The Disembodied and Embodied State

by Will Johnson

What passes as normal in the world at large is what I have come to call ‘the disembodied state’. There are two primary characteristics that define this state. In the first place there is very little actual felt awareness of the body. The second characteristic that typifies the disembodied state is the involuntary, internal monologue of the mind. The disembodied state is a function of the relative absence of bodily sensations and the overwhelming presence of this internal voice.

You are probably quite familiar with his aspect of mind. It provides a running commentary on your life and leans towards judgements and criticisms (of self and others), hopes, fears, desires, and aversions. Its speculations are almost entirely about the past and the future. The present moment possesses virtually no reality to the disembodied mind.

When we are lodged in the fantasy of past and future time however, we are literally not present, and one of the main features of the disembodied state is the forfeiture of any sense of real presence. Lost in our minds, we have little awareness of our bodily sensations. Neither are we very aware of sounds nor, I would even suggest, sights.

Within the world of disembodiment our concept of sense of self is created through identifying with the speaker of the monologue whom we name ‘I’. But by identifying ourselves in this way, we seriously limit our full potential as human beings. Instead, we content ourselves with a diminished awareness of body and with a mind that is limited to its most superficial dimensions.

Fortunately, the relationship between the body and the mind that so typifies the disembodied state can be reversed. To initiate this reversal, we have to begin by kindling an awareness of the tactile sensations of the body. We are able to do this simply by turning our attention to the body and observing its sensational presence exactly as it is in this moment.

By broadening your focus, you can expand your field of awareness to include the sensational presence of the entire body. The whole of the body can ultimately be experienced as a unified field of shimmering, tactile sensations. Starting out from a numbed place in which you have little awareness of body, you come to a much more vibrant place in which tactile sensations can be felt to exist everywhere.

Within this condition of embodiment the mind undergoes an equivalent transformation. Awareness of tactile presence of the body lodges us completely within the present moment. The sensations of the body are so evanescent, changing and flickering on and off at such rapid speeds, that the only time we can have any real awareness of them is right now. The internal monologue of the mind however, is almost entirely tied up in ruminations about the past and the future. You cannot be lost in the involuntary monologue of the mind and be aware of the bodily sensations simultaneously. By shifting your focus and kindling an awareness of your bodily sensations, you can effectively cancel out the mind’s ability to indulge in past and future fantasies. At times this may even manifest as the monologue completely shutting itself off. As this superficial dimension of mind dissolves away, much deeper levels of consciousness and being are free to come to the surface of awareness. It’s a bit like a layer of clouds dissolving to reveal the deep expanse of the sky and the warmth of the sun. This deeper dimension of the mind that the embodied state naturally reveals is extremely open and spacious. It too, feels enormously wholesome and natural.