A video I posted recently discussed ‘What is the body?’ It starts with Mark Walsh saying that the body is ‘not a brain taxi’, but that’s pretty much how many people experience their embodiment. There are many reasons for this dislocation of ‘self’ from ‘body’; sometimes it’s cultural and sometimes it’s due to physical trauma. In general, threats, stress and violence encourage withdrawal and alienation from the body and the world.
In her powerful TED talk, the poet Eve Ensler describes her sense of disconnection from her body and how her awareness slowly developed.
It’s a provocative talk and there’s lots to say, but I want to focus on what I see as her central insight: When you split the body from the mind you often loose the connection between self and the world.
This disconnected mind-self is often fear driven and seeks control: Eve recounts how she “lived in the city, because, to be honest, I was afraid of trees”.
When the breakthrough came and Eve came to live fully in her body, that fear disappeared: “Now I make a daily pilgrimage to visit a particular weeping willow by the Seine, and I hunger for the green fields in the bush outside Bukavu”.
If we have an embodied sense of self, it’s much easier to have a rich sensual connection with the other-than-human world and to enjoy empathetic engagement. This makes the subject/object distinction less rigid: Our sense of ‘body’ can shift from a perspective that’s enclosed inside the skin-bag to a more fluid, open appreciation of bodymind/self as integrated within the world. We thus come to know ourselves as a single point of awareness within a vast matrix of being.