To be aware of the body is the beginning of love . . . every cell contains all of existence.
These words from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh speak to the depths of our interconnectedness. Living and feeling from the inside of our bodies – embodiment – is a necessary and crucial next step for our own well-being and that of the world. Once I experienced the awareness living deep in my cells, a direct knowing of the cosmos through the felt experience of my body, my worldview and how I moved in the world changed.
As we begin to live from the insides of ourselves, we experience the aliveness and ever-changing wonder of our own body, a complex system of inter-relationships in continual dynamic change – an improvisational dance in which each part of the whole is a vital contributing member. We experience our interdependence with our surrounding elemental world, the sunlight, air, water and food through which we thrive. From this inner vantage point we see that the entire world is alive, complex and dynamic, a web of interdependence and mutual exchange. Thich Nhat Hanh uses the term “interbeing” to describe our living world of mutuality. The swaying of the trees and the flight of the hummingbird began to touch me at a deeper level. I no longer was looking at nature as something outside myself, but feeling her movements within me. The aliveness of the Earth and my ability to communicate with her, to interrelate, became real. As David Suzuki writes, “How you see the world is how you live in it,” and with increasing levels of embodiment, I move through the world and relate in a kinder and more gentle way. I am in dialogue, in an improvisational exchange, with my elemental surroundings and the animals, plants, and humans who live here.
My first experience of intimate contact with the Earth was on a vision quest in 1984. My prayer was to feel the Earth, to know her more fully. On a full moon night, I had climbed up onto a rocky plateau above the valley where my tent was staked, taking my sleeping bag with me. I snuggled into my sleeping bag in the crevice of the rocks, looking up at the Moon illuminating the entire valley and my plateau. As I lay there to my amazement I began to feel cradled and rocked by the Earth, a moving sensation that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I felt held and protected, soothed and nurtured, at a cellular level. At that moment my worldview changed, and I could no longer experience myself as isolated or alone. I knew that I was in the presence of another living being who was holding me in her field.
This experience was an initiation into the journey of embodiment, a journey that has continued over the past 22 years, an unfolding of feeling and connection with myself and my world. I have become more relaxed and present, as I have learned to become a part of the living dance. Through the richness of my inner body I began to dance, learned to feel my cells and through them the pull of gravity and the joy of levity, falling, leaping, swirling in motion. But most of all, as I continued to open to life, I became a more heartful person, sensitive to the nuances and feelings not only in myself and the natural world, but also with my fellow humans.
In YOGA MIND,BODY AND SPIRIT, Donna Farhi writes, “Every violent impulse begins in a body filled with tension; every failure to reach out to someone in need begins in a body that has forgotten to feel.” When I am connected to my inner world of feeling and sensation, I feel the feelings of those around me, and I am moved to respond or to act, or to witness in compassion. When I am embodied, I live from, and in, a moving web of connection, and my impulses arise from the deep sea of interbeing. What is needed in the moment arises. I am moved and I am the mover, in a co-creative dance of far greater subtlety and magic than I ever could create in my previously unembodied state. This is my wish for planet Earth and those of us here now – the embodied solution – that we embrace our inner depths and discover our interconnection. It begins with the body, but the ripples affect every level of our lives.
I imagine that as we become increasingly aware of our interconnection and interdependence on the Earth, creative solutions will occur to us, solutions that will help us create a peaceful world and healthier environment. In the improv world, whether improv theater or dance, participants learn to support one another, to go with what is happening. And, of course, the more embodied one is, the more easily this comes. Innovation and surprising creativity emerge from moving in mutual connection and support. As an improvisational dancer, I have learned to trust the impulses that emerge from within, and I watch myself in wonder as my movement unfolds in new and delightful ways. This same principle occurs in my writing, as ideas develop during the act of writing, emerging from the inner sea of creativity, shaping the writing in ways I had not imagined. Yet is is always a co-creative process, at any moment I can reject an impulse or save the idea for another time. When I am connected to the inner depths of my being, creativity is boundless, each moment a creative arising and falling, an improvisational adventure, true play. I experience the true nature of reality, an ongoing dance of becoming, with myriad possibilities in each moment.