Uncovering our embodied selves: What does it mean when my therapist says....
I remember the first time somebody asked me what was happening in my body and I had no idea what they meant. I mean, on a conceptual level I understood that they wanted me to somehow check in with myself in an embodied way somehow…, but in practice, I did not know how to do that. What was I looking for? Something profound? Something subtle? A feeling? A sensation? Some other kind of signal or experience? Was I looking for something throughout my whole body, or just in one place?? My mind was so busy thinking about my body, that I could not even begin to be in my body–and this makes sense given the culture I live in!
Most of us Westerners are conditioned to operate in a cognitive space most, if not all, of the time. Being aware and in tune with what is happening within the body is not something we are used to being asked to do, but there are ways to learn and practice bringing more awareness to our bodies, and operating from a more holistic body-mind space.
Over time, I have learned some really accessible ways to practice body awareness that have not only helped me strengthen my ability to check in when asked, but also my ability to be more in my body and less in my head, and to trust the wisdom my body-mind offers. I will share a few of these practices here.
but before we get into our bodies….
It’s important to talk about safe embodiment. If we have trauma, sometimes it can be hard to go into or be in our bodies. But this is not always the case for everyone! In either case, it is helpful to have a reliable way to ground and find a sense of safety before going into the body. That way, if anything comes up that feels like it is out of our window of tolerance, we can pull ourselves back to the present moment. This might look like:
an affirmation or mantra that we can say to ourself
a breathing exercise (ex: box breathing, or 4-7-8 breathing)
a check-in with our five senses (ex: 5-4-3-2-1)