Leave your Body Behind?

The Texan psychedelic pioneers The 13th Floor Elevators’ album Easter Everywhere contains a song called Postures (Leave your Body Behind). Also found within the album artwork is an image from a eighteenth century Indian Tantric painting of a yogi seated in meditation, with a depiction of the seven chakras along his body. With these mysterious song titles and esoteric imagery The 13th floor Elevators were creating music as if from another dimension. I share this with you not just to indulge my love of psychdelic music from the late 1960’s, but to illustrate a point that I feel is important. In my experience of teaching meditation over the years, a common view that is held by people when they begin the practice of meditation (and sometimes is still held after years of practice) is that the goal of meditation is to transend the body, or, as the Elevators would say, leave your body behind! This desire to escape into some fantasy is an attractive idea. If we begin to trace this view we would find it held within the sixties hippie counter-culture who, with their experimentation with drugs such as LSD, the idea of taking a trip to a magical wonderland was very appealling. According to anthropologist research the roots of this view go far deeper, beyond our Christian heritage to the point when we shifted from hunter-gathers to an agricultural society. A lot of our lives are lived within busy urban enviroments, with many demands being made on us: working long hours in jobs we find increasingly stressful, family commitments and our senses constantly bombarded from modern technology.

From a Buddhist meditation perspective the aim of meditation practice is not to escape or leave our body, but to turn towards the body with awareness and become more embodied in a relationship to our body our feelings, thoughts and emotions. I have found this journey not always a easy one, with at times feeling deeply challenged as I allow myself to expereince the complexity of being fully human. But through this journey towards embodiment, I can glimpse a taste of relaxation and openess in the midst of the flux and complextity of my life.

“Meditating with the body involves learning, through a variety of practices, how to reside fully within our bodies. What we are doing is not quite learning a technique, not quite learning how to “do” something. Rather, we are readjusting the focal length, the direction, and the domain of our consciousness. Thus, we gradually arrive at an awareness that is actually in our bodies rather than in our heads. It’s not something you actually learn to do; it’s a way of learing how to be differently.” Reginald Ray Buddhist teacher