Contrary to what the egoic mind may like to believe, liberation from the suffering of pain and loss associated with physical form comes not by escaping the body, but by being fully present in the body.
The vast majority of people, when illness or accident or the decline of the body with age show up, are lost in the story of “poor me” and invest a lot of time and energy in the drama of “I can’t bear it,” or “This shouldn’t be happening,” or “My life is over,” and so on. With personal ownership of physical form (“my body”), and with the psychological forms inevitably wrapped around this primary identity (“my pain,” “my sickness,” “my imperfection,” “my ugliness,” “my weakness,” “my loss,” and so on), a story gets created called “my suffering.” This fixation on form paradoxically indicates a lack of presence in the body, or rather, in the deeper energy field of the body.
Unlike most people, animals are fully present in their bodies and yet do not suffer. It’s obvious that they do experience discomfort and pain, but it’s unlikely that they experience psychological suffering. If you have ever lived with a cat, or spent time with a dog, or watched the pigeons in the park, you’re likely to have sensed how, even if they are sick or maimed or exhausted, there is no drama of “poor me.” Of course, animals have no language with which to express themselves and so we cannot absolutely know what they are experiencing; but we can know that without the capacity for self-reflection, that is, without an ego, there cannot be a separate “me” that identifies with physical form, and there can be no personal ownership of the experience. In other words, without labeling the experience as “my pain” or “my suffering” or “my sickness,” or “I feel bad” or “I wish I felt better” and so on, there is no story of suffering. And without a story, there is simply and innocently a seamless and fluctuating, un-named and un-owned energy experience. If you are quietly present with any animal in pain or dying (unless there is severe injury that causes the nervous system to react with convulsions), you’ll sense the stillness and silence within which this animal is resting; in other words, it is simply being.
Of course, that’s not to say we shouldn’t mend a broken bone or sew up a wound or tend to our bruises or even rub nourishing oils into our skin. But without diving deeper into the ocean of being-ness, we remain swimming on the surface trying to catch and perfect each wave according to our image of how it should be, and there is no lasting fulfillment (or real healing) in this.
It’s the willingness to turn within, to be unequivocally present with every sensation and every feeling, that allows the body to become a gateway to liberation, and the source of true wholeness. It’s the willingness to be intimate with the raw energetic experience of each wave as it appears, before it has been named as headache or toothache or life-threatening pain or incurable illness, that transforms the darkness of “my suffering” to the illumination of being. By being deeply intimate with all manifestations, it’s as if the boundaries of subject (you) and object (the manifestation) merge into a unified field of energy. This is more than metaphorical: there’s a very real sense of disappearance into an inner dimension of light. It’s not the light you see with your eyes, but a felt-sense of lightness and peace.
It is this light that animates you. Without it your body would be an empty shell. You could also call this light the Holy Spirit (or simply spirit) or God. But because the word God often comes with religious and cultural baggage, you may prefer to simply call it consciousness. By whichever name you choose to call it, this light is the numinous luminosity of an intelligence that exists prior to thinking or feeling. And even though it’s essential nature is divine, in other words, not of this earthly dimension of form, it is the source of life in you and in everything. Beneath and beyond every manifestation is the limitless and deathless dimension of the unmanifest. While the unmanifest is often referred to as emptiness, it is far from empty (at least in the way the mind likes to think of it). It’s an emptiness scintillating with unborn potential. Everything that is created, everything that is born into the world of appearances (and this includes every grain of sand, every raindrop, every butterfly’s wing, every tornado, every positive or negative thought, every spiritual or unspiritual feeling, and every word that is spoken or written) emanates from the omnipresent field of infinite possibilities. In this way, the inner world of light (the unmanifest) and the outer world of form (the manifest) are inseparable. Spirituality calls this the Akashic field or Brahman; science calls it the zero-point field or implicate order.
But don’t take these words as gospel truth, nor attempt to decipher them with logic or spiritual knowledge or scientific evidence. Instead, discover for yourself what is truly here, inside every appearance, when you rest deep inside it. Watch (or more accurately, feel), carefully but softly, what happens when there’s a cease-fire of ego’s habit of censoring every experience; in other words, when you stop naming as pain or trauma or illness, when you stop labeling as good or bad or spiritual or unspiritual, when you stop framing as better or worse or as blessing or punishment. The invitation is for you to profoundly relax into the core of what is here … now and now and now. And to discover for yourself what remains when all appearances, including you and your body, disappear into the lightness of being.
It is very likely that being fully present in the body (or rather, in the deeper energy field of the body) brings not only the peace of an ineffable presence, but also a great lightness to the physical form. And it is very likely that you will experience greater vitality, vibrancy, and a sense of well-being and joy.