What is spiritual embodiment and does it matter if you are not spiritually embodied?
I am now in my eighth decade. Over those years I have been around different spiritual groups. Over those years, my interest in this subject of embodied spirituality has grown. What I seek to teach at this website is embodied spirituality.
Let me outline how I will share this reflection on spiritual embodiment with you.
What is Spiritual Embodiment?
- A story of Spiritual Dis-embodiment.
- What is Spiritual Embodiment?
- Practicing Spiritual Embodiment.
- Why Spiritual Embodiment Matters
In this way, we explore a spiritual practice foundational in learning to live an integrated life of union of body, mind, heart, soul, and Spirit.
Story of Spiritual Disembodiment
Down the years of being a member of different spiritual groups I have in my time witnessed more than enough spiritual disembodiment.
This is where spiritual seekers, in the words of the Irish writer James Joyce, live the experience of Mr Duffy.
Mr. Duffy lived some distance from his body—The Dubliners—James Joyce.
This is where the seeker is practicing detachment from detachment.
I first experienced this when I was twenty-three years old. I lived in Manchester in England. Each Sunday morning I would go to learn what they called Vipassana Meditation.
This was a meditation practice taught by a young man not much older than me. Each Sunday he would drive all the way from Bristol to Manchester to teach this practice to about four students.
My initial feeling regarding this young man was one of suspicion. He seemed not all there. He was tall and thin. In Northern Ireland, we have a saying about very thin people.
I’ve seen more fat on a chip – Northern Irish Saying.
This individual was to my mind etheric.
Another thing about him was that he spoke in a whisper. It didn’t help that he sat cross-legged on a stage some distance from his students on the floor below.
His demeanour did not impress me. “If that’s the result of meditation” I thought to myself, “Then it’s not for me. You definitely need to have confidence in your spiritual teachers.
Detachment from Detachment.
The reason for this experience of dis-embodiment is that many teachings from the East focus on “detachment.”
Westerners often have a different view about this experience than happens in the East.
He taught Buddhist meditation for over twenty years in India. He returned to London to teach meditation to Westerners who expressed an interest.
After some time he discovered a phenomenon he had not experienced in the East. This was that the meditation he taught lead to many practitioners feeling depressed. This had not been his experience in India and beyond.
After a long exploration he concluded that the students, especially the men, were attracted to the teachings that invited them to detach from their feelings. This is not the purpose of the practice of detachment.
This was detachment from feelings of unworthiness or other negative emotions.
He found that they were attracted to the teachings of detachment because it would mean that they could detach from their painful feelings.
Thus they were practicing detachment from detachment.
However, as Colin Tipping writing in Radical Forgiveness : A Revolutionary Five-Stage Process to Heal Relationships, Let Go of Anger and Blame, and Find Peace in Any Situation states:
You can’t heal it if you don’t feel it—Colin Tipping.
This is often the reason psychoanalysis does not touch the genuine issue.
It is because the patient analyses the feeling while refusing to feel the feeling.
What is Spiritual Embodiment
There are different ways to answer this question “What is Spiritual Embodiment.” Wherever possible I like to share my definition.
Spiritual embodiment is the grounding of the spiritual awakening experience.
There are two key issues that this definition throws up.
- Spiritual Awakening Experience.
- Grounding or Embodying.
To embody the spiritual you need, at least to KNOW what it is you are attempting.
I like to share the Christian invitation to spiritual embodiment which comes from the Lord’s prayer.
Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven—Matthew 6-10 KJV.
Note here that the request is not what most Christians focus on. Their focus is ongoing to Heaven when you die because you are one of the chosen or because you have lived a virtuous life.
The invitation to the mind of this writer is clear.
This spiritual teaching invites you to bring the experience of Heaven to earth. There is only one way to do this. It is through the form of the human body that you inhabit.
As Heaven is within how you do this is from within to without. You allow the Light within you to shine forth. This is the experience of spiritual embodiment.
The Spiritual Awakening Experience
Spiritual embodiment is the embodiment of the direct experience of the Divine. This presupposes that you have had a direct experience of the Divine.
If you are interested in spiritual embodiment from an intellectual point of view, you cannot KNOW what it is it commits you to embody.
It’s like trying to embody the sexual experience without ever having experienced sex.
An awakening experience gives you the KNOWING of Spirit. This is not knowledge about Spirit. It is where for one glorious moment you and Spirit merge.
Before any such awakening experience, you are only a believer as a fixed idea or as a possibility.
Following the awakening experience which allows you to KNOW there is the experience of Heaven as a state of inner being you begin the lengthy journey of integrating this experience into your life.
This is the work of embodying this experience. This is the meaning of the rather strange spiritual instruction given by the Master Jesus when he advises:-
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.- Matthew 18:3
The Master is not inviting you to regress to becoming a small child.
He is inviting you to experience spiritual embodiment. If you want to see what spiritual embodiment looks like then watch small children at play.
Notice that they are a flow of energy in motion. No thinking about. Just feeling alive with Presence.
It Isn’t About Spiritual Ascensión
I see so many groups on Facebook that are about ascension. The idea is that you ascend to a higher dimension. I have found this focus often invites disembodiment.
Spiritual embodiment is not about YOUR Ascension or movement away from feeling in the body. Its not about spiritual bypassing via the mantra “I am not my body.”
The German Christian Mystic Meister Eckhart describes the process in this way.
When the higher flows into the lower, the lower is transformed by the higher – Meister Eckhart.
The mystic Islamic poet Rumi would declare it this way.
The wave is in the Ocean, and the Ocean is in the wave—Rumi.
Before the experience of spiritual awakening, you have no direct KNOWING of what it feels like to be the Ocean in the wave—the Spirit in the body.
Embodiment is Spiritual Connection
Spiritual embodiment Sis the inner journey of allowing the Divine to speak through you. Do not take this literally. There is no voice talking to you.
The teacher I am presently drawn to describes this gradual experience of spiritual embodiment in this way.
One day something happens within. Consciousness expands and sees that which was before invisible.
One feels a warmth; a Presence never before KNOWN becomes tangible (felt), very real.
This often is a felting experience. One may not even be certain that it has occurred. It lingers in memory, but more as a dream than an actuality until it happens again.
This time more clearly, more definite and lasting longer.
Gradually there dawns in consciousness the realization of a Presence that is always present. This Presence may be felt as lurking in the background of one’s consciousness.
At times it becomes a very commanding Presence dominating the scene or the experience.
Notice this is not a belief you subscribe to.
Spiritual embodiment is a feeling experience arising from within. Begin to recognize that feeling. This is a feeling emanating within the body. Become what the poet David Whyte refers to as “The Body in full Presence.”
Teaching Embodied Spirituality
My opinion is that only those who are mystics—KNOWERS of Divine Presence – are authorised to teach spiritual embodiment. At least they KNOW the Way.
If you do not KNOW, as is the experience of most teachers of religion, then you are the blind leading the blind.
Such teachers are like the professor who goes to Ramakrishna to discuss the Veda’s (Hindu’s equivalent of the Christian Bible).
After a lengthy introduction where the Professor shares his intellectual knowledge of the teachings Ramakrishna asks, “Sir, this is all very well but what do you know?” The professor leaves saddened because all that he knows are the opinions of others.
Spirituality is inner KNOWING.
It is not intellectual. Intellectual spirituality is philosophy. It may give you great satisfaction, but it is still the wave exploring the wave. There may never have been any direct KNOWING of the Ocean.
Practicing Embodied Spirituality
Even if you have not had a direct experience of spiritual awakening, you can engage with the spiritual awakening process.
This practice of embodiment will give you enhanced health benefits. If you have issues around difficult emotions, then my recommendation is that you explore the practice of Yoga Nidra.
I have a phobia of needles. At one time when I went to have blood tests, I wouldn’t sleep for days. I couldn’t stop feeling the anxiety.
I paid a lot of money for hypnotherapy to get rid of the fear. It didn’t work. Since I started the practice of Yoga Nidra, I sleep without disturbance.
Not that I don’t have the needle phobia. The phobia however begins only when the blood is being taken. Yoga Nidra has taught me to take command of my over thinking mind.
Yoga Nidra is a technique being used by veterans in the USA who experience PTSD.
I love this technique of Yoga Nidra, and have found significant benefit from it.
Why Spiritual Embodiment Matters
Spiritual embodiment matters because it is how creation intends to fulfil its purpose through you as a unique human form living within time and space.
Embodiment aligns you with Love’s purpose. This is your primary purpose. How you express that primary purpose in the everyday world of time and space is secondary.
This will be your joy.
You are not here to prove you are worthy enough. You are not here to escape the material world. You are here to transform the material world through the living Presence of the Divine.
This is how glorious you are. I leave you with a line from a Mary Oliver poem.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Mary Oliver – From – Wild Geese.
Allowing the soft animal of your body to love what it loves is the gateway into spiritual embodiment.
You become as little children and you embody Heaven on Earth. You become a Presence that lights the way home for others.
This is embodied spirituality.