"Physicality is a gift. It lets us literally touch each other. I am not interested in theories or practices aimed at getting out of here. I do not want to focus on preparing to go to heaven or evolving into formlessness. I want to learn how to be here fully, in this body, in this world. And I want to live in a world infused with the power of. . . . physical sensation inseparable from heart and soul that calls us to live. . . . The meaning enfolded in our very cells is unfolded as we touch and are touched. This is Beauty.” ~ Oriah from The Invitation (c) 1999
I love this quote by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. I don’t think I would have always loved it – if I would have read it 14 years ago, I would have disagreed.
It was then that I wanted to escape the pain of living in the horrid reality of death so badly that I searched and explored for any way to connect with the “world beyond.” For me, I wanted proof of the afterlife, and a way to connect to the formless forms, to find answers. I craved to be re-assured that there’s some deeper meaning to this life. In hindsight, that is how I embarked on (the darkest part of) my spiritual journey – searching for meaning and answers to the answerless question – what happens after someone dies?
Throughout the years, and through my practice of yoga and meditation, I found my answer.
I had to go on living…somehow…and believing in something…in a way that I could cope with suffering day after day after day….and year after year…because no life is ever granted immunity to suffering.
I decided to find my own answers to my most difficult questions by learning what feels right within me, and inevitably what doesn’t feel right. “Believe what you need to,” I told myself.
What started as a search to connect with things/beings/answers outside this physical world, turned into a deep and honest trust that all the answers I need are within me. I know it sounds cliche, but if there is one thing my suffering has taught me, it’s that I have internal wisdom beyond my conscious understanding.
Through death, I realized that while I am in physical form I want to live in this physicality as much as I can. I want to be moved by all things in this world, material and natural, joyous and painful; and all the sensations and wonders of my body. This doesn’t mean just living in a “thumbs up” world – because that becomes a source of delusion. I want to live in the truth of the heart, and the depth of the experiences of this life.
It is possible to have both – wonders and beliefs in the non-physical realm, as well as the physical. I’ve developed my own beliefs about life after death, and these beliefs influence my life, my rituals and my prayers, but as far as experiencing this life I’ve been given, this body I’m blessed to have, I want to be here and in my body and mind completely.
It was my yoga practice that re-connected me to my body and my life. Class after class I was guided to notice my internal experience. All my sensations, emotions, and thoughts. What seemed like an onslaught at first, turned into a guidebook to my (unique) life. My relationship to my internal experience changed – what first felt like a war, turned into an awareness that this suffering woman (amidst a war), needed kindness and compassion. Overtime, this awareness and relationship gave me counsel on how to live my life, which was extremely valuable and supportive as I re-built my life.
Yoga teaches me to live in an embodied way. I do my yoga when I am confronted with a difficult conversation or situation, and I notice what wisdom my body is relaying from it’s depth. By slowing down and committing to practices of self awareness and contemplation (yoga and meditation), I find choices where I once felt there were no options, and control where I once felt there was chaos. My yoga practice involves manifesting my internal life in a way that is true, supportive, and nurturing.
Suffering will never be eradicated from my life, or from anyone's life, but it is in this wisdom of embodiment where I can find the ability to cope with suffering. Even when it feels like I am taking two steps backwards, I remind myself that even that (seemingly negative) sense is part of living in an embodied way, and the most important part is that I am aware, because with awareness I can create choice, and from there, take wise action. Embodied life means being willing to experience life in it’s entirety – including the joy and the pain.
In the words of Oriah, “I want to learn how to be here fully, in this body, in this world. And I want to live in a world infused with the power of. . . . physical sensation inseparable from heart and soul that calls us to live. . . .”
(blog post updated September 2020)
Join me at the Embodiment Conference October 14 - 25 2020
I'll be presenting October 14th at 7:00 pm MST