The relationship between my body and THE BODY
To qualify as part of the human race, to be referred to as being “human” means to be involved with two entities: my body and THE BODY. The relationship between my body and THE BODY can be insightfully likened to the relationship between the planet Earth and the rest of the cosmos. My body is a tiny little speck, albeit a vastly important one, in relation to the universe that is: THE BODY. It would be appropriate to refer to my body as the small self or ego and the infinitely vaster THE BODY as the Greater Self. In essence my body is limited and tiny and THE BODY is unlimited and infinite.
It is important to appreciate the way that my body is embedded in THE BODY. Human beings will only comes into possession of my body around about the age of two years of age. THE BODY however, was always present and always exists. THE BODY is eternal and in fact billions and millions of years old – indeed as old as the universe and life on Earth.
Transcendence and emergence into the Greater Self
While my body exists as a possession with a very temporary stewardship, it is one that must eventually be relinquished. The eventual letting-go of my body happens inevitably to every human being just before death. Under the strictest circumstances, it is quite possible for it to happen, well before the inevitable moment just before death. In many more advanced psychophysical cultures wisdom traditions exist with detailed protocols and practices to transcend the small self and to merge and immerse oneself into the Greater Self. In the great Middle Eastern Sufi System this process is called: The Nafs, a process uncompromisingly referred to as: how to die before death. This process of self-transcendence and emergence into the Greater Self or THE BODY is referred to in many of the other Great wisdom traditions. For example in the great Buddhist tradition there are very detailed psychological guidance and protocols to aid the process of releasing the (small) self in order to gain entry into the state of No-self: THE BODY.
“My body” as a Donkey that you possess
The word “my” in my body is quite significant. In many important respects we come to regard my body as a possession somewhat similar to our other possessions: my house, my clothes, my car, etc. Often we will treat my body like a donkey that we own in much the same way as one of our many other possessions. We bribe the donkey with a carrot, and we beat it into shape with a stick. We will train it and knock it into shape with workouts. In the ego-driven world of the small self we become progressively and more compulsively obsessed with the my body-donkey: constantly striving to make its appearance more acceptable to others. We will subject it to strict diets and strenuous training regimes and endless fashion fads and fancies. No matter how much you bribe and beat the donkey, and no matter how driven this frenetic activity becomes, whatever happens must remain entirely superficial and highly self-conscious. In fact the more driven the activity, and the more needy and less self-reliant we grow, the more lacking in depth we become. We are trapped inevitably on the level of surface appearances.
The two great adventures
It is one great contemporary adventure to journey to the interface between my body and THE BODY. It is an even greater odyssey to penetrate beyond the boundaries that separate the small self from the Greater Self. The laws that guide this process are very stringent indeed and demand that we relinquish all aspects of the clinging, driving, striving obsession with my body. It is only through such letting-go that we can gain access to the profound depths of beauty in what it truly means to be human.
The suffering that is caused by ego-driven concerns and the enslavement to superficial and narcissistic preoccupations is an inherent challenge of being human. It is not possible to transcend the limitations of the small self without first relinquishing and letting go of the possessiveness and the clinging and holding-on to my body. In order to penetrate deep beyond the ego and the surface aspects of being human, the barriers between my body and THE BODY must be dismantled and dissolved. The rules and laws for this process are simple and extremely stringent and involve letting-go of whatever is holding and clinging. We identify with my body and its limitations and we consider that what goes on within its boundaries is all that exists. Buddhist psychology refers to this holding and identification as attachment.
Crossing the boundaries between my body and THE BODY
Having made the journey and arrived at the interface, the special effort of attention that got you there is now called upon to intensify in order to penetrate deep beyond the ego and its surface realities. It is not possible to take along with you any of the small self’s preoccupations with manipulation and control that are such an inevitable part of the possessiveness of my body. To transcend such concerns requires a deep and disciplined depth of focused attention of inner surrender. We have first to have had an ego before we move on to transcend its limitations. Once the boundaries dissolve, the interconnectedness of everything is clearly revealed. This opens up a deep sense of reverence and awe. To shed my body and enter THE BODY is to enter a territory that we all share. We are not isolated and separate. THE BODY contains a vast and deep shared evolutionary heritage. To enter into THE BODY is to dissolve any sense of separation or of disconnection from our shared ancestry. Our shared Gene pool of humanity is a truly awesome Ocean in which to float and swim.
Opening up forgiveness love and compassion; Positive Emotion
As the clinging, possessiveness is relinquished and released, then through the process of letting-go we may open up and gain access to the human qualities: the positive emotions that have true depth and height. This opens up forgiveness, love and compassion. Such higher qualities will only fill our life when we make the effort of attention that draws upon the wholehearted courage to let go of the limpet-like attachments to my body. The only route to discovering the real depths of beauty in human life is by way of relinquishment, release inner surrender.
In fact life only exist within THE BODY. The small self that holds on to my body is filled with stories or narratives about life. A moment of self-reflection reveals that you did not make your life happen in the first instance and moment by moment you cannot make Life happen– though for sure, you can interfere with it! You are life and that life pulses and breaths within THE BODY.
Clearing the way of interferences and obstacles: Negative emotion as interference
Once the great adventure is underway and you gain entry into the depths of THE BODY, it becomes clear that your conscious presence has only one vital and important role: to remove the manifold interferences that are imposed on the integrated flow of life as it pulses through the volume moment by moment. Every one of the negative emotions from shame through anger, desire up to pride will, to some degree impose a restriction to the pulsing flow of life. It is the job of your conscious presence to remove such interference. Once those obstacles are removed then the Life that is then liberated becomes filled with willingness, forgiveness and compassion. These restrictions to positive emotions are created by my body and they prevent and restrict the expansion of love and compassion in your life. The greater the interference the greater the suffering.
Wonder. Awe. Creative Play
A state of quiet awe and wonder is the one way to compose oneself for an entry into THE BODY. This is a reverence for all life. Everything pivots around the axis of that extraordinary effort of deep attention that allows this to open and unfurl. The deep focused attention contains also within it a forbearance and understanding of the suffering that the temporary stewardship of my body inevitably creates. Such suffering is also part of the magnificent unfolding of the universe that contains within it an extraordinary potential to transcend the limitations that it alone creates.
The two great adventures: a journey to the interface between my body and THE BODY; and the crossing of the boundaries between my body and THE BODY require the same deep focus of attention. At its deepest and most profound level this same deep focus of attention eventually reveals how creative play is the profoundest expression of what it means to be human. That interplay of creation begins in the hyphen (-) between mind-body, between psycho-physical and between the neuro-muscular. That is where the adventure to enter into the body begins and continues to renew itself moment by moment.
John Woodward June 14th 2017