Monday, March 9, 2009
Cultivating Body Awareness
This is an excellent explanation of the natural state of Oneness that our mind and body are actually in every moment of our lives. Most people, however, never stop their thoughts long enough to become aware of this blissful state of being. This is our home, our True Nature, our natural state of being that the Ego separates us from, and hides from most of us, our entire life. I first became aware of my hidden Self during my short years of studying and teaching Kenpo. In 1990, I learned to do a simplified 24 step form of Yang Style Tai Chi to help me stay centered, mindfull, and to live in the Present as much as possible. This short moving meditation called the Peking Form is a far cry from the life-long and intense training required in the two following martial arts but nevertheless has been very effective in cultivating Chi and calming my center to this day. Clearing your mind of thought, relaxing your body, and sinking your intrinsic energy, or Chi, into your center or Dan Tiem, is the cornerstone of mastering the martial arts, particularly the internal arts such as Tai Chi Chuan and Pa Kua. This mindfulness, or Oneness of mind and body, removes you from the chaos of the Egoistic realm and puts you in touch with your True Nature or Source. It is only in this state of Being that we are truly alive and living life as it was meant to be. I hope you enjoy this well-written and insightful blog from a wise individual named Oudam.
We seldom ponder about being present in our own bodies because we already know that we are. Therein lies the problem. So many aspects of our lives have been put on automatic pilot that we have come to rely on habituated thought patterns to sustain a stable, predictable world. We know that we are in our bodies so that we do not have to be aware of being in them. While daydreaming, planning, speculating, and so on, we effectively have an "out-of-body experience" as our minds are projected away from our bodies into the realm of thought.
In reality the mind and body are inseparable and, to a large extent, indistinguishable from each other. We normally think of the body as the physical, tangible "stuff" of which we are made, and the mind as the nonphysical faculty of consciousness, perception, thought, emotion, and memory. In reality, every thought or emotion arises from an electro-chemical change in the brain or nervous system. That is, every mental event is made possible by a physical event involving bodily components– without the body, there can be no mind. Vice versa, the mind contains the cosmos of information that directs every aspect of the complex biological machinery that is the body– without a mind, there can be no body.
In fact even an inanimate object, such as a rock or kitchen table, needs some sort of "mind" to exist. We normally think of a kitchen table as a lifeless, mindless physical body. However, the atoms of the table are held together by the same electrostatic forces that hold the atoms of our bodies together. These electrostatic interactions are not random; they follow certain patterns that ultimately impart structural integrity to the table. We may call the body of information that is responsible for the table's shape and form its "mind". Granted, the "mind" of a table is far less complex than that of a human being. But without the nonphysical organizing intelligence that makes a table a table, there can be no table.
Buddhism maintains "oneness" of mind and body, which is not to say that the mind and body are identical and synonymous. By "oneness" we mean that the mind and body are merely two aspects of the same reality. In a similar manner that light exhibits both particle-like (physical) and wave-like (nonphysical) qualities, human beings exhibit both body (physical) and mind (nonphysical) qualities. Thus, mind and body come from the same source and are different expressions of the same reality. The mind-body duality, the root of many of our persistent struggles, is largely an artificial separation that arises from conditioned ignorance of one's true nature.
The oneness of mind and body may be better appreciated through the cultivation of body awareness. Like the breath, the body is an obvious object of attention. Our bodies are always available to us; we just have to remember to be aware of them. The mind has a tendency to wander away from the body as it attaches to thoughts, feelings and impulses. Mindfulness tethers the mind to the body, keeping the mind from straying too far. When we sit, we should be mindful of our posture and general mental state. When we walk, we should be aware of the movements of our limbs and of being present in our bodies as we walk. In anything we do, we should make a point to deliberately inhabit our bodies and have a sense of bodiness as we do it.
Unless our minds and bodies are linked together in this way, we have no reliable frame of reference from which to perceive reality as it unfolds in the present moment. Our present state of being is ordinarily defined by our current mental preoccupation– we are what our minds are doing at the moment. When I am thinking, I am thought itself. When I am remembering, I am memory itself. When I am angry, I am anger itself. While my mind is preoccupied with thinking, remembering, and feeling angry, there is one aspect of me that gets shoved into the background: my AMness. My amness is who I really am. It lends my presence to my mental processes. The mind has a tendency to become so consumed by a mental preoccupation that it forgets who is doing the mentation. The goal of mindfulness is not to suppress thoughts and feelings, but to bring the amness back into the forefront of consciousness. When I am thinking mindfully, I am not merely my thoughts– I really am thinking. Mindfulness connects the mind to the body as we think, endowing our mental activity with our Presence.
Tethering the mind to the body leads to expanded awareness. It may seem counter-intuitive to speak of expanding awareness in terms of restricting the mind's freedom. However, we must not confuse expanded awareness with mental hyperactivity. Expanded awareness is the sublime quality of being alive. The only way to be alive is to become one with that which is living. The body is a living reality. By consciously anchoring our minds to our living bodies, we become more alive. Mindfulness is the practice of vitality.
To deliberately inhabit the body is to make it our home, our habitat. The living body is the true home for the mind. Warmth, comfort, security, and tranquility are the qualities that we associate with home. It's no wonder that these are the same qualities that we experience when we are mindful. Through this process of homecoming, we appreciate the wholeness that is the source of all dualities and separations. ~ By Oudam