The Body in Transpersonal (Psychospiritual) Work


One of the oft repeated maxims of transpersonal work is that true development means to “transcend and include.” Unfortunately this can, if understood only cognitively, be taken as license to continue to treat one’s own body as something other than the “real” self.” This wouldn’t be an atypical consequence of working in a psychospiritual tradition that perhaps emphasizes observation. However, this kind of license can lead to ignoring the body, building the body to conform to an image, and/or perhaps riding the body hard like an overused horse, with the ego as the rider. If we are prone to detach from our bodies in this way – whether through family of origin issues, or through our culture generally – we may find such psychospiritual practices reinforce the mind-body split.

Transcend and include. We will find it difficult to be the self that we fully are if we ignore, deny, or suppress our bodily selves.

In the great work to liberate our authentic selves, we may forget the “include” part of the maxim – which means we must also be the embodied beings that we very much are. Many of us need to recover the sense of ourselves as bodyminds. Note that I’m talking about the subjective sense of our bodies, not the objectification of our bodies, from the “high” vantage of our minds.

None of this denies that there can be more to us than our bodies. This is simply a reminder that becoming fully ourselves means embracing the felt sense of the bodily being that we are even now.