Body, Soul and Spirit 1: Modes of being alive

This is the very first installment of what I hope will become a Body, Soul and Spirit series of posts that will meander around most of the topics that keep fascinating me since a while.

Starting with a meeting with a great and lovely man in Basel, Switzerland who remembers a long line of incarnations in a, for me, absolutely credible way and context, I’ve started to reconsider most – and in the end probably all – of my convictions connected with body, soul, spirit, consciousness, life and what, who and why we are. (In my hippie-days Death used to be a more or less constant companion, and now s/he is in a new way, faced with the endingness of individual life a couple of times recently. This surely also plays a role: a renewed fascination with each night’s fading of awareness and the life of dreams, and the reappearance of more or less the same person in consciousness upon waking up…)

I will not be very philosophical, in the usual sense of that word, about this, even though I’m in love (philo) with wisdom (Sophia). This inquiry is also very personal, anecdotal and hopefully at times poetical. I might also rave and be full of pathos for something or other… we’ll see. What’ll be my guide, or should I say guides?, are my fascinations with what appears in the theater of what it is to be ‘me’. I could, of course, also call it the arena or the clearing – that space in which matters, things, imaginations, illusions and the real alight; what we ordinarily call consciousness, that mode of being alife that ever eludes our grip of understanding; trying to understand consciousness is as if the eye were trying to see itself, when the best it can do is see itself reflected in a mirror.

Modes of being alive

Being conscious, aware; being taken; in a pensive mood, reflecting on important and not so important, but urgent matters; reverie; witnessing, choiceless awareness; in the flow, totally immersed in sensual immediacy… many of the possible modes of being alive, and some of them mutually exclusive. When, for instance, I’m in a reflective mode – and mood, as often I am these days – I can’t really witness being reflective more than generally, can’t reflect and be choicelessly aware and without judgement at the same time. Isn’t reflecting closely considering a matter, the way the soul participates in life for instance, and looking what this means, what are the concepts being nourished on soul and what are relevant experiences, and what have interesting persons said about this matter? Witnessing this reflection I wouldn’t follow one thread or another but rather I’d let them all unfold as they please as, also, sensations of breath come up and unfold and whatever else unfolds or pops up in consciousness. Witnessing is mostly passive, and only active in extracting oneself from being caught up in any of the phenomena that are witnessed.

adi_da_samraj2Certainly, when in a deeply enlightened mode of awareness, everything can be done or not done – but then there is no witness, no anyone, and, really it is so beyond anything that means something to me as human that I’m not really interested in ‘getting there’ again. Also, those that are supposed to be there – claiming it for themselves or others claiming it on their behalf, the followers or disciples – do not have any characteristics that seems truly valuable; on the contrary, there seems to be an atmosphere of megalomania around them, an air of absolute altitude, an assumed divinity that unpacks as utterly undesirable social context. The unresolved power-issues around that mode of aliveness in our day and age – enlightened teachers abusing their students – are such that however true and beautiful that mode is from the inside of it, it is best left alone.

On the other side of the spectrum, or so it seems, is flow, a mode of being alive that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has made popular; flow as total immersion into what you’re doing. In sports it’s been called ‘being in the zone’. Witnessing could be said to be transcendent to everything that appears and flow as being totally immanent – you’re totally in it. You can witness the flow of events but then you’re not in the flow because being in the flow collapses any kind of witnessing as activity that plays a role, even though there is a particular kind of awareness available. But it’s more that the awareness of it is part of the flow as a whole than that the flow would happen within consciousness. For me this happens in dancing with closed eyes, easily, or in something called body-flow, where the body can just do what it feels like doing… It’s mostly a very sensual experience, being in a physical sensing mode.

Seems I had to do some explaining to come to the main dish I’m serving here which is that these modes of being alive are in a very large sense mutually exclusive. We are polymorphs, being with many (poly) forms (morphe) and – something I might pursuit at a later time – maybe there is really no unity below all this; although there is the idea that “Isness” – a German term coming from Meister Eckhart, “Istigkeit” – would describe that essential unity, something Mister Tolle calls The Power of Now. Nevertheless we cannot both be in the flow and witnessing at the same time. We could do that in a team, with a third friend then reflecting on what we’re doing, you in the flow, me being choicelessly aware of all this. Which brings me to another very mysterious mode of being that I’ve been blessed to participate in at times: the mode of we-fullness, as I keep calling it, the mode of being with others in such a way that you are deeply convinced and experience yourself to partake of a collective being, the ‘circle-being’ , the first inkling of a collective consciousness, I think, the becoming aware as a living multi-personal field.

foodBack to the main dish. As we do not eat hors d’oevre, main dish and dessert all at once, as that would maybe not taste so great, or at least very different from tasting them separately, so this goes for the modes of being alive. The “One Taste” (Ken Wilber’s diary-like book on being in non-dual mode most of the time) is really a “special taste”, a “particular taste” that some people like and evangelize about; but it is neither superior to other tastes, unless you like it, of course, nor is it the basic essence of all other dishes. The commonality is that it’s all food, but that doesn’t make it one, dish.

Honoring all meals and dishes we are served by life and psyche, by being and soul, by the gods and whoever else cooks them (including all the cooks inside of us) means neither reducing them to the recipes nor to their essential ingredients but eating them with mouth, nose and everything else, actually tasting the meals and the company we eat them in.

Emperors_New_Clothes

We’re polymorphs, able to take on many forms – or maybe it’s forms that take us on; it’s voices that speak us, maybe the voice of the enlightened spirit, the pensive wizard, the flowing joy, the heroic responsible person, the mystic poet and so endless on. There is no need, whatsoever, to become monotheistic about diversity, to call on our unity, to invoke our oneness, to go for the One that keeps it all together. That, as it reveals itself to me more and more obviously, is the naked emperor whose new clothes of the unity of his realm really do not amount to anything but the ego’s (or hero’s) vanity. Yes, in a certain mode of being alive I have experienced an all-pervading oneness, an ecstatic experience par excellence. But it is only in reflection that I can turn this into the essential or absolute or superior or ‘real’ (maybe even with capital letters); a reflection I’ve followed for most of my life. But not so anymore as I’ve come to honor the multitude of meals and cooks, all feeding the soul.

And this post, quite obviously, has been created in a reflective mode of being.

Enlightening the Passions – Day 14

(Tomorrow some editing – now I’m too tired to do so…)

Sometimes I go about pitying myself, and all the time I am being carried on great winds across the sky. — Chippewa, translated by Robert Bly

What is it about listening that is so amazingly difficult?
Listening to my heart – that place where many feelings reside – can be amazingly difficult, especially if it’s sound is not to my liking. Exploring what I feel today I notice that often time it feels like there is a restriction around my heart, something that tightens it up and makes my breathing a bit more shallow as if not to feel it.
But that doesn’t help.
It reminded me of the thorns around the heart that you see so often in Christian icons. You wouldn’t want that heart to expand into the thorns, would you?
But exactly that is needed. As sordid as I find a religion who’s main character is depicted as dying on a cross in its temples of worship (especially since the message is that “He is risen”and not “He has suffered and is dead”), the truth I find when giving in to the pain and difficulties – feeling whatever it is that comes up in this situation now – can lead into a greater flow of life; a feeling of being saved and held by some greater Grace that I cannot understand.

Actually when I’m not in this incredible flow that was so prominent yesterday, and still somewhat touches this day, especially during sharing what’s truly on my heart and mind… when I’m not in that expansive flow then very often there is this more or less subtle constriction in my heart area, or the more or less tight knot in the stomach and all the other phenomena that I’ve dived into these last two weeks.

Clearly, as I stated yesterday, I find that there is no unconditional this, that or the other. So what about the basic premise of this experiment that I want to be with my feelings unconditionally? Am I willing to admit that I failed? Have I failed?
I can’t say, certainly, because the experiment isn’t over yet – I promised myself to keep it up at least 3 weeks (creating new habits, it is said, takes 3 weeks to take a hold). But I found something that is a bit closer to what feels true: Unrestricted feeling (not in the expression but in the feeling of) is a necessary basis of all truly human connection.

To know about my connectedness with you I need to feel you in the field, and I also need to feel my e-motions, those motions inside of me – I need to be with the feeling-field as much as with the knowing-field, and probably even more so.
Wilhelm Reich, the ‘father of bioenergetics‘, and one of the deemed infamous students of Freud, coined the term “Charakterpanzer”, character-armor, which, according to him was bodyparts hardening and storing the traumas that we experience in life. I’m not a fan of bioenergetics, but I feel now much more what is meant by Charakterpanzer (pronounce kuructarpuntsur – “u” as in understand). And I actually feel it as pain, constriction, suffocation, separation, denial and all its many subtle and complex modifications.

What I want, no, what I absolutely need in relationship is an unrestricted feeling-flow. In relationship with myself, with my partner, with the people that are dear to me, and actually with everybody.
The Western imagery of pointing out the heart as the center of our feelings seems to be very fitting, although the body-feeling-field is much larger and would, in my experience take in everything in between my guts and up to my throat (my sexual organs being a ‘special case’ in that is is much more a sense-organ than an area of what I’ve called feeling in these communications about the experiment). In speaking about the feeling-center I don’t mean the heart-chakra; I’ve felt it shine and feel it sometimes still, but that’s of a different dimension or level, not as closely connected to the affairs of life as what I’m working with and working through these days. When the flow is there it seems that my heart is at the very center of this flow…

So today I’ve been with the restrictions or constrictions of the heart when they appeared. And I found what is my basic practise: I would call it “unrestricting myself” so that I can be with the feeings, my own and those of the people I’m with. Not stop or restrict them; not even by going with “O, I know what you mean” because really, I don’t – often. If I give myself time instead of restriction, if I give the other time… flow is a natural consequence.
So unrestricting myself again and again and again, or being with the feeling dimension of every and any occasion, has come up to be the most wonderful practise – something you might want to try…


Starting up the experiment
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4 (Powerlessness)
Day 5
Day 6 (Jealousy)
Day 7 (Guilt & Jealousy)
Day 8
Day 9 (Shame)
Day 10 (Interlude)
Day 11 (Under Pressure)
Day 12
Day 13 (Clear Delight)


Day 14
Day 15 & 16
Day 17
Day 18
Day 19 (Dark Waves)
Day 20 (Time Out)
Day 21 (Splash)
Day 22 (Understanding)
Day 23 (Fear & Imagination)
Day 24 (Vulnerable)
Day 25
Day 26 (The Presence of The Past)
Ending the Experiment – Day 27 (Intentional Vulnerability)

Enlightening the Passions – Day 6 (Jealousy)

As I was sitting this morning, scanning the list of the ingredients in the alchemical mix that is cooking in the cauldron of my heart (yes, my heart is also a cauldron; actually it’s the whole region between my lower throat and my pelvis) I finally was ready to face one that isn’t even on there, and it surely needs to be: Jealousy and it’s close cousin Envy.

Some background:
I never thought I was jealous; or that it posed a real problem. When in the past my girlfriends had a lover I hardly felt jealous about it, maybe a little pang in my heart now and then but nothing serious. A possible reason for that might have been that more often than not I was having an affair myself. And at other times, when I was not having one and was ‘on my own’ when my girlfriend was in somebody else’s arms, then still it didn’t bother me too much. Maybe I never really got very close to them, maybe I wasn’t that open, at least not in the way that I’m open now. So I really wasn’t really jealous like I always heard other people to be…
My guess is that this was so also because in some way when my girlfriends had a lover it alleviated some of my fear of not being good enough, I didn’t need to cover all bases and provide all their love-needs (which, I thought then and until quite recently, are much more than a man’s needs). That’s how I would’ve explained it. Now, I really don’t know; whatever I did or didn’t do, it was very effective in saving me from feeling ‘real jealous’.

So when this morning I decided to have a go at it it wasn’t too easy to invoke at first. It took some time to really get into, maybe because jealousy really isn’t one feeling, it rather is a conglomerate of feelings, a mixture of thwarted longing/desire, the fear of being left, the sense of being victimized – which is different from feeling abused as the action is not actively against me; there also is a sense of being suffocated, and very deep down a feeling of forlornness.
So it’s a mixture of all these feelings, and depending what part of a story comes up in my imagination/mind the appropriate mixture of feelings is activated… or is it the other way around, or even a synchrony? Whichever way it might be, when being jealous there is an automatically triggered behavior: ‘closing down’.
It’s truly hard to remain open with your partner when you’re feeling jealous, whatever form the ‘pain’ takes. It seems inescapable to want to protect yourself against what you feel is your partners ‘fault’ – after all, it is what she is doing that triggers the feeling of jealousy, and if only she would stop the feeling would not be triggered and everything would be alright; at least that’s the story that justifies and almost automatically causes closure of the heart. The irony, of course, is that the very ‘thing’ you want, being/feeling close, feeling really connected, is not really possible when you’re closing down.
But staying open is “just too painful”.
Here is the stark splendor of what this experiment is also about: Staying with the ebb and flow, the ‘just too painful’ and whatever else the feelings morph into; staying in touch with the ‘naked feeling’. And, what shall I say, it is indeed possible. It is possible to not escape into the multitude of tactics that insulate me against feeling all that, that ‘disown’ (as a psychologist might say) those parts of the melody of my character.

Jealousy is a “Blow against the Empire” of myself; from a developmental point of view it is mortifying the “I am the center of the universe” sense of self where one believes, “It’s all about me.” Just being with it, with it’s eddies of thwarted longing, it’s ripples of fear-of-loss, it’s waves of suffocated sadness, it’s deep currents of forlornness, is good enough. Yes, there is the desire to do something about it, to change the situation, to dive away, to put on an armor and take a sword and cut the knot… and those are feelings that are also part of the tangled knot of feelings called jealousy.

When one really enters the ‘field of feeling’ from any point regardless of its signature or name then it always connects – there is a flow that, if I were to use a big word, could be called the “flow of being”, but then “being” is a word that suggests something being static where there is really nothing static there; it designates something that is ‘really real’, it’s substantial, so the best I can do is call it ‘connecting flow’. One discovery, or ‘uncovering’ of these first 6 days is the connecting quality of the “feeling field” and it’s “substantial reality”.

Now, as I said before, an important part of jealousy is that you don’t want to connect, you don’t want to feel the flow between yourself and the person that triggers the jealousy because it is painful; by that I mean, the ‘jealous imagination’ (like in the Munch paintings above) is getting refreshed again and again as long as the jealousy is there.
This puts one in the midst of a paradox; the nature of feeling being to flow in an open field – even so called negative feelings – and it is the nature of the jealous imagination to want to distance and/or protect you. So I’m happy to have decided almost a week ago to explore being with whatever I’m feeling unconditionally, so that in this paradoxical situation I simply be with the flow. Never mind the paradox…


Starting up the experiment
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4 (Powerlessness)
Day 5
Day 6 (Jealousy)
Day 7 (Guilt & Jealousy)
Day 8
Day 9 (Shame)
Day 10 (Interlude)
Day 11 (Under Pressure)
Day 12
Day 13 (Clear Delight)


Day 14
Day 15 & 16
Day 17
Day 18
Day 19 (Dark Waves)
Day 20 (Time Out)
Day 21 (Splash)
Day 22 (Understanding)
Day 23 (Fear & Imagination)
Day 24 (Vulnerable)
Day 25
Day 26 (The Presence of The Past)
Ending the Experiment – Day 27 (Intentional Vulnerability)