Is Your Body a Foe or a Friend? Confusion about your physical body in your spiritual
Is Your Body a Foe or a Friend? Confusion about your physical body in your spiritual growth
By Masaru Kato
As we can see in recent medical discourse, we have deepened our understating of the mind-body connection. The mind and the body are inseparable. Dr. Ida Rolf, the founder of Rolfing, states, “The physical body is actually the personality, rather than its expression, is the energy unit we call man.” The mind and the body are not two. The mind is the body. The body is the mind. Dr. Alexander Lowen, the founder of Bioenergetics, claims, “You are your body.” Somatologists or existentialists encourage you to tap into a whole-bodied full-minded awareness to find out the fundamental meaning of life.
As you look at a spiritual or metaphysical community, a way of viewing the body is totally different. Sages and enlightened masters claim that your physical reality including your body, is the projection of the mind, thus illusory. Therefore, you are encouraged to disengage yourself from the body. A Course in Miracles states, “It is your mind which gave the body all the functions that you see in it, and set its value far beyond a little pile of dust and water ... The body, valueless and hardly worth the least defense, need merely be perceived as quite apart from you.” Krishna says, “You are not your body.”
In the above, there seems to be conflicting thoughts about your body. On the one hand, it is clear that the integrated awareness of mind-body surely contributes to better health and wellness. On the other hand, however, the core spiritual teaching is suggesting that you free yourself from the body. If both are correct, how do you relate to your body in order to attain deep peacefulness and fulfillment?
In this regard, I would like to share my personal experience. On my spiritual path, the body had been a tricky question until recently. In the past, I tried to overcome my bodily desires, believing that was the holy attitude for approaching to the Divine. It resulted in physical tension around my pelvic area. I unconsciously tightened up the Second Chakra region, like a rock literally, to control my sexual drive and greed for money. That eventually brought me a physical issue in painful urination, of which a medical doctor could not detect its cause. The more I tried to grow spiritually, the more I squeezed and compacted myself physically as well as energetically. I felt miserable. Then, at a certain point, I decided to change the pattern of my spiritual practice. I started to reclaim my body. That brought me to a conscious leap. Right after that, I experienced the Unity Consciousness. I aligned myself with the Source, spiritual ground from which my whole awareness emerged.
In the act of integrating the mind and the body, I attained non-dual vision, where subject and object were merged. In order to own my body mindfully, I allowed myself to feel whatever was happening inside of myself; such as feelings, emotions, sensations, past memories, traumas, etc. I sunk into them. I surrendered myself to them. I let them express themselves through me. In short, I let myself be them. I accepted myself not as being in the body, but as being with the body, more correctly saying, as the body itself.
It is very important to note that to know your emotion is different from feeling your emotion. To know is a cognitive process like watching a baseball game, sitting in a seat at the ballpark. To feel is to be right in it, like playing the ball game right in the field. To know: there is a psychological distance between the knower and the known. To feel: there is no boundary between the feeler and what is felt. For instance, when you are sad, you may easily recognize it. However, you are likely to resist crying. When you allow yourself to cry, you melt into that sadness.
To feel is the doorway to attain non-dual and non-symbolic vision. This is the immediate, direct, and intuitive apprehension of something, just as it is. In this sense, the mind-body integration will upgrade your mode of knowing into the higher and more subtle one. Furthermore, the mind-body integration brings your awareness into the present moment. When you feel your body, you are in the now. You don’t hear the past. You don’t taste the future. Moreover, owning your body means accepting the physiological process you cannot control, such as digesting, circulating, growing and aging. You begin to accept them as the perfectly natural manner of things, not fighting against them. You will accept yourself deeply. In those ways, the total unity of mind-body shifts your awareness significantly higher.
If the mind-body integration is so spiritually beneficial, why do sages advise you to disidentify yourself from the body? Each side of both camps, existentialists and sages, looks at the different levels of your identity, therefore suggesting different approaches to the body. Existentialists encourage you to let go of your narrow identity with the mind, reducing the body to your property. You need to embrace your body not as yours but as you to discover an authentic, existential self. Sages are inviting you to evolve further to attain the Higher Self, letting go of even that authentic self, because it is still personal. With the ultimately expanded identity, you become everything, Universe, or Oneness. In some sense, those two perspectives are not conflicting. Sages ask you to drop the body as the imaginary boundary to preserve your individuality. They are not asking you to leave behind the aliveness of your organism, which existentialists value the most. Actually, both camps are the same in the sense that they are pointing out the non-dual vision. The former suggests that you not look at your body as an object. This is to transcend the dualism of mind vs. body. Sages suggest that you not look at anything as an object. This is to transcend the primal dualism of subject vs. object, self vs. others, and seer vs. seen.
I would like to emphasize that the mind-body integration should be a prerequisite for entering the Unity Consciousness. You need to fully integrate the body into yourself, in order to transcend the body. As you attain deep totality as an organism, you will ride on the internal impulse toward more of your potentialities. When pure joy is flourishing inside of yourself, it enables you to affirm everything. As you accept your body as you, you no longer blame your body for your misfortune. You will eventually learn that you do not need to control yourself in order to accept who you are. Within this deep acceptance, you will no longer be attached to the body. Then, you have become ready for further spiritual growth.
Unfortunately, I have found that many spiritual seekers try to skip the prerequisite of mind-body integration. The first reason of the avoidance is the common view of the body. The body appears to be non-spiritual, because it houses animalistic and disgusting passions, which are culturally taboo. The second reason is more serious than the first. They are afraid to feel their “inside” deeply, where immense pains and fears are stored and embedded. They recoil from their awareness of the vulnerability and mortality of the physical body. They long for a state of affairs, where the Absolute guarantees an eternal life, unencumbered by the physical vulnerability, floating in the altered state of consciousness. They tap into Divine peacefulness simply by their psychic sensibility. They feel great while they are meditating. They fall into neurosis when they open their eyes, getting back to physical reality. It is because none of their issues (e.g., the trauma of childhood abuse stored in the body) is unchanged. They try to put the mind into Heaven, while they leave the body in Hell. They are swinging between Heaven and Hell.
The mind-body integration is the preparatory step to attain genuine enlightenment, where you are blissful as well as functional. You need to gain a sense of depth, a ground of meaningful feeling, a wellspring of inner awareness and feeling-attention, by having your body as you, not as yours.
Masaru Kato is an energy healer and a spiritual teacher, offering transformational workshops throughout the year. You can reach him at 847-989-4261, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please check his web site at: Atman Well-being.
Lightworks - The Monthly Aspectarian February, 2009
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