Friday, March 21, 2014

Dialog On Identification With The Body

I've gotten a few responses to my essay on "What Enlightenment Is, What It Isn't, Why You're Not Enlightened, And How You Can Be", posted a couple of days ago. One of them, in a Facebook thread created by my friend and sometime sparring partner Jeannie McGillivray, is worth looking at. I've cut and pasted it here, taking out the comments from others, and focusing on the exchange between Jeannie and myself. I've included comments from some others in the conversation to make clear what Jeannie is responding to in some of her own comments. If the thread continues, I'll add to it down below. Anyone on Facebook can follow the thread there, either by following the link above, by going to Jeannie's timeline, or by following or friending either one of us on Facebook.

Jeannie McGillivray
London, United Kingdom ·

I saw a very thorough blog post from someone about Enlightenment yesterday, and part of the post was about what Enlightenment is, and isn't, in their opinion, and this person defined it like this "Identification With The Body-Mind Is Un-Enlightenment, And Enlightenment Is Freedom From Identification With The Body-Mind". Interesting.

This got me wondering... "Can we ever truly sustain identification with the body-mind?" I know I can't, my experience is that my normal state is in fact dis-identified with anything at all. For example, when I'm engaged in an activity at work, am I identified with the body or thinking? No, I'm not identified with anything, I'm just life happening. How about whilst sleeping? No, I'm not identified with anything. Eating? No. Driving? No... and on it goes.

In fact, isn't this true for us all? Could it be that every now and then we simply have a thought that reminds us of the body or mind or a thought about something that we do or don't like, and that to us this the very presence of this type of thought says we're identified or un-enlightened?

Conversely, can we ever truly sustain dis-identification with the body-mind I wonder? As the living reality that we are, as life itself, how would that work? Would there be a state that prohibited certain types of thoughts, or would the thought "I'm fat" or "I'm crap at this", or similar!!, arise and we would pay no mind to it? If that's the case, don't we normally do that already? I mean, I'd find it pretty challenging to think about being fat or crap or great or rich or poor all the time!!

So, this brings me to wonder "Is 'Enlightenment' or 'Un-Enlightenment' just a thought?". "Can we or anything in life be defined in fixed terms like "I'm enlightened", "He's enlightened?" "She's enlightened" "I'm not enlightened", "He's not enlightened" "She's not enlightened"?" Aren't we all both? And, if we could be fixed, would we actually want to be? I mean, it seems to me that we are all aliveness itself, pure unpredictable potentiality. As such aren't we undefinable, unpredictable or even unknowable? Do we know what we are? Is it possible to know that?

Can we be free to be free or fixed, identified or dis-identified? Can we simply see it all as an idea? If we can, what happens then?

In breath, out breath, in breath, out breath. Know, don't know, know, don't know. Expand, contract, expand, contract. Isn't this the natural way of all life? Isn't it OK? Isn't it more than OK? Isn't it natural? Isn't it beautiful? Isn't it awesome? Isn't it Divine?


Lee Bwao I think it is, Jeannie McGillivray. The fears and pains that seem to consume us and keep us away from so called enlightenment are 100% real in our imagination...but then again all the love and joy is too. So if it's as simple as changing my mind...well that's what I am going to do.....often. Because I seem to be in time. When my love and joy hit the "speed of light" and it expands to infinity....what's "out there" is infinite love and joy...not infinite fear and pain....I hope...I think...I hope I think I know....breathing....

Cosmic Consciousness As long as concepts are there about enlightenment it will strangle us, because we seek it from outside and not know we are already enlightened we are just clouded in body-mind identification. The little me is on the throne until we kick him/her off.

Cosmic Consciousness The hardest part for me was letting go of everything even very powerful experiences, which I integrated into a very egoistic state for awhile.

Jeannie McGillivray Lee, I don't know the life circumstances that you experience, it may be plesent ir may be uncomfortalble, but I do know that it's so true that until we really see the shocking truth that our opinions about what it should or could be like are all in our imagination, the fears and pains that seem to consume us and keep us away from so called enlightenment are 100% real, but this is always ONLY in our imagination, isn't it.

Let's take a moment to look at the truth of some of what you shared.... "Because I seem to be in time.", when you look at your own intimate experience, is that true? I have come to see that this is often an assumption, and not actually the truth of our own experience. When you look at your experience, how does it look? Are you ever in time? Where is time? Isn't that in your imagination too?

You also shared that "When my love and joy hit the "speed of light" and it expands to infinity....what's "out there" is infinite love and joy...not infinite fear and pain" Could it be that this 'when' is in your imagination too? When is 'when'? What will you have achieved, learnt, manifested, changed, realised when the 'when' happens? Isn't now the only'when'?

These aren't clever or retorical questions, have a look. When you look what do you find?

Jeannie McGillivray Hello Cosmic Consciousness, lovely to meet you.

I used to use the analogy that the little me is on the throne until we kick her off too (I think I read it somewhere and it felt like a good way of explaining what felt then to be a something that happened)... and it's certainly a very good illustration for what it feels like in retrospect, but right now I question it because it alludes to an event in time or a something we did or can do to achieve something or make life 'better', doesn't it? The whole drama is itself imaginary, isn't it? Who is this little me that is kicked off? Who does the kicking and where is the throne? Is anything achieved by anyone? Funny, the more you look the more it unravels and illuminates what is the imagination and what is really true.

Conrad Goehausen Just because we're not generally conscious of our identification with the body, doesn't mean it's not constantly going on. Most of what we do, and what we are bound by, occurs below the levels of social consciousness.

Hey Conrad, Thanks for linking to the article. I'm not sure about your proposal that just because we're not generally conscious of our identification with the body, that it doesn't mean it's not constantly going on - my experience is that no phenomena could be said to be constantly going on, every in breath has to exhale! I also feel that identification is keenly felt in the 'physical' body, if I claim these writing to be made by me, for example, the pain of it is experienced as a felt sense of discomfort.

I do agree though that it could be said that much of how we interact with one another occurs at a level of social consciousness, though I'm not certain that this would equal identification with a body-mind rather than the natural way of life, or of sentient 'beingness', so maybe we have different understanding of what 'social consciousness' means. I guess social consciousness is in fact nonsense really isn't it? As I'm sure it doesn't exists at all beyond an academic concept, a construct of thought.

Conrad Goehausen Jeannie, can't comment much on your own experience, but my observation is similar in relation to the physical body. Certain things bring out this cramped sense of "holding on" more than others. However. I also notice that there's an underlying "knot" so to speak going on all the time, not just in the physical body, but in all the koshas. We just aren't always aware of it, and of course spend lots of effort trying to distract ourselves and feeling "okay". That is the knot of self that reduces our awareness to this simple sense of being an "I" somehow inside but dissociated from the body. We think that's normal, but it's the product of unconscious identification at all levels.

Jeannie McGillivray I know the underlying 'knot' you refer to very well, I used to call it the 'human condition' as this is a term that I'd picked up along the way, and I remember being at a retreat with Francis Lucille a long time ago and someone referring to the same as the 'causal knot' and until this 'knot' is debunked for what it is, a sensation with no inherent meaning, it lingers around and can be given any meaning, including unconscious identification with the body-mind or the 'human condition' or whatever we fancy.

I would offer that it's not only our awareness of the "underlying 'knot'" that comes and goes with the 'knot' being permanent, but rather that the knot sensation itself is also not at all permanent, and also comes and goes, which leads me back to the original post and the possibility that this coming and going is the natural way of things and that nothing is fixed, even our ideas.

Conrad Goehausen At the level of physical attention to the physical body, the sensation of the knot comes and goes, but that doesn't mean the root knot itself does. As Ramana pointed out, the nadis in the body-mind are highly complex and often are not something we are fully aware of. He referred to the knot of the Heart, located on the right side of the chest, as the root-knot of the ego-self. This knot limits the flow of Divine Life and Consciousness to all the other nadis. It is the root "identification with the body-mind" that goes on all the time, even in deep sleep. And it colors all the other nadis and koshas. So whether our physical bodily experience feels knotted or not in any given moment, the entire experience we have of life arises within a knotted condition of consciousness defined by the koshas. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, but always within the same dualistic and limited conditioning. Not until that root knot is opened does the genuine Divine Life begin, for then the central nadi, the "Amrita Nadi" as Ramana called it, that connects the heart to the sahasrar, becomes radiantly full, and liberates the body-mind from any sense of identifiication or limitation.

Conrad Goehausen Let me give a more tangible example. You mention the breath, and how one can simply feel the free flow of the breath in the physical body. But the breath is also commonly not free, but constricted by emotion and fear and all sorts of things. And the breath is more than just physical air, it is also Spirit, the subtle presence of Divine life. Because our bodies and emotions tend to be knotted, most of us don't feel that Divine presence moving through the breath as a tangible fluid. But if one pays attention to the knots in the body, and releases them in the process, the subtle Divine presence in the breath becomes noticeable and even obvious, like a river of conscious water moving through the lungs and the whole body. The more one releases identification with the body, in other words, the more its subtle knots unloosen, and the more one can feel the deeper koshas and their own knots. So the process keeps going through whatever body or mind one is aware of.

Jeannie McGillivray Hi again Conrad, thanks for your comments, I hear you and understand what you're sharing and where you're coming from.

I offer that these concepts, as with all concepts, when tightly held as truths serve only to keep one bound.

Conrad Goehausen Thanks, Jeannie, but the experience of the knots, and the experience of the breath, isn't conceptual. Not for me at least.

Jeannie McGillivray Pleasure. To be clear, I'm not negating the experience, I'm questioning that when experienced without the added conceptual layer it is clear that 'knots', like breath, to stick with the same analogy, do not possess inherent meaning - and that it is the conceptualisation of them as having inherent 'truths' or being 'Real' that can keep one bound by them.

Conrad Goehausen Yes, of course the knots have no inherent meaning or reality or permanence. They are just something we are unconsciously doing, and we can stop doing that any time we like. The catch is that we can only stop creating these knots when we become conscious that we are creating them. If we are not conscious of this self-generated knotting mechanism, we are simply left with its consequences - the sense of being a separate body-mind in a world not terribly well suited for happiness.

So it's a very down to earth process of becoming conscious of our knots, and releasing identification with the body-mind, for that is all the knots amount to. They are forms of active identification that produce unconsciousness in us. That means feeling them, not dissociating from them. The wrong use of these concepts would be as ways to dissociate or not feel the knots, either by engaging in some distracting pleasure or escaping into the mind. The right use of these concepts would be to allow oneself to consciously feel and thereby begin to release the knots of identification. We always have that choice. It's just good to be as aware of it as we can, even every time we take a breath.

Jeannie McGillivray The assertion that knots are "self-generated" is interesting; I guess for the "undoing" to be worthwhile we would have to believe that we were unconsciously 'doing' the knots also. I'm not convinced that I'm 'doing' knots any more than I'm 'doing' thoughts, or other sensations or experiences, or in turn that I'm 'doing' undoing; it strikes me that the "ego-self" could hide out here for a decade or two undoing itself.

I'm sure you're right about inquiring into knots, rather than dissociating from them. I wouldn't advocate disassociating from anything at all and would certainly advocate inquiry. I'd add that, going back the the physical body being a great 'thermometer' for detecting those moments when we are "bound" by the "ego-self", pride in learned knowledge is a very palpable one, isn't it? My detector certainly goes off when it presents itself.

Learned knowledge is at once a wonderful and a terrible thing, for it can all too easily turn into belief and keep us bound in judgement, dogma and seeking as well having the potential to liberate.

Jeannie McGillivray Ideas of being bound by the "ego-self", and liberation are actually quite ridiculous, aren't they? How can life be bound? If it can't be bound, and I don't believe it can, how can it be liberated?

Jeannie McGillivray Oh, my, I totally disagree that the 'world' is "not terribly well suited to happiness". Wow! I'm shocked. The world is divinely suited for happiness, there is no mistake that we find ourselves here - there is absolutely no separation between the world and the Self or the Divine. If we are seeking the Self in order to escape "a world not terribly well suited for happiness" have we not lost the plot completely? Where else are we meant to experience happiness? Happiness is right here. Everything is made of happiness itself!

Prem Purushottama Goodnight not sure on which of your recent posts to respond Jeannie McGillivray, because as you know they are related. But here goes: It is clear to me that there is a vast difference in being lost in thought and watching the mind. It is a existential difference, I mean it is palpable. In the first instance there is no consciousness present or at least you can say just the minimum. It is as if "no one is home." In the second there is this palpable connection to life. There is presence. There is knowingness. So for me I would call that "being lost in thought" identification with the mind, with the me. And I would say that the "watching the mind" is the beginning of dis-identification. It is very similar to two ways you can watch a movie. One you are totally taken over and you are lost in the play. In the moment of watching there is no awareness of yourself. It is an escape from being. It is identification with the movie. But it is also possible to watch a movie, and I find it a very useful exercise, without identification. You remain aware of the watcher. Of course you do not have the emotional roller coaster of the identification but I have found that there is something very exhilarating about watching in this way. One never loses contact with life. So for me this is the whole journey from this unconscious living to conscious living. And to say that there isn't any difference just isn't my experience. The difference is profound. Some time back while I was vacuuming the meditation room, the thought occured to me that the only way to Be Awareness was by Being Aware. At that moment I bumped my head on the door frame. Enough said! Cheers!

Jeannie McGillivray Yes, I agree Prem, that's how it seems looking back. It's not how it is, but it's certainly how it looks in our imagination. Much love, J x

Conrad Goehausen Jeannie, yes, but it's not just ideas of being bound by the "ego-self", and liberation from these that are ridiculous (they are), so is the idea that all is wonderful and beautiful and happy, and that no suffering exists. That too, is just an idea in the mind, not a realization in life. And it is an equally ridiculous one, in that the sufferings we all go through in this world are simply undeniable. One might argue intellectually that our sufferings are unnecessary or based in an illusion, but the suffering itself is real. People, ourselves included, really do suffering all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, large and small. Walk down the street, read the newspaper, watch the news on TV. This world is indeed a harsh and difficult place for most everyone.

I'm not trying to deny the absolute viewpoint that happiness is the underlying reality of our true nature, I'm simply pointing out that since that is the case, it raises an incredibly important question as to how suffering arises in such a perfect and eternally happy world. We can't just glibly ignore that question and pretend there's nothing to resolve, and just repeat as a superficial mantra "all is happiness" and expect that alone to do the trick of waking us up from our sleep. We have to find the root of the error, what produces our unconscious state of suffering in which happiness is not the obvious and undisputed experience of all beings.

I"m suggesting that this root error is identification with the body-mind. I'm not alone in making that observation. It's not something to believe in, it's something to observe in ourselves. How this activity of identification arises and sustains itself is also something to observe. But merely saying that there is ultimately no "one" to "do" the identifying doesn't change anything, just as pointing out that there is no "one" typing these words on the computer stops me from typing them.

In that respect, I think we have to see that this illusory sense of "I", seemingly dissociated from the body-mind, is itself the product of our identification with the body-mind. Who identifies with the body-mind? It's not this illusory sense of self that does so. That is the consequence and product of the identification. So the question can only be resolved by finding the source, the being we are before identification corrupts our awareness and consciousness.

Talk about undoing the knots or being liberated from the ego-self is of course ridiculous from the perspective of the absolute being beyond all limitations and duality. But since we are yet within the illusion of these, it makes a great deal of sense to engage them in the practical sense, so long as we are aware that we are not literally becoming anything other than what we truly are, and only lifting the veil of illusions our lives have been built around. Our suffering can then be seen not as our enemy, but as our guide to all the ways in which we have identified with the body-mind, and we can see each of them as simply a different form of the same error.

Identifying with the body-mind does, indeed, make this world seem to be an intolerable realm of sorrows, frustrations, disappointments, and miseries, with happiness a relatively uncommon and limited achievement that never lasts or fulfills itself, until even the root of our errors falls into our unconsciousness, so that even identification is merely taken for granted, and not even seen as an act of ours, but defines our whole way of living, so that even when we begin to awaken to the truth, we automatically begin to identify with that too, and produce the same inverted viewpoint in relation to truth that we did when we first began to identify with the body-mind. We create a path of trying to identify with Brahman, or God, or happiness, or whatever we call this intuition of reality. But that isn't sufficient to undo our illusions, unless it also brings to consciousness this unconscious root error of identification.

Not to worry, of course, because eventually it will, no matter how hard we try to get beyond it. The mere effort to assert the reality of the non-dual will bring our unconscious identification with duality to the surface, in both ourselves and in the world around us. That simply cannot be avoided, because duality. So one way or another we have to learn how to deal with both, and feelingly observe both, until we see the relationship between them. and our own responsibility for this primal conflict in both ourselves and the world. One can't avoid that responsibility merely by asserting that there is no one to be responsible. Responsibility remains even without an ego at the center of it. It refers to our responsibility to not identify with what we are not, to release ourselves from the whole cycle of identification and its consequences. To "do no harm".

1 comment :

  1. Thank you for sharing this Conrad. Helpful exchange to follow.


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