Embodiment & Mindfulness
We’re not a mind and a body.
We’re a whole entity – a body-mind-brain being.
As much as the mind, body and brain are usually talked about as being different and, at times, unrelated things, they can never be separated because they’re extensions of each other. And science itself is increasingly pointing in this direction.
When we experience emotional or psychological difficulties, the thinking side of many of us has the tendency to take centre stage. In doing so, our thoughts get entangled with the emotions, memories and body sensations that are related to them and so we feel overwhelmed and stuck. We try to control our thinking, which we then discover we cannot do because we cannot outsmart our mind!
The problem with thinking taking centre stage is that the focus of our mind becomes avoiding any fear or pain that might lie ahead. We end up trying – very often unconsciously – to predict the bad future scenarios that might arise based on our (limited) experience of the past. As a result of this process, we lose connection with what we’re actually experiencing in the present moment. Instead of being involved in the here-and-now, our mind ends up relentlessly scanning the past for any patterns related to what we’re afraid might happen in the future, while also going through countless possible future scenarios in order to avoid a bad scenario from happening. We often end up thinking, feeling or behaving according to these predictions without being in touch with what is actually happening. Everything gets amplified – or deadened. This process tires us out, drains our thinking, emotional, physical and relational abilities and ends up making our situation worse.
What is the relevance of Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the process of bringing our experience of the present into our awareness rather than being focused on and trapped by the past and the future. It entails a few simple practices which, when practised over a span of time, enable us to notice what’s happening in the here-and-now in our thinking, emotions, body sensations and behaviour. Research has shown time and time again that this helps our body-mind-brain to calm down and focus on what is actually happening around us and within us, rather than be caught in the whirlwind of what we fear might happen.
Mindfulness helps us distinguish our thoughts, emotions and sensations from our sense of self. As a result we start seeing ourselves as experiencing thoughts, emotions and sensations, rather than being them. This gives us a higher sense of control over what’s happening and so we feel less overwhelmed by external circumstances or internal mental activity. We feel less helpless and hopeless and see ourselves as more able to decide a course of action – although that course of action can at times just entail accepting the fact that we cannot do anything about an unpleasant situation and that any anxious, fearful or angry reactions will only make us feel worse.
In mindfulness practice we also focus on our awareness of all our layers of connection – with different aspects of ourselves, the people around us and the whole world and universe. As we keep on learning from various fields, including science and transpersonal disciplines, we’re constantly in a state of relationship. We are made of relationships. But we don’t always live in social groups that nourish that and, so, isolation and disconnection have become one of the big causes of mental health difficulties because they go against what makes us ourselves. By bringing connection back into awareness, we link to one of the major sources of wellbeing that we have, soothing our anxious of fearful nervous system and thus feeling less overwhelmed.
Some people associate mindfulness with being a Zen monk or alienating yourself from the world we’re living in. It’s true that mindfulness is a Western modified version of the Zen tradition. However, the focus in mindfulness is not to separate ourselves from the world we’re in but, on the contrary, to be always even more present in ourselves within the world without being lost in it. It’s about having a body-mind-brain practice that enables us to constantly come to the present moment and be grounded in our current experience whenever we notice that we’re internally elsewhere … which is very often!
So why Embodiment?
There is one dimension of ourselves that could really help us access the present moment because it’s entirely in it – our body. By focusing on our body, we gain access to a dimension of ourselves that isn’t so easily manipulated by our ruminative or anxiety/fear-focused thinking. So, instead of trying to find many external tools to help us out, we utilise a different tool – and that tool is ourselves!
Embodiment is also important because by now we have learnt that the mind-body distinction is not real. It’s just a way in which we have tried to understand our experience of ourselves. Our mind is not separate to our body and doesn’t just order it around! Instead, the body is itself a store of memories and knowledge. It’s able to express itself even more clearly than our mind, precisely because it’s more direct and allows for quicker and deeper access to what we might, at times, be hiding from ourselves.
The body is also a very powerful tool when it comes to change as it allows us to actually experience what change feels like, rather than thinking or talking about it. By doing so, we offer ourselves the opportunity of an embodied experience which will help us integrate the change faster and more deeply, freeing ourselves from the patterns that have been holding us back from further healing and growth.
What I offer you
In my work I use both mindfulness and embodiment directly and indirectly. Given my focus on integrating different aspects of experience, I seek to help you experience yourself as an integrated body-mind-brain rather than as a fragmented self. In our work together we will, of course, look at your thoughts and emotions, and we will use talking as one of the ways of expression and sense-making. However, I also encourage you to bring in your creative side and will constantly support you in bringing into awareness your body and the here-and-now of your experience. In this way, you can further your growth and healing in a deeper and longer-lasting way.
Sometimes I also offer courses and workshops that focus specifically on Mindfulness and Embodiment. If you’re interested in being notified about them, please subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of this page.
LGBTQIA+ & sex-affirmative