Friday, August 17, 2012

The True Nature of the Body: Guest Teaching by Ellen Emmet

WELCOME TO THE TWENTY-FOURTH EDITION OF OUR GUEST TEACHING SERIES.  Life here in Hut World, as I sometimes call this little hidden away apartment, has been a mite hectic of late.  I am, in fact, a day late in putting this post up, so for those of you who catch me--and Ellen!--I do apologize.  I got my dates mixed up, thinking this was an  "off " week when it's an "on" week.  If dear Mo hadn't written me to ask what was going on, I would have missed it by a week instead of a day.  Thank you, Mo!

IT'S THE FIRST TIME I'VE MISSED A DEADLINE, but it might not be the last.  I can't actually know.  It's easy to think, "I screwed up!  I made a mistake!"  And on one level, I certainly did.  Yet while I confess to a little burning about the cheeks, a knowing simultaneously arises that it's just fine, all is well, everything is going just as it should, and the only way that it can.  And "I" neither do, nor fail to do any of it.  Fredness does what it does.  I watch.

MY TIME HAS NOT BEEN SPENT IDLY.  My little book business has picked with the advent of college libraries opening their doors and coffers, so that's certainly been part of it.  I've also been doing the rewrite for my book, which is a lot more work than I had planned on.    Another consumer of my attention, however, has been the direct application of this no-teaching, by which I mean talking to people on the phone, and answering email.  Let me explain the no-teaching label.  I spent two hours on the phone yesterday with a woman who's been studying Nonduality for twelve years.  We'd set up an appointment to talk.  Before we really got started I asked her if she'd yet had a glimpse of her true nature.   "Not a thing," she ruefully reported.

A LITTLE OVER AN HOUR LATER, that was no longer true.  I got a little history, and then we talked, with little inquiries peppered throughout.  The going at first was slow, which is typical.  As we went further and further, I could hear in her voice that truth was slowly dawning on her.  This was a new thing for me.  I was used to having people experiencing something of a sharp, sudden bang.  This glimpse at least appeared to me to move in slowly, more like water seeping into a washrag.  Somewhere a line was crossed, but I didn't hear it, and I don't know if she could point to it.  Nonetheless, a "growing knowing" arose on the other end of the line, and deepened further as we talked on.  I was talking to Myself, and I was knowingly conscious on both ends of the phone line.
THERE IS SO MUCH BALLYHOO about explosive awakenings, that we can miss enlightenment itself, and fall in love with the candy that's a byproduct of it.  It was like that for me for a while.  The great blessing for my friend is that this didn't happen yesterday, and even if it happens later, it'll just be a spiritual experience to enjoy.  She won't confuse it with what's really important--seeing our True Nature.  Or, more accurately, as my friend told me toward the end of our conversation, "You can only be it."  Perfect.  Those are the magic words.

WE GET A BIG BANG WHEN WE DO.  We don't when we don't.  For those of you apparently striving for enlightenment, I get it.  I did, too.  For years.  But let's try not to pre-invent the method of its arrival.  Whichever way it comes, the one thing I'm sure of is that it won't be what you're expecting.

WHEN OUR PHONE CONVERSATION WAS AT AN END, I asked my new friend precisely what she felt like I had taught her.  "Nothing," she said.  Perfect.  Those, too, are the magic words.  I couldn't teach her what she always already is.   All I did was help her see through some of her misunderstanding so that genuine understanding was exposed, which allowed for the recognition of her Being.  Hence the label, no-teaching, which makes me, I guess, a no-teacher.  I like the sound of that.  There's not a lot of room for egoic rebuilding around a claim to having an inability to teach something.

ELLEN EMMET is a healer, first and foremost, which we'll learn more about as we get into her post.  She has blessed us mightily by agreeing to be our guest teacher this week.  She is a complete joy to correspond with.  Ellen was born in New York City, but lived in and was schooled in Paris.  She is charming and warm, and a sense of delight somehow pours through.  She is, among other things, a Nondual yoga teacher, which is what brings her to us.  That makes for a deliciously different sort of column for us here.  Hurrah!  I love seeing This from all sorts of different angles.  Ellen has just finished an Omega Institute retreat with her husband, Rupert Spira.  I've already heard great things about that retreat.  

ELLEN OFTEN TRAVELS WITH RUPERT, offering yoga sessions in the mornings at Rupert's retreats, and making herself available to talk with participants throughout the week.  When they're not traveling, they live and teach in Oxford, England.  Ellen will be presenting her teaching at the Fall 2012 Science & Nonduality Conference, as she did in Holland this past spring.  She has a brand new website, up just this week, she's starting to pop up regularly on the web and she is truly coming into her own.  There is a link below to a terrific interview with her by Matt King, on a site I much admire, Nonduality America, and another good one by our friends at Conscious TV.

I'VE DONE YOGA, AND I'VE DONE A LOT OF INQUIRY pertaining to the body in order to quell the sense of identification with it, but I've never participated in anything like the sessions Ellen leads.  I surely would love to.  When I read what she has to say, I can see the potential for deep and far-reaching benefits.  Her Nondual teacher, Francis Lucille, whom I adore, apparently does a lot of work with the body, though I can claim to know only a little about it.  Ellen has master's degrees in both Dance Therapy and Transpersonal Psychology, among her other credentials.  

I THINK IT'S FASCINATING THAT ELLEN also works with clients who are not coming to her specifically for that practice.  She is, after all, a movement therapist available to heal all types of suffering, from physical to existential.  She says those (non-nondual?) clients often intuit an openness, and I suspect a love, that underlies their therapy with her, and Truth will sometimes present itself.  Truth has presented itself here, in Ellen's post, I'm sure of that.  

AND NOW. . .

The True Nature of the Body
Ellen Emmet 
“Whether or not this profound experiential exploration of the body takes place before so-called awakening or after so-called awakening makes no difference.  The exploration has to be done at some stage if we want our understanding to be fully realized at the level of the body and the world, not just the level of the mind.”
~Rupert Spira


All of us who come to Awakening Clarity share a great love and interest in our true nature.  Our heart and our mind deeply resonate with the understanding that we are unlimited, open, universal, infinite, divine and ever-present Awareness.

Furthermore, we all know or remember moments of happiness and peace, during which our body is transparent, joyful and highly sensitive, harmonizing with the invisible substance of peace and happiness itself.

In these moments the conceptual belief in separation is absent along with the felt experience of a physical, solid, limited and located body. The body resonates and vibrates naturally and effortlessly with its source. It is experienced in line with its natural state of transparency, weightlessness, flow and expansion. Its music is pure openness, spaciousness and love.

The conditioned body

However, for many of us most of the time, this understanding is not established at the level of feeling and sensation.

The felt experience of our self has been distorted by decades of  “I,”  “you,” ”mine” and ”yours,” endlessly projected onto our body-mind by parents, teachers, peers and culture in a self-perpetuating, collective and subconscious conspiracy of ignorance.

Consequently, our body is conditioned to mirror the belief that we are a limited and individual awareness, separate from the whole. It becomes the physical anchor and expression for this deep-rooted illusion that “I” am a physical body apart from all other bodies and the world.

As far back as we can remember we have been taught to interpret sensations such as hunger, pain or pleasure, feelings such as sadness, fear or joy and thoughts, whatever they may be, as happening “inside me,” an individual physical form. Thus,: “I/my body am hungry, tired or relaxed;” “I/my body am angry, sad, afraid or happy;” “I/my body am thinking, standing, sitting, sleeping or waking;” “I/my body was born and will die.”

Feelings and sensations inside the body are experienced as intimate, alive and unquestionably personal, while other perceptions such as touch, sights and sounds seem to refer to objects thatbelong to a world that is apparently separate and outside of myself. Some of these objects like I/my body are thought and felt to be human or animal with their own separate awareness, other objects like plants are thought and felt to be living organic things and yet others like chairs, tables, the space all around and even the earth under our feet are thought and felt to be dead inert matter.

I/my body becomes a repetitive set of psychosomatic habits designed to perpetuate the projected image that seems to operate at its centre. Its dynamism is ruled by the restrictive impulse to protect and defend itself. With the passage of time and the help of memory, I/my body claims its individual story, its preferences, its attractions, its aversions and its overall personal identity.

And thus the real “I” that is pure open, undivided Awareness appears to be confined, limited and fragmented. Meanwhile, the body’s harmonious and natural functioning seems to be compromised by an unnatural, complicated and in the end impossible mission.

Exploring the body as well as the mind

Both activities of investigating the mind and exploring the body are sacred and natural.  Neither come from a person. They come from this Presence and are the beautiful gesturing of this Presence back towards Itself.

During satsangs, in non-dual meetings or when we read books on non-duality, we explore our unfounded conceptual belief in being a separate limited Awareness. With silence as our reference, we submit the rational instrument of our mind to the pure light of intelligence that is its source and substance.  This level of investigation includes conversation and questions and answer. It is deeply experiential at the level of thinking and reverberates throughout our whole being.

During the yoga of non-duality sessions, we explore the unfounded feeling of separation at the level of the body.  With openness as our ground, we use sensing, tactile explorations, visualizations, postures, movements and breathing and submit the sensitivity of our body to this pure openness. We allow the felt belief in separation that lives as crystallized energy in the cellular, muscular, skeletal, lymphatic and nervous systems of the body to be experienced directly. In time, this allows a gentle and natural realignment with the felt understanding that the body’s true nature and substance is this very openness.

This second level of exploration is mostly overlooked in contemporary non-dual teaching.  For in a culture that favours analytical thinking and conceptualising we are more readily conditioned to examine our experience using our mind rather than a less rational, directly tactile, sensate approach. Yet the body-mind can only be fully re-orchestrated by this understanding when all layers of unseen identification have been fully allowed to surface and to be seen in the light of Awareness. 

How do I engage in this exploration?

‘I open myself to Presence. Heart, body and mind turned towards this open, limitless, luminous space. This Presence is pure welcoming.  It is like the vast blue sky, allowing each cloud to appear, unfold and dissolve within Itself.  This Presence is what I long for the most until I recognize that it is my true nature, what I always and only am.

To begin with, we come to kneel at the altar of Presence. We come as open as possible allowing our love and longing for the truth to prepare our minds, our bodies and our hearts. And we open to the possibility that what we are, here and now, is this very Presence that we are turning towards, unlimited, open, universal and divine.

Unlike most conventional yoga practices, these non-dual body sessions are not focused on states of the body, states of energy or vibration.  They are not meant to point towards something or to achieve a goal.  We are not meant to leave a session feeling more expanded, relaxed, aligned or flexible. These sessions are sacred and draw us back towards no-thing, just the empty transparent truth of what we always and only are.
‘I taste my body directly as if I had never known it before, utterly fresh and new. I am open and innocent like a baby in her cradle, fully awake and sensitive.

A flow of cool air through my nostrils, my belly moving up and down, my weight melting into the ground, tingling in my palms, pressure behind my eyes... My body is a river of sensations flowing in pure sensitivity and openness.’ 

Having established Presence, we begin to listen to our experience of the body directly without the usual mediation of a concept, memory or image. We take our time, descending below the threshold of rational experience, allowing thought to relax into the background and opening to the flow of tactile sensation that is our actual bodily experience. We are invited to truly see and feel that the body is a patchwork of sensations flowing through myself, this open sensitive limitless space of Presence, as does everything else.

‘The body flows through me, reflects me, resembles me, sings me, is made of me. Sensations and myself are inseparable. My body’s invisible substance is myself.’

As we continue our investigation, we see that in truth we cannot say that a sensation appears in my body, just as a sound does not appear in the world and a thought does not appear in my head. We see rather that sensation, sound and thought all appear in my self without any separate or individual existence of a body, a world or a mind.

We realize that like the sounds that we perceive and the thoughts that we think, bodily sensations are subtle in nature. They are not solid or tangible and cannot be held or measured. They are like waves appearing in myself and made of my own invisible substance. And so we come to know that the very substance of a sensation is the openness that I am.

‘I feel the areas where head, back, arms, pelvis, legs and earth are meeting and I open myself to the tactile sensation. I am invited to patiently and persistently surrender the weight of my body into the earth.  Can I feel that the earth is alive and friendly under me? Can I truly experience that it is safe and natural to let go, and that ultimately earth and body are made of myself.

Now I sense the surface of my whole body, skin, air, clothes, and invite that sensation to expand into the space all around and to be light as a cloud floating in openness. This open space is alive, inherently welcoming and cradling my body in its transparent support…’

By creating and simultaneously holding on to the feeling of bodily weight we successfully and subconsciously manufacture the sensation that we are made of solid matter, separate from earth and space.

In the beginning, as we attempt to release the weight into gravity, or expand the global sensation of the body into the surrounding space, we encounter unpleasant sensations that seem to oppose this knowing of ourselves as pure openness.  We experience sensations of being solid, heavy and compact, or sensations of being limited and separate from the earth or the space all around. With this unpleasant quality, the process of letting go seems effortful. But if we persevere gently and courageously, it is soon understood that the real effort is, in fact, the subconscious energy that it takes in order to create and maintain this sense of density and limitation.

In time, our feeling of being a tangible, solid, well-defined object melts away. The body loses its well-defined contour, its heaviness and its repetitive mechanical qualities. Its natural intimacy with earth and space is recovered. Energy is once again free to grow roots, to seep up, to rise and expand, to melt and to gather, to dissolve and arise again, according to the natural laws of the universe.

‘Yes, I see that the body has no borders and no centre that I can touch.  Yes, it’s true I cannot find where the sensation called ‘my body’ becomes the sensation called ‘the earth.’ And yes, the space all around is alive, open, friendly and permeates sensation. The body naturally expands into it. My body/space, my earth/body!

But there are still these persistent sensations and feelings that seem to locate me here inside this cage, as this body…’

During the sessions we encounter familiar and intimate sensations of being located inside a body-part as a thinker, a feeler, a mover, a doer. We face feeling states that express the victim, the bully or anything that we may have identified with, along with all the conditioned habits of collapse, need, defense, inflation, pride and aggression.

Furthermore, as we allow deeper layers to surface, we encounter raw feelings of lack, insecurity and fear that are lodged deep inside the tissue and somatic chains of the body.

If I feel chronically insecure for example, this triggers certain physical mechanisms such as a protective posture or an attitude of submission. An active sense of anxiety may find its roots in a deep fear of disappearance and is often anchored in habits of shallow breathing, rigidity of the spine or tightly held shoulders.

I may experience a recurrent sense of lack within, which comes with habits of grasping, agitationand boredom, all of which when explored more deeply are revealed to be sensations that seem to locate me inside the body.

For most of us these habits have become subconscious, chronic and either so habitual that they are no longer felt, or so intimate that they are taken for granted as myself.

During these sessions, we become familiar with all these feelings and sensations that prevent the natural flow of energy. We do not reject them, but rather welcome them as they surface and allow them to blossom, experiencing them directly.

We have no agenda with them but remain open, loving, listening yet indifferent to the story embedded within them. In a very gentle way, we realize that this openness and allowing is and has always been our very nature. No effort is necessary. We abide as this openness.

In this open contemplation comes a spontaneous cooperation at the level of the body, as if each sensation willingly offers itself back to Presence. Naturally and effortlessly, the me-ness that suffused the sensation dissolves back into the universal, transparent, un-located and ever-present Me.

‘Movement appears in the openness… a barely visible trace in the empty aware space. There is no mover, no origin no destination, just this transparent gesture permeated with stillness…

Breathing appears in this openness… but there is no longer a breather. Just wave after wave of gentle, even breath, born in Presence, made of Presence and dying into Presence.’

We explore movements, postures, visualizations and the breath. These are gentle opportunities to realign the feeling/sensing/moving modes with our newfound infinite and transparent identity.
We evoke movements without a mover and explore the innate qualities of fluidity, weightlessness, transparency and sweetness. We invite gestures with no origin or destination, a breath that requires no pushing or grasping.

We visualize an expanded body made of transparent space that naturally extends into the limitless space all around and we contemplate it as it grows in all directions, to gradually fill the room, the garden outside and the entire universe.

We sense the physical eyes, ears, nose and mouth and allow all the habits of grasping, reaching, averting, preferring and defending associated with a “me-in-here” perceiving a “world-out-there” to be revealed. Referring to our direct tactile experience, we establish that sights, sounds, smells or tastes all appear in this sensitive, receptive and limitless openness.

And all along we patiently and courageously face the contractions, resistances and old habits of feeling oneself as a limited mover, a located perceiver or a contracted breather and allow them to surface and to be seen. Gradually, as we establish ourselves in our only true identity, these residual habits are emptied of their dynamism and lose their momentum.

‘The body is expanded to the size of the universe and contains all things tangible and intangible in its heart. Nothing is external to it. We all have this body of joy, this awakened body, this body of universal welcoming. We are all complete, with no missing parts. Only explore your kingdom and take possession of it knowingly.’ Francis Lucille

When we explore our body deeply like this, we re-discover that its very substance is pure openness, limitlessness and joy. We allow the free flow of energies, whole, complete, expanded, easeful, open and loving, the very breath of being.  The body has been made sacred.  We begin to knowingly live there…

Copyright 2012, Ellen Emmet
All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

Nonduality America:

With Gail Brenner: (I had difficulty with this link on Firefox, but it worked fine for me on Internet Explorer.)


HOUSEKEEPING NOTES: Be sure to join us on on August 31, when we'll have Jeff Foster as our guest.  Mo, help me stay on point, please!