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Out of the Head, into the Body: How Simplifying can lead to Self-Love

By Lisa Meuser.  

 “How do I get things to be different? How can I be different? What can I do? What did you do?”

These questions come my way, in varied forms, almost every day. While most of my blog pieces share the intricacies of my own journey – belief systems, trauma and conditioning – this blog piece is going to be more about tools and practices that helped me get from there to here.  I hope that some of what I share here will support and empower those who are looking to increase their level of well-being and build a loving relationship with their self.

 

What if?

A client was exploring their need to seek out solutions – to constantly go to their thoughts (or self-destructive actions) every time life felt hard. To my client, it felt very much like they were either living “in their head” or trying to escape from the thoughts in their head. They lived a life of varied compulsions and endless seeking. And while they were successful by culture’s standards, they were dissatisfied with their life, and often depressed.

As we worked together, something started to change in how they met life. The compulsive need to “go mental” shifted as, over time, they learned that they could bring attention into their body and feel, instead of automatically turning to escape habits or thought strategies. It was slowly becoming their reality that being in their body was a far safer place to be than trapped in their “hamster-wheel mind“ looking for solutions to problems that thoughts would never be able to solve.

“What if, as a child, I was taught or guided to feel, instead of immediately look for solutions”, they pondered. “What if I had learned to spend even just a moment on feeling before jumping into looking for possible solutions or engaging in harmful actions?”

They had been discovering first hand that there were feelings under all the “hamster-wheel thoughts” that simply wanted to be felt. These feeling had always seemed like “too much” but with practice and guidance, were actually quite safe to be with. They had just needed to experientially learn that their body was indeed safe to feel. This opened up the world to them, and shifted their perspective with themself. What had been sentiments of self-loathing and shame slowly transformed into feelings of compassion and acceptance.

 

 It gets complicated, real fast

  • When we don’t know how to be with what we’re experiencing and feeling, we don’t know how to value it.
  • If we don’t have worth with what we’re experiencing and feeling, we can’t value or find worth in ourselves.
  • When we can’t value ourselves, we can’t love ourselves.

Ouch.

We look for value and love elsewhere – anywhere. And when we can’t find it from another person or people, we often numb ourselves, because we’re wired to feel love and it is painful to be separated from love.

This pain makes it even harder to be in our bodies, and so we continue to try to escape into our minds or away from discomfort.

 

What a predicament

Sure, it sounds good – to not have to live in one’s head most of the time. But it’s not that easy. In fact, it’s down right hard when we’ve been raised to value thought over feeling, or when we’ve never made friends with our feeling body. And it becomes even more difficult when we have pain in our bodies that overwhelms us every time we get close to it.

 

Good news!

The good news is that there are simple practices that can help you to slowly learn that it is safe to connect with your body. We can learn new ways of being that will shift the old neural pathways and the habits associated with them, into new healthy and loving habits[1].

The journey to loving ourselves requires us to get to know ourselves, bit by bit, and there are simple practices that we can participate in to facilitate and foster that.

If you’re interested and willing to engage in some new practices, read on and find out for your self[2] what’s possible!

 

Beginning by honoring your uniqueness

Everyone is in their own place on this journey of being human. Some of these practices will be comfortable and easy, while others may be awkward and uncomfortable.  Some of the practices may not feel right for you, some may stretch you in a good way, and others will feel perfect.

Making these recognitions is part of the journey to self-love.  It’s necessary to know what your nervous system and body likes and dislikes. It’s important to be able to acknowledge when something feels useful for your well-being, and when something feels harmful. It is loving to honor that recognition, and move forward accordingly.

Forcing yourself to do something that increases a sense of overwhelming pain or brings about more anxiety is not self-love. Yes, push your edge a bit, but love is not aggressive or violent.

 

If you want different experiences, try living differently

Some of these invitations may seem useless or nonsensical or even stupid.  We often want things to make sense and to know why we’re doing things, but sometimes we have to be willing to just play and experiment. Entering into a space of “don’t know” or “beginners’ mind” has been and continues to be a very practical and wise approach for me, and I invite you to lean into that space.

Treating each moment as new yields the ability to discern that each moment really is different. Meeting life with child-like wonder and curiosity yields a life that feels more wonderful and curiosity-filled. As much as possible, bring new eyes and ears into your experimental playtime. Your neural pathways will thank you for it!

 

Safe places, safe spaces, safe practices sometimes hide in the simple

In my experience it is practical and revolutionary to name places, practice and other things that increase a sense of safety in my unique being. Learning those increases your relationship with yourself and in turn supports you in developing a sense of love with yourself.

Simple things often go over looked. Everyone is different, but here are some possibilities where simplicity may live in relation to your body:

  • The area of the feet
  • The fingers or hands
  • The arm pits
  • The pelvic floor
  • The rhythmic movement of the breath
  • The buttocks on the chair
  • Receiving of sound
  • The tongue lying in the mouth
  • Air moving through the nostrils
  • Air on the skin

Find areas of your body that are easy to rest with, and spend time there as resonates for you. Bring curiosity to these areas. The invitation is to curiously and gently place attention on areas of our body so as to increase the sense of friendliness and safety we have with our bodies.

Discovering simple practices that feel good, and that at the same time are healthy for your nervous systems/bodies, are instrumental in creating a loving relationship with your self.

Here are some of mine. Yours will likely be different, but I share them as examples.

  • Heat: hot beverages, baths, showers, water bottles, etc are very fondly received by my nervous system. Your nervous system may appreciate cold temperatures, or a mixture of hot and cold. Honor your uniqueness.
  • Walks outside
  • Listening and watching birds and squirrels from inside my house
  • Listening to music, depending on my mood
  • Smelling certain scents, either through flowers, candles or essential oils
  • Playing with animals at the animal shelter
  • playing with my cats
  • Watching TV shows that touch my heart or make me laugh
  • Journaling
  • Taking supplements and eating food which support my nervous system
  • Sleep and/or naps and/or lying down
  • Being mindful of my electronic use
  • Reading – different kinds of genres depending on my needs of the moment
  • Speaking or connecting with friends or support systems.
  • Exercise of some kind

Identifying safe places is useful to. Do you like to spend time in certain chairs? Do you like a particular park? Do you like to hang out in the bath tub? Be curious about what you naturally gravitate towards, and utilize the wisdom of your body in knowing what it enjoys or appreciates.

 

Slowing down, noticing  

We live in a fast-paced, complicated culture. Slowing down, getting curious and simplifying are essential in deepening your relationship with yourself and in learning how to love yourself.

What if we slowed down, paused, and took a moment to be here, right now?

Yes, right now, right here. No, really, right now.

  • After reading this sentence, let your eyes gently close, feel your body in the chair (or wherever you are situated), take a breath, and take a moment to notice what is going on in your direct experience right this very moment.

Are you able to notice what is here, right now, without judging or critiquing? Our brains are geared towards contrasting and comparing, evaluating and assessing. It’s perfectly normal to judge or critique, AND it is useful to know when we are doing that. It is also useful to play and experiment with observing our direct experience without an assessing narrative.

The present moment, direct experience, is filled with objective, neutral happenings. Qualities and attributes are noticed for what they are, but not judged for being what they are. For example, in direct experience I may notice the hardness of my chair on my back, cold air on my face, and a gripping sensation in my jaw. Those things are “factually occurring” so to speak. The mental thoughts about the direct experience come outside of direct experience – judgments, resistance, or narrative arguments about the hardness, cold and/or gripping.

Being aware of the difference between direct experience and the thoughts about direct experience can help you to know yourself – particularly how the brain and thought structures work.  Which brings us to inquiry.

 

Inquiry; asking curious questions without an agenda

Learning how to inquire into our experience (for example, recognizing if we’re connecting with direct experience or the thoughts about direct experience) can help us immensely in getting to know our self and make friends with our self.

Transformative inquiry is an art that gets developed through practice. It begins by pausing, and asking simple, factual questions about your experience.

  • How is it to be sitting in this chair? Said another way, what is being experienced as I’m sitting in this chair?

We can ask simple, straightforward questions like this throughout our day. Our mind may quickly make these questions complicated, so it’s good to be aware of how fast that typically happens. After spotting the mind’s tendency to complicate things, play with gently and curiously returning to something very simple, practical and somewhat factual that is happening in your direct experience. The invitation is not to stop the tendencies of the mind, but to re-connect over and over and over to curious and gentle looking so that we may notice our direct experience without the burden of critique.

 

Somatic practices

We can start to safely know our body by including our body in our simple inquiries and including our bodies into our field of attention.

  • Start slow, gentle and curious.
  • Ask questions into your “now experience” that include aspects of your body’s experience. (See the chair example above)
  • Steer your attention towards simple, easy and safe
  • Keep returning to simple, over and over.
  • Play and practice for short periods of time at first.

Play and experiment with what is already here, with what you are already doing. Simple inquiry can be introduced into activities that you habitually do. You can bring simple inquiry into washing the dishes, for example – spending more attention on the experiences of your hands, arms, legs, feet, butt and breath. Most of us do habitual behaviors like washing the dishes, going to the bathroom/taking a shower, or driving while on “auto pilot”, absorbed in our thoughts. Play with being aware of your body’s direct experiences instead of getting lost in your thoughts.

 

Noticing more, changing habits

Continue to bring simple inquiry and noticing into more activities of your life. After starting with simple and neutral activities (like washing the dishes or watching television), gently start to include bringing inquiry into more challenging or complex terrain. Take time to notice how fast the mind creates meaning from what you’re seeing, thinking, and experiencing. Invite your attention to routinely connect and reconnect (over and over) to the aspects of your experience as applicable.

Ask yourself questions, including:

  • What am I seeing?
  • What am I thinking?
  • What am I smelling
  • What am I touching
  • What am I feeling
  • What energies or visceral sensations are present?

Ask the questions from simplicity, without analysis or even to get a decisive answer. Be curious. Invite your attention to zoom in, and know the intricacies you are experiencing. Invite your attention to zoom out, and notice the wider space in which things are happening. Continue to practice noticing if you are in direct experience, or being drawn into analysis and evaluation. Remind yourself that this is a practice, and learning is happening. There is no arrival or destination.

Continue to ask curious, gentle questions:

  • Am I judging myself?
  • What is it like when I judge myself?
  • Can I allow the judging, but also gently bring some attention to something simple that is here? Be open to the answer being yes or no, or maybe some yes and some no.
  • Can I curiously rest in that which is simple? Be open to the answer being being yes or no, or maybe some yes and some no.
  • Is it time to stop inquiring and do something else?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Imagine you are a scientist and you are your own science experiment. Discover what you notice. Listen to yourself. If possible, don’t try to change what you discover, simply notice it. Honor what feels nourishing for you along the way. Be aware of the flavors of kindness and self-love. Notice the flavors that don’t feel loving or kind. Adjust accordingly.

 

Final contemplations

What if we could see that that we incessantly try to figure things out because we haven’t learned that there is a different way to be? What if we understood that we turn to the mind, because we haven’t learned that it is safe to turn towards what exists below the chin?  What if we knew that self-love is something that exists in our relationship with our self and is something we can learn? I invite you to ponder these questions. I invite you to come up with your own questions as you engage in some of the practices I share, and come up with new practices of your own creation.

I hope that this blog post has helped you connect with your life in new ways[3]. When a person experiments with their experience, magic often happens (ie their neural pathways change, which means other things change!). As you practice getting to know yourself, you will discover what feels supportive and evolutionary, what feels loving, and what does not. I’d love to hear what you discover!

 

 

[1] It takes neural pathways anywhere from 18 to 164 days to shift, so repetitive engagements with new practices increase sustained shifts.

[2] I am assuming that you have a sense of inner resourcing and agency. These practices are meant to gently bring you into a deeper relationship with yourself, and are not a replacement for direct care. If you are in crisis, or in need of medical care, please pursue specialized or 1:1 support.

[3] There is much else to be said. Feel free to check out other past blogs posts as I share practical information in almost every blog post. I also have free audios available and a youtube channel with some instructive videos. Lastly, check out www.thelivinginquiries.com for lots of audio and video resourcing.

 

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

How to Be Awake but Not Dead

By Scott Kiloby.  

If it seems difficult to be awake, it is even more challenging not to be dead while you are awake.

Being awake is all about recognizing that you are not your thoughts, emotions and sensations.  Like birds passing through the open sky of the present moment, these things come and go but they are not you.

And yet, quite often, this is experienced merely as a head awakening, where the body hasn’t come into alignment yet.  It’s common for people to have this kind of head awakening, ride on the pink cloud of the peace or bliss of this newfound freedom for a while and then to find out that the body takes a while.  You can see it in their eyes if you go to satsang.  They are clearly in the here and now, but the body contains dense contraction, anxiety, depression, addiction or trauma.  Some have even lost touch with their humanness.  Simple human things that used to bring them joy are gone.  The little human quirks that made them unique are null and void.  The aliveness is drowned out because the body is constricted in various ways.  There is a deadness.  This is common, but it is not necessary, if one remains open to exploration well after an initial head awakening.

So here is how to be awake but not dead . . .

If you feel numb or sluggish, most likely it is a story that hasn’t been investigated.  And tethered to that story is an emotion that has not yet been felt consciously and directly.  Feel it.  If you have spent many years avoiding that feeling, perhaps the emotion has now become frozen somewhere in the body as a contraction.  There is dissociation, a turning away from that sensation and towards anything that might numb it out of your awareness.

Explore that contraction with utter love and curiosity.  Sit with it in the infinite patience of the present moment, without trying to get it to go away.  Welcome it.  Make it stay just by feeling it.  Notice the space around it as you do that.  Welcoming it in this way reverses all that resistance to it, all that trying to make yourself feel better, which really doesn’t work because it involves the personal will.  What we resist, persists.  In the head awakening, you noticed that you are not that movement of personal will.  You are not those thoughts that are trying to get somewhere.  Let that seeing come into the body.

Presence is seeing that you are not that sensation.  But the danger lies in saying, “I am not my body” or “I am not this sensation” far too soon.  If the sensation is there and it is running your life in any way, by virtue of a corresponding deficiency story, depression, addiction, anxiety or trauma, then YOU ARE YOUR BODY.  On some level, there is identification with that sensation.  Bypassing is pretending that you see that something is not you, when in fact the identification is still there.  These unexplored sensations steal your joy and peace.  They make you feel dead.  They hush your creative voice.  They create a disconnection from others.  They make you reach for the wine, cookies or the internet as a way to escape.  They make you overcompensate, by developing or following elaborate conceptual frameworks about spirituality, making life far more complicated than it has to be.  A good way to avoid really experiencing spirit is to think about it a lot and ignore that your body is still experiencing identification with form.

 

When these contractions are explored, and not bypassed, you feel alive, vibrant, awake.

 

You are awake but fully human.

You are free but not tied to the idea that you are free.

Simple things in life bring you joy once again.

You don’t mind the quirks of your personality and you aren’t trying to get rid of them or act enlightened.

You feel compassion for no reason at all for others who are suffering.

You feel a connection to others while also seeing that there are no others.

You love yourself while also seeing that there is no self.

You don’t mind these paradoxes at all.

You have a voice that soars because there is nothing blocking its expression.

You have a heart that is open and that doesn’t mind being broken.

You feel everything, are more sensitive, yet you are increasingly free of suffering around those thoughts and emotions.

Your body feels light and transparent and you can truly say with a straight face, “I am not my body” without bypassing.

Your addictions fall away naturally.

Depression seems like a faint memory.

Anxiety is no longer there or lies at a bare minimum because you have faced or are facing every fear.

Trauma is absent because you loved yourself enough to explore every bit of it and release yourself from its magnetic pull.

You don’t mind thinking anymore.  When thoughts are no longer stuck to emotions or sensations, thinking is play.

 

And yes, yes, maybe eventually, you come to discover a sweet silence in which many thoughts, emotions and sensations do not arise anymore.  Maybe you realize a profound peace, joy or bliss that is there most of the time.  But if that happens, it will happen right on time and not a moment too soon.  It will happen naturally.  Trying to make that happen just through a head awakening, before the body has come into alignment with that awakening, will just frustrate you.  It probably won’t happen actually.  It will be like false silence, love, joy or peace, where you are pretending that your body does not have needs or that it doesn’t need to be explored.  That is the deadness.

This post was originally published on the previous Living Inquiries website. 

Encouragement on the Pathless Path – From Initial Awakening through Embodiment

By Scott Kiloby.  

I recently finished the only retreat I conducted this year – a gathering at the Krishnamurti Educational Centre of Canada. The retreat was very different than my day-to-day work at the Kiloby Center for Recovery, which is often about helping people free themselves from the immediate shackles of their enslavement to addiction so they can begin a process of spiritual examination that will lead to greater depths. At this retreat, the energy and center of focus was very different, with many attendees interested in the more mature questions around spiritual awakening as well as embodiment.

The retreat reminded me of a time when I traveled the U.S. and overseas, speaking of this subject. I haven’t done one of those tours in a few years. Since then, my own realization has ripened tremendously. I would have much different things to say these days, if I found myself back on the road. In some ways, this retreat reinvigorated my voice around the subject of authentic spiritual awakening, for I have been silent in many ways in the last few years. Rarely will you see a new video from me. From time to time, you’ll see these blogs. Writing is the way I choose to express myself at this time. Maybe one day, I will go back out on the road. I have a new voice around this pathless path to freedom, where present moment awareness and inquiry converge in a unique, liberating and sometimes painful way.

For those that are new to the subject, “pathless path” refers to slowly giving up the seeking towards future and settling into a profound recognition of “what is” as it arises in the present moment. This is very different than what our cultures teach us. They tell us that the answer lies somewhere down the road. We don’t grow up knowing that the present moment is such a deep and powerful doorway to a greater freedom. So many of us fumble towards a perceived ecstasy that is promised down the road. And many don’t find it that way, for the mind is always seeking something else, something more. It never reaches its final promise and so it lives in a constant state of deficiency or lack. That is the nature of ego – to live in an endless seeking towards future and to never truly feel that one has arrived at a place of contentment and deep satisfaction with life.

The pathless path is the recognition of present awareness as the foundation of our existence (nondual awareness) and includes the allowing of “what is” as it arises. It includes the seeing that nothing that arises is what we are, so that everything comes and goes within or to this presence. This is liberating precisely because the state of suffering carries with it a kind of grasping and identifying with the thoughts, emotions and sensations that arise. To no longer grasp after and identify with these arisings is to live a life of freedom and love.

I cannot offer hope on the pathless path, for hope implies that there is a promised land (or end point) that one will eventually find if one continues seeking. If you peruse the various nondual teachings of the world you will find that one of the hallmarks of nondual realization is a seeing that the present moment is primary. Seeking towards future falls away. This comes in the form of real insights around there being “nowhere to go,” “nothing to get” and “no self to get it.” This insight alone is very powerful, for it not only ends the seeking, but it also brings a deep sense of rest in the midst of all that is happening. It also brings, however, a falling away of many of the previous motivations that once ran our lives. People often report losing interest in ego-based endeavors such as seeking attention, love or acknowledgment from others. Some report a disinterest in activities such as art, work and relationships. They find themselves in a sort of awkward phase where everything that once drove them or enthused them starts to quiet. The old way of relating to others and the world doesn’t seem to work the same way. One can’t quite connect on the level of ego anymore and can’t “get behind” anything, so to speak. But this is just a phase. A new way of being does show up.

This new way of being is where spiritual maturity plays such a big role. If one stays true to the insights and realizations that have shown up, this new way opens doors that weren’t even conceivable in the beginning. In the beginning, it’s often about a deep desire to recognize the stability of the present moment, to end the notion of seeking as well as the spiritual seeker. Some initial recognition or awakening does happen if there is both readiness and skill. Readiness is the willingness to truly examine all the ego-based stuff that is arising and to stick with the recognition of awareness in the midst of all that is arising.

A lack of readiness merely delays the initial awakening. It keeps the focus on worldly endeavors and the rehashing of the past and worry and seeking towards future. But when readiness is there, that’s at least half the battle. The other half is skill. Being able to skillfully examine one’s present experience is so important. It is very easy to be seductively pulled into the old stories of deficiency and lack. These stories have a powerful momemtum to them. Skill involves knowing how to look, how to rest as awareness and how to inquire. Without skill, one can muck around aimlessly for years in a lot of unnecessary suffering, being pulled again and again into stories, compulsions, anxiety, depression, seeking and trauma. When both readiness and skill are present, the initial awakening into present moment awareness is virtually inevitable.

But what happens after that initial awakening is where the proverbial rubber really meets the road. Just as the ego-based way of living is so seductive prior to an initial awakening, the desire to feel as if one has arrived is equally seductive after an initial awakening. This can be a fatal error, sending people into all sorts of weird eddies along the pathless path. The initial awakening is often just a head awakening. The body has not yet come into alignment with this head awakening. So these weird eddies can include continued addictions, depression, anxiety, unresolved trauma, ongoing deficiency stories and a whole lot more. All of these things are the body’s way of trying to get one’s attention, to call out “hey, you aren’t quite done here so don’t leave me behind.” During this time, the disconnection to life can feel very palpable. The loss of interest in life’s activities can feel very real. Addictions can resurface as the body’s way of grasping at survival. In many respects, this awkward phase is just the precursor for the body coming into alignment with that initial head awakening.

At this point, I want to move into my own experience to encourage those on the pathless path to continue examining all these eddies and to drop the notion of being done. Spiritual maturity is about seeing that there is no end point. It breaks us free of the ego’s striving towards some final conclusion. It leaves a raw openness to what is and a willingness to allow the body to come into full alignment with what has been seen “in the head” so to speak.

This embodiment is another creature altogether. And many deny that embodiment is even necessary or that it ever happens at all. I know of at least three teachers who took their websites down after their initial awakening because they had no language and provided no acknowledgement of any kind of embodiment process. Perhaps they too bought into the idea of an endpoint – which is almost always a game of the ego. As people came to them asking “what comes next after the initial awakening?” they had nothing to say. I’ve personally worked with several teachers who experienced a great surprise when they found out that, after their initial awakening, their bodies had not come into alignment. They were dealing with addiction, trauma, depression or anxiety and didn’t have any answers. This is because the initial awakening doesn’t provide all those answers. It only provides an opening to explore the deeper aspects of our conditioning. So, as their own language or the teachings they had inherited, provided no guidance, they felt lost in this new phase of awakening.  They could not provide any guidance or encouragement to others.

I remember hearing criticisms of Adyashanti by some of these teachers. Adyashanti is a teacher who focuses not only on the initial awakening but also on the embodiment and how liberation moves through one’s entire experience after that initial awakening. These criticisms included complaints that Adya was keeping people seeking and that he wasn’t “clear enough” that the initial awakening is all that is needed. And yet, many of these same teachers were dealing with a lack of embodiment themselves, something that Adyashanti could have helped them with if they would have remained open to hear it. The first time I truly understood the value of Adyashanti’s talks on the subject of post-awakening came when the blockage in my throat chakra opened.

I had been exploring a very thick blockage in my throat for a few years. It was quite painful and lied at the root of my “peacemaker” enneagram 9 type. For the first 30-something years of my life, this blockage kept me from truly speaking and expressing myself freely, out of fear and buried, unexpressed anger. The initial awakening for me was mainly in the head and heart areas. It was a complete surprise to find that this throat blockage was so persistent after that initial awakening. Truly painful! But with readiness and skill, eventually the throat area cleared. It was like being given a whole new lease on life, like 50 pounds of baggage dropped. I remember the morning it finally cleared. I was practically jumping in joy. The lightness of being in that area was so obvious that I felt compelled to never speak of liberation again as if it is limited to some initial head or even heart awakening. In that moment, I bowed to Adya and thanked him silently for providing the encouragement I needed to continue exploring and allowing the body to experience the same emptiness I had realized in the head and heart areas, years before that.

Herein lies the paradox of authentic spiritual realization: seeking does die, but the unfolding continues. It’s like the initial head awakening does not become the endpoint. It becomes the opening into the continued deepening in the body. This unfolding, to the untrained eye, might look like seeking, but it is not. Embodiment is not about trying to get somewhere. It is not about trying at all. In fact, much of the bodywork I’ve created through the years is about helping relax all of the trying and the fight, flight, freeze around the various bodily blockages. I have used the term “infinite patience” to describe this process of deep rest in the midst of exploring the body. It is not about pushing the body to awaken. It is about allowing the body to naturally come into alignment. And readiness and skill are just as important during this stage as they were in previous stages. Without readiness, one can hang out for years in those eddies mentioned above that show up after the initial awakening. One can stay in a kind of stagnant state, repeating old pointers or pithy sayings that are no longer relevant after that initial recognition.

But skill is equally as important. The greatest skill, perhaps, in the embodiment phase is the skill of doing nothing. We are so conditioned to try and do something with our bodies to make them feel better or make them feel “empty.” But learning to do nothing on the subtlest levels of our physical existence and in the deepest and darkest blockages is truly a skill. It requires one to bring to light all that subtle or not so subtle trying, to truly see that there is nothing we can do other than to remain aware and let the fight, flight, freeze mechanisms be seen and come to rest on every level. I find that many of the practices people try with regard to the body involve the personal will.  This often keeps people struggling on that level for a long time.

Perhaps the greatest words of encouragement I can give are this: remain open. Don’t fall for the ego’s idea of some final moment of realization. Don’t fall for the idea of endpoints. Don’t fall for the idea that a head awakening is true liberation. Remain open to the unfolding. Let liberation come all the way down into your body and into every nook and cranny of it. If you are still experiencing anxiety, trauma, addiction, depression or even the slightest sense of deficiency or lack, there is something to explore there. Liberation is not a line on a resume. It is not something one brags about. It is not some final doorway that we enter, so that we never have to examine anything again. Liberation is an attitude of complete openness. That openness is the readiness. Once the readiness is there, all you need is to learn the skills that keep you from delaying the embodiment. There is a mature way to work with the body. It has nothing to do with seeking. Embodiment has been the greatest and most liberating surprise in my pathless path.

All those weird eddies die out during the embodiment phase. The new way of being brings with it not only a lightness of being but also a renewed interest in living, exploring, loving and being inspired and enthused about life. But it is different than being interested from an ego-based perpective. You come to find that you get nothing in return for what you are doing. So you don’t live, explore and love with the hope that it will bring you something better. You live, explore and love just for the sheer act of it. It is an act done for itself, by itself, without the hope of reward.

Relationships are naturally more open, intimate and honest. This attitude of openness is precisely why inspiration and enthusiasm start to show up in a new way. You are no longer shackled to the old ways of being in the world and no longer weighed down by the painful sluggishness of the body and all of its stored anxieties, addictions and traumas. With this attitude of openness, you actually feel less and less dense on the physical level, which allows you to move much more freely in the present moment. Don’t miss this boat. Every moment is an opportunity to hitch the ride of your lifetime, to take spiritual awakening to its most depthful places.

This post is republished from the old Living Inquiries site. 

The Reality of Embodiment: Coming Fully into Form

By Fiona Robertson.

During the nineteenth century, phantasmagoria – or theatrical horror shows – became a popular attraction throughout Britain, Europe and the United States. The creators used lighting, projectors, smoke, sound effects and electric shocks to conjure all manner of apparitions and frighten audiences. Sequences of terrifying images played on screens and theatres were often decorated accordingly. There were even rumours of patrons being drugged.

As I was inquiring last week, the word phantasmagoria appeared. I realised – to a greater extent than I had done previously – the exact nature of the phantasmagoria going on in my mind. I’m sure it’s the same for many of us. We play and replay scenes from the past. Imaginings of future catastrophe or suffering take hold. These images can be vivid to the point of occupying most or all of our awareness, in spite of what we are doing in physical reality. They seem all the more real when accompanied with thoughts and feelings, of course.

The capacity to fantasize and imagine is a wonderful aspect of the human psyche, in my view. The mind’s creativity brings us such wonders, including art, drama, music and literature. And yet this same capacity appears to torment us too, at times. Is it possible to turn off the projector and smoke machines, to leave the apparitions behind and simply exit the theatre?

My hunch is that the phantasmagoria takes hold partly because we have not been able – thus far – to face what is actually here. When we have been traumatized – particularly as children – it is natural to dissociate, retreating from the painful reality of the body into the supposed haven of the mind. At least, here in the mind, we can imagine what could or should be. We can imagine what we want and haven’t got. We can fantasize about what might have been or what might yet be. In our imagining, we retain a sense of control in circumstances in which we are otherwise powerless.

Even though the phantasmagoria is frightening, it often feels less painful or terrifying than actually facing the truth of our experience. Facing the truth means letting go of the possibility of something other, even if that possibility exists only in fantasy. Facing the truth means coming into the feelings and sensations we have tried so hard to not feel. Facing the truth means admitting to ourselves exactly how bad it was.

Coming out of dissociation and denial in this way is not easy, yet it feels like a relief. It is certainly a relief to the body, which has inevitably been holding the truth of our experience even as we have been unconscious to it. It is natural that the mind – with good intentions to protect us from the reality of painful truths – is sometimes reluctant for us to face whatever is here. It whispers or shouts warnings. It attempts to distract us. And yet, at some point, despite the warnings and distractions, we become willing to clamber onto the stage and look at the mechanisms that lie behind the phantasmagoria. We become aware that we are sitting in the theatre, projectors whirring, smoke machine billowing.

The more we look, we more we come to realise what lies behind the horror show. As we feel unfelt feelings, the projectors begin to power down, at least a little. As we admit how it was  for us, we are able to make contact with our bodies in a deeper way. As I continued my inquiry last week, having acknowledged just how low my self-esteem had been throughout my life, I began to see how mesmerized by the phantasmagoria we tend to be. Once fully and deeply acknowledged, the reality of our past no longer needs to hold sway in the same way. We are left in now – this body, this moment, this chair, these sounds.

What happens when we start inhabiting actual, physical space rather than the phantasmagoria? It seems our focus shifts into the reality of the body and we begin making direct contact with the world around us in a subtly different way. There’s a deliciousness to embodiment which goes overlooked when we are hooked by the phantasmagoria. For me, subtle levels of dissociation have continued to lift and I’ve been able to enjoy the pleasures of the senses more deeply. There is a joy to coming more fully into form – both our own form as well as the solidity of form around us. We are no longer held hostage by the theatrical spectacle going on in our heads, yet neither are we dismissive of it.  As we become ever more incarnated, the separation between mind and body lessens and we inevitably feel more inclusively whole. Our relationship with ourselves, our bodies and the physical stuff of life begins to transform. It seems there is no end to this journey of embodiment.

 

Willpower And Food

By Sumitra Judith Burton.  Something sweet is happening along my path of mindfulness with eating.

Using the Living Inquiries or other tools to help unravel an addiction with food is tricky in the sense that it’s not possible to totally abstain from eating. My relationship with food and eating for emotional comfort has provided some great teachings over my lifetime. I would do well using willpower for a while with a new diet, with the new intentions and restrictions, and then somewhere along the line I would give up as it became impossible to stay restricted over the long haul. Many times I lost weight, and then later gained it all back.

Recently I was noticing this failure of mine to use willpower to manage my eating. With willpower I can feel a contraction in my gut as I steel my will to power through with something, to force compliance of this naughty and weak self that can’t seem to accomplish the simplest things sometimes.

What came to me then is so lovely – an intention to investigate using, instead of willpower, a sense of “willingness” – to simply ask myself with respect and compassion, “What am I willing to do in this moment?”

I am truly amazed at the difference I feel, talking to myself in this kind and gentle way, opening to sweet possibilities. Willingness offers choices in each moment rather than the strict adherence to certain rules. Each moment brings new possibilities.

I’m noticing a willingness to consider things like, “How will I feel in half an hour if I eat this?” and wanting to feel light and strong. There is a sense of spaciousness with willingness that seems missing with willpower. Instead of holding myself stiffly within set boundaries, there is open space in which to create a new and gentler pathway.

In this way, “will” is still being engaged, but in a much gentler and more respectful way, which allows speaking to myself with loving kindness, such as when I slip and overeat, “It’s okay – no problem. Perfection is not required….” With “willingness” there is room to breathe, and smile.

The Living Inquiries process is allowing me to feel kindness towards myself, to quiet the judgmental thinking. It may take a bit longer to dissolve the compulsive behavior – using willingness rather than willpower – as there are many thought patterns, emotions and sensations to inquire into; but in the long run I am hopeful the results will be lasting.

In the meantime, the process itself is heartening, as I gradually learn to love myself.