Omega: How can we learn to be more at home in our bodies, which often feel like they’re the source of so much pain and discomfort, both physically and emotionally?
Adyashanti: One reason a lot of people feel a little outside of themselves and not really grounded in their body is because when they go inside they have to move through layers that are very uncomfortable. They encounter trauma or unresolved conflict from negative experiences.
If you weren’t able to remain really conscious when encountering something difficult, then that experience couldn’t flow through you, so it gets stuck. Until we can go back and complete that experience by feeling it directly, giving it the chance to consciously move through the body once again, we will continue to encounter this discomfort when we bring our attention to our body.
It’s important to be able to find a safe place within ourselves, a kind of peace, so we’re coming from a peaceful standpoint when we embrace the body and erase the old feelings and traumas.
Omega: How do we start to work with these unresolved experiences?
Adyashanti: Being in the body, with all its traumas and limitations, can be seen as an act of love. You, yourself—your own consciousness—can be a redeeming presence in your life.
What it takes is a willingness to touch in and encounter what’s there in the moment. It takes a willingness to feel your heart, to feel your belly. Just start to touch in and encounter what’s there at that moment. You don’t have to encounter everything that's unresolved all at once—just be present for whatever piece is showing up right now, including illness, disease, and pain. They are part of life.
The truth is, these bodies are very vulnerable. There is a whole side of life that I call the tragic side—illness, disease, pain, and of course the only inevitable certainty, the end of life. These things aren’t ultimately tragic, but it’s often experienced that way.
Part of this process is acknowledging that these bodies have their vulnerabilities and that it takes a certain kind of capacity, a certain kind of presence to face life as it is. And one of the ways to begin to do that is directly. In other words, there is what’s being played out in your body and then there’s the narrative about it, which is often recreating the experience as we talk to ourselves about it.
That’s the challenge—to get completely in touch with the totality of life we need to suspend that narrative so we can get down to the direct experience of things. It helps if we've touched upon that part of our true nature that is always free. But always free doesn't mean you get out of experiencing life’s ups and downs. A lot of people hope if they touch upon that place that's never been born and that never dies then they’ll never experience what's happening. No, it just gives you a groundwork from which it's much easier to embrace these more challenging parts of what it is to be a human being.
Omega: How can we discern the difference between what’s our actual experience and what’s a story?
Adyashanti: The experience lives in the body. You can feel it. It's what's going on from the neck down. The story is what's going on from the neck up. It’s not that the story is always wrong or irrelevant. Often the story is concealing our experience below the neck because sometimes the human experience can be quite big, quite enormous.
So we look to suspend the story as a way to get in touch from the neck down. We don’t need to dismiss or devalue the narrative completely, which sometimes happens in spirituality, we just need to suspend it.
Sometimes when you suspend the narrative, the whole thing drops away. Other times it transforms to more accurately represent what’s really there. And beyond that, if we can fully accept what we're experiencing or feeling in that moment, that can paradoxically connect us to what's even deeper than our emotion.
Underneath that emotion is a sense of peace or a sense of freedom. That peace and freedom is not a refuge in and of itself. It’s not that you just go there and that's the end all. Rather, when we connect with our sense of peace and well-being and freedom, we are better able to embody what we feel, see things in a more clear light, and respond from a clear, more compassionate space.
© 2019 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies