My work and foundational healing philosophy is all about embodiment – you might have heard me mention it once or twice… But how do you consciously, intentionally & compassionately embody a container filled with pain and trauma (or even just disgust)?
I don’t know a single person who hasn’t experienced some kind of trauma in their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. Many of us carry trauma to varying degrees in all our layers of self. Some may not even retain conscious memories of what happened or how, but nevertheless the pain and fear cloaks us, obstructing our personal growth in our relationships, our financial health, our wellness, our connection to the world at large, and our overall fulfilment.
How can we possibly embody that? And why would we want to?
It all comes back to how we choose to live our lives: in love, or fear. Brené Brown famously describes fear as a constant companion throughout our lives, and running away or fighting it really isn’t an option, because it persists regardless. What we can do is learn to recognise and accommodate our fear: it can sit next to us, or in the back of the car, but it never gets to drive. It never chooses the radio station or opens the windows. It never chooses the route. And rather than choosing to loathe this constant companion, we can choose to love it – with strong boundaries. Like forgiveness, this returns our personal power.
In yoga we have a Buddhist meditation practice called Tonglen. This is a powerful yet fully-compassionate method of breathing through the heavy, dark and even disturbing energies contained within our cells (and our world) and cleansing them. Here is the practice, in a nutshell:
On the in-breath, we visualise drawing in the fear, pain & darkness, and on the out-breath we send love, light and compassion. In this way we change our neuronal, emotional and physiological relationship with ourselves and the world around us.
As Jung said, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” We cannot simply shrug off our pain, deny or permanently ignore it, for this is what creates chronic disease (in our bodies and in societies). In order to really change, we must embody our own darkness with love, and gradually exhale away the fear, shedding our traumas bit by bit and allowing light and immense compassion to cleanse, heal and rebuild.
Tonglen and similar practices need not be scary, or even daunting. Like all personal growth it comes back to how you approach it. Having an excellent teacher who knows how to hold space appropriately is key, as is self-compassion and an intention to listen to your body with curiosity. Psychological therapy may also be necessary to support your ‘cleansing’, and there is zero shame in this. You are healing yourself, but you are also helping to heal the subconscious traumas of the world. This isn’t a ‘luxury’ or ‘self-indulgent’; it’s why we’re here.