From a very early age, we learn that emotions are scary, something to avoid or resist. Many of us, as we grow older, try to find spiritual paths or self-improvement plans that help us continue bypassing or avoiding these painful or scary emotions. We are looking for a safe space or safe realization where we never have to feel those pesky painful and scary emotions. If a particular path to awakening or self-improvement merely helps us avoid feeling, and keeps us in our heads too much, we still continue to feel disconnected from our bodies. And so we continue to suffer.
In some teachings, there is talk of the need for embodiment as one awakens, as some sort of separate process. But this is only needed when awakening itself is used as a way to continue avoiding or escaping emotions. Resting as awareness or even a realization of egolessness or “no self” can, itself, be just another way of avoiding emotions. For example, one recognizes awareness as something apart from those pesky little emotions that come and go. Refuge is taken in the space of now or the space behind the emotion as it is coming through. But why would one be interested in this space behind or around an emotion if there weren’t some idea that the emotion is, in fact, you?
There is only a need to turn away from something, an emotion, if there is still identification with it on some level.
Just about every week someone emails me saying something like this: “I have recognized that there is no self but I’m still suffering with a lot of painful emotions.” My answer is something like this: “Those emotions that you are trying to avoid are being avoided precisely because there is still identification with them. You believe the emotions are you. The avoidance keeps the suffering around.” A realization of no self is superficial if it is only intellectual or if there is still an avoidance or an attempt to escape emotions because one still identifies with them.
What is embodiment then and is it needed?
With the Living Inquiries, embodiment is already happening during the process of unfindability itself. No separate process is needed to embody awakening. From the moment a facilitator begins working with you or you begin using the Inquiries on your own, you are guided to sit with every single emotion or sensation that arises, whether it is pleasurable or painful, blissful or scary. Nothing is left out in the looking. No stone is unturned. Nothing is avoided or turned away from. Nothing is escaped. Every single emotion is allowed to be as it is, without trying to change or get rid of it.
In my own looking with the Inquiries, incredible pain and fear came up. What a blessing! With each emotion or sensation, the question “is that me” revealed that no single emotion or sensation is me. So nothing needed to be avoided. No separate process of embodiment was needed.
With the Inquiries, as you move through the process of not being able to find the self, you fail to find it in the words and pictures that arise as well as the emotions and sensations. And in not finding that self anywhere, you have gone through everything. You have bypassed nothing. You have seen that there is no need to embody anything. Everything has already been embodied in that looking including the most painful emotions or stubborn sensations. And these things release in that looking. If they arise again, the avoidance is less or not there at all. This is a natural acceptance.
A separate process of embodiment is needed only if one has intellectualized awakening only, kept it on a superficial level, or if one has recognized awareness as some space that is safe from the pesky emotions. And I have found that some even use the process of embodiment as a way of going back into identifying with the body, afraid to look at the stories and emotions that feel extra scary or painful. I encourage people not to take that safe route. There is no safe space apart from what arises as emotion. And no safe space is needed once you see that the emotions are not you. There is nothing safe about this kind of looking and that’s why it works. “Safe” is just a leftover idea from the childhood belief that emotions are scary and need to be avoided or eradicated.