“Oh, [you don’t know] the shape I’m in…”—Levon Helm
This form our spirits inhabit, this ever-changing body/mind we occupy on Earth from our birth to our death, is a miraculous combination of the mysterious quantum/electrochemical exchange of matter and energy we call “being,” and the equally mysterious mechanical wonder at work in our woven-together flesh, blood, and bone bodies—the rides we bump around this world in that we call being too.
Our attitudes and beliefs; our genes and chromosomes; our psyches and our karma; our focus and intentions shape the physical realities of our lives, determined absolutely by this shape we’re in. Even folks who resist the idea of “the spiritual,” people who are completely and quite understandably agnostic, intuitively understand this extra-dimensional aspect of our nature, since it’s impossible not to notice that as Life goes along and our bodies most definitely change, our inner lives don’t…or so it often seems from where we sit (but they do too, of course).
We look through this prism of our perceptions, looking out through this veil of body/mind, and searching down within it to try to find the unification of our purpose and expression, but so much seems to stand in the way—so many challenges inherent in this equipment we’ve been given. Even our mind, our thinking feels like it’s such a naturally integrated aspect of our world, but then we know that a brain is really just about three pounds of stuff with a mind of its own; and that many of Life’s most satisfying experiences can only be had when we’re not thinking about them.
Thinking requires consciousness, but consciousness does not require thinking.
What is this “eternal” perception of Life—this consciousness that’s only available to us when our inner dialogue, the serial processing of our human brains is relaxed? As a multiple near-death survivor, I can’t help but relate to it from my experiences on the “other side of the curtain,” so to speak. I seem to have gotten some certainty about our relationship to this body, mind, and life the hard way, through grave injury and misadventure. Just lucky, I guess.
Still, the memory of those moments makes my jaw clench, my heart beat a little faster, and makes my mind start to question: If I talk about this, will everyone think I’m crazy? But regardless of what my human machine lets me experience, and because of it, I can sincerely testify to the existence of a different form of thought—that mysterious consciousness that’s available to all of us; alive in all of us. It’s a comfortable, profound intelligence that, instead of creating the illusion of separateness that our serial thoughts usually create, assures me that there’s a divine presence occupying everyone and everything alive on this Earth.
We are all possessed of the same mind, the same format, you know—just not always able to readily perceive it. My mind, and the experience of “dying” let me see that, and it was only by occupying this vehicle that I was given the opportunity to make that realization. It’s the only game in town.
The wonderful St. Francis Prayer says it: “… it is by dying that we find Eternal Life.” Naturally, I don’t recommend actually dying (as long as you have the choice), just relaxing that idea of your serial thought process as being who you are; and knowing that your authentic self can be found by branching off that stream of incessant thinking into the calm aquifer of being underneath it all.
One of the most moving depictions of this gentle intelligence I’ve ever seen is in Julian Schnabel’s heartbreakingly beautiful film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, based on the book of true experience written by stroke victim Jean-Dominique Bauby. It does a remarkable job of describing the obstructive quality of our bodily forms; the veil of sensory experience and human thought; the powerful yet ultimately secondary nature of the Ego Self … the occupation of ourselves. Bauby’s gripping story demonstrates the nature of what our relationship to Life really is when we can no longer think of our self as a body.
Of course, that nature, that aquifer is Love; and so the effort to maintain that attitude of Love and compassion towards everyone and everything—no matter how challenging that may be at any given moment. An unshakable understanding of the Oneness, the interdependent unity of everything; and the belief that every expression of Life is Divine and requires the same respect your mind insists upon for your self—those are the realizations that can intuitively guide you on the path you need to follow. The effort through which your thinking becomes two different things, and your purpose becomes refreshingly clear.
As we occupy our bodies, we occupy the world.
“The Meaning of Life is to embody compassion. Anyone can discover this. When you discover this and live it, you discover your truest nature and share its joy.”—The Dalai Lama
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