Practicing Embodied Spirituality

After introducing the idea of Embodied Spirituality recently, i promised to begin to ground it in some actual ideas about how such a thing could be practiced and experienced. When it comes to actually finding a way to experience transcendence while still firmly in the body, I have previously mentioned breath meditation. You can find my introduction to Zen here, if you are interested; it isn’t limited to that particular practice, although that is what I wrote it for (as a member of the Melbourne Zen Group). It’s just a set of simple instructions to help get you sitting right for a meditation practice in general (the stuff on posture and the point of meditation will probably seem most helpful).

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Part of what I think is important about any experiential awareness exercise – this includes mindfulness, which I may discuss in more detail some other time – is what I call ‘synching in.’ I like the play on words, because using this term reminds me that I am both sinking in to the body and to its intuitive awareness of the world around me right now, and I am getting in synch with that world. When I get this flow right – breathing just so, nothing forced, allowing myself to become more deeply aware of being here and all the subtle sensations that often go unnoticed during everyday life – I can also pick up on other dimensions of my experience.

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In this way I can experience immanence, which as I wrote earlier is a more ecospiritually attuned form of transcendence. I’m not looking up or out to some external agency that I hope may help or even save me. I’m looking in, for resources that may enable my abilities to dissolve challenging circumstances – and this means I am often looking through myself, to the more-than-human forces that are active behind the façade of persona or the toolbox of ego. To get to this place means I have to get to know my mental patterns and habits fairly well, so that I can catch the little games I play that maintain my identification with more ordinary states of consciousness, and move on from them when they limit my awareness of deeper levels of self.

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Because I need to attend to such habits, this practice is not always pleasant or easy; and it does not always lead to a feeling of freedom, overcoming or transcendence of worldly limit at all (in fact far from it). Sometimes I may end up crying myself to sleep and needing to let myself be sad (aka depressed) for a while. Telling someone that cares about me often helps at this point, although I am usually more inclined to simply wait it out; not because of some over-imagined sense of independence or fear of burdening others, but because I find such times so close to who I am that I sometimes find I can even cherish them once they have passed. And at other times, this kind of subtle attention to the endless realms accessible through going within leads to the discovery, reconnection and/or building of relationships with guides, guardians and allies that I meet in dreams or these kind of meditation experiences. Such relationships can be ritualised so that these powers can be called upon – silently, not always consciously – as we go about everyday life. Either way, I get to deepen my relationship to other dimensions of the self, whether that seems personal or more-than-personal/transpersonal/archetypal/ sacred or other.

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Part of what can help at these times is the memory that in many traditions, especially native wisdoms of those who live in close relationship with the rest of nature, all life sings. As such, even when parts of the self are in conflict, each part belongs, or finds a home, within the extended psyche. Myth relates powerful stories about such relationships, through conflict and diversity and harmony and transcendence, as a set of models we can use to experiment with transformation. The kind of transformation I am most interested in developing on behalf of White Fella Dreaming is from the limited story of self we are conditioned to accept by modern consumer society to the deeper sense of self we can discover and support that works in alignment with Earth Wisdom and Celestial Intelligence.

Images 1, 3 and 4 purchased from Shutterstock. Image 2 is my photo of the passageway leading in to the central chamber deep in the heart of the magnificent mounded dome at Knowth in Ireland, certainly one of the most impressive megalithic sites in the world.

Celestial Intelligence

Ultra Deep Field by Hubble

 

The mind comes from the stars, just as the body comes from the earth. We breathe life up from the mud and the clay, oxygen entering our systems when we gasp at the realization – we have emerged from within the body of life, to take our place amongst the other living beings on this earth. Our mind awakens along the same path, with the breath, a swirling and formless thing at first, floating amongst the new sensations, unattached to anything and not ready to become any one form or another. Then, slowly, in response to the world around it, the mind awakens to its own nature – to its shapeshifting self.

 

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Roaming amongst the sensations and reflections, the contemplations and the refractions, knowing it had always been there, waiting to wake up, waiting within the earth. The mind exploded into being with the starburst and it has been flying through space on the same evolutionary adventure as matter has ever since. From the furious expansion of hydrogen and helium to the heavy metals in subsequent heavenly conflagrations, to the rocks and sand of the friendly planets, to the waters and the beings … mind explores itself throughout the universe and awakens to itself and its endlessly self-aware reflection of pure consciousness at any opportunity. We are one of those opportunities. You are one of those opportunities.

 

Human Brain animation

 

Reading this, you are aware that you are aware, awake mind, living and breathing, more than a brain on a nerve stem in a body, but also the luckiest being alive in the universe, the universe awake to itself in animal form, with the full technicolour range of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind; fingers that can hold other hands and legs with a sense of balance and … the music, the random rhythms of nature and the harmonious scales of the universe and the planet, the poetry of the breeze in the trees, the twinkling of the waters in the creeks and rivers, the rush of the oceans, the bugs and bees and worms and electricity wires and cars and buildings and everything awake and guided. By the stars. This is celestial intelligence.

 

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Images: 1. A galactic snapshot, part of a collage of close-ups pulled from the Ultra Deep Field. Photo credit: NASA/ESA/S. Beckwith(STScI) and The HUDF Team. 2. Ngamokaiakoko mud pool, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua, New Zealand. By Andy king50 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons 3. Animated view of the human brain from top to bottom; magnetic resonance image uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by FastFission brain. 4. Double Alaskan rainbow by Eric Rolph at English Wikipedia (English Wikipedia) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.