With This Body
Two core concepts tug at my attention, and like two small children tugging on my skirt, they can't be ignored. Embodiment and sensuality both play such important roles in living a fulfilled life. Both are integrated with mundane living. And both are practices that are often misunderstood or forgotten.
Sounds exactly like what we need to be discussing.
In terms of BeingBreath, embodiment and sensuality are the delights of the inhale. As I've described, the Inhale of BeingBreath focuses on self-awareness.
Oftentimes, though, such awareness practices can be heady and seemingly too unrelatable to daily life. Sensuality and embodiment ground you in your own body, and help you to more mindfully understand your unique momentary experiences.
This is what I mean by these terms:
Embodiment means bringing anything that would otherwise be just conceptual (i.e. thought about) into an understanding that one feels in the body (physically or energetically).
Embodiment is understanding a roller coaster not just through physics, but through the experience of riding on one.
Embodiment is the knowing of food through the mindful tasting and consumption of one's meal or drink (not just wolfing down a quick burger).
Embodiment is also feeling the pain and anxiety of vulnerability or fear instead of trying to deny it or push it away under happier, more pleasant sensations and emotions.
When you embody information, you move from knowledge to understanding to wisdom. You process what is experienced on a day-to-day basis in a different way.
Sensuality is experience via the senses.
Let's clear this up right away: Sensuality and sexuality can be related, but are not the same thing.
This is a pet peeve of mine that any time the term sensuality is used, most people automatically assume you are talking about arousal and sexual enticement / gratification. (Try Googling the term if you don't believe me.) I'm all about exploring sexuality in life, but when trying to focus on the practice of sensuality, it is so very important to not assume that the two are the same.
You are probably familiar with the 5 primary senses: Smell, Taste, Touch, Sight, and Hearing. But there are others that are mentioned, and more that may become defined as we learn to understand our experiences better.
Vestibular can be described as, "the perception of our body in relation to gravity, movement and balance" and can felt when determining if you are lying down or standing up, or if you are tilted in an airplane when the shades are closed.
Proprioception is, "the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement". This is the sense of where your body is in space. Close your eyes and try to bring your hands together. You just used proprioception. (Both above definitions taken from http://www.7senses.org.au)
There are also senses such as temperature, energetic sensing, and potentially many others. For now, just use your own awareness to explore what you feel when I describe "sensing your environment".
Embodiment + Sensuality
So what happens when you combine the two? You get a new way of experiencing mundane life.
The practice of embodying sensuality (i.e. understanding experiences via senses, not just on a cognitive level, but also deeply within and throughout the body) is a delicious practice that can be done throughout mundane tasks. It can create an entirely new way of feeling about one's everyday life.
I'll admit: It's something I practice every now and then, but frequently forget...and even more frequently, fail to share.
Through our journey together in BeingBreath ... the journey of feeling more ALIVE in everyday life ... I tend to lead us into a lot of contemplation. That part is important, but embodying our practice through embracing our bodies and feeling through our senses has been neglected for far too long.
We can (and will) look more at practical ways of using your sensory awareness more in daily life. Right now, I want you to appreciate why it is important to do so.
Many sources associate embodied sensuality as a way to feel (or attract) more sexuality. That's all fine and good, but as I mentioned before, we're also trying to understand how to feel sensual without feeling as though it will (or has to) lead to sexual arousal.
Many other articles associated embodied (or disembodied) sensuality as a way to understand spirituality or religion. (Think Tantra, or Goddess practices, or in the opposite, "overcoming" all physical sensations to experience God outside of physical desire.) Again, that's awesome if someone wishes to practice in this manner (although I'm not so crazy about denying one's sensual experience). The body and the spirit are certainly engaged in an ongoing dance that can be fascinating to watch and to participate in.
However, I want you to understand sensuality in the frame of your everyday living.
I want you to move through your days indulged in sensual awareness simply for the experience of feeling embodied and alive.
So what are some of the benefits?
Grounds you in the present moment.
When you are caught up in thought, you can be in the past or somewhere dreaming about the future. When you are completely present what you are smelling, feeling, seeing, tasting, or hearing, you are experiencing the flow of information as it is happening. You are embodying an understanding of this moment.
Brings awareness to your body.
Awareness leads to greater understanding. This understanding can help you notice physical misalignment that can cause health problems (for example - are you slouching right now?), help you to feel what your body needs instead of what the mind thinks it does (pay deep attention - do your cells want chips or veggies?), lets you move more gracefully (as you feel where your feet fall and the proprioceptive sensory awareness of your muscles and limbs), ... amidst many other benefits.
Re-introduces a friendship with your body.
Far, far too many of us don't get along well with our own bodies. Whether it is because of appearance, functionality, or both, our mental sense of self tends to be in an ongoing, quiet war with our physical self. Sensuality is a playground where thoughts and physical experience can come together and be curiously engaged ... slowly growing a friendship as they explore and understand one another.
Helps you feel more alive.
There is an energy, if you will, that is stored in your body. You replenish it with food, water, activity, and believe it or not - positive attention. When you repeatedly acknowledge your experience through your senses, you nourish that energy.
Overcomes thought patterns.
You can easily get caught up in loops of thought - about what you should be doing, what you could have said to that person 5 minutes ago, or how to word that email you've been fretting over. As you are doing so, you tend to ignore the body - leading to tension, poor posture, or potentially harmful forms of movement. If you aren't mindful of your thoughts, you also risk creating negative thought patterns - leading to stress, anxiety, and further issues for the body. When you pull yourself back into this moment via a whiff of a flower or a clean towel, the melody or rhythm of that song you love, or the soft colors of diffused light through the curtain by the window, you temporarily break the thought train. You offer yourself a moment to pause, breathe, and re-focus.
Take a moment right now to experience your environment with each one of your senses. Look around. Take a full inhale and use your sense of smell. Listen. Really listen. Take a drink, a bite, or try to sense what remains from your last meal. Run your fingers across any surface nearby.
Now try to experience a series of moments - just a few seconds, or longer if you are able - through using all of your senses simultaneously. FEEL your entire being as you think and move. You might have to move a bit slower, as we aren't used to processing in this manner. Try to notice how your experience differs when you do this versus moving while caught up in thought alone.
With this body, may you come to understand this moment - and each one after - in a more full and fulfilling way.