The Awakening Body
Many of us resonate with the understanding that what we truly are is universal, infinite and ever-present Awareness. In those timeless moments of recognition, the conceptual belief in separation and the felt experience of being a physical, solid, limited and located body are absent. Our mind is struck with the light of pure understanding and our body is experienced in line with its natural state of transparency, expansion, weightlessness, flow and pulsation. Our whole being vibrates with the deep peace or the overflowing joy that is its source and essence. Its music is pure openness, spaciousness and love. The body and mind have merged into their source.
However, while many of us may have become aware of the thought patterns and beliefs that seem to create, reflect and maintain a separate identity, in most cases this clarity has not yet reached down beneath the surface to touch the irrational layers of feelings and sensations that continue to shape the separate entity. Without us being aware of it, our bodily experience continues to perpetuate the illusion that what we are is a limited, solid, located individual awareness, separate from the whole and from all other beings.
If we close our eyes and allow the flow of our moment to moment experience to surface in our unfocused attention, we may notice that the experience that we call 'the body', and in particular the sense of weight and density, or the localized tensions and contractions in the head and the chest area, are experienced as intimate, alive and somehow 'me.' Meanwhile, other perceptions that may also be present, such as a sound in the distance or the tactile perception of the floor or cushions, seem to belong to objects living in a world that is separate and outside of 'me.'
This is the result of lifetimes of conditioning. Our felt experience of our true nature has been distorted by decades of 'I,' 'you,' 'mine' and 'yours,' endlessly projected onto our body-minds by parents, teachers and peers, and by our culture in general, in a self-perpetuating, collective and subconscious conspiracy of ignorance.
Just as thoughts that refer to a separate identity seem to obstruct the natural clarity of our inherent intelligence, so psychosomatic patterns based on defending and maintaining an imagined separate entity seem to take over the natural, easeful and transparent functioning of the body.
For example we experience ourselves as being an individual breather who inhales and exhales and lives somewhere in the diaphragm or in the head. This feeling seems to veil the natural experience of un-located and universal breathing as a wave of Awareness, ebbing and flowing from and to its source.
Or we experience that we are an individual, objective and even mechanical body that wilfully moves and ambulates through a space that is other, sometimes friendly sometimes threatening. This experience seems to obstruct or prevent the natural sensitivity that spontaneously and effortlessly gives birth to the rise and fall, the expansion and contraction, of universal energy flow.
Fixed memories and visual body schemes, superimposed on our actual experience of the body, are designed to protect and defend the projected image that seems to operate at its centre. Thus the real 'I', open, undivided and limitless Awareness appears to be separate, limited and fragmented. Meanwhile, the body's harmonious and organic functioning seems to be compromised by an unnatural, complicated and, in the end, impossible mission.
During the yoga of non-duality sessions, we investigate this unfounded feeling of separation. With openness as our ground, we use sensing, tactile explorations, visualizations, postures, movements and breathing, and submit the sensitivity of our body to this pure openness. We allow the felt belief in separation, which lives as crystallized energy in the cellular, muscular, skeletal, lymphatic and nervous systems of the body, to be experienced directly.
In time, this allows a gentle and natural realignment with the felt understanding that the body's true nature and substance is this very openness.
How does it differ from other kinds of yoga?
These body sessions stem from a source of deep love and openness. They are sacred explorations that seek nothing other than the exposure and subsequent dissolution of the feeling of separation in the direct feeling-understanding of our real nature.
So, although we may not be fully established in our true nature and may still feel that we are a separate Awareness, we come to the body sessions as we come to our most sacred altar: open, sincere and unknowing. We are gently invited to surrender our minds, bodies and hearts, and everything we perceive ourselves to be or not be, to this open invisible Presence. Soon we find ourselves naturally taking our stand in and as this unperceivable Presence that witnesses all experience. This approach differs from most other yoga or body explorations that are concerned with improving, healing or spiritualizing an objective, individual body-mind. In this approach we are not focused on reaching states of expansion and transparency in which the body, however subtle, remains an object of identification.
In the yoga of non-duality, our real body is only and always the body of Presence. We are solely interested in revealing the layers of feelings/beliefs that stand in the way of realizing this.
How does it unfold?
Having opened to the possibility of Presence as the immanent and transcendent reference of all our objective experiences, we venture into a deep exploration of the illusion of separation at the non-rational level of sensation, feeling and perception.
We begin by listening to our experience of the body directly, without the usual mediation of a concept, memory or image. We take our time, reawakening the tactile and sensual level of experience below the threshold of rational experience. We allow the memory of a frozen body to melt into the moment-to-moment music of temperatures, textures, weight, pressure, vibration, pulsation, expansion and contractions. We welcome the flow of sensation in a quality of openness and sensitivity that is undirected and un-volitional, free of any agenda, judgment or intention.
Gradually sensations and feelings, just like thoughts and perceptions, are seen to unfold like clouds in the undivided, open and aware sky of Presence. As we recognize ourselves to be the sky, we feel and understand that a sensation never appears in 'my body', just as a thought never appears in 'my brain' or a sound in 'the world.' Rather we see that sensation, sound and thought appear in myself without any separate or individual existence of a body, mind or world.
We realize that like the sound that we perceive, like the thought that we think, the bodily sensation is subtle in nature. It is not solid or tangible and cannot be held and measured. It is like a cloud appearing in myself and made of my own invisible substance. And so we come to know that the very substance of a sensation is the openness that I am.
We are invited to release the weight of the legs and hands into the contact surface of a ground that is purely tactile sensation. As we attempt this, the habits that create and hold a sense of density and disconnection between a solid body and an inert ground are revealed.
We are invited to allow the tingling sensation of the physical envelope to naturally radiate and expand into a surrounding space that is alive and intimate. As we try to do this, we become aware of the subtle contraction at skin level that maintains a sense of bodily cohesiveness and permanence. As we proceed gently and openly, we feel and understand that the effort that seems to be required in order to let go into expansion is, in fact, the revelation of the tension that was previously being generated in order to create and maintain an apparently separate self.
We explore movements, postures, visualizations and the breath. These are opportunities to realign feeling, sensing and moving with our newfound infinite and transparent identity.
We evoke movements without a mover, and explore the innate qualities of transparency, weightlessness and lovingness. We invite gestures with no origin or destination; a breath that requires no pushing or grasping.
In the openness of this exploration, layer upon layer of feelings so habitual that they are no longer felt, or so intimate that they are taken for granted as being 'myself' begin to surface.
We have no agenda with them but remain open, loving and listening, and yet indifferent to the story embedded within them. In this open contemplation comes a spontaneous cooperation at the level of the body, as if each feeling and sensation willingly offers itself back to Presence. Naturally and effortlessly, the me-ness that suffused the sensation dissolves back into the un-located and ever-present Me.
This level of investigation is mostly overlooked in contemporary non-dual teaching. In a culture that favors analytical thinking and conceptualizing, we are more readily conditioned to examine our experience using our mind rather than a less rational, directly tactile, sensate approach. Yet the body-mind can only be fully re-orchestrated by this understanding when all layers of unseen identification have been allowed to surface fully, and to be seen in the light of Awareness.