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Somatic realization: listening to the body's wisdom

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... little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own...

-Mary Oliver, from "The Journey*"

For some of us, it's a big surprise when we realize how physical Enlightenment is. Yet, unconsciously or consciously, don't we discern others' level of awareness by their physical presentation? Don't we judge them by their appearance, actions, words and deeds, all external? Don't we expect our spiritual leaders to practice what they preach, to embody the realizations they claim?

If we expect that of them, they also expect it of us. To quote poet-drummer Neil Peart:

"Those who wish to be
Must put aside the alienation
Get on with the fascination
The real relation
The underlying theme..."

- "The Limelight" by Rush

It's time to step up as followers, students and seekers. Time to stop looking for "Enlightenment" and projecting it onto leaders, teachers, and those of us who were silly enough to fanatically pledge our lives in exchange for something that's already within us - infinite, vast, timeless, imperturbable, clear, deep non-dual awareness, located in our heart-mind center.

Enlightenment is not 'out there', on some blissful plane, in some utterly detached and disinterested state of practice-induced (or drug-induced, or sex-induced) ecstasy. These states are gorgeous rewards, states resulting from Dhyana -- balanced, one-pointed concentration --states which come and go (oh, impermance!) The moment we identify ourselves with the effects of our meditation, with the samadhi, or blissful state, we've lost touch with this essential truth:

Pure awareness is embodied. This very place is the lotus paradise. This very body is the Buddha! - Hollow Bones Sutra Book

How literal does it get? Listen.

If you are lucky enough to stew in the intersubjective, non-dual container of a week-long silent meditation, such as we do on Mondo Zen retreats, observe the body from the depths of this silence.

Notice any pain or contraction. Listen. What is it saying? Why is it here? What is the message in the pain or the contraction of the body? Did you, the controlling identity, get the message?

And what will it take to keep listening and doing the right thing? Clue: it starts with a "p", ends with an "e", and has a "ractic" in between.

Now, are you going to listen to the body, or are you going to keep imposing neuroses, habits, toxins, and other sources of illness and pain upon it? Are you going to keep taking affronts, or are you going to handle them with all the skill you can muster from this deep, clear-hearted place? Are you going to keep pushing it past the body's limits, to 'prove' to some other aspect of your psyche, internal or external, that you've got things handled? Because in the end, who has the veto power? You guessed it. If the body quits in protest to being unheard, everybody loses.

Mothers (and all who begin life in the womb) know the power of contraction. Mothers who have given birth using breathing techniques understand the relationship between contractions, breathing, and birth. It's not just a one-time thing for a baby, however. Contraction is the mechanism by which birth occurs. Birth of a baby, birth of a realization, birth of a disassociated or reactive self. Every contraction, a new arrival.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

May you have the opportunity to sit in deep, silent, motionless meditation, to become aware of every contraction and its result, to deepen your wisdom and compassion for yourself and all those around you, and to realize your own true Buddha nature. Blessings, too, for sangha - our awakening community -which provides reflection and discernment, to help us see who we're kidding when we think we've finally 'gotten it.'

"As within, so without. As above, so below..." - Hermes Trismegistus

May self-healing bring the world-healing so desperately needed. Swaha!

For More Info:

Mondozen.org

Touching Enlightenment: Finding Realization in the Body by Reginald A. Ray, Ph.D.

*“The Journey" by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.”

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