Updated: Aug 20, 2020
People have always turned towards the seeking of authentic spiritual awakening because it promises the end of suffering.
People also seem to be increasingly turning into the growing conversation around the embodiment process that accompanies awakening.
Before we go any deeper down this rabbit hole, let’s discuss the difference between awakening and embodiment.
Awakening is a shift in perception where one sees the illusory nature of the separate self.
People often report a strong sense of present moment awareness after such a shift. Awakening relieves mental and emotional suffering. Caveat: one can have a head awakening where the mind feels clear while still having a contracted body. Embodiment is different than awakening. It’s the process of bringing what has been realized all the way down into the body so that the awakening becomes a truly lived experience. Embodiment work helps the body feel clearer, uncontracted, spacious, and peaceful. It allows energy to flow more freely throughout the body once the contractions and trauma are dissolved.
A lot of the embodiment process involves clearing unresolved trauma. Trauma is suffering, so if awakening is about freedom from suffering it must include an embodiment component.
Trauma leaves an imprint in our system and can negatively affect us for years after the event(s).
One big reason trauma continues to create suffering throughout our lives is that it usually doesn’t go away until it is directly addressed and can even turn into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which carries a host of scary and painful symptoms.
Embodiment is not just about clearing trauma. It is also about clearing long-held or repressed emotions, energy blocks, and contractions in various parts of the body (throat, heart area, stomach).
We hold onto this energy and emotion throughout our lives as a way to stay safe, protect ourselves, and get approval and love from others. We hold back our expression and how we really feel and we pay the price for it - a contracted body.
From an early age we learn the habit of avoiding being present to emotions. We are taught to inwardly repress anger or outwardly force our anger on others. We learn to fear fear and hide our fears from ourselves and others, just as we hide our shame and other vulnerable emotions.
If we fail to keep this more vulnerable side hidden, we may be judged, ridiculed, alienated, or attacked, leading to more feelings of fear and shame. So the cycle continues ...
Let’s just say that our relationship to emotions is fairly unevolved!
All this emotion gets stored in the body. This is why people struggle after an awakening experience. They fail to understand the importance of embodying awareness in order to heal and integrate those emotional parts of ourselves that we couldn’t integrate during the earlier traumatic event(s).
How did we evolve into conceptual selves so disconnected from our somatic experience?
For that answer we have to go back to childhood...
Our parents were good at teaching us to think. They rewarded us the more words we learned and the more sentences we put together. They never rewarded us for our emotions, especially the negative ones. So we learned that these emotions are bad. In many cases, they judged and disciplined us whenever we felt or expressed anger, fear, shame and other vulnerable emotions.
Our parents weren’t skilled at teaching us to feel emotions in a way that allows them to be fully processed and let go of. And some of our spiritual teachers aren’t much better at it.
Some teachers can lead you to an initial awakening, but if they are not equipped to help you if or when your body starts showing signs of trauma, my suggestion is to leave that teacher immediately.
An awakening in no way guarantees that unresolved trauma will magically disappear. Trauma work, which takes some time, needs to happen or the embodiment process can prolong itself and carry on for many, many years.
Some teachings deny that there is any kind of embodiment process after awakening. I find it curious that within nondual teachings where there is talk of “no separation in the universe,” somehow the mind and body are separate? So the body doesn’t need to be addressed at all? Interesting theory. But it doesn’t withstand the scrutiny of science.
It’s no wonder so many past and present nondual teachings don’t speak of embodiment. The subject is beyond their scope of experience and skill. They don’t read the latest science. You can tell it by the way they still talk in archaic ways about the body. Unfortunately there is no mandated course for teachers to become more trauma-informed. My education about trauma came from Addiction Specialist School, years of research and owning two trauma-informed treatment centers.
Trauma is so important to the topic of awakening and embodiment. Mostly after an awakening, what makes it so difficult to bring awareness all the way down into the body is unresolved trauma, which is actually stored in the body.
Teachings miss the embodiment topic because they are not trauma-informed. It’s incredibly irresponsible for teachers to be helping people have awakening experiences without educating them, preparing them, and providing support during the embodiment process.
Many spiritual traditions - being detached from the clinical field - continue to this day remaining trauma-ignorant while still denying the embodiment process. It’s worth repeating that trauma is stored in the body. A head awakening where the mind goes quiet often doesn’t heal trauma at all.
Embodiment is needed.
An awakening also often brings trauma to the surface more. Some people actually suffer more after an awakening because they stick with teachers who are ignorant of the connection between embodiment and unresolved trauma.
It’s time for nondual and other spiritual teachers to start becoming trauma-informed and to stop denying the embodiment process. Stop denying science. Science is way ahead of spirituality on this subject. There are a slew of studies that show the connection between trauma and how it negatively shapes an individual’s somatic experience. When there is pain or contraction in someone’s body resulting from unresolved trauma, suggesting that the person rest as awareness or just feel it and let it be can be highly detrimental to them. More skill is needed than simply resorting back to tired, old nondual pointers.
With the Kiloby Inquiries we are constantly evolving our work so that we remain one of the most skillful methodologies for trauma and embodiment.
To join this rich exploration, visit www.kiloby.com