Embodiment is an elusive concept. The other day, after my mother read my recent article, Zoning Out on the Pathway to Consciousness, she was working hard to describe “embodiment.” I generally assume that people are familiar with it. Clearly this is a miss. So is the dictionary definition, although it points us in the right direction: “to cause to become a body or part of a body: incorporate”. To unite one thing with another or to put in the corporeal, incorporate, embody. To me, embodiment is the incorporation of one’s consciousness into and throughout one’s body. To integrate the mind into the corporeal experience, taking the primal material of the body and putting it into conversation with the imagination and the intellect. Many of us will automatically jump to what this will do to make us more productive, or help us advance in some way. I prefer to think of it as a training for me to be increasingly adept at being right here, right now, within my body as it is, rather than an antidote to an experience I don’t like. To embody one’s self requires consistently showing up and doing the work. It is a process of self cultivation, continually putting forth the effort to excavate the spaces within ourselves that we cannot yet consciously inhabit. Still elusive? To this end, I developed a metaphor to shed light on this process and also facilitate a dialogue when we practice together. The Body as a Garden was born out of a shift in circumstances. Any time one condition changes, every other condition is affected. In this case the condition was the location of where I was living, and of course, the pandemic. In the middle of the summer, I relocated to southwestern Pennsylvania from Brooklyn, New York. This was a bittersweet move and one that has altered my trajectory in many unforeseen, and wonderful ways. One of which was the gift of being able to build and work in a garden again. Through this process I was able see the theory of Katonah Yoga overlaid onto the practice of maintaining a garden. Exploring the commonalities between tending to a garden and tending to a body gave me the insight that working towards conscious embodiment is similar to gardening.
First create a container, a raised bed in this case. Something formal, a literal frame that showed me where exactly I will be working.
After the frame was constructed I had the choice of what to fill it with? It was late in the season so I had to scour my local garden stores to find organic soil blends, organic compost and manure. Engaging with the soil in this way is primal, literally getting dirty, sweating with the sun beating down on me, and stepping in shit. Laying the foundation takes a lot of work and this work is often primal, it is always about food, sex, money, or water. In this case food!
What is the vision? Planting seeds is quite literally planting what you envision for your future, what harvest do you want to reap from your efforts? In a garden that is planned well in advance, seed orders are placed in the beginning of Winter to prepare them for Spring. Much like we spend time planning our goals and getting them ready to be cultivated.
Amending the soil is like feeding the body well. Feeding the body of the garden so that the hopes and dreams that were planted there can be supported and become vibrant and bestow upon us the grace of Great Nature.
Then you show up over and over and over again. Using your perspective to see all the angles and learning new skills as you go. In the process, becoming adaptable and buoyant, ready to respond to the needs of the garden as they show up. And they will show up… what are you going to do when you walk outside and see that your entire kale and arugula crop has been decimated by worms?! The garden is full of successes and failures, just like life, and in each we meet ourselves in different ways and learn to respond better each time.
As the cycles turn eventually you have a harvest and everything dies back to the earth. And you are back at the first step, this time with more experience and more ability to be able to cultivate a new vision with all that you have learned.
In time, it became clear to me that maintaining the body is a lot like maintaining a garden. We’re concerned about how clean the water is, the quality of the nutrients being assimilated, the air quality, regulating temperature for optimal growth/functioning, and seeing the big picture of what we want to get out of our life/garden. It becomes a meditation on self cultivation. Within this metaphor you are the garden itself as well as the autonomous gardener. The two are intertwined. This interplay of the will of the individual and the patterns of Great Nature is what makes the metaphor come alive. It creates a vesica piscis, a portal, a window, and intersection of two worlds giving birth to a third. It is an integration of two polarities which, when mediated through a well tended garden, give us the joy and abundance of a good harvest with nourishing food and potent herbal medicines. Now that we have a template, how do we use it? How do we tend to our garden? Pranayama (breathwork) has become my favorite route because it is engaging on many levels, down to the deepest level…our glands, changing our chemistry. Join me to explore this at my upcoming training on February 6th and 7th.