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Buddhadharma : Winter 2013
WINTER 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 55 Am I My Body? It’s a day heavy with clouds and humidity. You feel it as you walk through the meadows, wetness penetrating shoes and socks—you feel wet and cold on your toes. Grasses sparkle with moisture, with translucent droplets of pearl. These grasses! It never grows tiresome to look at them, all the varied colors and shapes and their graceful move- ments in the wind. Today I walked down into the lower meadow, the tops of blades full with yellow seeds. Some were tall enough to touch the clouds! Couldn’t go far since the feet were hurting badly—I had to limp along the mowed path, feeling a bit foolish. I’m saying this so you need not ask me, “What’s the matter with your feet?” Right now they are happily resting on a stool—burning, yet thankful for the cooling air. Discomfort is passing. That’s the amazing thing about all the different states of body-mind: They pass. They come. They go. Some of them linger, but they will change eventu- ally. The art of living is not to make stories about any of them, because stories linger longer than the states they’re describing. Much longer. For centuries sometimes. People often affirm what we read in tradi- tional texts from the East: “I am not my body.” “You are not your body!” It can be beneficial to use those words like a mantra worth repeating when one is strongly identified with “my” hurt- ing body, painfully worried about it. It can be helpful when a set of fresh words replaces worn- out, depressing phrases. Does it bring about some relief to hear, “You’re not your body”? Up to a point, yes. But it only goes so far, since a voice immediately replies, “It does feel that I am my body! These are ‘my’ aching feet, not yours. It definitely feels that I am the owner of this body, no one else.” So, then, what do we mean by this “I,” and what about this ownership? Are we willing to inquire deeply into this? Watching the state of mind, the effect of the words upon the organism when we say, “I am in pain,” “It’s my body,” “You’re hurting me,” or when we (deliberately at first) leave out these powerful words and simply describe what is going on? Like “Right now there is pain in the feet” or “It really hurts when you say those words.” We can wisely admonish others and ourselves: “Don’t be identified with your body.” But what does that mean? Try not to settle superficially for the words but ask what they really point to, so we can understand each other more deeply. Don’t just accept what Toni is saying. Question it. We can question together. From The Silent Question Nothing Spectacular There is the wind, the sound of rustling leaves, the brightness of the room, the breathing, the color of the wooden floor, the hands resting, the heart beating. There is saliva gathering in the mouth, and the swallowing of it. What’s so hard about being in touch with what is real, with what is actually here in this moment, unspectacular though it may be? Is this one of our problems? That to be in touch with reality we expect something spectacu- lar, something out of the ordinary? So we fail to be with our feet on the most ordinary grounds, a soggy path or a wooden floor, a rug? Last night in the meeting room there was a lamp on the table, and just beneath it is a small plant with the greenest of leaves, like tongues unfolding out of the little pot, and a few red flowers, as red as red can be, with yellow dots inside. That simple. Can we see it and not expect this to do something for us? Can we just see it, hear it, feel it completely? At the same time there is the breathing, the sound of the wind, the ticking of a clock, and the beating of the heart. A feeling of uncertainty or calm may also be there. The entire universe is there—the wonder of it, not the concept. Just the air, the ground, the sky, the night, the stars, and the lights of Springwater. From The Light of Discovery All book excerpts courtesy of Shambhala Publications