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Posture

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Quotes about Posture

A Softer Heart and a Less Defended Posture are Attributes of Love Coming Through Our Physical Expression

Love is the most real thing that many people ever experience. It is usually called to mind as a distant memory, and then it becomes what we call emotional love. But even in the experience of emotional love, we can tell when we like somebody or we don’t like somebody. There remains a knowing of some kind. Something happens in the heart. And our body language shows it. One can become more held in and held back when the energetic contraction of dislike exhibits itself. You can notice that the chest is more caved in or protected. In contrast, liking and loving offer up more and more generous movement and openness. As you lean slightly toward another, perhaps the chest softens and the arms release their protective armor. A softer heart and a less defended posture are attributes of love coming through our physical expression. There is a natural moving toward, in every way. And almost a glowing. 

Any Defensive Quality or Posture in the Mind Must be Reflected in the Organism as Tension or Contraction

There is another, less obvious reason the ego is bound to live in frustration and suffering. We have seen that identification systems, by their very nature, tend to resist Being, and that they always involve some defensive function; further, any defensive quality or posture in the mind must be reflected in the organism as tension or contraction. We have described this either as a thickness in the case of defense, or a lighter dullness like a rubber cloud, in the case of pure identifications. But this thickness, which can become hardness, and the dullness, are nothing but states of contraction in the organism, basically in the nervous system. Thus the core of the thickness or dullness of all the defense mechanisms of ego must be the negative-merging affect. This thickness is the dull coating we have discussed in relation to the feeling of frustration. Thus all identification systems are reflected in the nervous system as the negative-merging affect. So the negative-merging affect forms not only the core of negative identifications that are based on negative merging, but also the core of what are usually considered positive identifications. The wider implication is that the experiential core of the ego is the negative-merging affect, pure suffering. Again we see the truth of Buddha’s first noble truth, this time from the perspective of psychology. 

Beholding the Soul with Total Objectivity Without the Slightest Subjective Posture or Position

In other words, if we investigate what the final essence of the soul is, the essence beyond particular manifestations, we find it to be this presence of pure consciousness. Therefore, we refer to this presence of pure consciousness as essence, meaning the essence of the soul. So essence is the ultimate ground of the soul, her final nature, her absolute purity. We also refer to it as the true nature of the soul, meaning that if we investigate our soul and are able to penetrate all of our beliefs and prejudices about her, and are able to behold her with total objectivity, without the slightest subjective posture or position, without any obscurations or veils, we find her as this essence, which is presence. Essence and true nature are the same thing, but viewed from different perspectives: when we view the ultimate and simplest ground of the soul from the perspective of its most basic constituency we refer to it as essence, just as the essence of water is H2O molecules; and when we view it from the perspective of its final and most naked truth we refer to it as true nature.

Distortions of Body-Image

We see, therefore, that the experience of space corrects the distortions of body-image. The perception of the body, both from outside and inside, becomes objective. Space seems to allow objective perception. In terms of physical reality, it removes distortion. This is the reason that when an individual experiences space while retaining unconscious distortions of body-image, distortions in the perception of physical reality result that are sometimes experienced as spatial hallucinations or disturbances in the perception of body balance. We believe these distortions can be analyzed and seen as the result of body-image distortions pushing toward consciousness, but compounded with the effects of defenses against them. Some experience their bodies as twisted one way or another, or experience a distortion in the proportions of different parts of the body, or experience their posture as different from what it is. What is really happening in those instances—and they do occur in sessions of psychotherapy, especially in body-oriented therapies—is a readjustment in the self-image that is only partially conscious. These distortions of body-image happen in the beginning experience of space, when the person is still burdened with many unconscious distortions in body image and the affects associated with them. What actually happens is that the appearance of space challenges and brings to consciousness the various unconscious distortions of body-image all at once. But the individual, for reasons of defense, cannot tolerate seeing all these distortions, so he experiences only a sense of distortion or disorientation that is not specific enough to clarify the self-image or the affective components associated with the specific distortions. 

The Void, pg. 47

Freedom of the Body

Now, we cannot say one of these postures is healthier, better, or more balanced than the others. If we do, we are only showing our ignorance and prejudice toward one aspect of essence over another. We cannot take one posture that is characteristic of a certain state, regardless of how healthy and balanced it is, and try to impose it on the body regardless of what essential state it is in. This will only predispose the body toward this particular state and eliminate the further expansion of many other states that are just as valid and healthy. From this perspective we see that the best conditions for the body are resilience and flexibility. It is not a matter of a certain structure, alignment, or skill but of flexibility and openness, the absence of restricting contractions. The ideal condition is that the body can freely accommodate and express in its postures the essence in its various states and conditions. This is the freedom of the body. This freedom cannot be known unless the essence is there, embodied, present in our bodies. When this happens, then our posture and our movements radiate out from the presence of essence and are not determined by any programming coming from within or from without. This is the true freedom, joy, and pleasure of the body.  

No Particular Posture or Alignment Fits All People at All Times

In the case of systems of posture, it is easy to see that there is no particular posture or alignment that fits all people at all times. The posture assumed by the body when the essential aspect of merging love is present is very different from the posture spontaneously assumed when the essential aspect of expansive peace is present. Different yet is the posture assumed when solid will is present. The physical postures and movements are different in these three cases. The center of presence and contact is concentrated more in the heart for the first, in the head for the second, and in the belly for the third. Of course, all of the body is involved, but the center of experience is different in each case. In the first case, that of the heart center, the body has a more humble posture. The posture of majesty and grandeur is characteristic of expansive peace. When will is present, the body is and moves like a mountain, solid and grounded. Now, we cannot say one of these postures is healthier, better, or more balanced than the others. If we do, we are only showing our ignorance and prejudice toward one aspect of essence over another. We cannot take one posture that is characteristic of a certain state, regardless of how healthy and balanced it is, and try to impose it on the body regardless of what essential state it is in. This will only predispose the body toward this particular state and eliminate the further expansion of many other states that are just as valid and healthy. 

Posture of Deficiency

Let us look at the nature of ignoble suffering from the perspective of Essence. Suffering always arises when you are out of contact with Essence or seeking something other than Essence. If you value anything—husbands, wives, children, girlfriends, parents, jobs, money, sports, cars, anything at all —over what is true in you, there is suffering. Automatically, that movement outwards (seeking satisfaction from external reality) wounds you. It is a wound to your heart. It is not that the factors of our external lives or our human desires are antithetical to our Work. Like everything else, they can be respected and understood for what they are. But if they come before Essence, there will be suffering, pain, frustration, and anger. It is important to understand this; it is not easy to see things this way. When we begin to work on ourselves and to know our essence, we are usually not doing it for the sake of Essence itself, but with hopes for getting this or that—to become more beautiful, more loving, more “spiritual,” to get people to like us. You might believe that if you develop your essence, you’ll get a better mate or have more money. If you’re working from that perspective, who’s doing it? Who’s acting? It’s not Essence. It’s your unconscious, so it will automatically bring suffering. The posture itself is a posture of deficiency, which is always a posture of pain. The body will automatically contract, be wounded. It will lose its joy and happiness. 

The Posture of Ego, of Identification with Our History, Implies Resistance

The moment we take the posture of ego, of identification with our history, it implies resistance. There is no such thing as ego with no resistance, and the ultimate resistance is the resistance to simply being, the resistance to our True Nature. And that’s because ego is always trying to do one thing or another, and True Nature isn’t doing anything. It just is. It is nature. It is luminous presence. The nature of ego itself is an ongoing resistance to what is. Even just manifesting as ego implies that we are resisting our nature, because if we didn’t resist our nature we would instantly be our nature. So, the fact that we are not experiencing ourselves as our True Nature, the fact that we are not this spacious presence, implies resistance. The resistance can be quite subtle, and of course, there are many reasons for it. It might be that we don’t believe that we are our True Nature. We believe instead that who we are is the one who is resisting, and we are attempting to preserve our identity. It might be that allowing ourselves to feel our True Nature would threaten us too much by bringing all kinds of vulnerabilities, fears, or insecurities into the open. In fact, truly being is a kind of death. I talk about things such as resistance and how to be allowing, but to really be without resistance means ego death, ultimately.

When Ego Ceases Its Defensive Posture Completely, then Being Acts

So first the ego, which is needed for knowledge and functioning, develops; then the capacity for discriminating knowledge, among other things, leads to the dissolution of the ego. The final result is the life of Being, including the development of functioning within the realm of Being. This interdependence between ego and Being can also be seen in the process of inner metabolism. Ego on its own cannot complete the metabolism of experience and hence cannot bring about complete human development; Being is needed for this process to take place. On the other hand, Being cannot accomplish on its own the whole process of metabolism; it cannot dislodge ego when ego is defensive. From the perspective of the mind, Being can be resisted easily with a slight movement of ego; thus ego must first cooperate by relinquishing its defensive posture. It is up to ego to cease resisting. When it ceases its defensive posture completely, then Being acts. This is an important understanding for methods of inner realization. The work on purifying or understanding ego will not lead, by itself, to transformation. Being by itself cannot do it either. The work must be done from both directions—the letting go of ego defenses and the development of Essence. 

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