Outside In or Inside Out

In the creative process of life, just as in any other process, energy is required. Resources are necessary. The fourth and final R in this Self Management series is our Resources. We all have the same resources but one of the factors that make us all unique is how we use those resources.

You could say that we have three levels of energy at our disposal – physical, mental and spiritual. And while all our energies are connected and integrated our starting point as we explore our resources is our physical energy, our body.

While there is what seems to be an unlimited flow of knowledge, understanding and advice ‘out there’ on how to maintain our physical health and keep the right balance between diet, exercise, relaxation and rest, it is very rare to find a spiritual perspective on the subject of physical energy. Almost every daily newspaper and monthly magazine now has its regular health supplements and features but rarely do we find the spiritual point of view on the physical body. Could this be one reason why many areas of physical health maintenance are not effectively stemming the tide of disease, and in some cases the opposite is happening. Who knows, it is obviously a huge topic and the purpose here is not to judge or expound on any particular dietary approach or exercise regime, but to explore and reflect on another view, what could be called the spiritual view.

The relationship between spirit and body is always going to be slightly grey if not contentious because you can see the body but you can’t see the spirit. One you can capture in a test tube and the other cannot be trapped in anything other than in its own perceptions. For spirit read consciousness, or the conscious self, or just ‘the self’. The spiritual view says that we are conscious beings living in and acting through a physical form. While our body has to remain in the room where it is located the ‘I’, the ‘self’ can leave in one second and be somewhere else. It can move in another dimension, as we all know when we sometimes ‘drift of’! When the body is asleep and motionless the conscious self is still busy creating thoughts and images. When this ‘relationship’ between consciousness and form is clearly recognised it becomes apparent that while we are not the form we occupy we are obviously responsible for its health and well being. While this may sound obvious, and ring true in theory, what we don’t quite notice is that the moment we forget who/what we are and start identifying with the form we occupy is the exact same moment our physical health will begin to deteriorate. And this is why.


The ‘belief’ that we are our body gives rise to a number of other beliefs and if we follow the trail of those beliefs we see how they can shape our thoughts, our decisions and ultimately our actions, which over time will adversely affect the balance and healthiness of our ‘vehicle’. 


The simplest way to understand this is as follows. When we believe we are our body we will come to believe that physical feelings i.e. sensations, are our primary feelings. These ‘feelings’ come only when there is physical stimulation through one of the five senses of the body. Various forms of stimulation seem to make us feel happy. We confuse happiness with stimulation and we then come to believe happiness can only come from outside our body. So we start to seek stimulation through one of our body’s five physical senses. There are moments of ‘apparent happiness’ but they are always temporary because they are only stimulations. In time we will come to need and more stimulation to sustain what we have come to believe are the sources of happy feelings. Craving and dependency for certain ‘stimulants’ set in and become habits. These cravings and dependencies then influence our thoughts, decisions and choices, which are made to try to sustain our stimulated happiness resulting in an imbalance in things consumed.  


 We find our self starting to make unhealthy decisions about what we put into our body in terms of substances. We may not be a drug addicts but it is not difficult to develop certain food or substance dependences. We eat too much of one or two things and not enough of other things because we believe we will get our ‘happiness’ from those things and suddenly the body craves certain foods and is not getting the ones it really needs. This process then underlies the obvious addictions to sweet things, alcoholic things, spicy things and even salty things. There are of course other addictions to less subtle sources of stimulation. And so it is not difficult to develop an imbalance in our diet. And it is not difficult to develop cravings and dependencies on other stimulations through the other senses. 


But most significantly the quality of thoughts that the ‘I’ generates will begin to become negative. And the energy of those thoughts will themselves impair our physical energy. For example, we will create ‘worry thinking’ – worrying that we will not get what we want to stimulate us or that we will lose what we are already using to physically stimulate our happiness. We will create ‘tense thinking’ which builds in intensity until the craving for certain stimulations is satisfied. We will create ‘sad thinking’ at the thought or the actuality of losing what we need to stimulate our physical feelings. We will create ‘angry thoughts’ towards people and circumstances that we perceive to be responsible for standing in the way or even denying access to what we want to stimulate us and ‘make us happy’. These negative‘ thought forms’ are then transmitted into the body itself and over time the ‘psychosomatic effect’ can easily kick in and some form of disease may arise as a consequence of those forms of mental dis-ease.


The belief that we are our body and the resulting craving for sensual stimulation easily skews our decisions about what we put into our body. And that combined with the negative thoughts based on not getting our stimulants, can easily join forces to affect our physical health. But we will not see how the root cause of what may become an imbalanced diet and much negative thinking lies in the simple belief that we are only our body. And so a mistaken sense of personal identity becomes the root cause of ill health at both a mental and physical level. So pervasive is this identity confusion, so pervasive is the illusion that we are form and not spirit, that to suggest otherwise can often trigger resistance and even ridicule. It is seen as a threat to accepted lore. A threat to our ‘stimulating’ life.


Restoring and maintaining health and well being is not difficult according to most spiritual/wisdom philosophies. All we have to do is drop the belief we are the body and remember what for them is a given truth i.e. we are spirit/consciousness. Hand in hand with this accurate identity comes the simple understanding that peace, happiness, love, joy are the very nature of the human being, the human spirit, the self. They come from inside out and not outside in. They need not be sought or stimulated, only shared, and when shared the first place they go is into healthy thought forms, which then radiate into the form of the body we occupy. And when they do, then the thought forms that arose from the cravings and dependencies on stimulants atrophy, until they no longer exist.


It can seem like a paradox that in order to find balance and well being at a physical level we need end our identification with the form that we occupy. Only then are we able to free ourselves from sensual dependencies. That does not in any way deny the value of our body. It does not mean life has to be lived in an aesthetic or puritanical fashion. We can enjoy driving our car when are sat behind the wheel but we never lose sight of the fact that we are the driver and not the car. We don’t ‘crave’ driving and the thrills of driving in a crazy way to make us feel happy. (well most of us don’t!) We don’t use our car as a source of love and happiness in our life (well the majority of us don’t!). But we do look after the car, giving it all the right substances when needed, ensuring it remains in good working order. And so it is with our body, our ‘physical resource’. Only when we cease to believe that it is what we are can we clearly hear it telling us what it needs to remain healthy, in balance and at its optimum energy. Otherwise the noise of our senses just get in the way.


There is a famous image in India of the Chariot and the Charioteer holding the reigns of five horses. It is of course a metaphor for the body, the soul and the five senses. In the image the horses are careering, wildly out of control, each going in its own directions and the charioteer is struggling to reign them in. In many ways this is our challenge too. If we allow our physical senses to rule our life there is the danger that our energy, our power, our inner resources will be drained and unavailable for our use.


Question:  Which of your five senses tends to rule your life the most?


Reflection:  Why is it not such a good idea to ‘out source’ your peace and happiness in life?


Actions:  Meditation has always been seen as one of the most effective ways to ‘cool the pull’ of our senses.  Take a few moments each day this week and practice just being the observer of your senses and, for few moments withdrawing your attention from each sense, allowing it to ‘cool off’


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