Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Uncharted Territory of the Body

Ah the body ... Today I went to the first class in a set of 5 Qi Gong classes and it got me thinking about the body, that place of pain, pleasure and mystery.   I studied with this same diminutive Qi Gong master last fall and it was amazing.  He adds sitting meditation to the movements he teaches making it an especially powerful experience.  I remember a number of years ago becoming aware of how much tension was locked in my body as I sat in meditation.  Yet the practice I was engaged in didn't address this.  I could address it on my own, but there it was the vast uncharted territory of the body.  Where to start, how to proceed?  I was baffled.

I read an article called "Meditating With the Body" by Reginald Ray and that gave me a hint that working skillfully with the body was possible.  As a typical Westerner I spend a lot of time in my head and working with mental  and emotional flotsam and jetsam seems fairly straightforward, not easy, but understandable.  But the body and it's tension, it's psychosomatic language, it's aches and pains, its stubborn, frightening ailments, now how did one enter there and begin to decode these strange messages?   No secret decoder ring available in the Captain Karma Crunch.

In his book, "Touching Enlightenment (Finding Realization in the Body)" Ray says,"The body is our forest, our jungle, the "outlandish" expanse where we might allow ourselves to be stripped down to our most irreducible person and see what, if anything remains.  In this I am speaking not of the body we think we have.  Rather, I am talking about the body that we meet when we are willing to descend into it. To surrender into its darkness and its mysteries, and to explore it with our awareness."

I like the idea (ah see, there is the head!) of working with the body because it gets me out of my head and I am more likely to end up in the moment, right here, right now .... whether it be trying to sense the chi or feeling that tightness in my shoulder.  There is something I sense about it that seems like a more direct route in some cases, if this makes any sense.  

Do I understand how to work with my body?  Not really.  This is definitely a foreign land to me who is so at home in her head.  But this is an aim of mine.  Through Qi Gong I can see how to approach the body somewhat, how to feel the energy that flows through it or find energy that is blocked and working its mischief.  Sometimes those blockages can tell me things about the mental emotional state that the mind refuses to unleash.  And  really we are an integrated whole, a body/mind,  rather than a mind and a body but we tend to do the separate and compartmentalize thing here in the west.   

And then there is the issue of  balance.  One of the stories of Qi gong is that it was developed in the Shao Lin Temple as a balancing influence to their hours of intense sitting in which the body remained immobile.  And in terms of working with the body  I think we, Westerners (or should I speak only for myself?!)  are a bit  like drooling infants (pause while I wipe my chin).

As Reginald Ray reminds us in his book, "To be awake, to be enlightened, is to be fully and completely embodied.  To be fully embodied means to be at one with who we are, in every respect, including our physical being, our emotions, and the totality of our karmic situation."  So it is with enthusiasm that I restart my Qi Gong practice which has fallen off during the previous months.  And I rededicate myself to navigating the mysteries of the body, working with it's energies and understanding in a different way than with my pointy little head.

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