Contemplation – Am I The Body? Part 1
Updated: Nov 21, 2019
In this post I would like to start with you some contemplation exercises in order to allow you to grasp what I have been trying to point to through my posts. It might sound I am repeating myself but this is done on purpose to help you cracking all the defensive mechanisms you, as a conceptual entity, has started to erect to create the illusion in being something.
Most of people are stuck within the idea that the self or I is a personal and individual entity. This is a quite limited and exclusive way of seeing our self that is being causing most of our individual and social problems. One of the most important realization I had during this journey is that there is no-self, that is, what we refer to “I” is not a well defined and objective physical structure. I discovered that the so called “I” we refer daily to is a flexible entity and cannot be caged in a structured box. In other words, the “I” or self is relative to what you decide to identify with. This work has showed me that, due to our cultural education, we have learnt to exclude part of our self as not-me and it taught me how to include what has been erroneously dismissed. Being able to include everything as me, offered me a powerful shift in consciousness that has helped me, as a human being, to relate differently with whatever I am encountering in life.
One important consequence of the identification process is that the level of identification is directly proportional to the amount of suffering you will experience: more your sense of self is constrained and contracted in some define shapes or ideas, higher will be the amount of suffering you will experience; more unbound and free is, less pain you will experience. The reason it is so is due to the fact that whatever you identify with has to be protected and defended otherwise your own existence will be threaten. The boundary between you and the world marks what you need to defend and strive for, it marks your attachment, it marks a separation between what you consider to be yourself and others leading to a series of actions aimed to fight for your survival.
It is extremely important to realize that the boundary is not an objective physical line that separates you from the rest of the world. The skin of your body does not separate you from any other objects surrounding you. You just think so. Each of us creates such a boundary and therefore you are the only responsible for your suffering. You need to grasp that whatever you call you is created and that there is not such a define entity. The goal of this journey is not to destroy or fight against these boundaries but to transcend them.
If you are honest with yourself, when you were born you did not know who you were, you did not know that you had a body, you did not know what your family looked like and by who was composed, you did not know anything about the world you would have been living for a while. All these things has been learnt and with time you have been shaped to be in a certain way. Needless to say, the family and culture you were born into had hugely influenced the kind of person you think you are now.
Notice that what you think you are and what you are currently identify with is one out of infinite possibilities. Changing the social environment in which you were grown, you would consider yourself to be someone completely different than who you currently think to be. The critical point here is that there is a sort of “space” that can be mold in infinite shapes and that after some conditioning looks like to be in a certain way. This “space” that I will try to expose to you along this blog is who you truly are but you forgot about it because it is now filled with all sort of knowledge and assumptions about what you think to be. You are like a empty room that is filled up with all sort of objects and since it cannot see anymore itself as the container, it starts to identify itself with its content.
In the field of spirituality, this space or container is called Consciousness, that is, what you truly are and the only “thing” truly existing right now. The hardest part of this journey is to realize that you, Consciousness, cannot be pointed or described because you are not an object that stands out from something else but you are that which allows anything else to be. This Consciousness is not made out of any specific substance, it is literally Nothingness. The aim of this journey is to remove any conceptual ideas you have imposed over reality and to finally reveal Consciousness, your true nature. Do not worry if you currently do not understanding what I am talking about, you will be able to become directly conscious of it by yourself if you commit to this journey. By the way, who else could do that?
But let’s start from the beginning.
As I said the concept of “I” is relative and flexible and increasing consciousness will lead to the destruction of many boundaries you have imposed to yourself. One of the technique that can be used to increase your level of consciousness is self-inquiry or contemplation.
Using Peter Ralston’s words “contemplation is creating the possibility that something can be known outside of what is already known or knowable”. Contemplation is a technique that helps you to investigate which are your beliefs on the matter of your nature in order to challenge and transcend them. The aim of contemplation is to stop you holding on what you think to be and start grasping what is actually true about yourself. Contemplation will help you to drop whatever is false about yourself leaving you to be whatever is left.
What I like about this technique is that you do not need any previous knowledge on the subject, you do not need to go to a library or on the web to search for answers. Contemplation means simply investigating some personal beliefs that you hold as your true nature. No one can give you the answers but yourself. You can do it at any time during the day, you just need to stay focus on your investigation. I therefore suggest you to find a quite place where you can sit or walk around without too many distractions and take with you a notebook where to write your own conclusions. Even though the mind is the tool used to contemplate, intellectual understanding or memorizing is not our final goal. The investigation has to lead you to directly experience the answer within you, it is like a realization that cannot be disputed anymore, it is an eureka moment, an undoubtedly truth. Only by doing so any doubt on the matter will be eradicated and some incredible transformation will happen within you.
I would like to invite you to find some time during the day to investigate seriously for few minutes on some assumptions you have unconsciously created about what you call “I”.
To answer the question “Who am I?”, it means to know where you drew the boundary between self and no-self. Most of us identify with the body, mind or both of them and we live our life accordingly to this view of reality. Though for some people this model do not cause much problem, there are other people that for some reason (mainly suffering) intuit that this vision is limiting. The boundary that divides our self from anything else feels to be artificial and there is a urge to break through it.
I would like to start these series of contemplation exercises challenging the idea of you being your physical body.
If I had to ask you whether you have a body or you are your body, what would you say? Some people identify themselves to be their physical body, maybe at different degrees. It seems clear that whatever lies outside our body is not what we are. The notebook or the pen you might have close to you, the tree out there are certainly objects separated from us. So it is sensible to start our investigation focusing and challenging the idea that we are our body. I would like to give you a list of questions to facilitate this investigation. Contemplate carefully on each of these questions coming to a personal conclusion that leaves no doubt about it. Contemplation should not leave you with an intellectual understanding but with a real realization that will turn into a personal transformation.
1) Do you consider yourself to be the whole body or a specific organ/part?
2) If the whole body is what you truly are, what happens to your existence in case one part of the body is removed by surgery or for natural reason (for instance, hair loss, nail cutting, organ surgery)? Do you feel any change in your sense of existence? Do you still feel yourself to be a whole or some part of you have been lost forever? In the latter case describe what you have lost.
3) Science tells us that our body has a rapid cellular turnover. In one year your entire set of cells might be completely renewed. Is this turnover affecting you?
4) In the case you consider yourself to be a specific organ, write down which one and why.
5) If you could exchange that organ with the one of someone else, would this affect yourself and your sense of existence (considering that the exchange worked perfectly)?
6) Which is the assumption by which you consider your hand to be part of yourself and my hand not to be? Why are you not also my hand? (sounds stupid but trust me is not).
For the moment, I will not give any personal answer to these questions because I want you to do the job and take time to answer without my influence. In the next post I will address these questions giving my own thoughts about it.
I would love you leaving any comment, doubt or answer about these questions to be able to address and integrate them in my next post.