Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Body and Earth

While the spiritual journey consists of a shift of focus (identity) from form to spirit, it is important that we do not make an enemy of the body, or of matter itself. In spiritual contexts you neither fight, nor flee, but accept and transcend what you wish to overcome. It is much like finding an ugly spot on your new wall-paper. As long as you do not accept it, the spot will keep bothering you, and leave you no peace of mind, but as soon as you accept its presence you become free of it. In a way, you will no longer see it.

The Salvation presented by Jesus of Nazareth, or the Nirvana of Siddhartha Gautama, are Absolute. That means they are independent of conditions. If you think that a change of environment is necessary, you are wrong, though it might initially be very helpful. On this issue Sri Ramakrishna speaks wisely: “...when the trees on the footpath are young, they may be eaten up by goats or cows for want of fencing. A fence is needed in the initial stage. When, however, the trunk gets thicker no fence is needed. Then even an elephant tied to the trunk will not do any harm to it.”
(From the Gospels of Sri Ramakrishna)

While the body is not the truth of what we truly are, it is our one vessel on this voyage, and abandoning the vessel does us no good at all. On the contrary, it is our inability to accept and connect with the vessel that keep us bound to it. In our problems, worries, and ambitions of every day life, we lose contact with body and earth, and lead a life almost fully in our minds. We think about the frightening or hopeful future, and on other places and times which we cannot touch, taste, smell, hear, or even see. To a great extent, we live not in Life, but in our minds' maps of reality. In this abstract world of ideas, opinions, plans, goals, regrets, and strategy, we become disconnected from body and being – fully or partly lost in a labyrinth of endless thought-patterns. 

Reconnect now. Feel the body. Feel the weight of it, and the pressure on your bottom, back, or feet. Can we read on without losing the awareness of it?

Since we spend most of our days primarily with the voice in our heads, it is very good to re-establish a conscious connection with the feet, which are furthest away from the brain. When we walk it is great practice to make aware every single step, and the feeling of contact with the ground or floor. As long as that conscious contact is maintained, we are never fully lost in thought. Many forms of spiritual practice like Hatha Yoga, Zazen, and even Martial Arts, or any kind of Dancing, helps greatly in getting to know the body. To welcome the body, be in the body, and be the body, helps us re-discover and experience the Oneness between mind and body. The spiritual presence underneath and within all, is more easily discerned when the energies of the body are welcome, balanced, and perceived by us.

What I'm speaking about here is a very far cry from idolizing the body, or any form of emotional (positive or negative) attachment to it. You need not look in the mirror once to love and accept the physical structure you have at your disposal. Live through this flesh and give it the honor it deserves, but allow also its decline by age and any disfigurements from accidents and disease. These are as natural as its strength, beauty, and agility, and may teach us to seek in the right place. All we need to understand really, is that some disabled persons are happier than the girls on the catwalk, and we need to look there no further.

By making it a daily practice to make aware our breathing, or our placing of the feet on the ground, we establish a connection with the body energy, and the surrounding air or soil. Whenever we find ourselves repeating or listening to a superfluous stream of thoughts (typically a reprisal) we will gain a lot by moving focus instead to the temple of our being – the body, and listen in to the silent sermon held at all times in the halls of nerve, sinew, muscle, and bone. In such a way we may come to remember the secrets of the Earth, from which our bodies sprang and are sustained.

"For in him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28)

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