Philip Shepherd - The Embodiment Present Process (TEPP)
Philip Shepherd is recognized as an international authority on embodiment. His unique techniques have been developed to transform our experience of self and world, and are based on the vision articulated in his celebrated books, New Self New World (2010) and Radical Wholeness (Nov 2017). Through The Embodiment Present Process (TEPP), the new mindfulness practice aimed at helping people get out of their head and be more present in their own body, the approach he takes heals the frantic, restless pace of the intelligence in the head, which tends to run on overdrive, by uniting it with the deep, present and calm intelligence of the body. This is an antidote to the prevailing view of embodiment, which involves sitting in the head and ‘listening to the body’; by contrast, Philip’s approach helps us listen to the world through the body.
His personal path to understanding has been shaped by his adventures as a teenager, when he cycled alone through Europe, the Middle East, India and Japan; by his deep commitment to and studies of bodywork; by his experiences as an actor, playing lead roles on stages in London, New York, Chicago and Toronto; and by the burning desire for freedom that has illuminated his entire life. He currently spends his time divided between teaching international workshops, running Facilitators Trainings, and participating in a documentary about his work.
Philip currently lives with his wife in a home they designed and built in a little car-free community on an island south of Toronto. And he still travels by bicycle whenever he can. I’m so excited for you guys to connect with Philip, check out his work with TEPP, his books, and follow along!
I'd love it if you'd introduce yourself, what you do, and what you're working on.
I’m Philip Shepherd. I’m an author of two books (Radical Wholeness and New Self, New World), and the creator of The Embodied Present Process, or TEPP My biggest dream is that as a culture we find a new way of being. I don’t think our larger problems can be solved with a new technology, or with new ideas. What is exacting the greatest toll on our planet, in my view, is our dedication to the unfeeling, secluded intelligence of the head, and all of its top-down implementations. Until our thinking once again belongs to the body, I don’t think we will feelingly rediscover all the ways in which we belong to the world. And until we rediscover that abiding truth, and let it guide us in all we do, all our ideas about how to live will unfortunately serve to reinforce our top-down approach, which is the very deceit that is doing such harm. which is a body of work and a range of exercises that help people start to live in a different way: less from the anxious intelligence of the head and more from the deeply grounded intelligence of the body. But of course, most people are out of touch with their body’s intelligence, so that’s where the practices meet them by helping them discover and newly appreciate just how attuned and coherent the thinking of the body is. As for what I’m working on, that includes several things at once: an online course, two books, several ongoing Facilitators Trainings, and the upcoming season of workshops around the world.
How did you get started?
The work I do has been a lifetime in development, driven by my own deep questioning around issues of my freedom and presence. It really started in earnest when I was eighteen, when that questioning took me to England. Once there, I bought a bicycle and headed off for Japan on it. I was away from home for two years, cycling alone through Europe, the Middle East, India and Japan. When I returned home to Canada I worked as an actor, writer and director, and trained intensely in physical theatre still driven by that questioning. In the eighties I began teaching workshops that directly addressed the issues of freedom and presence for actors issues that are of paramount importance to acting. It was out of those experiences that I wrote my first book, a project that took ten years to complete.
What inspired the work that you're doing?
I’ve drawn inspiration from a wide range of sources, in particular, from Classical Japanese Noh theatre, which I studied as a teenager in Japan; from the Japanese concept of hara, which is the centre of intelligence in the belly; from every aspect of being a theatre practitioner; and from individuals in my life who have modelled the sort of freedom I longed for. But my other source of inspiration, oddly, is found in my own striking limitations, failings and brokenness. If I can acknowledge them and be with them, and gently heal my way beyond them, guided home by my body’s intelligence, then anyone can do the same if they are given help in reconnecting with their own bodies.
What is your biggest passion? Do you feel like you're living your passion and purpose?
My biggest passion is to make my work available to as many people as possible. My personal journey has wrested me free from some of the deep neurological conditioning of our culture conditioning that was separating me from the vitality of my own life and truth. That conditioning makes us feel alone in the world; makes us believe that the head is the rightful ruler of the world; and estranges us from the intelligence of the body (which actually processes a billion times more information than we can be consciously aware of). It also effectively blinds us to wholeness, so that we struggle to feel the wholeness of the self, to speak from our wholeness, to think with the whole of our being, or to feel the present as a whole. And that last one is particularly ironic, because the reality of the present rests in its wholeness. If you are not feeling the present as a whole, you are not feeling its reality. So my passion is to help people reconnect with their wholeness, by helping them reconnect with their bodies. The benefit will accrue not just to them, but to all their relations. And yes, I do feel I’m living my passion and my purpose.
What is your joy blueprint? What lights you up, brings you joy, and makes you feel the most alive?
There is a deep joy in being, in resting in the present, fully nourished by it, attuned to its beauty. Given the transience of all that is, there is a special privilege in being fully awake to this never-to-be-repeated moment. And I find that the joy of being is not contingent on circumstance. It’s not something that can be accessed only when things are going your way it is always there, waiting for you to land in it.
How do you live intentionally? Are there tools/resources/practices that you rely on to help you stay mindful and grounded?
Naturally enough I rely on the tools and practices that belong to the modality I developed, TEPP, because they work. There is nothing abstract about intention or mindfulness or groundedness, and you cannot reason your way into any of them. They are all qualities that are innately, deeply understood by the body. The issue is how to find our way back to its presence.
What would your younger self think about what you're doing now?
My younger self viewed the process of aging as one of personal compromise and capitulation, because that is largely what I saw in the grownups around me. So I think my younger self might be pleasantly surprised at how things have turned out, and continue to evolve.
Do you have a go-to mantra or affirmation?
Not really, instead I come back to the physical sensation of my energy dropping down through the body to rest in the present, never really knowing where it will take me.
What is your biggest dream?
My biggest dream is that as a culture we find a new way of being. I don’t think our larger problems can be solved with a new technology, or with new ideas. What is exacting the greatest toll on our planet, in my view, is our dedication to the unfeeling, secluded intelligence of the head, and all of its top-down implementations. Until our thinking once again belongs to the body, I don’t think we will feelingly rediscover all the ways in which we belong to the world. And until we rediscover that abiding truth, and let it guide us in all we do, all our ideas about how to live will unfortunately serve to reinforce our top-down approach, which is the very deceit that is doing such harm.
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