- Christina Manfredi
Clinical BSW; Clinical Psychotherapist, Gestalt Therapist
Sensorimotor Trauma Therapist, & Embodied Awareness Therapist
Qigong & Yoga Practitioner
At the beginning of time, the gods had just finished their divine work
of creating the first humans. One of the gods spoke up and said,
“Where should we hide the secret of their Self-healing?
The earth goddess said, “Let’s hide it in the center of the biggest mountain”
“That’s no good,” replied another. “One day they’ll have bulldozers
and find it too easily”.
“What about hiding it in the depths of the deepest sea?” replied the god of the sea.
The wise reply came, “They’ll have submarines someday and will find it
without any inner work.”
A third god suggested, “What about hiding it in the Great Pyramid
in a safe up a narrow shaft?”
“Not really any better” replied another.
“Some day they’ll have mechanized little vehicles that can just go up
the shaft and open the safe.”
Then Thoth, the trickster god, spoke up with a wry smile,
“Why don’t we just hide the secret of Self-healing inside of their very Selves?
They’ll never think of looking there”
And so it was decided.
– Michael Mayer
Retold and Adapted from the Shamanic Oral Archives
Embodied Self Awareness is an empowering self healing process involving self inquiry, self observation & self knowledge. A primary emphasis of Embodied Self Awareness is how we pay attention to our full body-mind subjective experience moment by moment. It is a methodology that brings care and attention to our embodied interior life and is different to pure mindfulness experiencing and body scanning. This methodology has been found to be useful in the treatment of depression, anxiety, trauma, stress, and chronic health conditions.
Conventionally, our Western Culture has had a tendency to view the mind and body as two separate experiences however the reality is that the body and mind are inextricably inter-related and inseparable.
As a process Embodied Self Awareness respects the unity of our body-mind experience and endeavours to embrace our innate self healing capacity. This transformative self healing approach brings attention to how and where depression, anxiety, trauma, stress, and chronic health conditions are being experienced and maintained within the body-mind relationship, and how distress can be alleviated.
Whilst curing is often considered to be in the domain of conventional western medical practice, healing pertains to the domain within our own subjective experience. As a healing process Embodied Self Awareness involves befriending, respecting, and trusting the vast reservoir of wisdom held within our body-mind experience. It is an attitude of deeper listening and feeling without force and an allowing of ‘what is’ in the present moment to be received and acknowledged. This may seem a great challenge when symptoms of our psychological and physical condition are distressing. Often paying attention to ‘what is’ may be the very last thing that is wanted. More often there is an urge to take distance from the distress. However we may soon discover that what we resist tends to persist! The result being that our distressing condition becomes even more entrenched within our body-psyche leading to further suffering.
Embodied Self Awareness is very different yet simultaneously inclusive of witnessing conceptual experiencing. Conceptual experiencing is a cognitive process that includes interpretations of our experience, focusing on concepts, theories, hypothesises, thoughts, categorizing, planning, reasoning, and judging. Embodied Self Awareness however, involves being and noticing the full subjective present, being able to feel one’s pain, happiness, sadness, numbness, physical presence, and conceptual thinking without judgement or trying to avoid it. It is true embodiment by fully receiving and tasting our interior life and ultimately living from within our felt sense of unique presence.
Conventional Western psychological models of understanding human distress and healing have traditionally focussed on cognition, at times our emotional experience, pharmaceutical treatments and talk therapy to encourage wellbeing. Whilst these are crucial as one fundamental aspect of healing they are limited and at times insufficient to constitute a deeper empowered and lasting sense of self-mastery for health and vitality in the face of on-going depression, anxiety, and trauma symptoms. This is primarily due to the tendency of Western culture to separate out the mind from the body. Culturally we have had tendency to ‘live in our heads’ with little consciousness of our senses. Consequently, we experience a separation from the present moment and from the healing resource of Embodied Self Awareness.
When we engage in treatments that habitually and solely pay attention to our conceptual and cognitive awareness we risk losing the ground of our fuller bodily reality and our ‘inner light’ of awareness as expanded body consciousness. We risk becoming disconnected, un-grounded from the wisdom and resources of our bodily life. When we are alienated from our own bodily experience we are automatically separated from the vast inner resources of intuition and creativity that assist in making healthy self-informed decisions about the way to best live our lives. Sometimes this separation can also result in us becoming vulnerable to living in the past or in the future with an overly outward focus for guidance and direction. We lose our centre, our energy extended backwards or forwards. Thus we continually miss the gift of the present moment and the journey inwards to our fuller subjective resourcefulness and healing.
Further, our conceptual, cognitive, and initial emotional responses may have been conditioned in earlier life experiences and may be based on the needs and wants of others and not actually what is life-giving for us. This in itself can result in feelings and sensations of confusion, as the body-mind strives to meet seemingly conflicting wants and needs – those that have been conditioned to serve others, and our innate authentic needs or desires.
Our conditioning from early childhood experiences have a profound effect on our present moment body-mind functioning. Studies have demonstrated that the environment in which we develop before and soon after birth as well as our immediate environment profoundly influences our body-mind functioning. Prolonged adverse childhood experiences of neglect, abuse, violence and trauma can and do lead to chemical changes in our brains, nervous system, and organs thus effecting our body-mind health. Our earlier experiences are not ‘forgotten’ but are implicitly built into our body-mind architecture. All of our lived experience lives within our skin, blood, bone, muscles, fluid, and tissue and are reflected through our body-mind as biological memories and beliefs. Consequently the root of all our life experiences are patterned in our bodies’ physiological, biological, and chemical processes that are hence greatly reflected in our psychology. Our healing journey involves bringing open compassionate attention to our bodies’ interior self regulating capacity so as to support the release of trapped energy in a self respecting and safe way.
For example when we consider how prolonged symptoms of trauma, and stress present themselves through the unprocessed chemical and hormonal cortisol responses associated with our survival responses (flight, fight, freeze, and attachment cry) we can start to make sense of how the cortisol released can be likened to a stuck memory initiating a continual chemical release in the body-mind organism. This stuck memory continues to arouse the nervous system much like a stuck accelerator in car continuing to reeve up the engine. Hence, whilst a person can be cognitively, conceptually, and emotionally aware of what the original source of the stress and trauma may be associated via conventional therapy, this is sometimes insufficient to assist with processing the somatic memory responses within the body-mind organism. The possibilities of a more holistic healing resides within the acknowledgement of our unique organicity and constellation of our body-mind patterning. By bringing compassionate attention to our unique subjective body-mind experience we allow for a deeper understanding, acceptance, and organismic processing that opens to the possibility of deeper healing.
Embodied Self Awareness can be thought of as a returning home to belonging within oneself, deeply within to an orientation that we so long for. It is a orientation of self respect, compassion, acceptance, and empowerment. The crystal ball that many of us look to in the outer world to provide us with guidance, wisdom and healing actually lives directly within our subjective body-mind experience. It is in returning home and belonging to the wisdom of the body-mind that we can reclaim our inner authority as a light that illuminates the pathway to empowered health and vitality. This inner journey of self-healing is resonant with the words of the Buddha, Plato, and Lao Tzu:
“Be a Light unto Yourselves” (Buddha)
“Know Thyself” (Plato)
“Knowing others is intelligence; Knowing yourself is true wisdom” (Lao Tzu)
And as spoken by Ellen Goldman:
“I leaned that knowledge not yet in my mind was in my body”
What Does the Practice Of Embodied Self Awareness Involve
The practice of Embodied Self Awareness as a pathway of self-healing and self transformation is based upon an attitude towards the Self that incorporates:
What are the benefits of Embodied Self Awareness
Embodied Self Awareness sessions are somewhat different to conventional therapy sessions. Primarily, there is an experience of slowed-down time in order for what resides within the felt sense of awareness to be received and processed.
If you are interested in receiving support to reclaim this method of self-healing please contact Christina for an appointment on (08) 9430 9533 or 0422 648 243
References reviewed and assisting in compiling this article include:
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