I’ve been reading the book: “Dancing in the Flames”, by Marion Woodman and Elinor Dickson. This book has been very useful for me as I’ve tried to better understand what it means to embody soul work, and how to integrate what I do on a spiritual level in psychological and physical terms. These two authors are masters at weaving the wisdom of the magical principal in a way that pays tribute to the poetic uniqueness of subtle work, all the while not loosing touch with the reader who perceives the world more comfortably from a linear, logical, and more rational perspective. For me, one of the greatest gifts I’ve harnessed from the book is what it means to EMBODY versus CONCRETIZE the metaphors that surface as teachings in our life.
Even the sounds of these words suggest an intentional difference. Embody is soft and round, melodic and shapely; the word concretize is hard and sharp, absolute and cutting. One sounds harmonic, the other cacophonic. The difference in sound lends to their difference in function: to embody is to bring holistic awareness and growth into your whole being: body, mind, heart, and soul; to concretize is to instead let the potential teaching take shape as a painful drama happening to you, or outside of yourself.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you had this clear sense that you needed space in your life, you felt it from the inside out, a yearning for more, but not quite sure exactly more of what. When we concretize the experience of needing space we fail to understand it is a metaphor for something needed within. If we don’t consider that the desire is telling us something about our inner world, we will instead interpret it as coming from our external world: as in, perhaps feeling fed up with our relationships, or our jobs, or the size of our house. We feel hemmed in, constricted, like we can hardly breathe, and we assure ourselves that ” if only I fix…the house, the relationship, the job”, all that live outside of the self, the feeling of constriction or yearning will go away.
Concretizing the inner need often leads to unnecessary pain, suffering, and drama, for ourselves and for others in our lives. It also generally doesn’t resolve the inner tension of needing to self-express and self-expand, which means down the road the issue will perennially surface until we skillfully learn to resource and resolve it. Its not that concretizing is bad and embodying is good; in the end of the day, they are both simply choices we can make. Each choice brings about new information that can lend itself to our growth, our capacity to discern, and the next series of choices to act on in the future.
If, however, we’ve come to realize that the inner experience is a call for inner growth, we can choose to embody whatever metaphor is surfacing. Choosing to embody is choosing to own the awareness from the inside out. We can start by reflecting on “what is this feeling telling me about my inner world? About my Self?” In the “I need space” example, often there is the need for more space for the authentic Self, our individual Self-expression, in our life. Resourcing this need is hardly ever resolved through external world modification, we need to expand from the inside out, in order to resolve the inner tension. Finding resource to nurture and grow our sense of Self is what we tend to be looking for. The specific answer for how to express that sense of Self is best if born from an embodied awareness (yes, this is where yoga therapy, or art therapy, or therapy in general can be useful), but often practices such as journaling, expressive art classes, dancing in a self-expressing way, creative writing classes, or anything that starts to open the door to our individuality, is what will feed our souls.
How is this connected to my Camino? Well, there were healthy, resourceful aspects of my Camino, that were examples of embodiment, and then there were unhealthy, unresourceful aspects of my Camino, that were examples of concretization. Healthy aspects were how I realized that each step on my walk helped me embody the metaphor of consistency, and patience with engaging my process; and also of setting goals, following through with them, and eventually arriving at my destination. Unhealthy aspects were not recognizing my hunger for the divine feminine within, and essentially for my Self, and mistakenly seeking that nourishment though the excessively abundant, and not-very-good-for-me rich food along the Camino (including a lot of red wine).
The beauty is that either way, in the end, I made progress (at times through regression), but ultimately learned and grew; However, a third way to learn is not only through our own trials and errors, but vicariously through the sharing of life lessons offered by those who’ve gone before us. So, for whatever it is worth…
Thanks for reading.
“I can’t help but wonder: what would the world look like if we assumed our life was a gift and we believed that we deserved it?” -Sept 24, 2016