“I Am Not My Body” — What Does That Mean?


by Michael Maciel

Two weeks ago, I had a tooth pulled. As the dentist attempted to extract it, the crown broke off. It took her an entire hour to dig out the root. All the while, I’m contemplating what it means to not be my body. At the same time, I’m telling her to inject me with more novocaine. I think she gave me about eight injections. She kept saying she was sorry and tried to comfort me as much as possible. I told her that there were only two words I wanted to hear her say: “It’s out!”

I have read about incidents where yogis and Buddhist monks have been able to undergo surgery without anesthetics. In one case, the person was also able to keep his blood away from the incision site. I have no reason to doubt these anecdotes, but I can’t say for certain that they actually happened. Personally, I have never witnessed that degree of control, either in myself or in others. 

I have, however, witnessed many athletes significantly improve their performance through the use of visualizations, meditation, and even mind-altering drugs. In 1968, French ski racer, Jean Claude Killy, made history by winning all three alpine events at the Grenoble Olympics, and he did it by scant hundredths of a second. Such a sweep suggests that there was more than technical skill involved. It suggests that Killy’s mindset played an important part in his narrow victories. 

Athletics are a good example of mind over body. They show that intention, thought patterns, and commitment can be the difference between 1st and 2nd place. Of course, it also takes a high degree of technical skill to place that high in any competition, but when two competitors are closely matched, mindset can be the deciding factor. The pyramid of achievement is topped by a vision of victory. 

Any endeavor, whether physical or spiritual, is made better by an assertive, positive mindset, especially when used in combination with a well-developed skillset. Take meditation, for example. It has both physical and mental aspects. If, along with lots of practice, you visualize an exalted level of consciousness with perfect stillness of body, you might achieve such a state more quickly. This mindset, which includes the perfect image, will enhance your chances for success, especially when your image is accompanied by feeling. The feeling of crossing the finish line first is just as powerful in terms of outcome as the visualization. The two must become one. 

But, it’s not enough to visualize and feel victory. You also have to take it on. The vision and feeling have to descend on you like a cloak, one that drapes across your shoulders like a mantle. And the energy of it must amalgamate itself with your whole body. You become the manifestation of your visualization. You are it and it is you. 

This can happen in a couple of ways. One is to accept it through grace — as a gift from God — and two, you can assume it. Either way, it has to feel real. And, it has to be real-istic. In other words, there has to be a reasonable match between mindset and skillset. Visualization is not a substitute for practice. And yet, it can greatly speed up the development process. The point is that you can only advance as far as you can see. Unless you can conceptualize victory, no amount of imagery will work, nor will desire alone get you there. 

The monk who was supposedly able to stop his blood from flowing into his abdominal cavity had to have practiced similar techniques for a long time before he was able to do that. He didn’t just show up for surgery thinking he would give it a try. That’s not how such things work. Neither will holding a thought for a particular outcome ensure that you will get it. One gets to the top of a difficult mountain by first climbing a lot of easier ones. Victory can only be reached from an already elevated platform. 

Perhaps competitive sports and achievement aren’t important to you. Maybe your life’s goals have more to do with cooperation, harmony, and equality. But if that’s the case, they are still goals. Reaching them is a kind of victory in itself, a victory over selfishness, discord, and privilege. As such, you’re going to have to employ these same strategies — mindset, skillset, visualization, practice, commitment, feeling, and assumption. In order for values to be meaningful, they must be embodied. They must be lived.