Without that, nothing else is possible
Updated: Aug 22
On a deep rest meditation retreat,
in a tent in a desert The second meditation,
the second of January, 2018
(Gertrude cartoon (c) Jaya Julienne Ashmore, 2017.)
Being in the field of gravity.
Giving some moments for the body to make its posture.
We would often approach posture from the outside—trying to make a certain shape that we think is correct, or better or good enough. And if we could just turn the volume down on all of that for a while, and turn the volume up on something more inner. Still on the subject of the body’s position, but feeling inside us: our dignity. The possibility of the dignity of a human being, of a human life, of a human body. And letting that dignity be in the inner space and affect the form of the body—the shape, the position of the hands, the legs, the face, the back, etc.
Feeling gravity, almost as if we could let gravity pull us below the radar of what we think is good or bad. Below the radar of what we think about posture, what we know about it, what we’ve heard, and what we’ve already tried. And if gravity could help us just come underneath ideas, into a sort of non-verbal body—a body that would be allowed to make its own adjustments. Towards where we could be in silence and stillness, comfortably and well.
From the inside, a sense of a human dignity and the stretch of this lifetime. Whatever your mood and current opinion of yourself as a personality.
Just: here’s that body, and there’s willingness to be here and to experience reality. Even if there’s also unwillingness and resistance and so on. There’s some willingness. So a dignity that doesn’t need to think about how it should be placing the body. But sort of letting the hands come alive and place themselves; letting the knees come alive and place themselves. Letting the body come alive, and acknowledge it is in a place, and it takes a place. It takes up space and could even be allowed to take up a little more space. Just an experiment of following what that “dignity-body” would do. Maybe the back isn’t as straight as you think it should be, but just for a little while, what if we let it be dignified as it is? Another intelligence. Some kind of original intelligence, that’s not copying an image or idea. But is inventing posture just now. So dignity has to do with welcome. Being allowed to be here; being allowed to take up space. Knowing, preferably from the inside, the stream of aliveness. Knowing the preciousness of this life, and letting that inform the position of the body. Letting that inform the breathing; letting that inform the body itself. So despite our experiences and conditioning that have told the body either “don’t take up space” or “don’t be comfortable” or “you have to fight for it,” or whatever—actually you’re already allowed and precious without doing anything to prove it.And that also means that there is no specialness, maybe. So there’s dignity and maybe there’s no need to try to be special. Or because there’s dignity, the trying for specialness doesn’t need to take up our energy anymore. Which is a hard fire to put down. Its hard to let go of that, to find—before the fight for specialness—“already good, already here.”
And letting that inform your body position, your volume.Your eyes: already okay. Where the head and neck fit together: already okay. Dignity. Which means allowed to be here, to take up space without having to prove anything or earn anything or deserve anything. Already precious, already good. And the hips already good—what if?
This simple exercise sometimes may go against deep beliefs. It may also go against body chemistry that’s active—of feeling insecure, or comparing and feeling better than or worse than whatever. And so we can allow the thinking, beliefs, chemistry to be going on, and...there is this radical curiosity: maybe that’s not all that’s happening. Maybe there is some deep life stream that’s accessible, that’s here—and without which none of the other stuff is possible. That we can just feel in a simple way: aliveness in the body. A warmth, a hum, a pulse, a weight. The way the breathing keeps pulling against the body and then letting it go, dropping it down. So even if the breath is affected by our body chemistry, and our thinking, our mood, it still just goes on.
Feeling lower down in our bodies can be good. Something is often more accessible lower down in the body. If we feel and connect with and receive the sensations lower down in the body, it can be more available to feel some kind of “okayness anyway.” Even though: “I’m better than, worse than, can’t, can,” or whatever story. Whatever chemistry is activated. Fine anyway.
Or maybe just—if that okayness feels too abstract, or inaccessible—maybe just contact with the ground somewhere. Maybe letting that contact be friendly. That’s a form of dignity. And sometimes we can feel the body kind of release. Surrender and be held by the earth.
Many times we don’t feel that: we can tell that there’s contact, but there’s not necessarily a feeling of being held or supported. And that’s okay. As we started to talk about yesterday, there is a gap between what is actually happening and what we think is happening. Between what is real and our experience of what feels real. We are on the ground, but we don't feel the support.
Sometimes just hanging around there, where there does seem to be contact with the ground. Just there, even though you can just barely feel it. Sometimes you might feel ungrounded but you kind of know, “Well, there’s the butt or the heel of my foot on the ground. There’s some sensation of pressure.” And hanging around the pressure sensation. The ground on the body. So simply.
And maybe one suggestion for today: the harder it is to feel ground, maybe the more you may want to go and feel lower down in the body—maybe even the feet. Lower meaning farther from the head, or lower meaning closer to the ground. You can try both.
Because ground is not always easy to come by.
Here we are in this landscape, this desert, that is so much of earth, and yet not necessarily grounding. There is so much of vastness also. And so turning a bit inward, to some experience within the realm of the warmth of your body in and near the body. In that field. Literal contact with the ground may be worth hanging out with. Just staying around with your presence.
Or sometimes if there is a feeling of release into the ground and kind of spreading out, then we could be more uncontained and enjoy the openness that this loosening reveals or allows. And just staying and resting in that openness.
And sometimes there’s a really lusciously long process of releasing, and we could allow that to have its time and to be delicious—not to be impatient that we should be already released. We don’t actually know what should be necessarily. And so: what is?
And so gradually coming towards where it feels more fruitful to you to connect in your body. Where might it feel more like a kind of spring of life that’s coming up into your experience? Maybe that’s more just where the body is touching the ground. That simple. And literal.
And a game of: whenever your attention has gone over to that sound of the tent flapping in the wind, then, like a kind of child's game, you run back home to the literal contact with ground. So its not a job; it is a game. A game means we don't know what's going to happen exactly.
So there’s not an expectation of literally staying one hundred percent of every second in that spot of contact with ground. There’s an expectation of movement, that the mind will go to the sound, for example. And the mind will go to last week and next year and so on. And it can come back playfully.
And just experiencing the freedom of that, no matter where the mind goes it can run back home gleefully. And whatever we were just involved in – last week, next year, the sound – can just roll off like water off a duck’s back, as we say in Jin Shin. And here we are again—fresh, untouched. And welcoming your experience—a friendliness with ground, or a friendliness to receive your sensations.
When we notice that our approach to the practice is not like a game—like being mad that I’m not staying all the time—we can really feel that quality of wanting obedience. And we can just briefly feel the fire and aggression of that. Simply, just feeling that, where and what? Is that reaching towards repression of life or wanting control? Feeling that shape and temperature. And where? Is there movement? What is it like when we want to reach towards control and obedience? What is it like when we are forcing our experience to be how we think it should be, and it isn’t? Just briefly receiving that impression of what that is like—that movement towards control; that trusting control to take care of this situation.
It can be very precious to get a chance to feel that machine of control or obedience in the body and mind.
And then again, here’s the ground and the body together. In their own love affair. In their own layer of experience, their own stream of experience, in a way unconcerned by all of our trying too hard and expectations and sense of failure and so on. Ground and body. Relief in that simplicity, when it happens.
And playing, when things happen differently from what we expected. Through playing, getting a chance, a real chance, to learn how far, how quickly the mind goes, and where it goes. How far, how quickly the mind is here again.
That’s just the mind—that’s just the mind-part of the life stream. Not so important. So we can play.
Meanwhile life and ground have a consistency; they’re still here, no matter what the mind does. And something in us is in touch there, and we could just give into that.
Even maybe playing with another experiment. Does it help if you try to feel the body-ground connection, contact? What happens when you try to feel it? Okay, and what happens if you let it be felt? Notice that its already being felt, whether you try or don’t try. Because its kind of a tangle when we try not to try.But trying or not, isn’t it already being felt? By some other capacity than attention? Resting into that; leaning up against that. That’s home in the game of tag. Or maybe you do feel some groundedness and some openness. And in that field of experience—that you’re partly open to—you notice a kind of slow, easy waterfall of letting go. Of unwinding. Staying tuned to that.
And again, just trying to stay tuned, is that helpful? Is it already happening and already noticed by some other capacity in us? Already enjoyed? And could we have some bit of permission for it to be enjoyed—the letting go, and arriving into here?
And sometimes there may just be more the feeling of a wide openness. Grounded enough that there is a sense of opening or openness that is simple and subtle and good. Not even really tracking any sort of process of unfolding or unwinding. But just enjoying the simplicity of staying tuned to openness, as a fact.
Or as always your own inner instructions for this time together.