Week 2 Integration Essay

Embodied Awareness

Artwork by Xia Russell

Since writing the integration paper for week one, I’ve been pondering more on the feeling and meaning of home in the body. I decided to choose a similar theme this week because I want to elaborate on the concept of home and homeostasis. The subject matter that I choose to write about today is awareness or embodiment. Last week I observed how awareness was considered in each reading and film. We are continuously affected by a state of awareness; when we are aware of our surroundings, sensations and feelings, we make wiser, healthier short and long-term decisions.

In chapter 2 of Body Sense, Alan Fogel distinguishes embodied self-awareness from conceptual self-awareness. He defines embodied self-awareness as the way one feels in their body, whereas conceptual self-awareness is one’s idea of them self. When we look in the mirror and critique our appearance we are using conceptual self-awareness. What would it feel like to be in one’s own skin without a perception of self? There would only be pure existence. As we learn in chapter one, when we get stuck observing ourselves from afar, we don’t recognize what is happening in our bodies.

There are many things that society teaches us to distract us from our bodily needs as I described in my week-one integration essay. Unfortunately the affects of ignoring our internal needs are detrimental: “The neural pathways that allow us to sense the internal condition of our bodies — sensations and emotions — are intimately linked to neural pathways for regulation of body processes that maintain mental and physical health” (Body Sense, page 41). We have misinformation ingrained in us; we are conditioned to believe that our body, brain and nervous system function alone and therefore, must be treated and evaluated separately — this is a strong indication of a deeply misguided society.

How do we shift our awareness back to the present moment once we have lost touch with our bodies? One way is through awareness-based activities. Some examples might include: transcendental meditation, intuitive art, or free form movement. The key to awareness-based therapy is that it refrains from vocal expression. Relevant emotional information that we hold in our bodies is usually not conscious, but it doesn’t mean it can’t eventually become conscious. Tension is frequently caused by repressed anger or other uncomfortable emotions. This is a classic example where we are taught to treat the symptom and ignore the underlying cause.

Awareness-based therapy is an amazing tool that focuses on therapeutic touch, guided movements and creative expression; Awareness based therapeutic practices are innovative strategies that lead to self actualization. The reason they are so effective is because they provide a non-direct way for patient’s to express their concerns. It is not the therapist doing the healing; they’re actually guiding the client through their own self-healing process. This is imperative because it gives the person a sense of autonomy. Shawn McNiff, author of Art As Medicine, believes that the best remedy a person can have is a sense of purpose. Purpose provides a reason for us to trust in our innate ability to heal.

Expressive arts therapy is a type of awareness-based therapy that utilizes the creative potential behind emotions so the patient no longer has to run from them. In the article Expressive Arts Therapy, Dr. Akihiko Morita writes: “Artistic work can impress both artists who created them and viewers alike. This indicates that artistic expressions have inter-subjective and universal character” (page 9). Awareness brings people and communities together. Creativity and awareness both build confidence and self-assuredness. Awareness through creativity also allows us to be openly and safely vulnerable, with ourselves and with others. Most importantly, self-awareness reveals the wisdom that we already contain within us. In his speech (Consciousness, Creativity and The Brain), David Lynch describes this type of embodied, connected, and expansive awareness as “freedom from the binding limitation of perception.” It’s time we come alive in our bodies and realize our full creative capabilities.

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