Through the past two years, we’re facing a more clear reality: Mental gymnastics are no longer enough to counterbalance all the stress and trauma permeating both the personal and social spheres we inhabit. The somatic results of long-term trauma requires an embodiment practice to work out all the issues the body accumulates from prolonged stress and trauma. I admit I was one of the guilty ones: a meditation and yoga teacher who pro-ported: Its time for everyone to start meditating! As if more seated time would somehow salve the broken collective soul.
Definitely Keep Meditating!
In theory, yes, if more people had a meditation or mindfulness practice, much of the drama and trauma might have been diverted, or at least handled with more grace. The problem, however, is that among its many other benefits, meditation does two very useful and important things for the consciousness: 1) it helps us see things more objectively; 2) it helps us to call up the repressed material from our unconsciousness for processing. Combined with the stress over the last couple of years, these two outcomes of meditation may actually be counter-productive to the general mental health and well-being. The new evolution of mindfulness is having an Embodiment Practice!
What is “enlightenment,” and what have we been chasing? So many spiritual practices suggest that we should transcend this material plane. In all my research and study, this one question continually plagued me: if we’re spiritual beings having a material experience, and all life is suffering, then why incarnate at all? This question reared its ugly-ass head in the early months of 2021, when “existential dread” became a buzzword (and top search keyword) for the first time since the publication of Albert Camus’ The Stranger.
The World Needs Us to WAKE UP
Troves of spiritual teachers I once idolized were suddenly extolling from their virtual mountaintops that “5D Ascension” was on the horizon! As long as we were sufficiently spiritual and ready to embrace the new vibe, we’d be totally fine! Not one of them could answer for sure whether or not we would also be dead, but most seemed to think we would become some “new matter” transcendent of the old 3D human forms, or even some type of alien-human hybrid (?!)
Existential Dread, 2020-2021
I spent the next 15 months chain smoking spliffs and contemplating this preponderance. Possibly because its my favorite soapbox and its extremely difficult to be in any way actually “objective,” the answer came that it has to be something related to the form itself. Otherwise, why bother with this grand illusion at all? When we think about how difficult and confusing, painful and convoluted life actually is, that is an un-ending mystery of which we are only an infinitesimal part, and a relatively unaware part, the whole concept of “enlightenment” or “woke culture” seems honestly silly.
How could anyone be remotely awake in this life? And wtf is “woke,” anyway? Is this modern Enlightenment? The concept of being Woke seems to be an ideological trap, in all honesty. When we truly wake up, two things become very obvious: 1) everyone here is having a unique and individual experience, and 2) no one here can tell anyone else what that experience is, or should be. That ruins the game. Yet, Woke Culture seems to be siphoning people into only specific types of awareness, and forbids real questions, and even to some degree, the play and joy that naturally comes when we release our desire to control others and reality outside of ourselves.
Foundations for a Movement Revolution
So what makes “embodiment” so special and so important? We should all feel free, capable and comfortable in our bodies. The body should feel through all the natural elements: the lightness of air, the energy or fire, the fluidity of water and the stability and steady power of earth. Every single person on the planet will experience stress and trauma at some point, usually at various points and a variety of intensities.
We should feel free, capable and comfortable in our bodies.
The reason that an embodiment practice is so vital, is that it teaches us a way first have awareness of and second how to move this stress and trauma through the body so we can successfully process it, not store it indefinitely. When trauma is stored indefinitely in the body, it becomes a minefield of triggers, hang ups and stagnation that prevent us from living our fullest, best-est life. In worst-case scenarios, our stored somatic material can even sabotage our growth and opportunities.
This article is really for those of us who weren’t born naturally physically gifted, or cultured to athleticism at a young age. People like me, who got stuck in the mental plane at some point during development and struggle with feeling joyful embodiment. Folks who have a natural or long-trained in physical practice can 100% still benefit from an embodiment practice, and I would love to work with you, as well, especially martial arts people. However, having an established physical foundation to process stress, move lymph fluid, etc., puts you in a slightly different category. I’ll note that if you are an athlete who experiences a lot of injury, or deals with emotional disturbance or trauma from the past or present that affects your performance, by all means, reach out to me! You can read more about my programs for martial arts folks here.
The Goals of Practice
The basics of an embodiment practice develops the somatic knowing of calming, grounding, centering, strengthening and challenging elements in order to bring the whole self into a psycho-somatic state of compassionate self-awareness (from the Academy of Holistic Fitness, Holistic Fitness Specialty Certificate Manual). I teach a foundation of joint mobility, tendon strengthening, fascial resetting, parasympathetic relaxing techniques that act as both a restorative practice, as well as mindfulness/meditation practice. When I was teaching Kundalini Yoga in public classes, the importance of hatha (physical practice based in asana or posture) prior to seated meditation could not be stressed enough. The body must be moved: the system of “waters” must be pumped, especially the lymphatic system, and tension must be released, in order to successfully sit. In Qi Gong, movement and meditation are usually fused, exemplified by the system of Bagua, which is a martial form of moving meditation.
“Eastern philosopher Yuasa Yasuo states that transformation of the self can be psycho-physically attained through successful integration of the ‘bright’ (mental processes) consciously with the ‘dark’ (autonomic, somatic-based) consciousness. This traditional; Eastern view suggests that personal cultivation via a practical method that utilizes the wisdom of the body will enhance the psyche and nourish the spirit.”From the forward of “Holistic Fitness Manual,” originally published: Yuasa, Yasuo. The Body: Toward an Eastern Mind-Body Theory. 1987. For more, click here.
Movement as Medicine
If you’re like me, or like I used to be, you’re way, way lost in your head somewhere. Most of us are! Through higher-than average mental ability combined with our unrestrained, private ego and our “entertain me” culture, I convinced myself that seeing was knowing. It took so many years to shift out of this type of thinking! Even as an instructor, I’m not sure where we achieve true “knowing,” but it seems to come, as my martial arts coach and Bruce Lee would say, after 10,000 repetitions. Serious athletes, musicians, anyone who practices towards a goal, knows repetition is key. Intellectuals who have natural talents in some areas are the ones that seem to think an activity can simply be “picked up.” The curse of being “gifted,” is that you struggle when it comes time to work at things at which you’re not naturally skilled.
The Importance of Body Awareness
Deep, intimate awareness of the body, its needs, its processes, its limitations and its untapped potential, is a practice, and its what Embodiment and somatic awareness are all about! Even our Military has prioritized Holistic Health! Check it out via this link. I’ve always had an ability to deeply access awareness of parts of my body, so gymnastics, dance and martial arts came somewhat easily to me when I was young. However, it wasn’t until years of dedicated practice in the martial system taught by my instructor, Bryan Broussard of Monkey King Martial Arts, as well as becoming a Kundalini Yoga instructor and then a personal trainer, that I began to truly unravel all the patterns in my body that interfered with my real potential. In martial arts, we accept that we must be broken, over and over again, mentally and physically and spiritually pushed past all understanding, in order to get to the next level. Bryan calls it, “the glazed look,” its the point of maximum absorption, and usually where we stop class.
The Importance of a Restorative Practice
This concept translates over many disciplines, but most schools, instructors and programs, also stop there. You’re left to process and integrate on your own. The practice and system that Bryan and I teach, takes it on to the next level, providing foundational movement techniques that build the body back, integrating everything into a new homeostasis through Embodiment practices. This is related to how the Qi, or Prana, integrates the total system of your incarnation, but don’t worry about that for now! The benefit is that less stress is carried forward, which means your development can progress more efficiently, with less friction and more joy.
The biggest problem is that most of us cling to our comfort zone: we don’t look into the gaping mouth of our own destruction and see opportunity. But we MUST embrace the death of the old parts of ourselves in order to grow into the people we want to become. Martial arts is not about violence as some seem to think and attract themselves to it for this purpose; martial arts is about SELF CONTROL.
The primary goal of an Embodiment practice is self-awareness, followed by self-control. It doesn’t mean to keep ourselves always on on tight leash, but rather to give ourselves MORE CHOICE in how we respond, to imbue profound consciousness at every level of our being, down to our cells, our heartbeat, our emotions, everything. Even if you have never taken an interest in martial arts, we will use the philosophical tenets and physical practices of a martial system to give you strength, power, self-control, confidence and the ability to consciously relax and release tension from specific areas of the body. If you have an injury or area of special need, we will develop strategies and techniques around this so that it has minimal negative impact on your performance and your long-term health. Combined with somatic release practices, yoga, meditation and (yes) mindfulness, we will build back better at every level of your being.
The Power is In YOUR Hands
If you can dream it, you can be it, and I want to see each one of us rise to our potential. This is the only way our society will evolve, by conscious evolution of each individual to step up to the plate and take your fate in your own hands. Let me help you by being your guide and lighting the way for this leg of your journey. If you’ve found yourself here, consider it Divine Timing! The Universe is asking you to come to the table, what will you bring? Let’s find out together all you are capable of manifesting in your life this year!