How To Find Embodiment In A World That Disconnects Us From Our Bodies
If animals could talk, we don't know what they'd say, but we can be certain about what they wouldn't say: "I hate my body." Hating your body is a uniquely human response and an unnatural one. Royal Yoga holds that a healthy relationship with your body begins by being comfortable with your physicality. The modern term for this is being grounded. We say that a person is grounded if they are sensible, realistic, reliable, and not given to flights of fancy. Those are good traits, but asana is about being grounded in yourself, which occurs only as your awareness deepens.
It is peculiar to stand back and discover just how much judgment has been leveled against physicality itself, which the body symbolizes. Long-held religious beliefs denigrate the physical for pulling us down from the heights of the spiritual. Physicality reminds us of our low, knuckle-dragging primate forebears. To be physical is to be brutish; to be spiritual is divine.
Yet as Yoga sees it, one flow of consciousness supports life in every dimension. There is no reason to denigrate the physical once you realize how much wisdom (vidya) is expressed in every cell, the wisdom of life as a whole. Yoga takes us beyond the deceptive look of the body—solid, material, fixed in time and space—to reality. We aren't embodied in a body; we are embodied in awareness.
What follows are the qualities that represent being fully grounded.
- Being embodied brings you joy.
- You understand the deep wisdom of your body.
- You feel attuned to nature.
- You cherish the Earth for creating earthly existence.
- You feel unembarrassed by basic bodily functions.
- You appreciate other people's earthiness.
- You feel stable and steady during periods of change.
- You experience equanimity in the fact of aging and dying.
- Your sensual and sexual life is gratifying, without prudery or shame.
When you watch little children romping in the mud or running around the house unencumbered, how does your response reflect on you? What we call the innocence of childhood exists, yes, but it is more appropriately called being grounded. Children feel no impulse, unless they are mistreated, to be disembodied. They have no need to renounce or escape their physical nature.
This naturally grounded state changes as soon as the mind intervenes to create certain attitudes that drive us to become disembodied—not like ghosts but as creatures who judge against our physicality.
- You don't feel comfortable inside your own skin.
- Your body arouses in you distaste or disgust.
- You live in your head.
- You always choose indoor distractions over going out into nature.
- You hold negative views of the human body. These may be religious (seeing the body as sinful) or based on personal aversion (for example, being repelled by the body's messier functions).
- You remember physical experiences that led to humiliation, guilt, or shame.
- Physical beauty or ugliness becomes a fixation.
- You have poor body image because you are overweight, aging, or subject to social attitudes about physical perfection and desirability.
- You don't feel physically lovable or desirable.
- You neglect to keep your body clean, well cared for, and active.
- You think that earthy people are stupid or crude.
When we list all the ways we put down our bodies, it becomes evident that we live in a disembodied age to a shocking degree. Mass media overloads us with fantasies of a perfect body that never ages while robbing us of the real blessing of being embodied. The embodied state allows us to feel the physical side of bliss-consciousness, which is a vibrant sense of aliveness as we move through our day.
How to ground yourself.
Begin by silently repeating today's theme:
I rest comfortably in my body.
I rest comfortably in my body.
Every step you take to welcome your own physicality is a step into the light. Look at the two lists above that outline the qualities of being grounded versus the qualities of being disembodied. Pause to reflect on how you can adopt more grounded beliefs and turn them into enjoyable actions, like walking in nature, participating in a sport, taking part in forms of physical recreation, or going for a massage.
As you engage in this activity, no matter how simple it is—you might just lie spread-eagle on the warm ground in summer or (believe it or not) hug a tree—reflect on how blessed you are to be embodied. Bring a positive feeling toward your body whenever you can. Drop the casual habit of disparaging your body. Through these steady steps of becoming more grounded, you are removing another layer of obstacles between you and your true self.
Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and Jiyo.com, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. He is board certified in internal medicine, endocrinology and metabolism, and is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and a clinical professor in medicine at the University of California, San Diego. TIME magazine has described Chopra as "one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century."
With over 15 million in his social media community (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and his affiliate websites), he shares his insights to help to create a more peaceful, just, sustainable, happy, and healthy world. The World Post and The Huffington Post's global internet survey ranked him as the 17th most Influential Thinker in the World, and 1st in Medicine.
In conjunction with his medical achievements, Chopra is a prolific author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, with 25 New York Times Bestsellers including You Are the Universe. After collaborating on two major books featured as public broadcast television specials, Super Brain and Super Genes, he and Rudolph Tanzi took a quantum leap in their revolutionary approach to tackling the issue of lifelong health and heightened immunity in their book, The Healing Self.