Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the weeks of October 1 & 8, 2018

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Body Change

(Change and the Changeless: 2)

We know our body changes with time. It ages. Yet aging is so slow, it remains mostly hidden from us, until clear signs of its accumulation announce themselves. As kids we grow into puberty and adolescence. We get old enough to obtain a driver's license, then to vote, go to college, drink alcohol, get a job, get married, have kids of our own. We must be older, though we may not feel it.

Later, perhaps our body's shape changes, knees ache, grey hair invades or hair disappears, jowls drop, bellies expand, hearing gets fuzzy. We suddenly notice wrinkles where there were none. We find ourselves needing to spend more time maintaining our body, exercising, eating differently. We may become more prone to injuries or illness and we do not recover as quickly as we once did. Our stamina weakens. The drumbeat goes on and on. With our body, to quote the late, great Gilda Radner of Saturday Night Live, "It's always something."

As kids we tend to look forward to growing up. Later, many of our body changes are unwelcome, particularly injury, illness, and pain. With pain, we tend to resist it. We try to turn away from it, not to feel it. After doing what's medically necessary toward alleviating the pain and its causes, we may still be confronting a level of pain, perhaps even severe. In rejecting it and trying to turn away from it, we add a layer of stress and distress that compounds the pain. Can we allow the unavoidable pain to be there? Can we be there with it? This is our life in this moment. Can we live this moment fully, intensely, even with the pain? Can we see widely, so that the pain is only part of our world, rather than collapsing into just it? Can we be in our body, our whole body? Can we sense our whole body, including the painful part?

Some body changes are unacceptable to us. We reject that part of our body, always wishing it were different. Can we accept our body as it is, be comfortable in our own skin, at peace?

Is there anything about our body that does not change, that remains the same through the years? How about our inner experience of having a body? Though the particular sensations coming from our body change continuously, the bare fact of being in our body does not.

Though we take it for granted, body awareness is crucial in many ways. Spiritually, it grounds us in the present moment: our body is always now. The key is to come back into contact with our body and to stay in contact. That contact is with now, viscerally. This takes practice. Surprisingly, we tend to live somewhat removed from our body, having all of our attention taken by the various sensory impressions of the world around us, or by our thoughts or emotions. Stark examples include being in a face-to-face conversation with someone, having all our attention go into the conversation, or of being utterly captivated by the TV, in both cases leaving us unaware of our body.

By body awareness, we mean the visceral experience of our body from inside it. The sensation of our arms, our legs, our head and face, our breathing, and so on. We call this sensing, and it depends on the sensitive energy, part of the hierarchical complement of inner energies that our spiritual work utilizes. For our inner work of presence, we aim in part to be in direct contact with our whole body, with the sensitive energy in our body, and to strengthen that contact, that sensitive energy, to the point that it becomes an energy body within our physical body. That then is always available to us, a bulwark against time and changes.

In this sense, our body is changeless, always here, always available as our home in the present, as our premier, awesome, and remarkable tool for navigating in and acting on this world. Can we give it its due? Can we honor ourselves and our body by living in it? The stronger our contact with our body, the more profound our experience of this moment, and the stronger our presence.

For this week, please practice being in contact with your timeless inner body.


        

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