What we do in our bodies influences how we live our lives. When I first got into the world of embodiment this became clear to me in so many ways that I had just never noticed before and it caused a dramatic shift in how I chose to live my life.
In case you’ve not come across the term embodiment before, it is literally the way you are in your body, how you move, breathe, your posture, the experiences that you have by virtue of being in a body. I believe it matters because it significantly impacts what you think, how you feel, what you achieve, how you see yourself and how others see you.
I spent years working in the corporate world, most of the time stuck in my head, always thinking about the next project, the next piece of work I needed to get done. I spent several months working in Malaysia on a big high-profile project. It was a crazy time and I spent most of it running on empty, not really sleeping and keeping going on coffee and the adrenaline rush of doing exciting important work that people were watching on a global scale. It was one of those work environments where you felt quite proud to be able to keep going no matter what!
I flew back home to London one night straight after work, went straight to the office to put in another full day and then out for dinner with a friend – my usual rollercoaster of life at that time. However, as I walked down the Strand, I suddenly found myself sitting in the road with a suspected broken ankle. I was so tired, I didn’t even feel it happening.
I had to be lifted out of the road by some passing strangers as I was unable to stand up. I was really lucky as it’s a really busy road and if I had fallen over a moment or two later or earlier I could easily have been hit by a bus. It was a very rude awakening. I was so out of touch with my body that I hadn’t even noticed that I was tired to the point of collapse.
That is when my body, which on looking back had been sending me signals for several weeks, took over. It literally forced me to stop, slow down and take some time out. I didn’t have much choice about it as I was on crutches for the next month and spent what should have been a cycling holiday that I had planned two weeks later, sitting and resting.
That was the beginning of a massive life change for me. The time I was forced to take to slow down also gave me time to reflect on how I was living my life. I had a sudden realisation about how our bodies and our brains actually need to work together to bring us true wellbeing (it seems kind of obvious to me now and I would probably have said that before too, but the trouble was that I didn’t really feel it, they were just words and did not have true conviction behind them).
In the world in which I lived, that busy corporate world working as a consultant, it was often seen as strong or powerful to be able to keep pushing through. We were rewarded for it by the high regard of our colleagues and by being put onto ever larger (and, to be fair, more interesting, projects). Until suddenly, it wasn’t rewarding any more. When my body said enough is enough and I recognised that if I kept pushing myself like this then I may not be around long enough to do all those interesting and exciting projects. I needed to slow down and find some more balance.
That incident was the beginning of me learning to be actively focused on being in my body as much as in my head. This has brought me so many benefits. I am more grounded and focused. I can actually tell when I need to rest rather than just keep pushing through. I am more connected to others and my emotional intelligence has improved. It has also given me a lot more choice in life. I now know that I can change old patterns that seemed stuck before.
Practicing embodiment is about being in relationship with your body. Noticing sensations and emotions. Becoming aware of your posture and breathing. Observing how you move. Looking at what triggers specific responses in your body.
To give you an example, if I sense that I have become tense around a particular person who I find to be annoying and that is making me impatient with them, the fact that I am aware of that tension and how it shows up in my body allows me to make a choice to do something different. I might choose to consciously take some deep breaths or do a quick muscle relaxation exercise so that I don’t feel so tense and am a little calmer, and this helps me to respond to them more kindly, after all, they may not even be aware of the impact they have on me!
I have also noticed that the more I practice this new way of being around that person, over time the old pattern can actually shift and I actually find myself getting less impatient with them than I did previously – a win/win for both of us.