Embodiment as Actionable Change


Strozzi -44I had a great conversation recently about mindfulness practice and wisdom. Are they the same thing? Why not?

Lots of places and people are using the word transformation now, and even “embodiment,” as a concept, is growing in prevalence. Like mindfulness and wisdom, what do we mean by these words? How do they appear in practice, in action, in our lives and leadership? This is where it gets interesting.

In SI Somatics our definition of transformation is this — you know you have transformed when you can take new actions, aligned with your vision and values, even under the same old pressures. We would hold this as true for leaders, teams, and organizations, as well as communities.

Transformation is a compelling idea, but is only truly known in the lived, enacted experience.

We could use this same definition for embodiment as well. Why? When we have developed somatic awareness, transformed ourselves through somatic opening, cultivated somatic practices aligned with the skillful actions we need to take….we have embodied change. Once we have a substantial experience of embodied change, we also learn that it is an ongoing, life long choice toward cultivation.

Feeling one’s body and senses, and learning that the senses have intelligence and wisdom, is only one aspect of “embodied.” Doing body-based practices, which we whole-heartedly support, is also only an aspect of “embodied.” But, an aspect of “embodied” is not the whole. For most of us from a western, thinking-based culture, there are few distinctions for “embodied,” and we can mistakenly take part of the package as the whole.

A trend we see in popularly read neuroscience, is that the organ of the brain, is held as the deciding organ of the human being. Our brains are essential, we cannot live without them, and the brain only functions in relation to many other organs, tissues, an electrical system of the body, language, and more. Or, we can see in body-based practices that rigorous thinking can be brushed aside, when it is as essential as sensing.

Embodied, can be understood as a somatized life, and one of ongoing cultivation of transformation. Embodied is inherently organic, because we are, and includes our thinking, relating, feeling, yearning, acting and social selves. In some way we cannot help but be embodied, because we all have bodies. Perhaps the question is “What is it that we are embodying?” and “Is our embodiment aligned with the life, leadership, relationships and actions we desire?” Is our embodiment inviting more life for ourselves and others? Or, is our embodiment, tamping down life, safety, connection or dignity?

Like mindfulness and wisdom, embodiment can be conceptualized and understood independently from being lived. Just as knowing about paths and methodologies of transformation, even being able to speak about them eloquently, is different from being on a path of transformation, purposefully.

The good news is that ideas and practices for wisdom, embodiment and transformation toward being more life affirming, are on the rise. The risky news is that these are landing in a collective conditioned tendency of rationalism and a generalize default practice of disembodiment. This leans us collectively toward conceptualizing embodiment, talking about wisdom and ideating transformation.

Why is mindfulness not inherently wisdom? Mindfulness is a practice. Like any practice, this practice can be used for the sake of many different outcomes. Mindfulness is currently being taught and written about for the sake of stress reduction, health, decreasing PTSD in war zones, increasing profit, getting in shape and losing weight, bringing purpose to business, cultivating spiritual path and more. These are not inherently about deepening our individual or collective wisdom.

The same is true for embodiment. Embodying what? First we can ask ourselves–“What is it that we want to embody?” “Is our embodiment aligned with the life, leadership, relationships and actions we desire?” Then we can get to it.   Through development that includes the whole—language, body, purpose, practice, and relatedness—we can change in a sustainable way. We can, under pressure, think, feel and act from our commitments. This is embodied, actionable change.

Staci K. Haines

Read more about SI Embodied Leadership Program here.

Leadership in Action One: Embodied Leadership Level OneLearn more