Embody the Sacred – Engaging Through the Senses by Deanne Quarrie


The human body is designed to utilize all senses. We, human beings, have drifted away from our natural state through which, at one time, we engaged with all of life through our natural senses, including the intuitive.  This change has come about through our active, stress filled lives in which we seldom slow down to even appreciate what is around us.  We have ignored much of our sensory ability due to a change-over from right brain functioning, which is more imaginative, creative and intuitive, to left brain functioning, which is linear and analytical. Two of our senses are developed out of proportion to the others.  Many people grow up in an environment lacking in exposure to the natural world.  With television, computers and video games we have become residents of an indoor and often sedentary world.

In early civilization, humans and all other animals depended on finely tuned sensory awareness for survival.  We walked the Earth, using those senses for protection, to find food and to move around.  We did not just see and hear our way around but we felt, touched, tasted and smelled in order to survive.

We were at one time a right-brain functioning species but over time, with the development of written alphabets rather than those based on pictures, and a fast paced, artificially constructed environment, we have gradually become mostly left brained in our approach to life.  This keeps us in our heads and out of touch with our bodies as we move through our lives.  This in turn, can leave us disconnected and out of touch with the sacred.  We are meant to be sensuous creatures and were not designed to live out our lives with only our mental bodies.

It is my belief that with conscious practice of the use of the five sensez as well as all of the other subtle ways in which we experience life, we can return to being fully functioning beings with a full body appreciation of the oneness that we share with all of life.  Through diligent practice we can develop an appreciation for nature, in fact, can return to nature.  Awareness of our inclusion within the web of life will be the result and the benefits of becoming more attuned with nature and thus, the sacred will return.   It is my belief with that a return to nature with opened and developed sensory awareness, a greater appreciation for the value of peaceful co-existence will become clear. Engaging in full-body awareness with all of life will broaden our appreciation of the “whole” and our inter-connectedness to the web of life.

As human beings we are capable of having fully “sensing” bodies. We come into this world as infants, somatic in nature – all sensory awareness – without cognitive process – all feeling. Our parents, in their care for us, serve as the cognitive part of our worlds until we reach a certain stage of development then able to move from our full body awareness into our cerebral functioning and thinking processes.

Some of us, out of pure need for survival, developed very quickly into thinking beings, leaving behind completely, our somatic selves, because it was not safe to be in the body. We were in situations where our cerebral functioning was necessary to survive.

Because so many of us grew up in troubled homes, we have few memories of being children. Many of us have very little awareness of being fully alive, expressive, and in our bodies. Many of us left our child self behind, and our task now is to retrieve her, to find that child of feeling, the one who experiences pleasurable sensation all throughout her body.

If we are to fully embrace living a magical life it is important to remember how to live in our bodies comfortably and safely. If we re-awaken all of our senses, our awareness is expanded and our perceptions clarify and develop. Without this, our magical life will not develop as it could. Our enjoyment of all that is Sacred will be impeded as if walled in and separated from all that is possible.

When I was a child and I needed to remove myself from what was to me threatening, I found solace in nature. I grew up near the Pacific Ocean and was, from an early age, like Child to Mother, fully attached to the Sea. Even today, just standing with my feet in Her blessed waters, I am relieved of my sorrow and stress. Swimming in her, my body finds total freedom.

When I was no longer near the Ocean, I discovered trees. I climbed them to the highest places to rest my body on their branches and be comforted as no human ever comforted me.

And finally, when no escape was possible other than my room, I had my music. I have always used music to comfort, to heighten, or to fully experience any emotion that I might be having. As a child, I lay on my bed, the music playing next to me.  I felt it course through my body much as I sense energy today, feeling it move, dancing it with my hands, all over my body.

Twenty-five years ago I suddenly became aware how I had lost that sensing, feeling child and how much work I had in front of me to find, heal, and restore her. I was so linear in my thought processes, so cut off from my ability to express emotion, sometimes feeling and yet unable to express:  those feelings so long stifled within needed to be opened and embraced. I knew I had to find a way to get out of my head and back into my body.

Over the last 25 years and in the process of finding my senses again, I have served in the community of women as a Priestess of the Goddess.  When I bring a new woman in to assist in her spiritual growth, within our Sacred Circle, these words are said to her,

 “I, Bendis, daughter of Danu awaken the power within you.” (I move my hands over her head and face and say) “These are the senses we have abandoned.” (I press my thumbs to her eyes and say) “To see with acuity,” (I now place the palms of my hands over her ears and say) “to hear with clarity,” (I brush her lips with my fingers and say) “to taste with purity,” (I lightly brush her nose with my fingers and say)” to smell with intensity,” (I then run my hands down her arms to her hands and say), “and to touch with sensitivity.”  I then place my hands over her third eye and say… And now as since the beginning of time, from mother to daughter, from Danu to Her own, “Danu, Bless your daughter. Open her wisdom eye that she may join with us, in a line forever unbroken, Danu’s daughters.”

From this point we begin our journey, walking together engaging with all of who we are, fully embodying the divine, one with the Earth. Be-ing in Her embrace.

Deanne Quarrie is a Priestess of The Goddess, and author of four books.  She is an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College, teaching classes on the Ogham, Ritual Creation, Ethics for Neopagan Clergy, Exploring Sensory Awareness, energetic Boundaries, and many other classes of the uses of magic.  She is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine, as well as The Apple Branch – A Dianic Tradition where she mentors women who wish to serve as priestesses. 



Categories: Body, Embodiment, General, Goddess Movement, Goddess Spirituality

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13 replies

  1. My sense of the sacred is very much body-based. I am fascinated by embodiment and thealogy. My experiences birthing and breastfeeding my children rooted me firmly in my body–giving life to another is a thorougly embodied experience and requires the devotion of your body to someone else (for their survival. What a potent gift!).

    Recently, I’ve been reclaiming or reconnecting to the experience of menstruation as a “original shamanic experience”…

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  2. Brava! I live mostly in my head, and I’m very happy there, but I certainly understand what you’re saying. And I agree. Anyone you bless is indeed blessed and fortunate.

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  3. I really appreciate the way that you mention the intuitive sense here– this is a sense that I also feel is extremely neglected; and something many of us are taught to distrust.
    This past summer, a dear friend of mine and I did a meditation in which we literally dove back into our heart chakras in order to see better from this place. I can’t adequately describe the subtle, but totally encompassing way that I started to see things in the world differently. It was a tiny shift to an area of “sense” that was neglected, but the change was profound. It was like I saw everything just a little differently– but not because I actually “saw” it that way. This little change is now a part of me; though I don’t feel it as a change anymore. I am excited to see what other changes will manifest as I continue to go back into my body to know the world around me.
    Thank you for your post!

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  4. I loved your post! I really appreciated your memories of childhood and how those affect you now – it’s so important to go back and remember and realize what has formed the basis of our spirituality as we seek to move forward in it. My spirituality has always been associated with the feeling of being deeply embodied. It started when I was three and learned to dance. My mother enrolled me in dancing school with a teacher who believed that children should dance for enjoyment. I remember having that feeling as a young child of absolute liberation when I danced just for myself and felt completely at one with my body. I think that that experience has been the basis for my earth, creativity, and joy-based spirituality ever since.

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    • There was a wonderful Charles Schultz cartoon a friend had on her locker years ago, which showed Snoopy spinning in ecstasy, his thought balloon announcing “To those of us with real understanding, dancing is the only TRUE art form.”

      While this may be arguable by artists in other media, and while I have never been a professional dancer, I can relate to your feelings, Carolyn. To me that experience of dancing, or of running–especially outdoors, in the midst of nature–certainly relates to the sense of embodiment Deanne/Bendis writes about in her post, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

      This embodiment, this awakening of the senses and the right side of the brain is, to me, a crucial part of the religious experience: certainly of mine. I think it must be particularly important to women (in whom it has often been repressed by organized religious structures to an even greater extent than in men) and is one important focus when we talk about religion and feminism. I’m not saying that men–particularly mystics, who have often been marginal to, or marginalized by, religious structures–haven’t experienced some of the same distrust, but that women have felt the brunt of the repression, being told that their very bodies were unclean, unreliable, unacceptable, second-best, a source of sin and disruption to some great cosmic plan.

      Embodiment is also (as Sarah says) very much associated with the development of intuition
      –another often-despised “female” characteristic–and to emotion, energy, and reconnecting with the natural world. Without embodiment, there IS no connection, just the high, piping voices of some impossibly far-off Neo-Platonic sprites, telling us the body is evil, an illusion, an unworthy container for an ethereal “spirit.”

      Maybe that’s why, even in the stories of the Abrahamic God, the divine needed to “become flesh, and [dwell] among us,” born of a woman.

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  5. Remembering those experiences of being in my body as a child and being so connected to everything – is what drove me to find it again. I, too, danced from an early age and part of my rediscovery of being in the body was through ecstatic dance. Thank you all for your comments. You inspire me to get busy on my dissertation which is on this topic!

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  6. I too felt whole and at home in the Pacific Ocean as a child, I too have struggled as you to recover senses I was no longer able to access through my body. Love your ritua!

    One small thing, I would say that for millenia, right and left brains were connected in human knowing, rather than that the right brain dominated. Hunting and gatherering peoples “felt” the spring approaching, but I think they very early on learned to “remember” paths and places through markers in the landscape and even to read the “signs” provided by the migrations of birds–the swallows are leaving so this means we too must head south.

    I totally agree with you that many of us have lost touch with sensual embodied ways of knowing, but I also firmly believe that functions of “mnd” are important and not limited to human minds.

    Minds disconnected from body knowing are dangerous indeed. I think it is mind body connection we need. And as you say, this is easier said than done

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    • Oh, absolutely! It truly is a process of both sides working together, complimenting. It would be next to impossible to disengage from our minds but our ways of being truly have us disengaged from our bodies a great deal of the time. Not that we don’t use all of our senses – we just aren’t aware of when and how. Even with the idea of focusing within the body with our minds – so many haven’t a clue how to do that. I taught advanced swimming when I was younger and it amazed me that my students were not able to put their focus into their feet to be able to tell when their toes were pointing out instead of in! I love the work of Emilie Conrad, Liz Koch and Sue Hitzmann – and of course the work of Moshé Feldenkrais. His methods have been of tremendous help to me with pain management. In the class I designed for sensory awareness exploration I incorporated exercises to take the students into their bodies and it was fun to see them learn how!

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  7. Funny how the sea–the Pacific in particular–was a strong element in so many of our childhoods. I grew up a few miles either way from the ocean and the redwoods, and have never forgotten either. I think immersion in the natural world is another element that can help us link mind and body, as Richard Louv discusses at length in “Last Child in the Woods,” on what he calls “nature deficit disorder.”

    And I agree with you, Carol, about the dangers inherent in “minds disconnected from body knowing.” I wish we had a word for the single, if fragmented, creatures we are: “mindbody” or “bodymind” still keep us in an unfortunately dualistic place.

    I loved the ritual, too: it could certainly be adapted, too, for a solitary self-dedication.

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  8. Reblogged this on Journeying to the Goddess and commented:
    “If we are to fully embrace living a magical life it is important to remember how to live in our bodies comfortably and safely. If we re-awaken all of our senses, our awareness is expanded and our perceptions clarify and develop. Without this, our magical life will not develop as it could. Our enjoyment of all that is Sacred will be impeded as if walled in and separated from all that is possible.” ~ Deanne Quarrie

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  9. My first inkling that I was living in my head came in a dream many years ago in which I was tending a baby whose head and face were vitally alive, but whose body was flat and lifeless as a doll. The head and body were connected by a thin thread where the spinal cord would be, and I had to be extremely careful picking her up so as not to break it.

    Some years before this dream I had had a physical kundalini awakening but the observable consequences of that were purely psychological. Nevertheless, that set the stage for a “rebirthing” experience many years later during which I felt a powerful awareness of the life in my body for the first time. After that my body awareness grew, and with it, my sense of the sacredness of physical life…all of it…my compassion, and a powerful felt need for intimate connectedness and peaceful co-existence with otherness!

    So yes! I completely concur with your thesis that sensory awareness heightens every aspect of life: physical, mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. I appreciate how well you tied this all together in your excellent post! Thank you.

    Jeanie Raffa

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