I can’t emphasis enough the value and importance of staying in this body.
What I am writing about are not only ideas. They are primarily practices: practices in
- being alive,
- being animal,
- being human,
- being present,
- being (in) God.
Lying in bed in the night, I notice how tense my legs are. I guess it is not surprising – there are things I am worrying about – but I also understand it is more chronic than that. I invite my legs to relax, and as I follow the tension back to its source, I understand that it emanates from my bottom, which is also tense. I enquire into the tension and I sense its purpose is to keep me from being fully grounded in the world, not allowing me to be fully myself, always holding me in, not allowing me to be myself in the world, amongst other men and women. It is a form of protection, one I deemed necessary once-upon-a-time, one that no longer serves.
To relax and start from the bottom is to allow myself:
- to take up space; which is
- to be grounded in the world; which is
- to take up my place in the world amongst other (human and other-than-human) beings taking up their places in the world; which is
- to be; which is…
- to be myself (without interference, without judgment); which is…
- to be myself in the world amongst other (human and other-than-human) beings; which is…
- to be a creature amongst other creatures; which is…
- to belong, to be home, “to feel myself / beloved on the earth.“
No longer will “the knowing animals,” as Rilke puts it, have reason to think “that we are not really at home in our interpreted world.”
This practice is to relocate the centre of energy or focus, away from the head and thinking, much lower down in this body; not that we can or should stop thinking, but that the body (especially the fundament and the belly) knows and is, in truth, the channel or spring or well of all real knowing.
The body is not a vehicle for the head. Rather, the head is one of the interfaces between this body and the rest of the world. The head is a useful tool – watch, listen, articulate, keep vigil, keep lists, weigh evidence, report findings – but not the wielder of tools. It is in the guts that we receive and feel life, that we connect with and know life, where God is the Guest.
So here’s what I do: I sit away from the back of my chair and gently bring myself upright, rather than slumping as usual. I allow my energy and focus to relocate downwards. I practice being poised on my fundament:
- like a mountain: the weather comes and goes, sunny one day, rain and wind beating on the rocks and trees the next, but the mountain’s deep, still groundedness is not disturbed; or
- like a monarch on a throne: courtiers, attendant lords and appellants, a jouster and a jester, all coming and going, but the monarch remains the still centre of this revolving world.
This takes time: some days I never get there; on a good day a few minutes – 10, perhaps 20.
Then “I” can be in my belly.
For a few important moments I know that I am, I know who I am, I am myself.
For a few important moments I know that I am safe, that I will handle whatever this world throws at me and, if in the end I cannot handle it, for there are many things in this world that we cannot ‘handle’, nevertheless I am, in an ultimate sense, safe.