Embodiment is a word that is thrown around more and more in wellness spaces. As a dancer / body-person, I’m drawn to it and use it all the time. But with a moment of pause, I’m like wait, what does this actually mean. And then to throw politics on the back end? now, what does that mean ??
So I’ll begin here, from a place of experimentation and curiosity. Imposter syndrome would like to stop me right here, but not today, satan. I value lived experience and being messy and in-process. Years of (imperfect) activism, personal research, learning in community, the teachings of many embodied visionaries - this is where I find myself learning and trying things out.
Starting with an embodied definition: I experience embodiment as grounding / presence / enoughness. Embodiment is remembering that I have a body, witnessing and feeling sensations - the pleasant and less pleasant. It is taking care of this body, dropping into the present moment, noticing when basic needs are met or not.
Embodiment is also action / movement / felt experience. I can think all I want, but nothing will change outside of my head if I don’t take some kind of action. Walking the talk, if you will. Action may be rest. Movement could be a deep breath.
An embodied moment could look like dancing and making loud obnoxious noises to help me express my joy or frustration; laying on the ground/in some dirt; humming and mhmmmm-ing to calm myself down; grabbing a glass of water; feeling the wind, smelling the trees; being tired and laying down to rest; taking a walk in my neighborhood.
So embodied politics: I mostly have a lot of questions for me / us to start. I’m defining politics as the social fabric of practices, laws, and norms we use to take care of one another.
What politics am I already embodying?
What does it feel like to be enough? How does accepting my enoughness affect how I treat others?
What does connection/collectivity/relational living feel like in my body?
How do I embody a world that is rooted in interdependence, liberation, love, and earth worship?
and, borrowing some questions from Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza in their writings in
How do we create conditions to compost supremacy culture?
How do we untangle the domestication of polarization?
I can read, fantasize, hope and pray all day ( I do!), but embodiment is what will set this in motion in the world outside my mind. My dreams, hopes, thoughts, worries, and fears - these stay in my ephemeral inner world until materialized through the body, consciously or unconsciously. It’s through my body/our bodies that this lands in the present, in this physical shared experience of society.
In thinking of examples of embodied politics, a few things pop into my mind-body: a good friend during my time living on the west coast would share her food anytime we ate together and offer to drive me places when I was car-less. A socialist cafe in Vienna where food is free. Witnessing friends of mine commit their time to organizations they love - whether it’s performing, delivering food, or just being in community. Warm open homes and third spaces. Singing with groups of people during protests and prayer. Deep belly laughter and unabashed play.
Embodied politics are inherently empowering. It returns us to our immediate reality, our bodies, and the beings around us. It returns us to the present - this is it! There is something I can do right here, right now that is aligned with the world I yearn for. It might be seemingly small, but it’s worthwhile and world-changing.
Embodying non-action or rest is resistance. Tricia Hersey, from the Nap Ministry, reminds us of this again and again. The act of standing still, putting our bodies on the line in protest or protection. Practicing contentment, inner joy, and self-love can be resistance to consumerism and supremacy-culture.
I find myself needing to cultivate trust, over and over, that the “little” actions add up. Maybe cumulatively or like a ripple, radiating out into the world through everyday encounters.
I also want to describe what not-embodiment feels like.
Theory with no action, hearing the news and feeling helpless and powerless, feeling like I don’t know enough to be an effective or worthy agent of change.
Any deep internet hole can quickly show you that the mind has no end ~ thinking can go on forever with little solution/resolve/change. Thinking in and of itself isn’t bad - it’s what brains do. But unchecked by the body, the mind can spin itself into web after web - and typically this doesn’t feel great nor does it lead to the change I desire, for myself, my communities, and beyond.
In our digital world, what does embodiment look and feel like?
I don’t have an answer to this, but I know it offers potential and challenge. The internet is a great tool with enormous power, and I wonder how it can be used to support embodied living. The internet spreads ideas and inspiration so quickly. Much more quickly than our bodies can absorb - I know I am still learning how to keep up/slow down, digest, and integrate.
I’m so curious about your lived experience - your political hopes and action, what embodiment means/feels like to you, what questions you're living into, where it feels hard and confusing or empowering and life-giving. Drop a comment below or respond to this email with anything that’s percolating.
Thanks for being here and diving in.