Sunday, December 20, 2009

Embodiment as Enlightenment

I am in the middle of packing tonight for my Christmas trip to Montana, but I didn't want to miss a post today. To carry-on from the theme of yesterday's post, I wanted to write a little more about the importance of being grounded, embodied, for those raised in our culture. There is so much about this topic that fascinates me personally, observing in my own psyche and in my peers the tendency of us to be caught-up in perfectionism, spirituality and intellectualism. We are stuck in our heads or up in the clouds, disengaged from the rhythms of the earth and of our bodies. Our bodies ache, we have migraines, back pain, injuries; we are addicted to exercise or terrified of it. Versus balance, we compete with others and with ourselves for greater heights: better grades, better scores, more money, a better body.

Analyst Marion Woodman has focused her career on this work after healing from her symptom of perfectionist heights, anorexia. In her book Dancing in the Flames (1996), Woodman and co-author Elinor Dickson wrote:
Often individuals get caught up in trying to express that state of perfection in their own lives. The perfect body, the perfect wife/husband, the perfect teacher, all become disembodied images of the ideal, in whose light they inevitably fall short. Sons and daughters of patriarchy are very susceptible to this light. Women trapped in anorexia love and dread this light. They are in real danger of being swept off the earth by their perfectionist ideals and demands for perfect order. . . .Men, too, are vulnerable to being carried out of reality by the light. Their ideals, their hopes and dreams and artistic endeavors, can carry them right out of home, children, wife, and bills to be paid. Fantasy is one of the most dangerous addictions in our society. What is missing is embodiment. (p. 65)
The archetype of the Puer Aeturnus (the eternal boy) for men and what I have come to call the Spinning Girl for women are manifestations of living a life led by the fantasy that a "better" or "perfect" life is to be found elsewhere. Both are attempting to achieve the impossible or find the impossible, either in yet another partner (the puer) or in yet more impossible demands on themselves (Spinning girl). These are common archetypes evoked in our culture, as Woodman and Dickson wrote. We all carry aspects of them within us, ingrained predispositions to addictions from growing-up in a culture that attempts to avoid the darker realities of life (death, depressions, failures, disappointments) through medication, surgery, advertising, the sale of the perfect image in media. What is healing for us is to notice our addictions that keep us reaching higher versus pulling us into our bodies, into the moment. Coming into balance means staying still, feeling our emotions, running less, eating healthily, feeling our bodies, acknowledging and exploring our aches and pains, slowing down, responding to the moment, to the now, to what is true in the present moment versus planning and awaiting the future. And Breathing. Breathing. That's what I'll write about next time. . .

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