Within the spirituality, or some call it New Age, movement and communities there seems to be push and pull in opposite directions. From what I see in trends, people just discovering spiritual practices, concepts, and ideas have been blown away by transcendence and the potential of their own human consciousness experience. However, it’s difficult to say exactly when, but there has been a noticeable shift towards embodiment.
A little background first. I sprinkle the word “spirituality” pretty generously in my posts, but I’m unsure if I’ve ever clearly defined what I mean. In my field of Transpersonal Psychology, defining it in research always feels like an enormous task. Spirituality is often custom made. This means people will construct their own meaning of it, although the meaning is usually derived from some general consensus.
Occasionally people will use it interchangeably with religion, and there might be crossover for some, but the two are distinctly different. Religion is an organized system of beliefs, principles, and traditions that guide community behavior, divine worship, and provide a foundation for making sense of life (Koenig, 2008). A handful of Transpersonal Psychologists have attempted to move away from the word “spirituality” because of its common associations with religion and replace it with the word “awakening.” I think too many terms can get muddy and creates even more confusion of who means what when they say something.
For the purpose of this post, any post where I use the word “spirituality,” and pretty much if you and I ever have a conversation and I use it, the following is what I’m referring to. Spirituality is a gateway to deeper connection, personal development, and transformation (Hartelius et al., 2021). This personal journey is to create meaning and purpose for the self and relate broadly and equally to all life forms (referencing an abundance of Transpersonal Psychology researchers I’d be happy to list if you ask).
Moving along! So part of the fun of spirituality is that there is a lot of experimentation and a variety of ideas to sample, practices to try on for size. My favorite part about it is that you can self proclaim yourself as “spiritual” even if what it means to you changes over time. It grows and evolves along with you. For me, it keeps me curious, open, and eager to evolve.
Under the umbrella of spirituality some people arrive at transcendence of the body, that is, ego dissolution, non attachment, impermanence, astral projection, mindfulness and meditation to attain non duality and oneness, methods of connecting to a collective energy beyond the confines of oneself, etc. It may be any one or a combination of all of that. The starseed journey seems transcendent to me in nature. Although, some people may apply that discovery to feel grounded in their purpose, meaning, and experience as a human on Earth.
Maybe it reflects my personal direction, but as I said, I see a collective shift towards embodiment and the importance of grounding. Like most difficult concepts to explain, it’s easiest to explain something first by what it is not. It helps to portray two concepts on opposing sides because to understand extremes we can better determine how to effectively balance, how each side needs the other.
The sides of the scale I’m presenting are transcendence and embodiment. The former emphasizes the importance of experience beyond the body, and the latter emphasizes the importance of acute experience within a body. Previously I introduced each of these as methods to alleviate existential and death anxiety. Transcendence coincides with consciousness awakening experiences, and I would argue that we need that experience to truly appreciate embodiment. It’s kind of like leaving home to enhance its sense of comfort and stability.
Embodiment in comparison has appeared to be the unfun one of the two perhaps because it’s less adventurous. It’s the Yin to a wild, often dramatic, expansive Yang. Many will describe embodiment as “living life fully,” but this is hardly different from its transcendent counterpart. The whole awe-inspiring point of transcendence is the farther reaches of human experience that essentially is meant to give greater fullness and meaning to life.
Both transcendence and embodiment are about energetic connection. Connection through embodiment works with the physical realm and focuses on “living in the moment” with ease and acceptance of everything in that moment as it is. The following practices ironically have also been found to be methods of transcendence, but the intention is to connect to the wider scope of life through grounding.
- Physical movement such as yoga, running, swimming, dancing
2. Immersing in nature (hiking checks 2 boxes!)
3. Gardening, touching dirt and plants with hands or walking barefoot
4. Eating foods that are as unprocessed as possible
5. Sex (always consensual but best with enhanced attention and flow)
Transpersonal Psychologist Jorge Ferrer has developed the concept of “embodied spirituality” which is “to approach the body as a living partner with which to co-create one’s spiritual life” (2016). He suggests practices that help us to engage in a sensual human experience.
Any time we bring awareness away from our mind and to our body, we become more “embodied.” One of the most simple ways to bring awareness to the body is to notice what’s happening with our senses. Really feel the subtleties in your body and notice the relationship between it and the external world. Our bodies are very perceptive, and they can inform us of a lot if we give them attention.
Connect through embodiment and if you like this page, please share it!
Hartelius, G., Crouch, C., Thouin-Savard, M., Stamp, G., Harrahy, M., Pardo, S. (2021). Is transpersonal psychology in its second-wave? Evidence from bibliometric and content analysis of two transpersonal journals. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 53(1), 9-30.
Koenig, H. G. (2008). Medicine, religion and health: Where science and spirituality meet. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton.
Linked above: Ferrer, J. (2016) https://digitalcommons.ciis.edu/ijts-transpersonalstudies/vol27/iss1/3/
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