12/08/2007

Sensing the Body Politic

"To dwell in this body is a political act..."

Being consciously and intentionally in the body leads to the age-old goal of political philosophers: “the simple life.”


The simple life is the good life: a life content with nature and her necessities, without greed for extraneous luxury, hoarding of wealth, class envy, or addiction. A deepening awareness of the body is the key to these long sought Utopian goals.


Being fully aware in the body is not "materialism" or "sensuality," which are, in truth, obsessions of the mind. Materialism, addiction, and lust occur in persons who are profoundly OUT of touch with their bodies. The simple life of body-awareness is a profoundly spiritual life, a sacramental life where each sensation is infused with radiant attention. In this state, a person's body becomes the body-politic: a harmony of personal needs with the needs of the earth.


What is the political consequence of living a simple life, a life in which just dwelling in the body is happiness? Imagine millions of Americans gladly forfeiting their habits of energy-consumption, addiction and waste, content to live moment by moment in the wonderful sensations of this body!


When we are spiritually alive to the joy of this body, we are alive to the body politic. Each breath connects us to the atmosphere of the planet. Each tear is a measure of the ocean’s health: we weep when the water is not pure. Each tree cut down needlessly is a nerve in our body. Our bones feel the harrowing of coal and copper from mines. Without abstract theories or statistics, the body teaches us to conserve and cherish the earth’s resources. In every sensation we learn what ideology can never convey: to dwell in this body is a political act.

The level of body-awareness in most Americans can be described as numbness. Most of us are as disassociated from this body in our waking life as we are in our sleep. Our attention is primarily with thoughts in the mind, not sensations in the body. Mental images of the past and future mesmerize us. Deadlines drain our joy and empty the present moment of significance. Unconscious of the air in our nostrils, the soil at our feet, the breeze on our cheeks, or the song of a bird, we function on auto-pilot. Busily multi-tasking in our thoughts, we haven’t the slightest clue what is actually happening right here, right now, on earth. We cannot see reality: only the reflection of reality in the mirror of our thoughts.


This state of semi-conscious living, absorbed in disembodied thought, falls easy prey to the hypnotic imagery of TV, radio and internet, all of which are used by the corporate media to fill us with desires profitable to their agenda. Our thoughts entrain to their chatter, which repeats one word over and over through a thousand images: “Buy!”


Mindfulness of the body is a political act because it is a rebellion against this consumer hypnosis. When we are truly awake in every cell, corporate propaganda can no longer find room in our brains, manipulating our fears and addictions. This is the beginning of freedom.

Just breathing is joyful, a glass of water is thrilling, the touch of earth beneath our feet is ecstatic. Our addictions diminish. We no longer need to consume expensive food, waste money on trendy clothes, dull our nerves with loud entertainment, drink an excess of wine, or cruise the mall searching for the momentary thrill of a purchase. Conscious sensation is never addictive: it diffuses the power of addiction by weakening the force of desire in the mind. The truth is, we are addicted to our desires, not to our sensations.


Citizens who are truly incarnate form an enlightened body politic. Let the words of the ancient Mundaka Upanishad define it: "Heaven is her head, the sun and moon her eyes, the four quarters her heart. From her feet came the earth, from her eye the sun-illumined sky... In the landscape of her body, the seas and mountains arise. From her skin spring the rivers and the herbs... Her own life is the one life shining in the heart of every creature."


Can we take responsibility for the world in our bodies? Can we sense the ecology of the whole earth in the quality of a raindrop on the tip of a twig in our own back yard? Then we will be citizens of the Kingdom, "on earth as it is in heaven."

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