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Physical Body

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Physical Body?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Physical Body

As Long as We are Embodied in a Physical Body there Will be Difficulty and Frustration

To manifest the courageous heart means to continue loving regardless of the situation. It does not mean seeing or not seeing the situation. The moment you make the situation all wonderful, all positive, with no negativity, no difficulty, no frustration, the courageous heart is no longer present. It is an idealized relationship. It is a mental, unreal relationship. There is ultimately no such thing as an all-good relationship. As long as we are embodied in a physical body, there will be difficulty and frustration. If you hope that one day you are going to have a relationship that is all wonderful, all satisfying, never frustrating, you are dreaming. There is no such thing here. And because there is heart and there is love, we can live, we can take in that difficulty, that frustration. We can tolerate it and continue loving and continue being happy. Love is not here just for enjoyment, for happiness. Love is also here to help you tolerate and accept and understand the difficulties. Love is here to help you continue being happy regardless of the difficulty. Love does not reject difficulty. It is not in the nature of love to reject hatred. Love loves. It does not stop loving when there is hatred or frustration or pain. So when something negative happens in a relationship, whether you feel hurt or anger or frustration, and that event makes you forget about love, then you know you are engaged in a relationship that is not real. You are involved in your mind and not in the actuality of the situation. You are not perceiving the real situation. You are not perceiving yourself in a real way. You are not perceiving the other in a real way. You are not seeing the relationship in a real way. And you are not in contact with the other person. You are only in contact with that part of your mind, but not with reality.

Attachment to the Body is Not Just Attachment to the Physical Body

So you need to come to an understanding of your relationship to your body, how you identify with your body and your attachment to your body as a result of that identification. You think your body is you, and you hold on to it for dear life, so you’re never relaxed. This level includes all the attachments to all the bodily pleasures, and the negative attachments to all the physical pains. It includes sexual pleasure, physical contact pleasure, movement pleasure, stillness pleasure, all the realms of bodily attachment to pleasure and lack of it. Attachment to the body then is not just attachment to the physical body, but also to what the physical body means to you, all the pleasures and the comforts and the safety you believe it gives you. There is nothing wrong with these things, it’s the attachment to them that creates the misunderstanding that is experienced as frustration and hell. I’m not saying you shouldn’t want all these pleasures, that’s not the point. The point is, the attachments to them will inevitably cause suffering.

Basic Identification with the Physical Body Seen as an Ongoing Phenomenon, Concern and Barrier

We are continuously concerned about what happens to the body—about whether the body is comfortable or not, whether the body is getting what it wants or not. Is the body getting comfort and pleasure, or is it in pain? Is it secure from threat? Is this body liked or not liked? Is it thin or fat? Tall or short? All these are big concerns in our minds. Our deepest issues are based on physical concerns, rather than on concerns about whether we are loving, compassionate, or free. Even though we might have these latter concerns, they are not as fundamental as our involvement with our physical body and our physical world. The perspective which assumes the ultimate reality and value of the physical universe, to the exclusion of other dimensions of reality, is the source of the difficulties of the egoic mind. This perspective creates most of our suffering—the way we approach death, sickness and disease, pleasure and pain, issues of acceptance and rejection. In the course of our process of spiritual work, of discovering the true presence that we are, the basic identification with the physical body and the conviction in the physical world persists as an ongoing phenomenon, concern, and barrier.

Believing that the Physical Body is Who We Are

When you see how fundamental, how pervasive, how deep and entrenched your physical orientation is, you will notice that you don’t look at even your deep experiences from a total perspective. You look at them from the perspective of the body, from the physical perspective. Most of your issues arise from that perspective. When you feel that you are disappearing, what is it that is disappearing? Usually, it’s the image of your body You are terrified because you believe your physical body is the most important, fundamental, lasting real, fundamental, solid you. If that goes, you go. You don’t think, “I’m just seeing myself from a different place. My perception is detaching from the physical senses, and as a result, I am seeing something deeper than the physical.” If you do see it that way, you won’t feel that you are disappearing. You will be aware that you are not just seeing through your physical senses. Then there will be no fear, and no reason for the terror. So the source of the terror is our belief that the physical body is who we are—fundamentally and ultimately. Our whole society focuses on the physical world as the most fundamental reality. We believe that human beings are discrete objects in physical reality, and therefore, physical death is the end or disappearance of what a person is. However, reality does not exist in discrete objects except in the physical universe. When you penetrate the physical universe and you see what underlies it, you realize that there are no discrete objects. Reality is a oneness, a unity. When we are convinced of the oneness, the unity, we are not afraid of death.

Essence Has a Substantiality Similar to the Physical Body but in a Different Dimension

It is in the nature of physical space that it can coexist with the body. The body occupies a region of space, but this is not like the liquid in the bowl. The body does not displace space. The body and space overlap and occupy the same place. This is because they exist in different dimensions. Physical space and physical matter can occupy the same location because they are two different dimensions of existence. It is the same with essence and the body. Essence is within us just as space is within us. It is on a different dimension from the body. Essence is a different order of existence from the body, and it is in this sense that it is within us. Yet this analogy fails to do justice to the actual relationship between essence and the body. Because we usually think of space as a nonexistence, we find it easy to imagine space and the body coexisting in the same location. However, essence is not a nonexistence. It is not empty the way physical space is. It is, on the contrary, a fullness. It is something much more substantial than space. It has a substantiality similar to the physical body but in a different dimension. In fact, essence is experienced as a kind of a substance but on a different order of existence from physical matter.

If We Experience Our Body Without the Filter of Ordinary Knowledge . . .

In order to understand inquiry, what to inquire into, and what the point of inquiry is, we must understand how ordinary knowledge can thwart the unfoldment and distort the dynamism. Ordinary knowledge includes what we think about ourselves and reality, what we take ourselves and reality to be, what we think we want and don’t want. Anything we put in a conceptual framework is ordinary knowledge. So ordinary knowledge is old categories, information, beliefs, philosophies, ideologies, positions—whatever we believe we know and take to be truth. We ordinarily experience ourselves through the veil of this knowledge, such that our experience of ourselves and everything else is not an immediate, direct, free, spontaneous contact with what is. It is indirect and filtered through knowledge, and this filtering is largely what patterns the experience. The filter patterns experience to a degree we would be appalled to realize. For instance, our knowledge patterns our experience to the extent that we actually experience a physical reality. We end up believing that there is such a thing as physical reality and physical matter. In fact, we are completely convinced that physical reality is a fundamental truth. In objective reality, there is no such thing as the physical world that we know. If we experience our body without the filter of ordinary knowledge, we will not experience a physical body, we will experience a fluid patterning of luminosity. Our experience is so conditioned and determined, that not only do we believe we have and are a body, we believe in something more basic that underlies this belief: that the body is the body as we take it to be. For most people, this is absolutely true: The body is physical matter that is born and hurts and dies. From that point of view, how can we possibly think of it as a fluid patterning of luminosity? This is just an example, maybe a little extreme, to tell us how far the patterning of ordinary knowledge goes.

Inborn Potentials for All Human Beings

The embodied human consciousness has four spiritual centers that are necessary for life. They are inborn as potentials for all human beings, but they do not develop or activate without the correct attitude and practices. The first is the belly center, which has to do with the physical body and the embodiment of our presence. It is also the center responsible for action and movement. The second, the heart, in the center of the chest, is the seat of our feelings and the conduit of the love energy, sensitivity, and personal contact. Our mind is the third center, which is the discerning intelligence. The fourth center is located over the head and outside of the physical body. When the first three centers have opened and developed, and they function together in a balanced way, the fourth is ignited, which means that the conduit of the individual consciousness is awake to itself as Living Being manifesting in human form. It is said that when the fourth center opens, our real life has begun to be lived. When these four centers are developed and impregnated with presence, our individual consciousness becomes radiant and functionally refined. The Russian mystic George I. Gurdjieff uses the concept of three centers and refers to them as three brains. Each of these develops a certain way of processing information. Each center is an organ of perception and expression. As living organisms, we have heart, mind, and belly, which are all differentiations of our consciousness that are needed for being in the world. They arise in particular ways and are in varying degrees of development in each one of us. We become like a prism for the deepest secret to live its life, refracting the light in specific and individual expressions of that secret for worldly functioning. So you are the secret one living the secret life! Right in front of everyone! This is the condition of the complete human being who is fully in the world of time and space yet not of it. This is the one who is the living, breathing secret name of God.

Knowing that We are All Part of One Reality

Basic trust is the soul’s way of attuning to a fundamental law of reality, the fact that our sense of existing as a separate and isolated entity is false, that our ego experience of isolation and helplessness is an illusion based on identification with the world of physical manifestation. Knowing that we are all part of one reality means that our true nature is not defined by ego experience or the physical body and cannot be fundamentally hurt or destroyed. If the individual soul is in touch with this reality of nonseparateness, then it will reflect that by functioning in a way that expresses this knowledge. However, to someone who has lost touch with nonseparateness, the first person’s actions will appear trusting in a way that seems unjustifiable. Even to the conscious mind of the first person, her own actions may appear mysterious if she is not in touch with the experience of nonseparateness. For this reason, she can only feel that she simply trusts things will work out, but trusts so implicitly that she almost feels she knows. When the soul’s experience is consciously that of being a separate individual, it can only experience the contact with implicit nonseparateness as the sense of the benevolence of life, as basic trust.

Facets of Unity, pg. 24

Seeing the Physical Body as an Extension of the Personal Essence

This third way of perceiving the nature of everything as consciousness has many implications:

1. The manifestation of Cosmic Consciousness as a human being appears in the form of the Personal Essence. The Personal Essence is seen directly here to be the real individualization of Cosmic Consciousness. This is in contrast to the ego individuality which is cut off from everything else by its separating boundaries. It is obvious from this perception that the Personal Essence is the real human person, the true development, which is nothing but the individuation of the divine. This is what we feel Jesus Christ meant when he said that he is the son of God. It is the potential of every human being to realize himself as the son of God, which is the Personal Essence. The relationship of the Personal Essence to the Cosmic Consciousness will become even more clear when one goes completely beyond identity, as we will discuss shortly.

2. In this perception it becomes clear that the physical body is an external extension of the Personal Essence. This is in contrast to the ego individuality, which is an extension of the body. One experiences oneself as a continuity starting from the boundless conscious presence, individuating as the Personal Essence, and manifesting physically as the body.

3. The relationship between the Impersonal background and the Personal Essence is Love. The Impersonal becomes personal through Love, as an expression of Love. Universal Love is the continuum between the Impersonal and the personal, and hence, it partakes of both. Also, not only the personal, but all of existence is the expression of the Love of the Impersonal. All the forms in existence are but differentiations and discriminations from the basic substratum: the conscious presence.

The Sensitive Field of the Human Being is Conscious Beyond Our Physical Body

We also see and experience our body through the veils of the conventional. Our body defines our location, but we do not always experience it in the same way. When you have experiences of yourself in various conditions, you feel your body in different ways. Furthermore, your emotional or spiritual states often show you that something is happening that does not correspond with your physical body, but you do not always see the implications of your experience. For example, you can have experiences of being expansive—sometimes you even feel that your body is growing larger. You look down and say, “I feel like I’m out here beyond the physical boundaries . . . it’s not my body exactly . . . what is it?” You are having the perception that there is some kind of sensitive field that can expand beyond your body, that has experiences that aren’t the same shape as your body. Yet you continue to feel and act as though this body were all of what and who you are—even though you are having experiences to the contrary. So you continue to define yourself by how you appear at the most superficial level, rather than taking those glimmers from beyond very personally and very seriously, in the sense that they mean something and are telling you something. The question is, what? The sensitive field of the human being, which is a wave of the ocean of consciousness, is conscious beyond our physical body. We are a medium of aware and vibrant sensitivity, which is impressionable and usually patterned by our previous experiences. When we awaken to our nature, our experience changes. The new ways we experience ourselves challenge the old forms we have taken ourselves to be; we change into new forms and into formless realms of our nature as well.

The Soul Can Identify with Any Dimension of Experience

What is identity? As we saw in Chapter 2, one of the most significant characteristics of the soul is that it can identify with the content of experience. It can take any impression, for example self-image, and make itself believe that that impression is itself. It can also take a part of the psychological structure and believe it to be the whole of itself. Identifying with an impression or content of experience makes the self feel that it has an identity, and through this identity it then recognizes itself. Our personal history, constituted by our memories, comprises the basic content of our usual identity. This identification with the personal history provides a feeling of self-recognition, a sense of identity, or a sense of self. So in experiencing itself through the veil of memories, the soul not only loses sight of its primordial purity—its essence—but also identifies itself through and with this veil of personal history. The relationship between identity and identification will be discussed further in Chapters 10, 12 and 13. For now we will simply say that the soul can identify with any dimension of experience—presence, physical body, feelings and emotions, or impressions and images originating from the past. It can identify with its essential nature or with memories, or with specific parts of these memories, or with organized structures of these memories.4 So the experiential identity of the self can be essential presence—which is known in the present—or it can be another, more superficial, dimension of its experience, which is usually determined by the past.

Thinking of the Human Organism as the Confluence of a Physical Body, an Energy Body and the Soul

We have discussed the ground of Reality as comprising five dimensions of true nature. We can conceptualize Reality slightly differently, by taking into consideration some important differentiations and distinctions in manifest reality. We have discussed the manifest forms as if they are all of the same kind, or on the same level; but there are physical forms, mental forms, emotional forms, essential forms, and so on. It might be helpful to differentiate two significant categories and explore how they are related to true nature. We then can speak of two additional dimensions to Reality, the physical dimension and the dimension of energy. Reality then comprises seven dimensions, the five boundless dimensions of true nature and the dimensions of energy and physicality. We are not referring here to physical energy, which is part of the physical world. Rather, we mean the vital energy necessary for living forms, referred to in Sanskrit as prana or shakti. This differentiation is important because we can think of the human organism as the confluence of a physical body, an energy body (referred to sometimes as the astral body), and the soul which includes her essence. The energy body is the dimension of vital energy necessary for life; we can access it through the activation of the chakra system. This system of energetic centers uses the vital energy—prana or shakti—for its functioning, an energy that the organism partly acquires through the breath. It is this energy that yogic systems utilizing kundalini for their practices try to cultivate and direct. Kundalini is the name given to a reservoir of dormant energy, visualized as a serpent coiled in the first chakra at the perineum. By awakening the kundalini, the shakti is activated, which then rises up the spine activating and energizing the chakra centers. The chakra centers become doorways to deeper spiritual experiences and dimensions.

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