ISSUE #013 - Apr 01, 2019
Inhabiting the Body
In the Realization Process, we discover the ground of fundamental consciousness by inhabiting the internal space of our body. Fundamental consciousness is unified — it pervades our body and environment at the same time. If it did not pervade our body as well as our environment, it would not be an experience of oneness. For this reason, we cannot actually realize fundamental consciousness without also inhabiting the internal space of our body.
Inhabiting the body is not the same as being aware of the body. It is not a “top-down” experience. Inhabiting the body means that we live within our body, that we are present throughout the whole internal space of our body. It means that we feel that we are made of consciousness everywhere in our body.
Inhabiting the body takes practice because, for most of us, we are changing a life-long habit of not inhabiting our body. Most of us grow up living in front of our body, and very often above our body as well. The protective constrictions and other rigid organizations in our fascia obstruct our inward contact with our body. We are also used to coming forward in order to connect with other people, even though, as I will explain in the chapter on relationships, this actually dilutes our connection with others. As children, we may develop patterns of living outside of our body if we need to be hypervigilant to a dangerous or unpredictable environment or just as a way to concentrate more intently on whatever is in front of us. We may live outside of our body because it felt to us, as children, that we would be less conspicuous, and therefore in less danger from abusive people in our environment, if we were less in contact with ourselves. Just as young children may cover their own eyes in order to hide, one of the ways we protect ourselves from others is by hiding from ourselves.
One woman told me that when her father came home drunk at night, he would get all five children out of bed, line them up in the living room, and then select one for the focus of his rage. She found that if she left her body, he was less likely to choose her. She felt that she could make herself invisible by diffusing herself outward so that she had a sense of dissolving in the space around her body. Over time, this pattern of outward diffusion became chronic and unconscious. When I met her, she was still holding herself in this pattern of self-abandonment, although it had been many years since she was in danger of her father’s violence.
If it felt safer in childhood not to be present within one’s body, then coming back into the body can feel frightening. It can also feel taboo, as if we are breaking a rule that we have lived under all our lives, a law against existing as individuals. When we live within our own skin, we become separate from other people, even as we enter into the dimension of oneness with them. I have worked with many people who looked to me for permission to inhabit their own body. They needed support to counter their old agreement with their parents that they would never separate from them.
When we inhabit the body as fundamental consciousness, the constructed, protective boundary between inner and outer experience naturally dissolves. It is transcended, or traversed, by the unified, pervasive ground of FC. This means that we can experience the internal space of our body as continuous with the space pervading our environment. If we inhabit our chest, for example, then we experience the present moment occurring inside and outside of our chest at the same time. This is not a matter of divided attention. Fundamental consciousness is more subtle than our focus of attention. Our focus of attention can shift, but fundamental consciousness does not shift; it is experienced as stillness, pervading inside our body and outside of our body at the same time. You can try this out for yourself.
Take a moment to inhabit the internal space of your chest.
Fill your chest with yourself, with your own being. See if you can feel that you are living within your whole chest, all the way through to your upper back, and out to the sides of your chest.
You may be able to feel that by inhabiting your chest, you can experience this present moment inside and outside of your chest as a unity. In other words, you may be able to experience your surroundings at the same time as you experience whatever emotions or thoughts you are having as you do that.
Wherever you are in contact with the internal space of your body, you are open, permeable, and responsive to your environment. By inhabiting your chest, you will experience deeper, more fluid emotional responsiveness to your environment.
Wherever you live in your body, you are also present within your body. You will have a felt sense, which can also be sensed by others, of being present. Inward contact with yourself, openness to your environment, and presence all occur in the same way, by inhabiting your body.
To be present, open, and conscious everywhere in our body means that you have access to all of your being at once. You receive life with your whole being and respond with your whole being. You can sense, feel, know, and perceive at the same time. When you touch a leaf, for example, this is not just a tactile experience. Your experience of the leaf is sensual, emotional, and cognitive simultaneously. Although the content of your experience, at any given moment, may register more in one realm of yourself than another, all of your modalities of experience are engaged in each moment.
It is not often recognized in conventional psychotherapy that there is an underlying wholeness, or a potential for wholeness, that we can access as we let go of our patterns of fragmentation. For example, the psychoanalyst Elizabeth Howell speaks of the fragmentations that result from trauma as “ego states” and claims that psychological health is the ability to flow smoothly between our various ego states.1
But in the Realization Process, we recognize that we can experience a ground of our being that is more subtle than these constructed ego states. It feels naturally unified and naturally existent. Fundamental consciousness is not something we construct — it is a given, like our physical anatomy. Once we uncover it, we do not shift into different fragments of ourselves in different situations. Although we certainly behave differently and have different emotional responses, we feel like the same person, like who we really are, in every circumstance. From the vantage point of this underlying ground of our being, we can observe the shifts that occur in us as we move through different environments. We can see how we may become humble in relation to one person or feel superior to someone else. With this capacity for observation, we can understand ourselves better and even make changes in our behavior and relationships.
Excerpted from TRAUMA AND THE UNBOUND BODY: The Healing Power of Fundamental Consciousness, by Judith Blackstone, PhD. Sounds True, December 2018. Reprinted with permission.
IN THIS ISSUE
- 1War and Soul Loss
- 2Using Depth Hypnosis Techniques to Treat PTSD
- 3Healing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with Kundalini Yoga and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
- 4Guidelines for Teaching Nervous System–Informed, Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (NITYA) to Survivors of Psychological Trauma
- 5History and Misunderstanding of Body Tremors
- 6Inhabiting the Body
- 7Oppression Embodied: The Intersecting Dimensions of Trauma, Oppression, and Somatic Psychology
- 8The Role of Love in Facing Childhood Sexual Abuse