Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For week of May 25, 2015

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Body Flow

(Living in Flow: Part 2)

We have seen an approach to living in flow that consists of learning to relax into our life. A prime path toward that begins with relaxing into our body, as a first step to learning to live in our body, to lean into our body, to be present in our body. To fully participate in life, we need to base our experience in our body. Our body is always in the present, whereas thoughts and emotions often take us out of the present. To live in flow means, among other things, to live in the present. Body presence reliably brings us here, basing us in the living now.

This is not to say that our mind and heart are inherently in opposition to flow. If we can relax our mind and heart, then our thoughts and emotions will not be obstacles to flow. We think and feel as part of our engagement with the present. The way toward relaxing our mind and heart is to begin with relaxing into our body. If we have a foundation in body presence, associative thoughts and reactive emotions do not so easily take us away from the present, away from flow.

We work at this in sitting meditation, as a way to establish a strong presence in our body, strong contact with our body. This is a learned skill. We sense every part of our body and the whole of it. In sitting meditation we can learn to open to the sensitive energy, which mediates our contact with our body. When we have a foundation of contact with our body, we can move into our body. We notice the difference between looking at our body as if from outside it, as if looking from our head brain and the other mode of being in our body, occupying, inhabiting our body. We no longer live in our mind, we live in our body, in our sensation body. This is body presence.

And we seek to carry that body presence from our sitting meditation into our life activities, which is where the opportunity to live in flow arises. Toward that, we practice being in contact with our body, being in our body, in movement. The simplest way to begin that is to practice while in a repetitive movement that does not take a great deal of attention, for example, in walking. Whenever we need to walk more than a few steps, we can practice being in contact with our body as we move. After all, when we walk, our body is flowing. If we can be in our body in walking, then we are flowing.

Walking is a microcosm of our life. We are active, needing to pay attention, but thoughts come, some from other thoughts, some from the sensory impressions we receive while walking. Can we just simply be in our body, as we walk? Not distracted by our thoughts, but here in our body.

How? We relax our body. We relax in our body. And here is the key: we relax our controlling self, to let our body move on its own, to let our body flow, from its own wisdom. This does not mean we let our body blithely walk into traffic or drive a car without paying close attention to the road. Rather when in a potentially dangerous situation, our danger sensor knows, and our controlling self kicks back in. So we practice letting our body flow as we walk. We practice letting our body walk, while we stay fully here, in our body, relaxed.

As we walk, we relax our mind. We let the thoughts pass by us, just like the scenery passing by as we walk. Thoughts become part of the scenery. We do not try to banish or control or structure our thoughts. We just be in our body and in our mind, letting everything flow as it will, including our thoughts.

We might even go fishing in the stream of our thoughts, sometimes catching something new and creative, a solution to some issue. Flow allows new, uncensored thoughts to arise, some of which may be useful.

As a young graduate student in physics, I met Eugene Wigner, a Nobel prize winner, who at that time was researching the relationship between physics and consciousness. I asked him how to pursue such a study, thinking he would recommend that I read certain books or papers. Instead he answered, I usually go for a walk.

So inhabiting our body serves many purposes, including simply being the right way to live. Until we actually try it though, we live with the false assumption that we are always inhabiting our body, always in contact with our body. The intentional practice of sensing and relaxing into our body dispels that illusion and sets us on a truer path.

A natural step forward from inhabiting our body is to let our body flow in movement. This, in turn, teaches us how to let go into living in flow. For this week, please practice inhabiting your body and letting it flow in movement. We can practice this in walking, in sports, in dance, and in any other workable situation.


     

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