|Holy Fire by Alex Grey|
*note: If you are interested in learning more about meditation and somatic spirituality, check out my book, Finding God in the Body: A Spiritual Path for the Modern West. It draws from a variety of different traditions—including Buddhism, contemplative Christianity, Judaism, and 12 Step spirituality—to present, not a smorgasbord, but a synthesized path and actionable structure that resonates with the modern Western mind. Click here to learn more about Finding God in the Body: A Spiritual Path for the Modern West.
"Do you not realize that your body is the temple?"
con·tem·pla·tion— that which is done in the temple.
The body is a place many of us have not been for quite some time. We have forgotten our bodies. In our modern world, the sensitivity and immediacy of the body is treated like a nuisance. It is almost as if the body is always interrupting the head, with it’s plans and strategies. With our ambitious heads in the driver’s seat, we push our bodies to the edge. As a result, we are plagued by aches and pains, fatigue, addiction, and illness. We seek escape from the prophetic wisdom of intuition, but the persistence of this wisdom reveals our plans and strategies to be a cowardly exercise in futility—preordained tendencies that seek to escape the inevitable reunion of mind and body.
Then, in an act of desperation, we drown out the realization that we are seeking escape. We begin to chase oblivion, and in the process, we silence the voice of our body. We go numb. The impending reminders of our corporeal condition are, often times, so extreme and overwhelming that the body has come to be regarded as a burden. At best, most of us see the body as a bag of bones, which chauffeurs around the tyrant lodged between our ears. This condition is referred to as “disembodiment.”
Inbred thinking is the origin of our disembodied condition. A decapitated head is an industrious mentality characterized by confusion, speed, and clutter. In short, it is insane. When thought is divorced from reality, consciousness becomes infected with insanity. In a disconnected mind thought is forced to supply itself with content, which is the origin of insanity.
At birth we are fully embodied. As a matter of fact, we are still fully embodied; we are just ignore-ant of this fact. As we begin our initiation into the human race, we inherit a program that seeks to fragment awareness for the sake of organization. The true nature of thought is pure energy, but language begins to interpret this energy, molding it through a process of conformity. Eventually, the thinking mind is governed by a pre-ordained system of dynamics and unquestioned assumptions.
Language itself is not a problem. There is an organic need for language—some means by which to express insights, ideas, needs, and concerns with those around us. It is a medium through which we can relate our experience to others. Simply put, experience is not subservient to language. Rather, language is an attendant to thought. So long as we understand the transparent nature of language, it is not a problem. However, few of us are let onto the relative nature of language. So, thought ends up conforming to the grammatical dictates of the system installed.
In our infancy, both as a species and as an individual, thought was simple and precise. But it was an ineffective medium for communicating our experience. In the primitive condition, thought does not operate within the context of discernible and widely accepted terms or cultural paradigms. So, we are forced to develop our capacity to communicate with others. This was often prompted by our parents saying, “Use your words!” This begins a frustrating process of communicating our rich and textured experience using vague and lifeless terms. It is a violent procedure where the integrity of the human experience is replaced with the nebulous and imprecise world of words and concepts.
Through repetition, thought conforms to the governing dynamics of language. The most fundamental syntactic rule being the completion of a grammatical unit consisting of one or more words. Simply put, how to complete a sentence. We learn that in order to complete a simple sentence a subject needs to be verbing with an object. Over time the movement of thought becomes defined by these dynamics. Now, in order to form a complete thought, there must be separation between the subject and object and interaction between the two. The richness and simplicity of oneness is substituted for confusion and paranoia of duality.
Everything is seen from the point of view of the subject, that is, the I or the head. This installs a degree of separation between the head and body. Furthermore, it forces the subject to exert it’s will over the object, in this case, the head seeks to control the body. This is the most fundamental form of disembodiment. This ancient division between head and body—disembodiment—is at the root of all our dissatisfaction.
When we think of a body, we generally think in terms of legs, eyes, a liver, so on-&-so forth. However, in this instance, the term body is referring to the gateway through which we interact with reality. Our relationship with reality is ambiguous, because the lines which separate us and reality are non-existent. But we believe in this fundamental distinction. So, we pretend. In truth, we are a vessel through which reality expresses itself. This vessel is the body and it is wisdom-awareness. By wisdom-awareness I do not mean some kind of “fru-fru new-agey non-sense.” Wisdom-awareness is a term that refers to the immediacy and precision of knowing. It is not the intellectual capacity to know about something. Wisdom-awareness is knowing. It is the difference between knowing about ice-cream and tasting it. Wisdom-awareness is the ground of experience. In other words, Life expresses itself through the body, because the body is Life. What we call Life is made known through the body.
It is through the eyes that images arise. The nose collects aromatic energy, the ears auditory information, the nerve endings all over the body reveal tactile sensations, and the tongue tastes the world. But the body is not the ears, eyes, nose, tongue, or nerve endings. The body is the knowing. Most people think that human beings are intelligent because they can measure and manipulate the temperature of a room.
However, real intelligence is to be found in our capacity to reflect the hotness or coldness of a room. Wisdom is the capacity to be hot or cold. The body is this wisdom. It is a unified field of experience. It is the hearing, tasting, feeling, seeing, and smelling—free of observer and observed. It is pure observation. It is not the process of thinking about the body or atmosphere. It is subtle awareness, devoid of interaction between a subject and object. The body is pure experience which precedes any notion of subject or object. It is experience without beginning or end.
I did not include thinking in the list above, not because thinking is other than the body, but because some clarification is needed in regards to the experience of thought. Thinking is an interesting phenomena. Few people ever question the nature of thought. So, it is necessary to distinguish between somatic and subjective thought.
Subjective thought refers to the content and value of what is being thought, as it relates to the previous thought. It has to do with the underlying story as it pertains to the central character, the ego. This is inbred thinking. Here, inbred refers to the self-conscious tendency to think about thoughts. This process of cognitive inbreeding muffles the precision and clarity of original thought, as thought becomes further and further removed from inspiration or direct experience. In point of fact, this is the systematic suppression of one’s own creative capacities. Furthermore, it solidifies the experience of a solid-separate self or the personification of thought, as it validates the belief that there is a thinker—“I think, therefore I am.”
The personification of thought is called the ego. “I” is the common denominator in all thought. When thought works within the context of the grammatical formula, “I” is the only constant prerequisite for the completion of a given thought. “I” is the subject of every thought. So, “I” is installed as the central character in the drama that is Life. This is the subjective or ego-centric experience. Within the subjective experience, each thought is a reaction to the previous thought. In other words, this thought was inspired by it’s predecessor and will go on to influence it’s successor. This is the karmic equation: Within a dualistic situation there will always be cause and effect. Every act will produce an effect. This effect will always be similar in nature to the cause that set it in motion. Furthermore, every effect will become a cause. Since the common denominator in all of these thoughts is “I,” an obsession or pattern of thought begins to revolve around this sense of self, which is then shaped by it’s interactions with the objects in it’s environment.
So our self-image becomes an uber-concept, and it is this concept that serves as the metric system that establishes the value of all other experiences. This is why those who affect us in a positive way are considered friends, those who affect us in a negative way are considered enemies, and the majority of faces, which have no direct affect on us, are considered insignificant. The worth of a person, place, or thing is judged on the basis of how it affects this sense of self, and that is the definition of self-centeredness.
This is where things get interesting. In reality, thinking is just the memory in motion. So the content of thought is limited to the repository of information in the memory. But when thought is inbred, this repository becomes limited, because we have ignored most information, as it had no direct impact on our personal situation. In other words, a self-centered mind is a closed mind. This dynamic renders thought impotent or insane, as it reduces the primary influence of each thought to the few instances where we have been hurt or the hand full of times our expectations were met. So, the way the world should and shouldn’t be is defined by the instances in our past when we were disappointed or validated. Basically, the world is revolving around an expired idea, which is little more than personified insecurity. This creates a cycle where thought repeatedly validates and confirms it’s own preconceived fears and expectations, by issuing habitual responses that produce situations that resemble the insecurity, which set this whole process in motion in the first place. This reduces the entire spectrum of experience—the infinite number of possibilities provided by the spacious quality of the present moment—down to a select few, which placate our fears and expectations. We live in a bubble of insecurity.
Somatic thought is the natural, earthly sensation that is thought. It is the raw, un-interpreted physical event which precedes all concepts, characters, plots, motives, and story-lines. This dynamic energy is wealthy. The first thought is always full or complete. It is the uncreated energy which has been set in motion by a direct experience of reality. It is sanity. Somatic thought is pure or untainted. There is no elaboration or unnatural additives. The first thought is always pristine, and from the point of view of simple observation every thought is a first thought.
Somatic thought is a dimension of reality. Therefore, it is always operable. It gets twisted when a second thought comes along and clings to the first thought, generating an opinion about the first thought. This is second hand knowledge, but it doesn’t stop there. A third thought comes along and elaborates on this opinion. This process continues indefinitely. This is the great migration from the body to the head, and the process by which we replaced clarity and precision with second hand knowledge.
Somatic thought is a dimension of the body. The subjective experience exists, but as an illusion. We live in an illusion. As thought obsesses over itself, it ignores the body. As a result, we have misplaced the body. We have forgotten what it means to be fully human.
You might be asking yourself, “Why is this important?” Well, one day I was walking my dog. We came to a stop sign and I thought, “I am hungry.” This was interesting to me, because I had just eaten dinner. So, I investigated the sensation. What I found was a psychological craving and not a physical hunger. I wanted sugar, not food. However, since I was stuck in my head the whole experience was violently conceptualized, and in the process the body was ignored. Essentially, thought recognized a craving for something sweet. Since sweets are edible, this craving met the criteria for the concept, “hungry.” However, when I checked with my body it did not confirm the suggestion that I was hungry. In fact, it said, “We have had plenty to eat.” A great deal of the experience was shaved off so that it could be compartmentalized.
So why is all this important? Think about how many times a day people eat food because they want sugar, but in their head believe that they are hungry…
Reggie Ray once said, “”Every single habitual pattern has been developed in relationship to an experience that was intolerable for us.” So, to put the matter in a more practical focus… When something happens within the course of our daily lives that reminds us of one of these intolerable experiences we issue a habitual response. This response is meant to subdue the situation, and prevent the disagreeable event from repeating itself. These habitual responses are the left-handed expression of our insecurities. From either the point of view of fear or expectation, these habitual responses cater to our insecurities. They seek to create a world that avoids our fears by conforming to our expectations. Now, like I mentioned earlier, these insecurities are incubated in the memory, and sustained through an insane dynamic of inbred thinking. Inbred thinking never allows these insecurities to breathe. They never see the light of day, because we never move past the habitual patterns that entomb them. We get hooked in the story line. So, we hang on to them, and after a while our mind is cluttered. Eventually, there is so much junk in our heads that the experience of life becomes claustrophobic. It gets to a point where everything seems to press our buttons. This is an unsustainable situation.
So imagine for a moment, letting go of the habitual response. By letting go, I mean, not suppressing the insecurity or acting it out. Simply observe it. Sit with it. What would you find? If you were willing to move beyond the habitual response into the insecurity and sit with it, you would see that memories are dynamic. They are not just words, sounds, and images. Memories have texture. Emotions are imprinted on our memories. But when you look closer, you realize that there is something dull or expired about the experience of resentment or re-sent information. So you look deeper. Then you see it.
What you thought was an emotional response to your current predicament was, in fact, just a memory imprinted with an emotional charge. Your current situation resembled an experience from your past, which through the process of association set this memory in motion. Since the memory is of a traumatic experience it has texture, but because of our disembodied condition we relate to what we think about the experience (inbred thinking), instead of the experience itself (basic awareness). The inbred mind is stuck in the past. Therefore, it is stale and musty. While, basic awareness is inspired by the present moment. So, it is fresh and clear. If we do not investigate the quality and source of our experience, we fail to realize that the “negative emotion” is just the texture a memory. Resentment is an emotionally charged memory from the past, not a direct experience of the present moment. The moment we realize this, we are right back in the present moment, because we have had a direct experience of thought.
This is not to say that there is no genuine emotion. There is, but it is un-interpreted. It is raw energy. The experience of genuine emotion is whole or complete; in need of no justification or excuse. Far too big to be shoved into some conceptual pigeonhole. “Genuine anger” does not have to be explained away with blame or justified by excuses. Pure emotion is not apologetic, because it is not a symptom of insecurity, but an expression of the enlightened mind.
Unfortunately, few of us ever cut through the story-lines and habitual responses that revolve around our insecurities. Instead, of focusing on the button, we turn our attention towards the bastard that pressed the button. So, we project or blame the sensation on the situation. This is a symptom of our disembodiment. When we took up residence in our head, we disconnected from any sort of genuine emotional life.
Touch The Earth.
The spiritual path is not about rejecting the body or suppressing thought. It is about the observation of confusion. The most fundamental misunderstanding is the belief in the separation between mind and body. In simple observation, we realize that the head is an aspect of the body. It is not the task of the head to govern the body, nor is it the job of the body to control the head. The two are not separate. The human body is a multi-dimensional manifestation of awareness, which includes the thinking mind.
If we push through the relative experience of subjective thought and reconnect with our bodies—the unquestionable experience of basic awareness that manifests as a bouquet of aromas, forms, textures, flavors, melodies, emotions, and thoughts —we will rediscover a spacious environment that facilitates the spontaneous expression of basic intelligence. That is, a basic experience free of division, therefore devoid of conflict. All forms of division are but a symptom of the principle division between mind and body. This division is a side effect of a misunderstanding, namely the belief in a conceptual-self localized in the dome of our skull. Reconcile that division in the singularity of basic awareness, and watch as the network of thought that establishes dissatisfaction come tumbling down like a house of cards. The practice of meditation or contemplation is the path of reconciliation. In the practice of meditation we reconnect with our body. We touch the earth.
Click here to read Faith, Meditation, & the Body.
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