To see spiritual life as something different to or apart from the mundane is to separate ourselves off from life – into our inner world. Developing our inner life can indeed be fruitful in many ways, it can be a source of great pleasure, and yet we will need to return to find the meeting point between this inner world and the outer in order to develop real wisdom and find true liberation. This meeting point is the body and we develop wisdom as we embody our spirituality.
First of all let us look for a more mundane sense for how embodiment might be. If we intellectually accept the view of an embodied mind we can wonder how the body is the centre of all our experience if often we are not aware of it – it would be counter-intuitive. We could describe this process intellectually like this: “the phenomenology of the lived body is able to overcome dualistic concepts of the mind as an inner realm of representations that mirror the outside world. Instead, by the mediation of the lived body the individual is in constant relationship to the world.” (Embodiment and psychopathology: a phenomenological perspective Thomas Fuchs and Jann E. Schlimme.)
However we can overcome the dualistic concepts ultimately only by overcoming the dualistic experience. This is possible. Then to articulate the new experience is to give words to such a sanity.
Body awareness keeps us within the world. In addition to so recognise our place in the world we need to recognise the nature of our minds. There is still a dualism in the sense that the mind is dependently originated. The concepts and experience of embodiment recognise the dependence of mental on physical and look for sanity by aligning our experience accordingly.
What is missed, and what is an enduring source of dualism is that the mind does have a limited life of its own. This inner life can be functional or dysfunctional. If it remains in contact with reality it is functional. If it drifts away from reality it is dysfunctional. So instead of this inner life being like a mirror to the outside world it needs to be placed back outside where it belongs. This is actually the natural result of forming a coherent body image – it flushes the content of the mind out of the body in our subjective experience, to leave a blissful empty mind within the body, this emptiness extends beyond the body so now we experience the body in the larger, empty mind. If the body image then remains we have the full picture, the nature of this image is then seen to determine the nature of our field of awareness and hence the nature of all the objects within it. Through using the body to open up a field of awareness that connects us with the world, we discover a way of seeing not just the objects within our minds but the nature of the mind itself as the space in which all objects of mind arise and cease.
Our first experiences of the mind itself will not be one of space. It will be to see the movements of our thoughts and feelings, their place in the field. We will clearly see when our minds are effected by greed or aversion, something that we will realise is not clear when we get drawn into the objects themselves. Then it is not just a matter of being aware of our greed but letting go of it by re-examining the object. This is through examination and a relaxing, calming and subsequent opening of the mind around an object.
This is then difficult also because when the mind encounters space it is so pleasant the mind gets entranced by that. We begin to calm and open our attention only to get stuck on the calm and cease really paying attention. Then there is a need to ground ourselves at least. Yet, better than this, if there is wisdom we discover that our attention to an object becomes a source of space because it leads to letting go. This is where everything comes together, where the bliss of samādhi and the sense world come together.
I offer this for your reflection.