My friends, are we not luminous beings in earthly vessels? Isn’t the body we live in something special? Isn’t the deep purpose of the flesh to keep us connected to a greater totality of our beingness? If so, let us fire up the kiln and renew and complete the work of art that is our body.
As a natural follow up to "Disconnection From Our Bodies" this article presents theory and practices to help us move beyond the fear of and separation from our suits of flesh and the neglect that causes us so much discomfort.
We ended the previous article with the suggestion that "staying in the moment" is key to making the physical activity our bodies require more enjoyable. Unfortunately, the idea manifest by this concept have moved from New Age canon into the realm of cliché and, as such, has become diluted in meaning.
So what exactly is "staying in the moment" and how do we attain this seemingly elusive state, which I propose is a mainstay of body/mind energy, one that illuminates the elite and the common man, the athlete and the orator, the entertainer, the healer… and yes, you and me… as we apply its modus operandi to how we love and care for our bodies.
A logical first step is to define our terminology. By dictionary definition, a moment is the present time, not before, not after - butright now- in thismoment where experience and satisfaction meet… the fun zone, an obvious but often forgotten or neglected element of well-being. As for the second step, if you’re reading this, you’ve already passed into it by opening your mind to initiation.
Here’s news. To be fully present in one’s mind and body involves utilizing tools you already possess, your five senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling. What, you say! You mean, just pay attention to what I’m already doing? There must be more to it than that. Don’t I need an herb that grows atop a remote mountain in some far away Never, Never Land? How about a diet so devoid of gustatory pleasure that as a regime it’s guaranteed to make me a better person? Or how about an extreme yoga posture that only the most flexible of our species (those born as rubber bands) can accomplish?
Well, those kinds of activities certainly have the potential to enhance our experience with our physicality (particularly Never, Never Land), at least among those who believe that only by indulging in great sacrifice can they be the first or the best at what they do. It’s understandable. We all love to feel special by accomplishing things others have not. I know I do; it’s human nature. You see it in children all the time, "Mommy, look at me! No, no, Mommy, look at ME!"
However, if you’re not seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feelingphysical activity in real time - in the moment - has that activity actually occurred and has it served its purpose? What benefit does a practice offer if it exists solely as an intellectual or look-at-me exercise? How is such a mindset for accomplishment any more than a head trip, an exercise in ego gratification, one that is ultimately devoid of substance and personal meaning?
I say, in the spirit of achieving fullness, balance and well-being, beware of competition; for even in its most benign form, competitiveness un-tempered by compassion can easily become a vehicle for dominating situations and people, an external rather than internal state of being - which prompts me to add a codicil to our second step: Are you here to be here, or are you here to boost your ego by besting others?
If the latter, consider this: When guided by external motivation, the personal truth of an experience can easily, sometimes tragically, be missed.
Instead, let us love and care for our bodies by focusing on receiving the information that our internal senses are transmitting. By staying conscious of the here and now, not only will our practices become meaningful, they will become sacred, thereby achieving the practitioner’s ultimate goal of guarding and developing the sacred temple that is our body. It’s a way to be special that means something, and, in that sense, we can all be special. So. How do we make the seemingly metaphysical activity of mastering the present and being in the moment, something that’s doable for just about anyone?
That brings us to the third step, detaching from the rambling intellect: talking, wondering, judging, second-guessing and self-deprecating the mind/body connectivity by holding an endless conversation with no one on the subject of everything?
The primary challenge for arresting this kind of mental activity emanates from living in a society that values active intellectabove all other states of consciousness sometimes referred to as the Aryan infusion, and I will admit that it’s an awesome tool. After all, utilizing conceptualization of this kind, we’ve sent people into outer space, built virtual computer worlds, conceived, made real and then detonated nuclear weaponry.
Nonetheless, I say, beware worship of the intellect because in its isolated state it cannot sing a song, feel love for a newborn child, allow a penis to become erect (unless you take a pill designed by the intellect to overcome the intellect) or make any decision that’s based on ethics and personal growth rather than ego gratification.
The fruit bearing tree we must plant contains the seed that says - the intellect is only one part of the garden that is watered and fed by consciousness.
Therefore, we must keep in mind that what separates the active intellect from being in the moment is that it’s based in past experience or in anticipation of a future one, and, as such, is capable of blocking the enjoyment of a present tense moment and creating a schism in mind/body pleasure that results in a lack of love for and the motivation to care for our bodies. Conversely, being fully present in a moment is based in neutral time and, as such, creates a unity of sensory experience that allows us to love and nurture ourselves.
So, our third goal is to attain mind/body balance and neutrality. The body is inherently designed for balance: two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, two ovaries, two testicles. It is also designed to communicate (in nano-seconds) with singular appendages, structures and orifices (nose, mouth, genitals, anus, spine) located along the core line (center of the body) which, when activated without prejudice, offer us a state of bodily neutrality.
Neutrality = Balance; Balance = Neutrality… making our main point, our thesis and our mantra (I can not stress this enough) that it is impossible to fully experience a neutral, balanced bodily activity that’s occurring in this moment if the mind is leaning to the left or to the right, favoring masculine or feminine energy and visiting the past for validation or projecting into the future anticipating victories or defeats that may or may not come. What this way of thinking does is put you off balance, and when you’re off balance the physical work you do to heal and strengthen your body will be for naught.
For most of us, in order to reverse this kind of thinking, we must seek out a neutral, present tense stand that is two-prolonged – unlearning old behaviors and then integrating new ones into our system for mind/body wellness. You should note at this point that there are three groups of people worthy of imitation who are already where you want to go: children (who have not yet had their inner life co-opted by punishment and reward systems), the mentally handicapped (whose intellectual development is limited and therefore more difficult to co-opt) and the spiritually advanced (those who’ve mastered and tamed the intellect, learned to appreciate what it can and cannot do and know when to set it aside).
Step four takes this awareness of balance and neutrality further. The body reflects the mental state. Always. An obvious example is right and left handedness. Ambidexterity is rare. As a consequence, we tend to favor one side of the body over the other. We can also favor one aspect of time over another - past experience versus future anticipation versus staying in the moment. Follow me closely please; this is deep alchemy.
If the active intellect perceives in the future, that is to say that present events are interpreted by how they’re imagined to unfold in the future rather then as they are actually unfolding in the present, the masculine (emanating) energies of the body become over involved, and feminine (receptive) energies become repressed.
Antipodally, if the active intellect perceives events as how they’ve unfolded in the past-- as how they are re-membered rather then how they are actually unfolding in the present, feminine energies will become over involved and masculine energy repressed.
So dealing in the duality of extremes opposes the forces which create balance, i.e. the right side of the body viewed as masculine, the left feminine, and the neutral core androgynous. The upper body viewed as masculine, the lower body feminine. The back of the torso viewed masculine, the front feminine. We’ll go into the foundations of these concepts in a future article.
Another example of "sidedness" shows itself as we age and the ego-invested mind builds a larger and larger database of past events, which it then superimposes on present tense activity by judging and favoring the tried and true rather than a newer and truer version of reality.
We can change this behavior by observing our bodies; right and left, front and back and upper and lower portions for lopsidedness by becoming more aware of our body postures. Are you as aware of your left foot as your right foot? Do you lean to one side as you stand or sit? Do you experience sexual pleasure from only one side of your genitalia? If so, how does that affect your partner’s pleasure? You see, as we balance our posture, we also open the internal organs which offers us an even deeper reward for setting out on this journey.
The body will initially resist, as the mind continues to seek its comfort zone. After all, it’s been out of alignment for most of our lives. Therefore, this work also requires a commitment to exploration and a patience that depends upon whatever timeframe your particular body requires. The process of recovering wholeness is not swift. I won’t lie to you. Expect it to take years to retrain deep-seated habitual patterns. Is it worth it? Re-read the previous paragraph.
A basic methodology by which we begin an active approach towards achieving a balanced and neutral well-being involves tuning into the five senses and exploring their functions until each is able to receive information neutrally. We’re talking about starting life over and rediscovering the physical world as though you were a child. The difference is that you get to make the rules and you pick the playground. You become an artist who can set aside old work and begin new work whenever you wish!
A great starting exercise is to practice writing or drawing with your sublimated hand. Rightys write left and leftys write right. I have a relative who lost the use of her right side and right eye ten years ago. Today, she writes more legibly with her left hand than she did when her right hand was dominant. If she could revive her body to such an extent, think what you can do with far fewer limitations.
I sometimes wonder what our world would be like if everyone was trained to be both left and right handedly proficient. Would we then perform all physical movement with impeccable alignment? Would we then feel impeccable and act accordingly? What if such a practice eliminated the need for competition? Food for thought.
Next, let’s look at vision as a sensory device for achieving balance. Many people favor their right or left eye. Does the same principle of balance apply? A friend told me that when she’s tired, she finds herself closing her right eye and letting the left eye do all the work. I wonder if the work she creates with one eye is equal to the work she creates with two.
How about you? Do you view life with only one eye? Are you looking primarily off to the left, off to the right, down or up? If so, try looking straight ahead, but at nothing specific. Allow your field of vision to relax and flow into both eyes. If you find yourself shifting to one eye, close both eyes and begin again. You’ll soon notice that sight with both eyes as the primary collection point of visual reality is much more lucid than that achieved using only one eye.
To align the ears, when using the telephone, for a different kind of experience, select the ear you use least often. When using headphones, attach only one earpiece or switch back and forth between ears to test your auditory balance. Make note of the difference.
The laws of balance can be applied to your nostrils as well, whether using them simultaneously or by switching from left to right, a process taught by yoga officionadoes. Breathing out of both nostrils is known to activate sushuma or the neutral channel. You can also close one nostril and breathe out of the other one. Patience must be exercised as the closed nostril may take some time to unlock and open.
The left nostril is considered feminine (lunar, water) and related to the past. The right nostril masculine (sun, fire) and related to the future. The following exercise uses left/right nostril breathing to align other parts of the body by bringing more awareness to either side’s consciousness fields. Try making small left shoulder circles while breathing thru the left nostril. Then switch to the right nostril and the right shoulder. Be gentle with yourself.
Taste and smell are closely related, making the methods for working with them very similar. Our minds and bodies use the stimuli of sweet, sour, bitter, salty and pungent tastes and aromas to awaken and balance the gustatory and olfactory sensibilities. We all have flavors and scents that we like and some that we do not like. These likes and dislikes are related to thehealth and spirit of our five major organ systems, a concept we’ll cover in a future article.
For the practice at hand, try to set aside your preferences and sample food that represents one of each of the five stimuli. Slowly consume a small portion allowing yourself to partake fully of its flavor and aroma. It is particularly important that you open up and receive the flavors that are most distasteful to you. If you pay attention, you’ll discover that certain stimuli of this kind can cause you to shiver or experience chills or other energetic sensations, pleasurable and not so pleasurable… evidence that your entire being can be affected by just an odor or taste.
Your resistance to certain flavors may also represent your resistance to certain aspects of life. I don’t mean the odors and tastes of garbage or toxic chemicals but stimuli used for sustenance. Give it a try. Set aside old preferences and expectations and allow yourself to be penetrated and consumed by the experience. Live now!
That these previously described methods aid us in loving and caring for our bodies is no great secret. This article’s purpose is to give you a push towards reclaiming each and every means available to you for achieving an enjoyable physical existence. It is a call to retake your life by not being afraid to partake of its simple and abundant bounty thru the mechanisms of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling. In plain language, what we’re talking about is utilizing the neglected parts of your body instead of favoring one part over another.
So begin your healing by making a habit of practicing these techniques as part of your every day activity. Remember what the world looked, sounded, tasted, smelled and felt like when you were 5 or 6, and you lingered in the significance of a single moment rather than obsessing about a past judgment or a future desire. Be gentle with yourself. Stay aware; and you can retrain yourself for balance anytime anywhere by practicing as you live.
As you become more and more receptive to your sensory world, you’ll find that less and less is required to open you up to your unique physicality. Because what we’re also about is reclaiming time. For whatever reason, your ability to live in the present moment has diminished. It’s time to re-member it, re-grow it and re-claim it by setting aside time to appreciate the moment, setting aside time to love and care for our bodies. For without these most natural of elements to sift our experiences thru, our greatest accomplishments will have little meaning.