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The Independent Critic

 Book Review: Practices for Embodied Living by Hillary L. McBride, PhD 
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If you're familiar with Hillary L. McBride's "The Wisdom of Your Body," "Practices for Embodied Living: Experiencing the Wisdom of Your Body" allows you to take McBride's insights, knowledge, and experience and to apply it toward more embodied living.

As a disclaimer of sorts, I will acknowledge that I began my journey with "Practices for Embodied Living" only a few weeks after cancer resulted in the loss of my bladder and prostate along with resulting in placement of a urostomy. While the extensive procedures appear to have successfully removed the cancer, the accompanying results have significantly altered my physical being, significantly impacted my sexuality, and immersed me back into a healing journey for a body that was born with spina bifida and in which I've already been living as a wheelchair user, paraplegic, and double amputee.

Man, that's a lot.

Along with being a survivor of childhood and adulthood sexual violence, I've long had complex relationship with my body and, if I'm being honest, a great resistance to the idea of embodied living.

Yet, I was sitting down recently with one of my church's ministers during a home visit as I continue my recover when she rather insightfully asked "How's your relationship with your body?"

Impulsively, I blurted out "I hate it."

Over the next hour of the visit, I would return to my usual state of being (I don't hate my body, but I sure do have unresolved issues) and realize that my recent experiences had left me feeling like an "other," powerless and uncertain in my new physical being while also realizing, or at least believing, that I was destined to live a physical life more defined by violence than intimacy.

As someone who started an event called "The Tenderness Tour," this is profoundly unsettling.

Yet, after this minister left I began to realize that whatever my future holds I had work to do for myself. This brings me back to "Practices for Embodied Living." (I bet you thought I'd never get back to it).

In "The Wisdom of Your Body," Dr. McBride explored the ways that many of us inherit a broken understanding of the body and created a more compassionate approach to embodied life. "Practices for Embodied Living" allows us to take those principles learned and apply them in easy to understand but not always easy to do practical and tangible ways.

I hesitate to call this a workbook - it's certainly an experiential guide and it can be experienced alone, with a therapist, or with a group of safe individuals. Dr. McBride centers the work on prompts, activities, and opportunities for reflection that allow the practice of embodiment in a way that resists cultural myths and definitions about the "ideal" body. Instead, Dr. McBride gently nudges us toward getting in touch with the goodness of our bodies wherever our bodies are at and however they are expressed to the universe.

As someone who has long believed in Imago Dei - simplified essentially meaning that we are all made in the image of God, I found time and again throughout "Practices for Embodied Living" that Dr. McBride was guiding us toward realizing the sacredness of this body we live in however it changes over the course of our lives.

While there were, admittedly, times I longed for more disability friendly language and found that some of these experiences would require adapting based upon disability, I equally found them profound in challenging my own internalized ableism and current state of being.

Dr. McBride includes topics like disembodiment, stress/trauma, sexuality, body image, pain/illness, oppression, and others. With each topic, Dr. McBride includes various experiences to help us restore or establish a healthy mind-body connection and to build a better relationship, a loving and tender relationship, with our bodies.

Having taken my journey with "Practices for Embodied Living" via an electronic ARC (Advanced Review Copy), I'll also acknowledge that my hope is the final electronic version will include some design changes, however, this is undeniably a book I intend to obtain in print form as I believe that will enhance my journey with these practices.

While "Practices for Embodied Living" can very likely be a stand-alone experience, for a full appreciation I recommend beginning with "The Wisdom of Your Body" if at all possible.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic