Embodiment as a Guide to Living Authentically


A few months ago, I discovered a Spanish classical guitarist named Pablo Sainz Villegas. During a discussion about his musical journey, he shared a pivotal moment. As a child, he played guitar for an audience of older people for the sheer joy of it. But when he began training professionally, practicing for seven hours a day, he noticed a shift. Instead of enjoying music with his audience, he became obsessed with perfection, driven by fear rather than love. This realisation led Pablo to embrace a more authentic approach to music, one that combined his natural gift with his professional skill.

Shortly after hearing his story, I came across an Instagram short, featuring Pablo in performance[1]. (See footnote, tune down the sound!) Watching him play, it was clear that he was at ease, both in body and soul, as the music flowed effortlessly through him. He wasn’t forcing anything; he was simply embodying the music.

An Epiphany

This concept of embodiment resonated with me in the context of my faith. John the Baptist prayer “I must decrease, He must increase” (John 3:30), took on a new meaning. Since our baptism, we’ve been claimed by Christ. I could see so clearly that when we step aside from our egos, Christ is freed to shine through us, the Church. By trusting our intimate relationship, Christ flows through us naturally as symbolised by Pablo’s return to his natural playing style.   Jesus models this depth of authenticity so beautifully in John’s Gospel when he says to Philip: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”.   Jesus had totally incarnated, or embodied the Father.

Embodiment & Temptation

However, when we succumb to temptation i.e. pride, anger, jealousy, envy – our bodies respond with a loss of peace, a sudden hardness of heart, and defensive postures. In these moments, Christ’s light within us is obscured. However, when we are attuned to the dynamics within our bodies, we will sense the Spirit guiding us to right action. This is where community and intimate connections become crucial. Sharing with others who know Christ can help us let go  the burdens that cloud our hearts and help us to soften our grip so that we can dissolve again, into the Lord’s loving embrace.

Embodiment & Quiet Prayer

In Luke’s Gospel, it says: “Great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities” (Luke 5:15) yet Jesus “would withdraw to desolate places to pray”  (Luke 5:16). For me, this is a powerful teaching of the existential spiritual need to withdraw to pray to stay attuned to the Spirit speaking to us, thus avoiding the temptation to succumb to the needs of the “great crowds”.  Jesus knew his priorities and boundaries.

Embodiment & Intercessory Prayer

Matthew’s Gospel we are given a glimpse into Jesus quiet prayer:  “How often I’ve ached to embrace your children, the way a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matthew 23:37).

The deeper we listen to the Lord the more we too will be drawn to cry with him, as we are drawn to intercede for the world and our society sensing in our bodies, the same deep, soulful cry of Jesus.

Embodiment – Your Will Be Done

Joseph Campbell, the American author, famously said, “Follow your bliss”[2].  He suggested that when we follow our innate passion/giftedness, we find the life we’ve always being meant to live – our most authentic self.  Frederick Buechner echoed this idea, saying that “vocation is where your gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”[3].  In other words, God’s Will, hidden in our innate gifts, is fulfilled through their development and their subsequent sharing.


Richard Rohr, says: “All cognition begins with recognition. We know it over there, because we first know it in here, at the deepest level of our being”[4].  This citation explains the epiphany evoked in me by Pablo’s video. I recognised “at the deepest level”  that deep listening is embodiment. It enables us to be our most authentic self in Christ.

By embracing our gifts with humility and allowing them to flow through us, we co-create with Christ a dynamic that fosters oneness, compassion, and goodness. The more we can live the Baptist prayer of decreasing so that Jesus can increase, the more Christ is embodied in our lives.

Reframing Jesus comment to Philip in Luke’s Gospel: “Whoever has seen you, has seen Jesus” or as Teresa of Avila says: “Christ has no body but yours.” [5] 

Theme photo [6]

[1] Pablo Sainz Villegas  https://www.instagram.com/reel/C1hd23FN5uP/?igsh=bWx5anFjNZia3Nt[1]

[2] Campbell, Joseph Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation (New World Library: New York, 2004).

[3] Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1993) p. 119.

[4] Rohr, Richard, The Divine Dance (SPCK: London, 2016) p. 162.

[5] Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle (Christian Classics, Notre Dame, Indiana, 2007)

[6] https://ie.pinterest.com/pin/743656957251207519/ (accessed on 9th May 2024)

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