Written by: Hayley Merron Stevens
It is the first Sunday in 2014 and I have just returned home from a morning spent at Gorton Monastery, a beautifully restored Franciscan church on the outskirts of Manchester now used as a venue for conferences, weddings and social events.
I’d been asked to contribute to an event at The Monastery about 'Body from the perspective of different health and well-being practitioners'.
After much pondering about what I could do in just 20 minutes, I decided to use the common experience of 'shaking someone's hand' to look at Embodied Relating.
In the first 10 minutes I took people through some simple activities to explore the difference between a disembodied way vs embodied way of holding another person's hand. These simple activities brought up a lot of feeling. For some it put them in touch with sadness, others experienced anger, others experienced warmth, love, a letting go of tension, there was also anxiety and fear, and some blanked out or walked away.
What is Embodied Relating?
Very simply put embodiment is our capacity to be in contact with our own feelings, sensations, impulses and thoughts. The degree to which we are embodied could be said to be the degree to which we are alive. To be dis-embodied - cut-off or out of contact with our feelings, physical sensations, inner impulses and thoughts - is to be cut-off from our experience of life.
Many - maybe most - of us are more or less embodied.
Embodied Relating is therefore our capacity to be embodied whilst being in relationship with another. The more embodied we are the more able we are to make deep connections with others.
That is to say that the degree of my internal connection will determine the depth of my external connections.
But not only does dis-embodiment result in less aliveness, it also cuts us off from our wisdom.
Our ability to sense our selves and others - physically and emotionally - provides us with vital information. Information we need to make good choices about relationships - all kinds of relationships.
This is not to say disembodiment is bad or wrong - numbing, deadening or tensing a part of our self was at one time the only choice available to us which is why we did it. The point of exploring Embodied Relating is to have that choice again. For many of us we do not even know that we are out of contact with our self and therefore not fully able to be in contact with others.
You can eat without tasting; it is not difficult.
You can touch someone without touching; it is not difficult;
We are already doing it.
You shake hands with someone without touching him
because to touch, you have to come to your hand, you have to move to your hand.
You have to become your fingers and your palm, as if you, your soul, has come to the hand.
Only then can you touch.
You can take someones hand in your hand and withdraw.
You can withdraw; then the dead hand is there.
It appears to be touching but it is not touching.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (1976)