Practically all our suffering--subtle or apparent--comes from believing we are our body. As soon as we assume we are a body, we assume our nature is a small, disconnected self. What follows is a barrage of painful lack beliefs that keep compounding, causing us more discomfort and tension as we go.
To the adept--whose desire it is to become ever more free of suffering until freedom from suffering reigns supreme--it is of the essence to spend awareness on the direct realization that the being (you) is not the body. Many people have an image of this when I say it, but few enjoy the direct experience of it.
Understanding Our Conditioning
The notion of being the body is picked up gradually and unconsciously as we grow up. First, we see our parents looking down at our bodies seemingly affirming over and over again that there is an existence which resides in our bodies.
They start calling our bodies by names. As we learn to walk we focus on learning to use our muscles and balancing our bodies. It's a relentless process that requires all our focus on the body. Without learning to use the body, we realize don't seem to get anywhere we feel like getting. We feel tied to and dependent on the body's limitations.
When the body is uncomfortable, we feel it intimately, and our genetics will give us signals--physically conditioned and passed down since ancient times--that we should be alert and seek greater comfort to ensure the survival of the body.
By the time we are 6 years old, our notion of being the body is already so completely programmed into our unconscious mind--even without anyone having ever told us that we are the body, but purely by moving it around and looking at other bodies--that a simple statement by a spiritual scripture stating "You are not your body." generally isn't enough to release this mental construct from us and take with it the suffering that this idea constantly generates.
If we want to be (more) free from suffering, we need practice. Consistent practice that involves deconstructing this idea and seeing with great clarity that it simply isn't the truth.
Here's one technique to help you get closer to the bliss-state-without-a-body, also known as Self-Realization. And remember, waking up to this is only the beginning. Awakening to something quickly grows old if not followed up with deeper realization, until the identification drops off completely and Freedom alone Is.
Exercise: Taking the Body out of the Mind
>>Phase One (2-5 minutes): Relax your mind. Enter a receptive, open-minded, meditative state. Take a couple of breaths to release the grosser tensions in the body. Relax your ideas and sense of time. Rest into the experience of Now... Once you feel calm, move to Phase Two.
>>Phase Two (7-15 minutes): Notice your body; the sensation of having it. The visual outline that your mind comes up with when it thinks of or refers to your body.
Now imagine your right index finger is severed or that it just fell off. Make this a peaceful, painless visualization. Imagine the visual and the sensation of not having this finger attached to your body.
Now imagine picking up this finger and looking at it. Ask yourself: "Is this finger me? Am I inside this finger?" Then clearly, with vivid awareness realize that obviously it is not. Imagine the finger disappearing into nothingness, leaving no trace of its existence.
Repeat the same process of imagination with your right middle finger. Your ring finger. Your pinky. Your thumb. Now repeat the same process on the left hand. Keep seeing clearly that obviously you are not contained in/by/as that particular part of the body.
Then cut off your right hand at the wrist and repeat the same question as you look at your right hand, detached from your body. Then the left hand.
Then the following body parts, and keep repeating the same visualization, staying relaxed, awake and present to the inquiry and the consequent realizations:
- Right forearm.
- Left forearm.
- Right upper arm.
- Left upper arm.
- Left leg.
- Right leg.
- Imagine your genitals being taken out of your body.
- Your lower upper body (navel down).
- Imagine your heart being taken out of your chest.
- Chest/romp entirely removed from the base of the neck.
- Neck removed from the head.
Now you are just a floating head. Or maybe you are a head on the floor. Feel this for a second. It comes with an interesting sensation. There is a clarity and release of body-attachment at this stage of the imagination process already present. Enjoy the feeling of freedom as you feel more and more like you are simply becoming Awareness itself, floating without a body.
Then finally, imagine your head getting crushed or simply disappearing into nothingness, leaving no trace in your visualized environment. Now it's just You. Naked, Aware, Shining You.
Clearly, you are not the body. You are Spirit. You are the Great Self. You are I-I. You are Free. Like Awake Space.
>>Phase 3 (for the rest of your life...): Enjoy your freedom. Repeat the exercise as necessary. Each time you will find deeper absorption into a very pleasant detachment and the world becoming a little bit more like a dream to you.
Once you've practiced going through all the steps and having arrived at the sense of Awareness free of a body/form, you can practice recalling this sensation/relaxation into Awareness-free-of-form and lock onto that clarity profoundly as you go grocery shopping or as you are talking to a friend. You could even consider practicing this until it is permanent for you. That'd be historic. I would come to your retreats.
Watch as no trouble gets to you upon experiencing the freedom of object-less Awareness. Freedom. Happiness. Effortlessness. Let go. Rest in this state until it is more and more obvious and apparent at all times.