By Kyle Brooks
“Here in this body are the sacred rivers: here are the sun and moon as well as all the pilgrimage places… I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body.”
Take a moment to feel into your heart…
Let your attention settle in the middle of the chest, slightly to the right.
If you’ve opened your eyes to see what’s next, stay connected with the Heart as you read this, at least for the next paragraph.
Reflect for a moment on the “process” of “coming into the Heart.” What happens? Do you start as a point of awareness somewhere up in your head? Do you then focus your attention through that point in the head down to the chest area? Or maybe, over time, you’ve learned a different way? If not, I invite you to try it…
What happens if you relax the attention away from the head area altogether and realize that awareness is not, and never has been, localized in your head?
Maybe for some, it seems entirely obvious that you don’t need to bring the attention into the chest as much as you just have to stop assuming that it belongs there in the first place. Or that you don’t focus the mind in the Heart; you just stop focusing the Heart into the mind.
Either way, this capacity of feeling the body from within is what I want to discuss.
What if awareness doesn’t reside in any particular location? Or to say more accurately, what if all points in space and time were uniquely and intimately self-aware? What would that say about the physical body?
Could it be possible that beneath layers of tension and emotional baggage tightly wound up in the energetic system, appearing as tension in the “physical” body, that the body could be simply (and beautifully) a willful act on behalf of the creative power of our essence-nature to experience its fullness? To crystalize itself into a temporary and apparently finite, yet simultaneously fully and boundlessly self-aware vehicle to experience the world of its creation?
Many times the body gets a bad rap. Sometimes people even go as far as to say that the body is an inert lump of flesh that only constitutes an obstacle to the journey towards deeper self-knowledge, awareness, and reclaiming our intrinsic freedom. This has been a popular view, and since it has survived the test of time and there is no shortage of apparently great, or at least influential, spiritual teachers that hold such a dismissive vision of the body, who am I to doubt it? But…
If you emphasize such a radical alienation from the experience of the body, what does that say about your relationship to the fullness of this life, with which the body is simply your most intimate point of contact?
Typically, you may have the sense of being “me” up in the head, looking down at this at least somewhat strange and alien vehicle called the body. Sometimes you may only give attention to the body when it cries out for food, sex, the bathroom, or to let you know that the stovetop was still way too hot for comfort. And of course, in alignment with the view of our typically materialistic culture, nobody would raise an eyebrow if someone were to assert that the body was a solid object made of something called matter unless they were silently saying, “well, duh…”
Yet, the Tantric vision offers a radically different way of seeing, of knowing, the body.
The materialistic vision of physical expression is mainly due to inattention and lack of sensitivity to the living pulse of life, overlooking some hindering, yet somewhat practical, assumptions.
The physicality of the body (what Jean Kein calls the “psychosomatic body”) is a result of unaddressed misconceptions, unfinished emotional experiences, and the overlooking of the subtle, yet obvious (in non-conceptual experience), conscious, spacelike, energetic presence of our “true body.” (Which is called the Vajra body in the Tibetan Tantric Buddhist tradition, the energy body by Jean Klein and his lineage, the cosmic body in early Hatha Yoga, and the Spandic body in Hridaya Yoga.)
So how can you reverse this understanding? How can you unpick the conceptual overlay that you unconsciously insist is the baseline of reality and reveal the essential nature of this incarnation?
Well, that’s a big question to answer. One way to start is by learning to stop relating to the body as if you were an abstract point in the head, hovering over this thing called a body, and open your awareness to a deep, direct, and intimate knowledge of the aliveness that pulses in every cell of your body.
This capacity of the body to know itself from within its own experience (as opposed to through the abstract, second-hand interpretation of the left brain) is called interoception in neuroscience.
“The definition of samsara is a mind that parts company with the body. The definition of an awakened person is one for whom there is no separation of mind and body. To know the body is to know awareness. To know awareness in its pure state is to know the awakened state.” –Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche