The embodied Druid

About ten years ago I started running into the idea that we live too much in our heads and that Druidry calls for embodiment. Now, I’m very into the idea that we are nature and that we need to engage with nature as it manifests in our bodies. I’m as likely to seek out actual trees as the next Druid, but do I really need to get out of my head?

The thing is, I rather like the inside of my head. I like meditation and contemplation, philosophy and study. These are all things it is reasonable to associate with historical Druidry. I like to think. I reject all suggestions that thinking makes us less emotional or less authentic. I also, after some consideration, reject the idea that time spent in my head is disembodied, disconnected from nature or otherwise undesirable.

My brain is a squishy lump of biology full of blood and chemicals that are also part of the rest of my body. What happens in my brain affects my body. It’s also the key organ for responding to experiences of the natural world, the seasons and the numinous. I’m a thinking creature, that is my nature. I want to have a considered relationship with the natural world and that’s a head issue.

When ‘spiritual’ people talk about the ills of not being embodied, they are usually talking about other people, and how they read and interpret other people’s actions. It’s a perspective that doesn’t take into account the realities of many people’s lives. Rushing about, eating badly, not exercising enough – these things are all symptoms of a capitalist society that makes inhuman demands on the human body, and especially on the bodies of the poor and sick. It’s easy to sit back and judge other people, but it tends not to be kind or helpful. If you aren’t exhausted and time poor then you have privileges.

Being really present in your body isn’t a lot of fun if your body hurts. The ableism around this can be horrendous. I’ve been told that my physical pain is the result of me not being embodied enough – if only I paid more attention to my body, it would hurt less! It took me a while to recognise that this is cruel and unhelpful, and does not reflect my lived experience. Some days the best thing to do is try not to show up for the pain, and I’m hardly alone in this.

For the person who can, and who wants to follow a path centred on being embodied – excellent. The problems arise when we start to assume that one way of being in the world is superior to another, regardless of circumstance. Other people are making the best choices they can based on their circumstances. If you want other people to live embodied healthy(on your terms) lives, then campaign for better working conditions, better welfare support, more green urban spaces, better healthcare for chronic conditions and so forth. Don’t make individual people feel spiritually inadequate because of the systemic pressures they are experiencing.

We’re all embodied. We all have bodies. Some of us like to think more than others do. Some of us find joy in movement and for some of us that’s only ever going to hurt. There should be room for difference. It’s better to have diversity in how people approach their lives rather than to create hierarchies of spiritual superiority, and so often what’s put forward as spiritually superior turns out to be forms of privilege.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “The embodied Druid

  • angharadlois

    One thing I’ve been paying attention to recently is that my thoughts can often race ahead of my feelings and intuition/knowledge (which is in part an embodiment thing) – I find meditation really helpful at bringing all these streams of being into alignment, helping them flow together instead of separately. I’m also fascinated at research that hints at the mind being not necessarily, or wholly, contained within the brain. There’s a lot going on under the surface of ideas about mind and body and whatever division people perceive between them – and, as you say, some of the assumptions people make about them are unhelpful at best and downright ableist in many cases.

  • alainafae

    I really like the way you’ve formulated these perspectives.

    It seemed to me that the primary purpose for distinguishing Druidry as an embodied path was to set it in contrast to the ideas that the flesh is inherently evil and/or that life’s ultimate goal is to escape fleshly existence into some etheric realm. Extrapolation from this basic contrast into the realm of should-shouldn’t is where things get sticky, I think.

    If anything, reproaching people as not being “embodied enough” from an ableist or otherwise privileged standpoint is neglecting to acknowledge a key aspect of embodiment, defining the creature’s existence as separated from its environmental context. Failure to consider living things within their evironment is how we end up with environmental crises to begin with, linking privilege & environmental concerns in this case.

  • locksley2010

    This is the first time I’ve encountered this subject, or at least come across it.

    Sounds a lot like the “Happy Thought Crowd” to me….. especially those living the kind of life where they can do the things they want to with no regard for others who can’t. More interested in their own egos than helping others or genuinely connecting with nature. Actually, they do connect with nature…. The self-serving kind they’ve shoved their head up. 😉

  • godtisx

    Very interesting ideas explored here, taking it in. Enjoying your posts.

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