Thursday Betwixt – Becoming Self

Photo by Beatrice Murch @ flickrFirst off, thank you for the enormous support and comments on the Betwixt series.  I’ve gotten so much feedback, praise, and insights, and I’m grateful for your thoughts.

In this series, we’ve talked about  how vital it is to incorporate the ecstatic experience into the everyday, if both are to evolve. We’ve covered how the relationship with Spirit Guides must serve as inspiration for self-initiated exploration and healing. Allowing our own insight to guide us was a powerful topic, as were learning to call on the unnameable ally, and how western folks can better approach working with ancestors. In this instance, I’d like to explore how we connect with All Things through the body.

There is an assumption that when we discuss anything spiritual, we’re automatically referring to something beyond the body layer. One of the greatest omissions of New Age “wisdom” has been that of the body. We’ve heralded amazing techniques that teach us to be more mindful and guide us down our spiritual paths,but the body as innately spiritual has been overlooked.We tend to separate approaches to wellbeing into Mind-Body-Soul, as if they are actually separate. We take care of the body (?), we feed it, we give it exercise, though we don’t generally hold the perspective that the body is spiritual. We consider it the vessel of what is spiritual. The thing that New Age dogma hasn’t thoroughly addressed is that the body is the constant through which we experience everything. Without its health, its neurotransmitters, its processing ability, what we intuit has no meaning, certainly no application. It’s more than the temple.

Most of our mindfulness and ecstatic exercises to bolster the mind and soul lead us out of the body. And frankly, many masters of such techniques teach them as such, as if observing life beyond the body fixes everything. It most definitely can expand our understanding of a great many things, though unless we can ground that information back into the vessel housing us, unless we can interpret that ecstatic trip in a way that better grounds our physical reality, trance isn’t worth much.

The reality is, the body is Nature. It’s wild, and it’s already connected to All Things, that is every living thing in Nature and beyond. Cosmology isn’t out there. It’s in our cells, and always has been. We don’t have to journey out to get that.  In fact, only ever journeying out is missing a vital component permanently residing within: the body doesn’t have a relationship to the soul. The body is the soul.  The ability of our body to know this isn’t broken. It didn’t fall, it didn’t disconnect. It’s always been there. All we have to do is remember that fact. We have to learn to witness through it, and develop our unique system of understanding what its information is telling us.

My clients and students often joke about needing an owner’s manual for being human, for getting through the human experience. In reality, that’s what the body is. It’s the perfect system of feedback for our choices, discerning our truth, our health. How, then do we allow the body to become the divining rod? How do we become the fully sentient, between-worlds being we were meant to be? Most of us don’t recognize when we’re fully, deeply in our body. We don’t know how to get there. We want to know our life purpose, the best use of our innate skills, and to help all of cosmology better itself, yet we don’t know how to seat into our own bodies to tend ourselves.

Sometimes changing only a very small part of our ecstatic process produces dramatically altering results. Learning to go more deeply into the body’s wisdom doesn’t have to be any more detailed than that. For instance, take a skill already known, such as shapeshifting, something we all learn fairly early in shamanic education, a skill we generally use to connect with some ally outside ourselves, and apply it to the body. We shapeshift into animals trees, rocks, elements, plants…  Shapeshift into ourselves!

  • In a quiet space (preferably outdoors), close your eyes and alter your breath so that your inhale is more deeply than usual, your exhale more prolonged. Stay with this style of breathing.
  • When breathing in this way is comfortable, bring your awareness to the sensations of being precisely where you are. Notice the effect of the atmosphere on your body. Is it cold/hot? Gentle/abrasive? It’s okay that as you take in your body’s observation of the space around you, that the influence of Nature becomes more pronounced. Your body is at home. It’s natural for it to take in its surroundings.
  • Move as you feel led. If song comes up, sing it to the sounds around you. Engage the elements as they support your body.
  • As you allow your awareness of the space and your body’s interpretation of it, ask your body to fully engage with your mind, your senses. Release thought. Bless it, then let it go. Release programmed response, movement, utterance. The same way that you allow a strange animal, plant, element, or guide to shapeshift into your form, allow your body to take full command of every faculty you can offer.
  • Stay with this process of allowing only the body’s dialogue. Interact with it as feels right for you.
  • When you feel ready, bring the focus back to breathing, and awareness back to the space around you.
  • Open your eyes, and observe who looks out of them.

Maybe each time we shapeshift into ourselves, the same sense of self comes. Perhaps a new one does. It doesn’t matter, because we are infinite. The more we come into our body’s experience of soul, the more we live no division, the more we learn the body as ancestor to everywhere we’ve been, and everywhere we’re going.