The term spiritual embodiment doesn’t come with any obvious meaning, it can sound a bit wishy-washy, but in practice spiritual embodiment is one of the most important aspects of spiritual work. What is it and why is it important?
For many the term spiritual brings to mind images of those who are here on a physical level but somewhere else entirely on a mental and metaphysical level. It comes with the association of leaving the body in some way.
There are aspects of spirituality that bring us out of our physical surroundings, that bring us to different planes of existence, that are disembodied in some way, but that is not the whole picture.
Embodied spirituality is one where we regard the physical body with as much importance as the spirit – that the body also comes with a level of sacredness.
What is embodied spirituality?
In both religious and spiritual communities where we see a type of purity culture, there is usually a disdain towards the body. That is it somehow in the way of our spiritual progress.
The body and flesh is what causes us to sin, or fall prey to unholy desires. The physical body has long been portrayed in this light, it’s something we want to get away from rather than view in any positive way.
The goal is to surpass our bodies in some way and reach a higher level of consciousness, 5D or heaven.
Of course, there are aspects of this that are true. We can become enslaved to our bodily desires, emotions and compulsions. The body can also become a place of great arrogance or insecurity in how we view our appearance or capability.
Part of spiritual work is about seeing ourselves outside of the body, that we aren’t just physical beings with no other layers. It’s also about being mindful of our unhealthy or destructive traits and habits.
However these two sides represent the extremes. We can strike a balance between body, mind and spirit…we don’t have to throw the whole thing away.
Where this causes problems for people is when they start to view the body as inherently dirty or unspiritual. We can also see where spiritual practices take us so far from our bodies that we lose track of everything else.
We chase after a higher level of consciousness so vehemently, that we have no time to attend to our physical duties, or show empathy for our fellow humans.
The thing is, no matter what our beliefs are, our bodies don’t simply cease to exist. They are the anchoring point for our spiritual awareness throughout our lifetimes.
It’s this avoidance of the body or lack of focus on the body that can cause problems. When those lower desires, emotions and inclinations do manifest, we are not in our bodies in order to work on them.
What a lot of people find on the spiritual path, especially in a modern Western context, is that they work backwards from a transcendental experience.
They experience spirit through psychedelics, through working on their chakras, deep meditation, or through practices like astral projection or a kundalini rising. They have a grand awakening…but have to go back to their jobs the next morning!
And so it’s very difficult to contextualize this sort of spiritual experience without creating some dysfunction in their ‘ordinary lives’, everything seems to be flipped on its head while the world carries on as normal.
We have to work backwards from a disembodied state and try to make our everyday lives fit into this new level of consciousness we have arrived at.
With an embodied spiritual practice, it’s about working from the body, from our physical surroundings, and connecting with our spirit here. This way we have a solid spiritual foundation where we are and can build up from it if you will.
Why the body is so important in spirituality
As spiritual beings we incarnated here in this body, and so it’s evident that the body is a large part of our spiritual path.
We talk about mindset, energy and vibration. These are important. However it’s also important to realize that energy interfaces with our physical bodies.
How open we are on a spiritual level has a lot to do with the physical environments we have been living through. What our body has gone through, what we have practiced on a physical level, how our body is perceived or interacts with the world.
This is also why spirit manifests so uniquely for all of us. You could see the body as a sort of funnel or template through which the spirit flows through.
When we talk about reaching higher levels of consciousness this cannot be a solely mental or energetic concept, we have to bring the body along with us.
When our bodies are already tense or overworked it can be hard to reach these higher states of consciousness consistently or without dragging the tension we have in our physical bodies into the experience.
Our body holds trauma, emotion, tension on a physical level. Whether we ignore these emotions or not, they remain in our bodies ready to be released, moved or transformed. This is where practices such as breathwork, deep bodily relaxation and yoga help us. They include the body as part of the practice.
How to practice spiritual embodiment
It’s great to know that our spiritual practices or beliefs can detach us in this way, so that we are aware of it, however what are some practical steps we can take?
Start connecting with your body
The first step to an embodied spiritual practice is to begin connecting with your body in some way.
This might sound like something you do anyway (and it might be) but many of us aren’t aware of just how disconnected we are from our bodies.
Even in a non-spiritual context, in a society where we are often obsessed with the body (or pushed to be), there is still a level of disconnection with it. The body is seen as something that we can manipulate rather than something that holds its own value.
Start connecting with your body when you are alone. Tune into whatever sensations are coming up for you without trying to label them right away. What can you observe and what is calling your attention?
Start connecting with your body when you are around others. Where are you receiving energy from? What cues can you observe? How does your body’s form and responses shift when you are in different social settings?
Find grounding practices that work for you
Think of a few physical activities that bring you peace, joy, that align you with yourself. These activities don’t have to be strenuous although they could be. Dancing is a good example, but even something like drawing which doesn’t necessarily involve the whole body, can be useful.
You don’t need a lot of different grounding practices in order to get started, you don’t need a perfect routine or sequence either.
The magic comes through observing yourself through a repeated or ritualistic action. Even where an action feels repetitive or slow, you see yourself in it. Much like looking at your reflection in a pool of water.
I have used the action of stacking shelves at work as a kind of meditative process (although not recommended in all cases). It’s not the action that matters but the intention.
- Dancing or singing
- Bodily awareness meditation
When you meditate, go into trance, or work in different levels of consciousness, don’t forget to give yourself time to come back to the body. Do some light stretches or dance before meditating to relieve some of the initial tension.
The final step is to consciously integrate the transcendental experiences we do have, as a lot of our spiritual experiences do not include the body in an explicit way.
Some spiritual practices do bring us away from the body or bodily awareness, and these have their place. A psychedelic, meditative, lucid or astral experience might not focus on the body itself, but different disembodied states of awareness.
The reason integration is so important is because we do eventually come back to our bodies. We have to sit with the aftermath of such experience in the body itself.
There isn’t one way to integrate a transcendental experience but there is one ‘goal’ you can focus on, how can you bring this wisdom into your everyday life? How do you allow it to grow you into a more aware, kind, helpful human being?
What parallels are there between what you experienced on a non-physical level with what you experience day to day? What wider themes come up?
In conclusion, I think we can all benefit from embodiment on the spiritual path.
In bringing this into my practice I have found that I’m much more grounded. I’m also less attached to certain transcendental experiences, or less likely to chase these experiences, while still appreciating the value of them.
In grounding yourself it can feel as if you are having less spiritual experiences, there are less obvious highs and lows. However this is a good thing in that it keeps you stabilized as you build up your spiritual awareness, rather than feeling pulled around by different energies.
It also means that physical life doesn’t have to fall apart with expanded consciousness. Even when there isn’t a solid spiritual community around you, you can stay anchored.
If you would like to learn more about the importance of the body in spiritual work, check out my shadow work guide.