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At IMC Gil Fronsdal's talk was about "mindfulness of the body." Some points from the talk:
  • Some Buddhists believe that the "awakening" that occurs is an awakening of the body more than of the mind.
  • Western cultures separate the body and mind more than Eastern cultures do.
  • The body is always in the present and the mind only rarely is.
Some ramblings based on points from the talk:

One thing he said puzzled me and I felt dubious about it: "The body doesn't lie." It's not that I disagree with this, but when I try to think about it, I think about how my body and mind frequently feel in conflict, and about how I frequently feel confused about what my body wants/is feeling, and about how I am frequently worried about what my body is going to feel like at some point in the future if I do or don't do something right now, and about how I frequently notice that my body is feeling something unpleasant and I suspect it's because of something I did or didn't do in the past. When I hear "The body doesn't lie" I imagine it means I should go with whatever I think my body "wants" right now, but I know that, for example, if I feel sluggish and don't want to move, sometimes getting up and moving is exactly what I need to do to stop feeling so sluggish. Which could seem as if it is the body "lying." And it could also be said that it's really the mind making the body feel sluggish, but somehow that feels like forced interpretation.

He went on to say that the mind, on the other hand, is full of deceptions. Then he said the body is simple and the mind is sophisticated, with the implication that the mind is too sophisticated for its own good.

What all this brings up for me is that I believe states can arise in the body for no discernible reason (unless you're more subtle at discerning than I am) and the mind can get itself tied up in knots trying to interpret them. In Destructive Emotions by Daniel Goleman, some evidence is presented that the body's states arise first and the interpretations and feelings come afterward. This is also corroborated by some psych experiments. I have found it freeing to believe that some of my moods "just are," and are not "because of" something that I or someone else "did."

Some ramblings based on my meditation experiences today:

Body sensations and sensory experience are mostly what I can concentrate on, when I can concentrate, during meditation.

It so happened that I was fairly body focused in the meditation period just before this talk. I arrived late and sat near the door, and people kept coming in all through the meditation period, so I kept getting semi-distracted by noises and the sensations of people walking near me. I decided to focus on the noises and the sensations. For a while I noticed that things would be quiet and calm for a second or two and then someone would cough or move or walk or there would be a car noise or a dog noise
outside. From that I got a sense for how nothing stays still—I would keep going back to a still place just briefly and then another sensory experience would arise.

For a second time during meditation a state arose where I love my body, in a particular way that doesn't arise in my ordinary life so far. I feel protected and surrounded with a wonderful blanket or maybe like I am in the womb. That is a poor description because it's not a me-separate-from-my-body feeling at all, but I don't have words to describe it better. Prior to these experiences I have sometimes felt pleasure in and love for my body but not from the inside in that way. That pleasure is more about liking the way parts of my body feel to the touch, or the heft of them.

In the comments to my first post in this series, some folks wanted a link to the podcast of Gil's talk on the Seven Factors of Awakening. A podcast of that particular talk has not been posted, but if you look on the Audio Dharma web page for Gil he did a talk about it on 10/22/07. Maybe it's similar.

Comments

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
jodawi
Mar. 11th, 2008 09:20 am (UTC)
"mindfulness of the body."

"bodyfulness of the mind"; trying to decide what that would be.

this concludes a weak comment
firecat
Mar. 11th, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think you're on to something.
aquaeri
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:38 pm (UTC)
That's actually not a bad description for something I aim for (very poorly). If I get very absorbed in something, reading a book, trying to understand a logical argument, etc, I stop paying enough attention to my body and end up with tense and sore muscles. When I remember to keep moving and stretching and being I even think better.

(I'll shut up now.)
aquaeri
Mar. 11th, 2008 10:59 am (UTC)
I have found it freeing to believe that some of my moods "just are," and are not "because of" something that I or someone else "did."

I've noticed that a lot of what I perceive as current political/social controversies are partly caused by people who are always looking for the "because of" and can't seem to accept "just is".
firecat
Mar. 11th, 2008 03:28 pm (UTC)
Hm, I hadn't taken it there. Do you have an example in mind?
(Anonymous)
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:25 pm (UTC)
Well, to pick a subject near and dear to my heart, creationists :-).

But more seriously, at least some anti-gay and anti-abortion sentiments seem to be driven by a very strong "because of". Now sure, people do get pregnant "because of" sex, but the anti-abortion crowd seem to want to make it "because of" the woman's irresponsibility, wantoness, etc, and now she has to be punished for it (and the child too).

The driver to sueing everything and everyone seems to be due to accidents having to be "because of" someone having done something wrong. They can't just be accidents (that sure, maybe we can take steps to have less chance of happening next time.)

The anti-vaccine movement, particularly in the crackpot theories for autism crowd, also seems to be driven by autism having to be "because of" something that we can fix.

I felt Bush even being able to get away with connecting 9/11 to Iraq, and therefore we had to invade, was also by plugging into enough people's need for "because of".

That enough for you? :-)
aquaeri
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:27 pm (UTC)
D'oh. That anonymous comment was of course by me.
firecat
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
Gotcha - yes, wanting cause-and-effect to be simple and obvious leads to a lot of problems.
micheinnz
Mar. 11th, 2008 06:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've noticed this, too. Drives me batshit. The whole "everything happens for a reason" thing.
aquaeri
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:32 pm (UTC)
It's the reason[1] why, although I resonate a lot with Buddhism, I'm hesitant to call myself a Buddhist. Because I simply cannot accept karma and reincarnation. They look to me like attempts to shift "everything happens for a reason" from here and now, to a "longer plan", so while I sympathise with the goal (not everything happens for a reason that has anything to do with you in particular), it's still so very stuck on "everything happens for a reason".

[1] Department of irony. Who said religion was easy?
firecat
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:53 pm (UTC)
FWIW, a lot of Buddhists don't believe in reincarnation, and if they accept karma it's a much modified version.

For me karma is a short way of saying "Everything is connected to everything else" and "Your actions have consequences." I don't believe in karma as "justice" because justice is a human concept and humans are such a tiny part of "everything."
johnpalmer
Mar. 12th, 2008 07:51 pm (UTC)
Nod. I'd heard that same interpretation, that karma isn't some system of payback, but more of a "what you're doing shapes the world, and you're part of the world."
fattest
Mar. 10th, 2009 07:31 am (UTC)
Another way I've heard the idea of karma described is that it's like habit. Our thoughts and actions follows the path of least resistance -- when they're familiar, we are apt to repeat them, and their effects continue. The cycle of your habits builds on itself in this way.
dawnd
Mar. 11th, 2008 03:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this post. Interesting thoughts, and I resonate with them.
firecat
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC)
Yay!
sashajwolf
Mar. 11th, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC)
When I hear "The body doesn't lie" I imagine it means I should go with whatever I think my body "wants" right now, but I know that, for example, if I feel sluggish and don't want to move, sometimes getting up and moving is exactly what I need to do to stop feeling so sluggish. Which could seem as if it is the body "lying." And it could also be said that it's really the mind making the body feel sluggish, but somehow that feels like forced interpretation.

I tend to interpret it as the body not always knowing what's good for it and needing the help of the mind to work it out. The same also goes the other way, sometimes, e.g. when I get physical tiredness as a response to mental overexertion, and that's important because otherwise I would end up with an unhelpful hierarchical arrangement where the mind always dominates the body. (There's a passage about the body in St. Paul that I now skip when it comes up in the lectionary because it reinforces that attitude. I don't think Paul knew about eating disorders and triggers, somehow.)
firecat
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC)
I tend to interpret it as the body not always knowing what's good for it and needing the help of the mind to work it out.

Yeah.

Maybe if one is close to being fully "awake," these disconnects don't happen as often.
jb98
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:12 pm (UTC)
For a second time during meditation a state arose where I love my body, in a particular way that doesn't arise in my ordinary life so far. I feel protected and surrounded with a wonderful blanket or maybe like I am in the womb. That is a poor description because it's not a me-separate-from-my-body feeling at all, but I don't have words to describe it better. Prior to these experiences I have sometimes felt pleasure in and love for my body but not from the inside in that way.

This sounds similar to a state I achieve during and after chanting, also known as Bhakti Yoga. I find it's a most delicious state of being to be in and most healing. Learning to spend more time in this state is what I attribute my healing of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue to. For me, it's a total melding of my mind into my body, and there is no separation. It's a feeling of love and protection and perfection of exactly what is, from the inside. It's pure existence and it's bliss.
firecat
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC)
How neat that it healed your fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue!
mjlayman
Mar. 12th, 2008 12:25 am (UTC)
When I see/hear "The body doesn't lie," it makes me remember that people can tell things about us by the way we sit, stand, move, direct our eyes, etc.
firecat
Mar. 12th, 2008 01:34 am (UTC)
All that is true.
porcinea
Mar. 12th, 2008 02:08 pm (UTC)
As someone with a disordered thyroid -- hell, yes, my body lies!! Like a cheap rug.
firecat
Mar. 12th, 2008 08:13 pm (UTC)
I'd be curious to hear more about that. (I've heard you talk about the disordered thyroid but not specifically from the point of view of the body lying.)
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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