Sunday, January 31, 2010

238 - Bodily Experience

We cannot afford to neglect our bodies, even if we recognize that we must not identify with them exclusively. Actually, in our search for our true selves, our physical existence is the best place to start. We can alter our lives by how we eat and exercise, and we can expedite our search by keeping ourselves healthy.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 238~
I'm often puzzled at how religions/philosophies from the west AND the east view the human body as stumbling block toward wisdom, salvation and/or wisdom. Why are the sins of the flesh viewed as worse than any other type of sin?

While there may be an aspect to us that goes beyond our bodily form, almost every creature on this planet has a body. It is what we utilize each and every day to live. Generally speaking, when the body dies, so do we.

Who would suggest that for a dolphin or an ant to realize its better self it should see beyond its body? That just sounds crazy, yet many people apply this notion to human beings.

While our forms aren't the end-all, be-all of our existence, they do play a major role. And so it would seem, as Deng Ming-Dao suggests, that we should care for our bodies just as much as we care for any other aspect of the self.

If the body is diseased or compromised, then the entirety of our life system is out of whack. Since one of the prime aims of philosophical Taoism is to achieve and maintain balance, it seems imperative that we care for the form that makes us who we are, lest we lose the sense of our own internal harmony.


  1. Thinking back to a comment I made a few posts earlier, about the body being a tool in Taoist enlightenment, rather than an impediment, even if we "just die" in the end, it is certainly nicer to die in old age, peacefully, when we're done living, than succumb to the painful lifestyle diseases of affluence (diabetes, cancer, heart disease, obesity, alcoholism) or poverty (TB, AIDS, malaria, measles etc.).

  2. Good post...this body is the vehicle for 'enlightenment'...for the universe to find itself.

    What I have learned over the years is that my thoughts wander into the past and future, but my body is always here and now. So when I get 'lost' I return to what my body is doing and my purpose of the moment. It helps me stay here and now and flow with what is.

  3. "Why are the sins of the flesh viewed as worse than any other type of sin?"

    My thinking on this question has been that sins of the flesh are more difficult to control - i.e. you can stop people from committing most crimes by making laws, but "victimless" crimes such as adultery or the partaking of intoxicants are very private choices, less easily controlled by the powers that be. So it becomes necessary for power hungry elitist types to come up with some terrible "sin" against "God" or nature to instill enough fear among the "pea brained" - as they see us peasants - to keep us in line.

    Most religions have and always will be nothing more than glorified methods of crowd control.

  4. To go beyond the body is simply to see beyond. To see how we are as much our environment as our local body, we are Tao itself we don't stop at the hair on our arms.

    To discount the body is a misreading as everyone sees the body is useful and necessary. It would hardly by Tao if we removed a bit.

    So see beyond and embrace all.

    Limited to the body your perspective is contracted. That does not say the body is at fault here.

  5. i agree, and it's the main reason why i used to practice kundalini yoga. it was basically body stretches, breathing excercises, and spiritual experiences rolled into one. i have always experienced spirituality by not doing, just being... and by doing... and by not doing and sometimes not being, either. :) basically i think that the more you are able to find value in, the more you learn. it was amazing some of the things i realized about myself when i practiced kundalini yoga.


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