Many years ago, I got started in the world of circus at the at age of 18 years old. I had "accidentally" come across the phone number to National Circus School in Montreal, while looking for theater schools to audition for. In my mind, I wanted to become a famous actor.
In my heart, I needed to discover the limits of my physical, emotional, and spiritual body.
There was no better place for me to test my limits than to train daily at the National Circus School, facing face plants, sprained ankles, massive fatigue, insurmountable (at the moment anyway) movements, and scary flips. While I thought I was learning about circus performance, and all its technical aspects (which I was), I was actually beginning the process of embodiment - the process of giving concrete form to an abstract idea.
When I started in the circus, everything was abstract. I had zero background in gymnastics, I couldn't hold a handstand, and I didn't come from a lineage of circus performers. Every movement, every trick, every flip I saw was a just an idea because there was no way at the time I could actually do any of that stuff. I spent the first 6 months of my training asking why I was at that school - why they had admitted me?
So my experience of embodiment was visceral - I felt the mechanism of transforming ideas into reality in a very real and gut-wrenching way. I tried a move. I fell. I tried again. I fell. Again. And over, and over, and over again.
Then one day, I remember a good friend of mine asking me, "Why do you like the circus? Why do you do what you do?" And it stunned me. I had never stopped to ask myself the question either.
I responded before I knew what I was really saying. "Because... I can feel down to every part of my body. I even know where my left pinky toe is, in space, right now. I feel - aware of my body."
And that's why I do circus. Or yoga. Or run. Or hike in the woods. Because every moment of dedication to the practice of getting into my body - embodiment - increases my awareness of my presence within this flesh and blood temple we call the body. And the awareness is not a means to an end. The reward is the awareness itself, and the sensation of being one with the physical vessel you've been gifted in this life. Your body.