Embodiment and Writing with the Seasons with Jane Hardjono
I sat down with Jane Hardjono, book coach extraordinaire, to talk about her practice of embodiment (more on just what exactly that is later) and how authors can use it to help them plan and write their books. The following conversation is the result of our oftentimes giddy and sometimes profound discussion.
But first, some backstory:
I met Jane on LinkedIn when I was running my second cohort of Brand Book Blueprint. I was delighted to coach Jane on her current book, and we immediately hit it off. I asked her to share with my audience what she knows about embodiment, how she uses it in her work, and how you can too.
And now, a word from Jane:
Jane Hardjono is a full-time book coach who devours anything she can find on embodiment, philosophy and anthropology. Her path to book coaching was not linear—starting off as an aspiring concert pianist, she pivoted in the early 2000s and moved into management roles in advertising, then marketing, PR then shifted over to English language teaching, copywriting, editing and translating (Dutch to English) and finally consulting in marketing communications.
Jane Hardjono holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Melbourne, a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing from RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology). Between 2020 – 2022 Hardjono went on to train as a life coach, workshop designer and finally an embodiment coach and facilitator. She will qualify as a Feldenkrais Method practitioner in early 2026. Jane Hardjono started offering book coaching as a service in 2019, and has developed a proven framework for delivering it to thought leaders, consultant and coaches.
And now without further ado, our conversation…
Jessica: Your LinkedIn bio says, “that embodiment writer.” What is embodiment?
Jane: That’s a great question and is probably what has taken my attention for the last five years. It’s something I really want to make accessible to people and for them to see the benefits of it.
There’s a lot of definitions for embodiment. There’s the verb, to embody, and I think we all have an idea of what that is. People talk about being embodied, wanting to be more embodied. That’s another thing again, as if to say, that we’re not inhabiting our bodies. Perhaps there’s a lineage with trauma. People talk about their own personal trauma or even a collective trauma that says, as a society, we’re living dissociated from our bodies so that we’re not able to access our embodied wisdom, and we’re just trying to think our way out of things.
Everyone is on the spectrum of embodiment. Everyone has some sort of embodiment. And really, embodiment is the relationships, plural, that you have with yourself, that you have with other people, and that you have with your environment.
And it’s historical, so it goes through the generations. It also looks at sociocultural relationships: how you’re informed by or conditioned by your culture and your language.
People’s awareness of their embodiment varies. That’s where the dial goes up and down. Some people are more focused on their cognitive experiences, and others are very attuned to their embodiment. It’s neither good nor bad, but I think the more integrated we are, then the more elements we have to call upon in order to live our richest lives.
If we’re merely thinking, we’re missing out on a more whole experience. There is intelligence in the body, there is wisdom. We know this. And as writers, and people who work with writers, we know this because we talk about the senses.
But it’s not just the five senses. Embodiment goes far beyond that. Does that help a little bit? It’s not an easy definition. A simpler definition perhaps is: how you are being you. And it’s very unique to the individual. So everyone’s embodiment is unique. It’s how you are, and how you do you.
That brings something else up for me because when we say embodiment, I was thinking “body,” as in, physical. There’s emotional intelligence, and maybe embodiment is like physical intelligence, like how aware you are of yourself moving through space, in relation to other people.
How authentic you’re being. Yeah. Absolutely. How I’ve been thinking and reflecting on embodiment is, in a word, authenticity, because you’re going to turn up as yourself, the real you. Wherever you are, in whatever situation, around particular people, your embodiment will change according to what’s happening around you.
There’s this idea that to be authentic, you have to be static. We’re conditioned to conform to a certain degree because we’re social animals. Right? And that’s the beautiful thing about embodiment: modern society requires us to be independent or to have this sense of individualism. And as writers, we can have a solitary life. But embodiment invites you to have a relationship with yourself, of course, but also with your reader, or the person you’re interviewing, like right now, for example.
We can’t do any of this on our own. We can’t do life on our own. We couldn’t eat. We couldn’t buy food. We wouldn’t have clients. We need to remember that we need people for all of the things, including how we feel in ourselves. For better or worse, other people have an impact on our embodiment. And you can choose whom you’re near or not, and how they make you better, or not, in whatever you’re pursuing.
It reminds me of the true self versus the false self in psychology, and all the different identities we have. Like, you know, I’m a mom. I’m also a wife, and I am someone’s daughter. I’m someone’s sister. I’m someone’s friend. I was once someone’s employee. Now I’m someone’s service provider. Like you said, Jane, you act differently in each of those situations. I would never act with my daughters, for example, the same way I behave with my friends because it’s a different relationship. And it’s not as though I’m a totally different person. They are simply different facets of myself, and I don’t feel like I’m wearing a mask in those situations either. I’m just letting different parts of my personality come out with whomever I’m faced with.
I like how you use the word act. I prefer the word enact because there’s agency in it. In some ways, you feel like you don’t have any control, like, “I’m gonna behave this way with my daughters because that’s what mothers do.” Right? And then when I’m with my friends, well, we’re doing the buddy-buddy thing, hanging out together. When you enact something, you are intentional about it, but there’s also something happening internally.
How you feel when you’re with your daughters is different from how you feel when you’re going to see the Barbie film with your friends, for example. It’s not just how you convey yourself. It’s your first-person experience of yourself in different settings. Also, it’s situational, but if you do something repeatedly, it becomes a habit. So there are habits that we enact that become part of our identity or become sort of ossified, and sometimes we’re aware of that. There are good habits that may serve us, but sometimes they do not.
When you start taking on embodied practices, you’re able to become more aware of your state. Embodied practices are where you’re moving. It could be something like Tai Chi. It could be dance. It could be yoga. It could be horse riding. It could be martial arts, anything. But a practice in and of itself is something that has no consequence. So you’re not using it in your job, and you’re not, like, operating on somebody’s body, doing a practice.
You’re actually practicing embodiment which will allow you to observe yourself, or experience yourself, with familiarity so that if you feel this habit or that way of doing things could be modified or refined or adapted in some way, then you’ve got the awareness to do so.
The goal of all coaching is to raise awareness in something. We want to acknowledge and appreciate it for what it is and then decide, “Do I want to keep it, or do I want to move away from it? Maybe I want to improve it?”
What I find really interesting about embodiment is that it’s not reserved to the physical or physiological world in an aesthetic sense. You can apply it to anything. I apply it to my thinking. I mean, you could do bodybuilding and use that as an embodied practice if you wanted to, but I think most people want to “work hard” and sweat. Their objective is to have a firmer body and to be pretty, or whatever it is.
With an embodied practice, you’re not really interested in the result of doing the move. You’re interested in the process. So it’s process work. It’s not about the destination.
It’s about the journey to get there. I like that. I was just talking to one of my book coaching clients about that. He’s a Buddhist teacher, and he’s writing about his own journey. He said that so many books have been written about the end result, getting to enlightenment or whatever it is they’re after. But no one really writes about the journey, and that’s what he really wants to focus on for the book.
Tell me, how can writers and authors harness embodiment in their writing practice? For example, if they get writer’s block.
Well, actually, a post that you made recently interested me because you’re talking about writers who over-plan and conversely, ones who just “pants” it—you know, they just leap in and start writing. So here’s an embodiment practice that I have learnt.
And it is: which one would I use—to plot or to pants? The answer is cycles.
This will be handy for your Buddhist writer. Think about cycles. They are exterior to ourselves. We are bodies in an environment where cycles, or patterns, happen. Beginning, middle, and end. Birth, life, death, rebirth. Or the seasons! And I would probably start with spring, then summer, autumn, and winter.
So let’s go with that cycle, and we’ll do an example together right now. Have you got a pen in front of you, Jessica? So put it down. Now just look at the pen. Have the intention to pick it up, show it to me, and put it down. Now do that.
[I pick up the pen, show it to Jane, and put it down.]
In that simple movement, there was a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the sense of seasons, there was a spring, a summer, an autumn, and a winter. Tell me about the four steps and how you would interpret those seasons in the gesture of picking up the pen. You thought about it first, is that right?
Yes. I heard your directions first. That’s a thing that I do: I make sure that I’m actively listening. So that’s the preparation phase. And then I heard the command to do it. My brain still had to think about it first, and then I did it. I guess that’s three seasons: the active listening, the neurons firing to tell my appendage what to do, and then actually doing it.
Yeah. So after you showed it to me, you had to put it down. When you put it down, was it slow or fast? Did you do anything?
It was, I would say, slow-ish for me, and I put it down exactly the same way it had been laying there before I picked it up because I’m very, very strict like that, I guess.
That’s interesting. That’s a trait you have in your embodiment. Can you describe how you picked up the pen and how you put it down?
I held it vertically, I think, because I would never just hold a pen… I’d be like, “This is the pen! Ready to use.”
Right. And that’s really interesting. For me, when I do that kind of little exercise and I want to apply that, say, to planning a book, it might seem like a stretch. But let’s take it step by step.
Essentially, spring is the preparation of writing a book. It’s the planning. Summer is the doing. Summer is the busyness. So you’re writing in summer. Autumn is harvesting. You are reaping the benefits of whatever preparation you did, if it was good, and also of the work, if it was good quality. So you’re picking your proverbial apples and that sort of thing. And then you need to rest your soil. You need to rest, you need to rest yourself. You need to rest the workers too. That’s in winter, and it’s reflective.
Ideally, any farmer would pay attention to all of those elements. But no one else does in our busy world today, right? I tend to skip spring. I’m a summer, summer, summer, summer, summer, summer—all day long. I never rest. The spring and the winter are the two areas I really need to work on. I can get really impatient with the planning, but I know that it needs to be done. And I do rest now because I know it’s good for me, but these seasons don’t come naturally to me.
I was going to relate it back to your Buddhist client, but actually you had moved on from him and asked, how does embodiment help? There are exercises we can do. I’ve been trained as an embodiment coach, and this is a technique I would use with a client: ask your body.
You could ask your client whether they see themselves as a writer. What is this image of themselves as a writer? And if they have trouble with that image or if there’s no congruence between the idea of what it is to be a writer and who they are, you can ask them more questions such as, what would it feel like to be a writer? What do writers do? Ask them to imagine that and to feel that and to sense that… to sort of pretend it, really. You can only do it for a short while and then let it go. As with all embodied practices, you can try them on like a new pair of shoes, but you can’t put them on and permanently go around with them because they’re not integrated into you. They’re not yours.
It is a little like method acting. One of the people I trained with alongside our embodiment trainer was an actor. I was so fascinated to be in a small group with her, doing all of these exercises. She had an epiphany one day. She said, “I can do all of this ‘stuff,’ but I never applied it to me as a person. It was always to my character.” And she was in her sixties, so she’s been around the block a few times.
According to her, actors often understand how to embody someone else. But they don’t know who they are. On the one hand, I have this new respect for actors when I see how they can wear the skin of someone else, of another character, in their accent, their personality, their mannerisms, etc., and how they study that. And actors take this new personality upon themselves, but it can seep into them and have a physiological impact if they carry that character for too long.
But what I found really interesting was when she said it was very moving for her to be applying these practices to herself as if she were the subject. And I found that really quite something, because I think particularly people in the performing arts, and also writers, are expressing something or they’re telling something, but a lot of the time, they’re channeling something over here, and it’s not coming from them at a cellular level, you know?
And I think that’s really important for authors: coming from a place of service, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. You still have to have a certain level of empathy for one other person besides yourself, and that’s the reader. That applies across the board: if you’re crafting a story, then you normally have more than one character. You have a certain amount of empathy for two different characters, because if they’re exactly the same, there’s not much of a story there.
I think that’s really salient. Calling upon that, reminding writers again and again that they’re writing for an audience. They are communicating even though they’re doing it right now solo.
That relationship between the writer and their reader is so important because in the case of many of your authors, Jessica, their readers would be their potential clients. And the thing about embodiment is that it’s different to mindfulness and all those sorts of practices. It’s more like journaling, I think. In contrast, I find meditation or mindfulness or even some yogas to be very focused on the self.
Generally when we journal, we write as if no one’s gonna read it. Embodied practices are intended so that if you intimately know yourself and if you’ve taken the effort to know yourself, you know how precious you are, so you can only treat someone else with the same level of preciousness. And you’re going to know that their worldview is completely different to yours, because yours is so unique.
There’s a beautiful book by Paul Linden called Embodied Peacemaking. It communicates these beautiful ideas. I mean, if you think we could make peace with ourselves first, there would be no war. If we just had a good relationship with ourselves, with our own bodies, and then with each other.
My embodiment trainer’s wife is from Ukraine. And when war broke out early last year, he immediately went to Ukraine and trained people on the ground in embodiment techniques to help them cope with their trauma and so that they wouldn’t go into fight-or-flight mode. They were able to stabilize and be aware of their state, and then choose the state that they wanted to be in.
That’s the other thing: state-shifting. Let’s say I’m coaching a writer who’s procrastinating or just doesn’t want to sit down and write. If they’re aware they’re doing that, then they’ve got two choices.
They can just go with it and say, “I’m procrastinating. I’m clearly doing the laundry or, you know, making a sandwich, and that’s procrastinating.” They can call themselves out on it and say, “I’m not writing. This is what’s happening. I’m doing this now. I’m gonna commit to the sandwich-making or the laundry-doing.”
Or they can state-shift. They can recall that little practice that we talked about on what writers do, what it would feel like to be a writer, what kind of space a writer would occupy… and then they could sit down and write for twenty minutes or whatever.
Embodiment gives you the ability to call at will upon the state that’s required for you to keep the momentum going.
That’s very, very practical. And it’s so funny you mentioned the fight-or-flight response because when we were talking a few minutes ago about cycles, I immediately also thought of the cycle of the fight-or-flight response. First, you’re alerted to a threat. You decide to fight, flight, or freeze, and then you have to go back to the state of rest at the end, which would be the winter equivalent, I guess. To me, it starts with winter and ends with winter.
Yeah, so many parallels we can draw. I love it because we are organs, we’re a system. The body is a system. Our thoughts are a soft system. Then we’re in a social system. There’s like a governmental/administrative system. There’s a cultural system. We’re in an environment, we’re in an ecosystem. We’re in a solar system. We’re in all sorts of systems.
In our work as editors and book coaches, there’s even a language system. In my book, I use the body as a metaphor to approach the writing process, but you can do that for anything. You could take apart a car and look at how its system works.
But for me, the beauty of the body and the beauty of embodiment is that we’ve got our own system with us at all times. We’ve got all the tools we need.
Jane Hardjono was born and raised in Australian dairy country to Indonesian parents; she moved to the very flat Eindhoven in the Netherlands as a single adult; and then migrated with her Dutch husband and two young children to the foot of the Port Hills in Christchurch, New Zealand. Jane’s greatest wish of all is to belong somewhere. (If you ask her she’ll say she has found it—although her body changes from moment to moment.)
She believes that people who think a lot benefit from ways to access their ideas through methods that don’t involve yet more thinking. In this way she is able to create an intersection between her embodiment practices and book coaching. You can find her at janehardjono.com.