There’s a lot going on in the body that we are unaware of—nerves firing, lungs expanding and contracting, blood moving through arteries, veins, and capillaries. It’s as though these activities have nothing to do with us, that they are happening somewhere else or to someone else, not to us. But, there they are, right beneath the skin, just out of view and, apparently, out of mind.
Shutting down the mind, which is what many people think is the purpose of meditation, is impossible. Even thinking—as much as we like to be in the moment, inwardly silent, focused, and aware—cannot be stopped. Quiet one layer and another reveals itself, like the layers of an onion. It’s thought all the way down.
No wonder meditation frustrates the hell out of us.
We are in the universe, not merely on it or of it. We live in a sea of mind, a mind that is intelligent and self-aware. That mind is always thinking, but not in the way we ordinarily think of the word. It is thinking in that one part is relating to another part, which in turn relates to yet another, until the entirety of the thing is connected to itself through every available avenue. How many connections is that? More than could possibly be counted.
The human brain is said to be the microcosm of this vast network, having more connections amongst its neurons than there are stars in the galaxy. That’s a lot. And yet for the most part, we are completely oblivious to what goes on in there. And what keeps us so distracted? Simply, it’s the external inputs. It’s what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears and the thoughts that are nothing more than knee-jerk reactions to those stimuli. That’s it.
Shifting our awareness from the out there to the in here may not be the nirvana you were hoping for, but it’s a whole lot closer than you might think. For one thing, when we get in touch with the inner workings of the body, especially the ones we can’t control, the closer we are to the autonomic nervous system. Why is that important? Because, the autonomic nervous system is in direct contact with the universal mind through which everything that exists connects.
It is face to face with it, continually and always.
Have you ever opened up a wall and seen the electrical wires that power your lights and appliances? Rather dead and inert, are they not? It’s the electricity that’s important, even more important than the wires, though the wires are certainly necessary. It’s the same with the circuitry in your computer, only infinitely more so. The electrical impulses in a computer are so complex and varied in their tasks that they seem almost mystical. How much more, do you suppose, are the energy systems in your body, the ones you carry around with you 24/7? You have to ask yourself: am I carrying them around, or are they carrying me? Hmmm.
Could we not imagine that the world we “see” is the least important part of our existence, that instead it’s the world we don’t see that is more real?
The human body is layered like the electron shells of an atom or the orbital paths of planets in our solar system, each layer a more subtle and more complex system of vibratory intelligence, scintillating with life and cosmic energies. Is it any wonder why gurus and sages throughout history have instructed us to pay attention to our breathing? Could it be that within that simple physiological act lies the secret to life itself?
Make no mistake, the inner organs of our body are just as much external objects as anything else in the world. They are composed of matter, which by itself is like the wiring in your house—rather dead and inert. But it’s not the matter that we’re focusing on, is it. Instead, we want to sense the intelligence that’s moving through it, that’s using it, using it for…for what? Is it the breathing that’s the interesting part, or is it perhaps something deeper, like maybe the will to breathe?
We have to realize that intelligence—that unnameable thing that informs energy—is absolutely intangible. It has no locus in the physical or non-physical world. It is without beginning or end, has always been, and will always be. It is completely outside of the context of space and time. Before the worlds were, It was. Everything possible exists within it as a potential, and the possible combinations of that potentiality are literally infinite.
All of this is discoverable within the breath.
It helps to know a little bit about the human body—your human body. It is your interface with reality. Not the physical flesh of it, but the energies that course through it. These are the rightful subject of our inner investigations. Follow them, as a fisherman works his way upstream. The more subtle the currents, the higher are their vibrations, the closer they are to the source. Observe them; they are closer than your hands and feet.
“Could we not imagine that the world we ‘see’ is the least important part of our existence, that instead it’s the world we don’t see that is more real?”
Yes, we could imagine that, but it would not really be helpful to do so. The tangible material reality we live with is just as real as the intangible energetic reality that the material is a physical manifestation of. Our only error is to become attached to only the material as being real and ignoring or even denying the non-material aspects of ourselves and of everything else.
We are spiritual beings having a material experience. We are also material beings with a spiritual essence.
There need not be any conflict between those two views. In fact, these two aspects of being can and should be viewed as being harmoniously integrated, and together constituting the reality of who we are. The diversity of our differing material manifestations greatly enriches our life experience – providing we can embrace, appreciate and enjoy this diversity. We also need to be aware of the non-material aspects of our being and recognize that this is where we are united; it is here where ‘we’ are all one. Only when we come to see this whole picture will we come to realize that we are all in this together; that all beings are intimately and inextricably interconnected and interdependent.
I found your article very meditative just to read. I was irritable about this that and the other when I started but not when I finished. That says a lot about who you are and what you teach. thank you for writing it.