It’s common in our language to talk about body and/or mind, matter and/or spirit. A natural extension of this way of thinking is to imagine that to be more in tune with spirit, we need somehow to leave our bodies behind. Or that being fully in our bodies, that we are somehow less spiritual, or at least, less attuned to spirit.
Being in our physical body doesn’t take us further away from spirit. The physical body too is spirit. Fully settling into our physical body can put us very much more in touch with the subtle energies that support and form us, with our emotions, with our intellectual resources, and with our essence, with spirit.
The body – being nonverbal – has lived access to both pre-verbal experience and experiences that transcend the verbal. In this way, grounding is a resourceful place in which to become aware of and work with early life experiences (e.g., joys and traumas), learnings (e.g., reaching out doesn’t get support), and decisions (e.g., depending on myself alone is better than the pain of reaching out). Grounding too is a centered and settled place in which we can touch energies and experiences that are “larger” than our everyday sense of self (e.g., a deep sense of connection with the natural environment, or the experience of all of the universe as being alive).
Some traditions view the body and the material world as something if not evil, at least to be gone beyond. Other traditions do not view the physical body in this way, and see the body as an important part of who we are – even if not all of who we are. Some spiritual meditative and psychospiritual practices, although not arising from a body-negative tradition, may be approached in ways that advertently reinforce a body-mind split. For example, mindfulness practices can at times serve to reinforce an intellectual style that is able to be mindful of thoughts and emotions, but still does not fully embrace the experience of the body.
There is a subtle but important distinction between being aware of the body, and being aware as the body that we are.
Fully embracing the nowness of our physical body can bring us into present awareness. And in this embodied present awareness, in being fully in our physical body, we can also be fully in all of our bodies – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.
Our grounding is our connection to the universe. And being here and now in our body is a way to return over and over the experience of grounding. It’s not the only way of being grounded, but as adults who spend a great deal of time in our minds, re-embodying our consciousness is a golden route to grounding… to our connection with the universe.
In some traditions of psycho-spiritual development, awareness of the “body of sensation” is a route into the world of subtle energies. When we ground and become more aware in the present, in our bodies, we become increasingly sensitive to subtle ebbs, flows, pulses, and shifts of experience (sensation) in our bodies. Where does our “physical” body end and our “subtle” body begin? Maybe that question is unanswerable because they are both intimately intertwined. Where, after all, does matter begin and energy end? Turning down the noise of our mind by settling into our grounded bodies does allow us to become more aware of and responsive to the potentials of these subtle sensation, these subtle energies.
In the integrated body-mind (bioenergetic, analytic, transpersonal) work, we emphasize grounding because it’s always a place to which to return – for stability, for support. But it doesn’t mean we’re only working with the body.
It’s not either-or. It’s both-and.
And maybe not different.