Sunday, May 17, 2020

To Embody or Not to Embody


No one feign surprise if hereafter I break into Georgia size 12 font and collapse across pages, never to be seen in human form again. If we are what we eat, or what we do-as Jung said-I am surely a book.

I've been gorging on words. Waking up and opening my laptop to read about old growth forests, holistic medicine, or the Elwha Dam for hours at a time. Running through books so fast that I've actually started ordering from Amazon (I'm usually gravely against this, but the local bookstore can't keep up). Listening to endless episodes of The New Yorker: Fiction podcast, clocking blogs and articles. Underlining passages and recounting phrases in my space and mind and journal. I am an absolute info junkie.

My allegiance to words underpins my cerebral (read: over-thinker) nature. I spend the vast majority of my days in my head, whether in my thoughts or in alternate realities of fantasy and imagination that reading engenders. Both my parents are keen readers, and my mom loves to shamelessly recount how I was chomping down chapter books in Kindergarten. I think words have always been my destiny.

And though I love it up here, most days, in my head- I have been working very hard to consciously come back home to my body. Be it a spacesuit or vehicle for my soul to travel inside of, "I" often forget about my corporeal self and can feel distantly separate from it. My friend Claire has deftly suggested for years that I work on becoming more embodied. She also says I'm way too hard on myself....she's pretty smart.

Aside from communion with nature, I know that embodiment is what I derive most from hiking. A reintegration with my physical self and its system of sensations, breath, movement, endurance.

Twin Firs

So much of the human experience is available to us through only physical exchange: movement, touch, fluidity. Our life energy, or chi, becomes stagnant and dis-ease(d) when it remains dormant or encumbered. For some of us heady, introspective humans, we have to conjure and sustain willful effort towards re-igniting & re-calibrating our tangible selves.

The body can feel like a dangerous place to house your sense of identity. After all, we age and deteriorate, and pain accompanies the realization of these shifts in our mortal selves (even at 32!) "I" often feels like it belongs completely to the voice in my head, rather than the stick figure walking around and interacting with things. But there is so much wisdom in aligning the inner and outer ("As Above, so Below"), and finding a nice dance between between thought and action.

In my efforts to become more embodied, I've been enjoying doing things with my hands. Tinkering, taking apart, putting back together. Taking a dance break every afternoon. Cooking and baking. Cutting vegetables and pickling them. Placing my hand on my heart to check my breathing and ask my self how I am in sincere attentiveness to all sensation. How do I feel on a molecular level after a walk, a meal, a conversation? And of course-resisting the urge to pursue only mentally strenuous hobbies.

Nothing trumps hiking, though. It is without a doubt the greatest physical pursuit there is for returning home to your body. I haven't been on a "real" hike since I was in Arizona in early March, and despite all my efforts to pursue and practice embodiment in creative ways during Quarantine, nothing compares to a luscious day outside and a forward stride.

Suspension over the Ohanapecosh River

Yesterday, Claire and I parked at the road closure outside the Ohanapecosh entrance to Rainier and got a true hike in- a little over 10 miles, and hours of plant and life talk. The welcomed chill of waterfall molecules on exposed skin, stroking the bark of giant, old trees, peering at mushrooms and tiny wildflowers just beginning to awaken. Rain drops and wet, squishy earth beneath our boots. It was sensational!


(A past post on the magic of waterfalls)

Silver Falls

As with anything, hiking can become competitive amd prideful. In a true embodiment practice, the act of feeling your body as it moves through the outer world is the focus, rather than specific achievements or self-improvement. Otherwise that inner voice can take over, taking us back inside the mind, obsessing about specific mileage, speed, or calories burned. In hopes of reacquainting with the "I" outside my head, stepping one foot in front of the other and being aware of how my fleshy, human self feels during and after is the only goal.

"The Big Cedar" - nearly 50 feet in circumference

(Trip details: Park off HWY 12 at the junction with HWY 123, walk up the road past the Ohanapecosh entrance of Rainier, to the Grove of the Patriarchs loop, back out to the road and down a spur trail to Silver Falls. Then from the falls through the campground, and back up to the road)