Embodiment: The Body as a Gateway to Presence

Embodiment: The Body as a Gateway to Presence

(It was a joy to interview Erin Geesaman Rabke and Carl Rabke for the following post, which originally appeared on the Jung Society of Utah blog. I also thoroughly enjoyed their presentation about “The Wisdom in the Wilderness of Your Body.”)

Erin Geesaman Rabke and Carl Rabke met in their early 20s when they both worked at the Oasis Cafe. In their first conversation they discovered that they had both been walking very similar paths—including practicing in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and studying Tai Chi and Yoga. After a few years of being close friends, they got together as a couple. Their love of embodied practices has been a shared passion all throughout their 20 year connection. They answer some questions below about embodiment and why it matters.

What is embodiment?

Embodiment invites a different relationship with our bodies—a rich one, indeed, where the body is no longer regarded as an object, but an intimate, living process. The body offers us a gateway to presence, as long as we’re alive.

Embodiment includes awareness of sensation, feelings, thoughts, and environment in a not-purely-mental way. Being embodied doesn’t preclude conceptual thought, but offers a grounded infrastructure through which we can have a different relationship with our thoughts. Embodiment is mindfulness not as a mental practice, but as a lived experience. “I’m here. I’m resonating with what is, and I’m aware of it.”

In our work, we learn to more fully inhabit our bodies with non-judgmental awareness. We learn to reclaim a way of sensing our selves that we knew as children. We learn to trust the organic intelligence of our bodies as an expression of nature. Living in this way can lead to a life that is curious, rich, respectful, and optimistic.

aspen leaf and droplet

How embodiment relate to Jung’s ideas, especially with regard to individuation and wholeness?

There is a great story of Carl Jung meeting with the Hopi Elder, Mountain Lake in 1925. Essentially, Mountain Lake said, “You know why White people are so crazy? They think in their heads. We think here (gesturing toward his heart).” This interaction had a profound impact on Jung’s work.

In our embodiment, there is a need for differentiation and integration; another way to describe individuation and wholeness. Often, as modern western people, we lean a bit heavily in the individuation direction, holding ourselves as separate beings encapsulated by our skin. But our bodies are always in relationship with a larger whole—individuated and integrated at the same time. Our heartbeats and our breathing rates affect each other; our bones are being made in this moment through the force of gravity and the support of the earth; our breath puts us in relationship with the plant life in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

We also tend to do this within ourselves—separating our wholeness into parts. We do this most intensely when there is some kind of pain or challenge. The sciatica, the migraines, the food allergy, the grief, the aging knees… these can seem to become solid things that we relate to. Part of our work with people is to help invite these parts back into an experience of interdependent wholeness. Not only is the back pain in relationship to what your ribs and jaw are doing, but also connected to what is happening in your marriage, your work, your relationship to your dreams for your life.

cmzc buddha hand

How has working together as a team been beneficial for you and those you teach?

When we teach together, it can be really valuable to have two voices and we often love to riff off of each other, even as we joke that we “share a brain” because we often think so alike about this work. We also find there is something beneficial in having the masculine and feminine presence teaching together. We adore each other and the work deeply, and we truly live this work in our relationship. Many people have said they’ve found it helpful and inspiring to see our relationship as a part of our teaching.

What can Jung Society guests expect from your presentation?

Well, what they should not expect is a lecture where we are in our heads talking and sharing information, and they sit in their chairs listening from their heads. We plan to share our understandings of principles in this work not just mentally, but to invite the guests into embodied experience. We plan on exploring together the question of “What is embodiment?” and “Why does this perhaps matter in your life?” We plan on keeping the gathering as experiential as possible, as opposed to simply sharing ideas. We hope to have a lot of fun.

Please join the Jung Society of Utah for this soulful evening!

Date: May 5th
Time: 7-9pm
Location: Downtown Library
210 East 400 South
Salt Lake City
Cost: Free, please become a member