How do you know you’re not just a brain in a jar? 4 simple ways reconnect with your body
I just watched the movie “Her,” where Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a lonely guy who falls in love with his operating system (OS), Samantha, played by Scarlett Johansson. There’s this moment where Theodore is in bed talking to Samantha. She gets quiet and then her raspy voice sounds pained when she asks him, “what does it feel like…to have a body?” Stop and think about this for a moment. What does it feel like? Because it’s so easy to forget these days! Of course, Theodore can’t give Samantha a satisfying answer. She’ll never have a body. But you and I do, every moment of every day. Forgive me for stating the obvious.
Remember those old movie images of brains in jars? These days we live more and more like disembodied brains and our bodies are suffering. But it’s not only our bodies that are suffering — we end up depressed, addicted, and feeling like we’re not really living.
Eventually, the lovers in our modern tale grow closer in their relationship and they want to have sex, or something close to it. Samantha (the OS) finds a human woman online who is willing to be a “body surrogate.” The scene that follows is heartbreaking. Theodore and Samantha are trying to connect through the body of this third character who wants to be part of their relationship. But the awkward attempt ends in horrible disappointment for everyone involved. It’s fiction but it’s not really so far-fetched; people are already finding it harder to connect with other human beings.
In another scene, Theodore walks around the city listening to Samantha through little wire-free earbuds. As he goes down the stairs to the subway, every other person coming up the stairs is talking through their little earbuds, presumably to their own operating systems. Or they are exactly like us today with all our devices? Constantly plugged in, negotiating life through these technologies; each in our private bubble of experience. The first step in alienation is losing the connection to our own bodies, our own physicality.
Artificial intelligence is here and our lives are already changing faster than we realize and that change will be exponential in our lifetimes. Instead of freaking out about some dystopian vision of the future, we need to cultivate the ancient technologies that can only be accessed through the body, the technologies of human connection to ourselves and to one another. It kills me to think that as computers and machines become smarter and beat us at our own games (and jobs), that we will allow ourselves to become dumber and duller and more reliant on them to navigate our way through the physical world.
We are suffering with widespread depression and other emotional and mental problems because we have these bodies that are part of nature, that are still connected to millions of years of being wild, and yet we live an almost machine-like existence — constantly indoors, barely moving, breathing just enough to stay alive. We have our senses, yet we barely explore what it means to have so much capacity to taste, to smell, to feel! The thing is, we can’t really separate the mind from the body. We need to learn how to have mind and body play together.
It’s no small thing to smell the aroma of baking bread, to go outside and feel the breeze on your skin. It’s no small thing to hold another person, because touch is a basic need. When we slow down enough to feel something as simple as sipping a cup of tea can be a richly layered experience. And when we are plugged in to this richness of the senses, of the body, something in us begins to open up. Our anxiety starts to release bit by bit. This is no small thing.
If you do sometimes feel like a brain that is untethered from the body (and who doesn’t, nowadays?) what can you do about it? It’s simple though not always easy. It will take changing your habits, and it will be so worth it.
Here’s the key: Learn how to feel again. Get into your senses while using your awareness to pay attention. Body and mind playing together. Yes!
4 SIMPLE WAYS TO UNPLUG FROM TECHNOLOGY AND RECONNECT WITH YOUR BODY.
Set a timer if you must (use that same technology to help you get free) and go do one of these:
1. Go for a quick walk. Leave your phone at home! If the thought of that freaks you out, that’s something to ponder while you’re outside feeling the sun on your skin and smelling the air.
2. Move that body. Get up from your desk or couch and move around. Go slowly so you can pay attention. Crawl on the floor, or dance to your favorite song. Let yourself be silly if this feels silly. How much can you tune in and feel?
3. Find a practice. Whether you take up yoga or tantra or some type of dance, all of these are great ways to develop your ability to feel more and connect to your body. One caveat, find a practice that is more about feeling and connection than it is about looking good or competing.
4. Be kind to yourself. The habits of disconnection are easy to fall into. It seems like everyone around you is on their phone 24/7. The habit of feeling and connection takes practice. It takes deciding over and over, moment by moment, to come back to your senses.
To have a fulfilling life, we need to live through our bodies again. Modern living can make us forget the joys and pleasures of living through the body, not against it. Healing and real transformation happen through deeper connection with our bodies, not by denying that connection.
As a Women’s Life and Desire Coach, I teach my clients how to connect to the body for aliveness and for intuition. We include body wisdom and pleasure, not only in their vision and their desires but in every step along the way. Learning how to return to our natural state as sensual creatures, our lives can quickly to go from black and white to color — life starts to feel worth living RIGHT NOW, not just in some imaginary future that could be dreamed up by that old brain in a jar!
If you feel trapped in a life of overwork and way too much screen time, don’t be afraid to get some support. Working with a coach who can help you design a rich and embodied life can make all the difference. You can reach your goals and savor every step of the way.
www.foodsexandgod.com for more writing or to contact me.