Making an attempt to connect mind to body has throughout the ages offered some kind of intriguing quality for us, whether through the rituals of religion or the explosion of yoga.
Yet our attempts to articulate the experience we get by moving the physical body with due care may take us back through the very door it opened for us, back into our mental prisons that bodily sensation can be an escape from. For we live in two realms; one based on ideals and ideas of the mind, the other, a parallel existence – a reality we very literally embody.
This dichotomy causes us a great deal of suffering. We don’t seem to be able to easily unite the two worlds in a way that feels satisfactory. The very sense organs need contrast in order to be perceived by the mind, that is, if it is the mind that is guiding them.
If it is, the mind being a binary ‘either / or’ mechanism, we may soon be involved in a lifelong endeavour to get to a place where our sense organs relay a continuous, unbroken stream of pleasure back to the mind. Our rationality can only differentiate between wanted and unwanted sensations. Unfortunately, for us, to be able to perceive the smooth we must also have the rough as a contrast.
The way we approach life doesn’t take account of this necessary oscillation between pleasure and pain and we may become obsessed with wholly cancelling out one side of this equation in an imaginary future. This only leads us to more suffering as we dwell less in the present, absenting ourselves from any interaction that might be immediately more fulfilling.
The present is not tolerable for the very reason that we have set up this battle; pushing away half of experience and vainly grasping for the desired half. In this way, all actions are taken for the sake of future perceived benefit and live life as more like a task to be achieved.
Could there be another way, whereby we don’t engage in this fruitless battle against our senses, against the grain of the very nature of sensation?
The suggestion here is that there may be a different way to approach conscious awareness, where we are not simply involved in categorisation of objects and the resultant fear and avarice. Instead, looking at the body through non-rational eyes, a more expansive stage of being might be reached. One where appreciation of the texture of actual experience is the motivation, where there is no losing and winning and thus we are at peace.
This is really what the true nature of desire is actually seeking in the first place, its own satiation through extinguishment, but we never actually get to rest in pleasure as we imagine we would. Instead, what we get is a brief interlude where we are not suffering the lack of something. One desire fulfilled, another always arises and this chasing of our own tails continues until our last breath.
In contrast to what we think, our goal-centric mind set only really wishes for the cessation of itself. However, when we try to formulate a rational plan of how this might be achieved we end up doing quite the opposite due to the mistaken notion that pleasure is a thing we can possess and not the absence of desire itself.
This irony is only increased when we become aware that what we took as our own preference to grant a valid reason for our action, is nothing more than hereditary instincts of genetics, baked through by conditioning. Our ideas of progress and self-fulfilment aren’t even voluntary, we are actually pre-wound and set-off up for constant failure for reasons not even our own.
If we try to use the body rather than the mind, as the prime focus of our experience and step outside of our inherited rationality, we may step into a space not embed with the pressure of our judgement of our experience. In contrast using the body to actually go against the mind.
In this way, we may actually start to break from the enslavement of dimly intuited instincts and into a fresher reality, one of our own making unprejudiced by the biases of the whole of human existence contained in the very fabric of the body. Moreover, we move towards a space where sensory perceptions are not an ongoing battle, instead a curious interest to witness.
But to align ourselves against our mind presents a deep challenge to conventional thinking.
It seems like we have always had this split between mind and body; mind endowed with absolute supremacy, body denied, if not vilified. In contrast, we are found to be preoccupied with desires of a very physical nature. Yet we are very reluctant to admit this, and seem to need to mix them with the realm of ideas and concepts.
We do this, although it leads to a lineal relationship with the world of our senses, which we have seen isn’t suitable, as we seem to also crave meaning and significance to our lives. We will not accept we may have no more reason to be on this earth than any other animal.
This irreconcilability of mind realm to body, in the impossibility of resolving its demands for pleasure leads to ‘cognitive dissonance’; our retreat from reality into creating our own personal myths. To what degree our beliefs differ from the actual state of reality depends on the strength we have to abide in an experience that admits of no resolution.
The mind cannot tolerate open ended questions and allow any kind of physical experience of rest. Contrast being the essence of reality then, it seems like it must be side-stepped altogether.
Meaning isn’t a solvable, but in another state of being, an obscure approach to awareness through the body, it can be resolved, not as a simple fight between right and wrong, good and bad, instead through a sense of immediacy generated when myth no longer speared is from a vital interaction with actual current, physical, experience. Significance and meaning just radiate from everything from this point.
This also concludes the ancient dilemma of being at peace in the body, or keeping our singular significance as humans and living through our minds.
The Garden of Eden shows this paradox, the choice between self-consciousness, a kind of isolation in the solitary towers of our minds, or, the perceived ignorant bliss of the animals.
This physical sense of lucidity we are discussing, however, is equally, in fact, more aware of itself than our cherished mental faculties. We are neither ignorant of ourselves in the world, nor acutely conscious but tormented by our isolation. We are one with nature, and thus, also our own nature, but not completely of it; we are something other too.
The abandonment of our conceptual thinking also means the loss of ourselves as a definable, real and enduring entity. Since this is the only way we seem to have imagined ourselves we have strong reservations against changing it.
Living physically, moment to moment in reality as it is, instead of mentally, in the castles of our own wishes as to how we would like things to be, also means to acknowledge our most obvious temporality.
The mind always seeks its continuation, but the body doesn’t allow for this. It’s then tempting to come up with a lot of ideas around ‘embodiment’ to justify and perpetuate this denial of our immortality, but then we are back where we started. The ‘spiritual path’ is again a fabrication to do with a mythologised, immortal-self.
For this reason, the spiritual path, the way of final acknowledgement and unification of mind with body could be described as the ability to tolerate the striping away of the crutches and supports of the unreal, our myths, the endeavour to generate enough strength and courage to see life as it is, not as how we would love to imagine it.
In this new realm we have little need for imagination mixed with ideas of a better future to find reason in the present and we can see that being present for the first time there is indeed reason enough in simply ‘being here’.
This place may be surprisingly richer in meaning than all our endeavours at supplementing reality by overlaying our own thoughts on it. In the absence of our prejudices, involuntary and rudimental attempts to solve the riddle of our senses, we are not free to enjoy a spontaneous and fresh approach to circumstances without the painful and stultifying need to constantly relate them back to ourselves.
Here, reality is allowed, moreover appreciated. Things are left exactly as they are when they no longer have relation to us as part of our game plan to win, at the expense of our very existence. What we seek is rest, which is the peace of existence. This is brought about by a new physical relationship with ourselves though a very subtle re-orientation of the mind laying it a little barer.