It also changes how you feel hungry, tired, or any emotion. Conscious embodiment can not only be healing, but it can also help you make better choices about your future and well-being.(5, 6)

Can There Be A Disadvantage to Living In Your Head?

There is no doubt that the brain is a wonderful tool, and we are still finding out many things about this incredible part of our body. However, living in your head at all times can make you miss out on many things in life. If you filter out everything through the lens of your mind first, it can make it difficult to connect and bond with other people and to maintain healthy relationships in your life.

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At the same time, living life through a mental lens can also cause anxiety. In fact, many people have experienced analysis paralysis, which is a situation where weighing the pros and cons of any difficult decision completely spirals out of control and becomes a stressful tug of war between the mind and heart.

For some people, living in their heads can even become a way to escape reality. And if taken to the extreme, it can even cause mental health symptoms like:

  • Derealization(7, 8)
  • Dissociation(9, 10)
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Feeling emotionally numb

Thankfully there are several tools that can help you find a balance between the body and the mind, which is exactly where conscious embodiment comes in.

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How to Become Embodied?

Here are some tips on how to practice embodied living in every phase of your life.

  1. Know Your Body Well

    The first step towards conscious embodiment is to know your body well. Many people know their bodies really well and are in tune with the needs of their bodies, while others need guidance and time to reconnect with their bodies. We don’t want to rush into this step and gently ease your way back to your body by getting curious.

    Here are some questions to ask yourself and answer what you feel, not what you think the answer should be.

    • What sensations am I feeling in my body right now?
    • What does it feel like to be in my body right now?
    • Are there are body parts that I cannot feel?
    • Are there any sensations in my body that I don’t want to feel?
    • Can I feel my body touching other objects? How do these sensations feel?

    Ask yourself these questions without judgment and with a sense of curiosity. Don’t think that you need to fix anything.

  2. Explore the Mind-Body Connection

    In our daily lives, a lot of our tension actually stems from our minds and emotions, such as the things we do, say, and think. Sometimes it can help a lot to take a step back and gently assess the stressors on your body. Do this from both without and within your own mind. A good example of this can be to ask yourself some questions about your self-care habits, such as:

    • How are you feeling?
    • Have you been sleeping properly?
    • How is your appetite?
    • How often do you exercise?
    • What are you feeding yourself?

    The answers to these questions can help you get in tune with the basic needs of your body that may need more attention.

    Here are some more serious questions that you should ask yourself:

    • What are your stressors?
    • What is your life situation?
    • How do you think you are handling your life?
    • What do you tell yourself about the situation in your life?
    • What do you tell others about your situation?
    • Are there any parts of your body that feel tense or hurt?

    These questions and your answers to them can give you some vital clues to your main sources of stress. They can also make you more aware of how well you are handling these stressors. This can help you build a stronger mind-body connection.(11, 12)

  3. Importance of Touch

    You don’t need to splurge money on getting a professional massage to experience the very important power of touch.(13, 14, 15)

    Just exchanging touch with a loved one can work as a powerful way to get in ‘touch’ with your body. Massaging parts of your body as and when you get the time can also help you reap the benefits of touch. You can try the following:

    • Hand massage
    • Aromatherapy oil massage
    • Pressure point massage
    • Upper back massage
    • Massage to relieve pain

    When massage is combined with strong intention and conscious observation of the various sensations you are feeling in the body, this can be a wonderful way to reinforce the mind-body connection. You can even consider buying some massage products that can be used to massage the difficult-to-reach places. Even a cuddling session or just a good tight hug can do wonders for your health and overall consciousness.(16)

  4. Ways to Release Tension

    There can be many ways to release tension, including:

    In fact, you will find that you will not only look different but also move differently when tension is released from the body. Here are some differences you will notice:

    • You smile more frequently
    • Breathing becomes deeper
    • You start walking at a looser stride
    • You will open up your chest instead of hunching your shoulders

    Once tension gets released, these behaviors and changes in your body will prevent it from coming back.

  5. Explore The Technique Of Mindfulness

    Mindfulness can be a potent tool to help you connect to your body and also be in the present moment. In fact, mindfulness itself focuses on living and focusing on the present.(19, 20, 21) And the best news is that you can find some type of mindfulness activity for any time and place. Meditation is also one way to explore mindfulness, and there are many types of meditations you can practice. There are many meditation apps and other free meditation resources online that you can use to learn how to practice mindfulness.

Conclusion

It can be challenging to remain embodied in today’s technology-based society. For people who live in cities amidst a concrete jungle, it can be challenging to stay connected to nature. Despite these challenges, practicing these small ways to help yourself get in touch with your mind and body can be a blessing. For example, if you are always glued to your device and totally unaware of your surroundings, it can be good to take a break from your devices once in a while. Here are some tips to prevent straying away from conscious embodiment:

  • When you are in a meeting with another person, make sure to not check your phone more than once.
  • Be straightforward and honest when checking your device. Do not try to sneak a peek in the middle of a family gathering or office meeting.
  • Put away your phone at least one hour before your bedtime.
  • After getting up in the morning, do not straightaway check your phone. Explore your own waking feelings or ponder over what dream you had.

When you remain disconnected from your mind and body, you become disconnected from one another and yourself as well. You can drift away from yourself and your loved one and continue thinking about the past and future, but what is truly important is to get back to your body and focus on the present to find peace. This is what conscious embodiment is all about.

References:

  1. McNerney, S., 2022. A Brief Guide to Embodied Cognition: Why You Are Not Your Brain. [online] Scientific American Blog Network. Available at: <https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/a-brief-guide-to-embodied-cognition-why-you-are-not-your-brain/> [Accessed 21 July 2022].
  2. Palmer, W., 2009. The intuitive body: Discovering the wisdom of conscious embodiment and aikido. North Atlantic Books.
  3. Shanahan, M., 2005. Global access, embodiment and the conscious subject. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 12(12), pp.46-66.
  4. Zestcott, C.A., Stone, J. and Landau, M.J., 2017. The role of conscious attention in how weight serves as an embodiment of importance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43(12), pp.1712-1723.
  5. Thompson, E. and Varela, F.J., 2001. Radical embodiment: neural dynamics and consciousness. Trends in cognitive sciences, 5(10), pp.418-425.
  6. Gallagher, S., 2013. A pattern theory of self. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 7, p.443.
  7. Aderibigbe, Y.A., Bloch, R.M. and Walker, W.R., 2001. Prevalence of depersonalization and derealization experiences in a rural population. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 36(2), pp.63-69.
  8. Coons, P.M., 1996. Depersonalization and derealization. In Handbook of dissociation (pp. 291-305). Springer, Boston, MA.
  9. Dell, P.F., 2009. Understanding dissociation.
  10. Cardefia, E., 1994. The domain of dissociation. Dissociation: Clinical and theoretical perspectives, pp.15-31.
  11. Littrell, J., 2008. The mind-body connection: not just a theory anymore. Social work in health care, 46(4), pp.17-37.
  12. Pally, R., 1998. Emotional processing: The mind-body connection. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 79, pp.349-362.
  13. Chillot, R., 2013. The power of touch. Psychology today, 11, p.57.
  14. Wolf, J.R., Arkes, H.R. and Muhanna, W.A., 2008. The power of touch: An examination of the effect of duration of physical contact on the valuation of objects. Judgment and Decision Making, 3(6), p.476.
  15. Pye, E., 2016. Introduction: the power of touch. In The Power of Touch (pp. 13-30). Routledge.
  16. L’Abate, L., 2016. Hugging, Holding, Huddling, and Cuddling (3HC). In Techniques for the Couple Therapist (pp. 178-181). Routledge.
  17. Saumaa, H., 2022. Anxiety and Somatic Dance. Journal name: Integrative and Complementary Therapies, 28(1), pp.39-42.
  18. Shapiro, L., 2020. The Somatic Therapy Workbook: Stress-Relieving Exercises for Strengthening the Mind-Body Connection and Sparking Emotional and Physical Healing. Ulysses Press.
  19. Davis, D.M. and Hayes, J.A., 2011. What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy-related research. Psychotherapy, 48(2), p.198.
  20. Heeren, A. and Philippot, P., 2011. Changes in ruminative thinking mediate the clinical benefits of mindfulness: Preliminary findings. Mindfulness, 2(1), pp.8-13.
  21. Hülsheger, U.R., Alberts, H.J., Feinholdt, A. and Lang, J.W., 2013. Benefits of mindfulness at work: the role of mindfulness in emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion, and job satisfaction. Journal of applied psychology, 98(2), p.310.
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