November 16, 2010

Meditation is Deeply Somatic

In the classical Buddhist traditions, meditation is deeply somatic—it is fully grounded in sensations, sensory experience, feeling, emotions, and so on. Even thoughts are related to as somatic—as bursts of energy experienced in the body, rather than nonphysical phenomena that disconnect us from our bodies. In its most ancient Buddhist form, meditation is a technique for letting go of the objectifying tendency of thought and of entering deeply and fully into communion with our embodied experience. And hence it leads to “touching enlightenment with the body.”

And yet, among many of us modern people, meditation is often practiced as a kind of conceptual exercise, a mental gymnastic. We often approach it as a way to fulfill yet another agenda or project—that of attempting to become “spiritual,” according to whatever we happen to think that is. We may try to use meditation to become peaceful, sharper, more “open,” more effective in our lives, even more conceptually adroit. The problem with this is that we are attempting to be managers, to supersede nature, to control “the other.” In this case, the “other” is ourselves, our bodies, and our own experience. Ultimately, it is our own somatic experience of reality that we are trying to override in the attempt to fulfill our ego aim.

-Reginald A. Ray, "Touching Enlightenment"

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