J. Randall Ory
25 - Energy in the Center - Part 4: Energy in the Body
We’re starting this discussion on the Body Knowing Center with an understandable degree of confusion. In some ways, we could say that there are three distinct ways to relate to our body. There is our actual body, our Body Being center, and our Body Knowing Center. It’s easy to see that there might be some confusion surrounding these three ideas as centered on this one body. Some of this will get fleshed out (pun intended) in our discussion of this God energy in the Body Knowing Center. But we’ll keep trying to differentiate all of this in other posts as well, so don’t worry, and don’t expect it all to become clear in this one discussion. Think about it this way. The Body Knowing Center is the way this God energy registers in the body and through the body. We could say that this is our bodily EQ and IQ. It might help to use another common name for the Body Knowing Center, called the gut. Ever heard anyone say that they just had a feeling in their gut? All of this is attempting to point to how we intuit things through the body, in a way that only the body can. I’ve been learning a lot more about this lately, because my Body Knowing Center is the one I’m least connected to. What I’ve realized, quite surprisingly, is that I’ve often tried to relate to and move through my body from my mind. I’ve not given the body its proper space to be its own Center of knowledge. Something I realized today, walking in the woods, is that it takes a degree of separation between the Knowing Centers in order for them to be more connected. Sounds strange, but the more the lines get blurred between these three, the more their functions can get covered over or controlled by the wrong center. We need to be well grounded in each Knowing Center in order for all three to operate in their proper space, in the proper way. And of all three, perhaps the Body Center is the most overshadowed, especially since we can confusion it with the fact that we live in our bodies every day. But living in our bodies, as I’ve already said, doesn’t mean we’re well connected to them. Sometimes it can mean that we’re the most disconnected from our bodies, because we can take them the most for granted through a surface familiarity. Living in the body does in no way mean we understand anything about how to intuit the divine energy of the universe through the body. So, how does the body do that?
Let’s start basic, and work our way up from there. Without any understanding of how we may sense God’s movements through our Body Knowing Center, we can at least understand how the body receives and perceives the world around it. The body is the organ of physical sense. As the heart feels things through emotion, the body feels things through physical sensations. Sound, smell, sight, taste, touch; through all of these come the messages of the world around us. The Body Knowing Center processes the messages of the physical world around us through all these senses. Remember, though, that the Body Knowing Center is not merely the physicality of the body, but the mind of the body which translates things through physicality. Think if it this way. With the heart, emotion is the stimulus, the Heart Knowing Center is the organ which registers it, but the data comes from outside of both. With the body, the body itself is the stimulus, the Body Knowing Center is the organ which registers it, and the data comes from the outside world. It’s a three-component process. It might also help to say that the Body Knowing Center is abstract, and actually exists apart from the body. In other words, the memory, experience, and wisdom learned through the Body Knowing Center will remain even when the body is gone. It’s easier, I think, to understand how the other two Knowing Centers could be a three-part process, because every part is more abstract. But with the body, the fact that two of the three parts are physically concrete can make the third and last easier to miss. We have a physical body which is stimulated by a physical world. It’s a little harder to grasp a literal emotional, or mental world around us, especially in a culture which can overidentify with the mind/body paradigm. We can make the mistake of understanding reality as existing only in the material, in only the world we can literally see. This is what can make the work of getting in tune with the whole world through our whole selves more difficult, and even getting in tune with our physical self, because we even limit that to just a body reacting to physical world. But a reactive body is just two parts of the equation. It’s the end result that we call the Body Knowing Center. A part of getting in tune with this Knowing Center entails an understanding that we can do more than simply react to outside stimulus. We are not just biological machines programed with DNA responses, mindlessly reacting to input. The body has a mind. The body has memory. The body takes in data and learns, and the body exercises that learning through the Body Knowing Center. All of this learning then registers in the Soul Being Center, where the Body/Spirit Centers can then interpret and respond. Stepping from the Body Knowing Center to the Being Centers might seem a little confusing, because I just said that the body has its own mind, and can respond out of that mind with its own form of learning. But I also just said that it’s the role of the Body/Mind Being Centers to respond. Both are true. Just as the Mind or Heart Centers can react to their own data in a way disconnected from the Being Centers, so too can the body. The proper function is for us to understand that the three Knowing Centers are meant to provide data, registered in the Soul Center, so the Body/pirit Centers can interpret and respond in connection to God’s direct guidance. But, just as the mind can simply react to data without a proper understanding or filter, so too can the body. The Body Center is meant to pass on the data, but sometimes it can simply react. It’s just that there are two levels of reaction going on here, both of which can trap the body in its isolation. The physical body can react without the body-mind, and the body-mind can react without the Being Centers. I think this makes it harder for the body to reconnect all the way up the chain to the Being centers through the soul. Is any of this making sense yet? If anything, at least we can begin to see why we may, in fact, be the most disconnected from the Body Knowing center, because of all these layers.
Remember, part of the dysfunction of disconnection from our whole being is getting trapped in our separate parts. That dysfunction can translate into identifying with less and less of our whole self. That’s why it’s called the small self. And that small self will continue to get smaller. We can think of the process of shrinking into the smallest self as a movement from our most abstract parts to our most concrete. The most abstract would be our Spirit Center and the least our physical bodies. Thus, the smallest self can come to live entirely and only in the physical body, even leaving much of the heart and mind behind. We actually can become just biological machines, reacting mindlessly to physical stimulus. We often see this oversimplified dichotomy in the world between two kinds of classes. We might call those classes white-collar vs. blue collar, intellectual vs. laborers, upper vs. lower, city vs. country, and so on. But this oversimplification shows just how fragmented we’ve become in our compartmentalized selves, that we only see two classes of people, those who live more out of the body, and those who live more out of the mind. We are meant to live out of the body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit. I say all that to show how difficult it can be to differentiate between the body and the body-mind, because we have often become that small of a self. The goal is to begin to come alive to the connection we have with all our parts, in order to reconnect our whole self to the whole world. To do that, we need to also reconnect to the energy of that world, which we can also call God. It is that reconnection which trickles down to our self-reconnection, and not the other way around. We don’t have to do the work of reconnecting to our whole self in order to jump start this reconnection to God. That would be the false narrative of religion, which has us working hard to earn our way back to God. That is a dead-end system which will not restore our God-connection. Only God can begin to illuminate our disconnected, dysfunctional parts and guide us to self-reunification. I’ve heard it put this way. The same system which created the problem cannot create the solution. A broken system only produces broken solutions. We need to first get reconnected to the flow of God. Then, with God’s help, we’ll be able to start seeing and working on reconnecting with our whole self. It takes God to show us, because our small self can only see what it is, not what it can become. The smallest self is the body-self, which only sees itself as a body in a material world. That self cannot reach upwards to anything else, because it sees nothing else. Can we not see the result of this smallest self in the world around us today. We live in a culture which seems to live primarily out of the material, and hardly sees anything else. We have become so disconnected in ourselves, from ourselves. Thus, we cannot, out of that disconnection create reconnection. To reach up to what we cannot see, we must first reach down through what we cannot touch. We must admit that we are truly impoverished. We must become humble, and by faith begin to invite God to come and show us just how true the poverty of our self-isolation has become. Jesus, in a vison to the mystic John, said it this way, “you think you are rich, wealthy and need nothing, but you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” When all our seeing is the merely physical, and all our wealth is merely material, we are indeed the most blind and poor. Have we not spent enough time investing in this kind of limited world to see that it does not truly make us rich in the things that matter most? The wealth of joy, love, peace, and fulfillment can never be purchased with money, or held by our physical hands. To gain them we must first realize that we cannot get them, they can only be given to us. We must reverse the flow, which sees with an understanding that all things come to us from God, and nothing we can get by taking will really satisfy. The body-self, trapped in a merely physical world, does not even have the imagination to understand this possibility. We must break out of this limited self, which begins with the humble recognition that we truly cannot. We must become desperate enough to want that, which means we must first have a true encounter with the poverty of this smallest self.
The question is, when will our culture come to the end of chasing after purely material fulfillment through a mostly material self? I don’t know, but I see what seems to be the end result in our culture all around. Emotional and mental health is at an all-time high. Self-esteem and religious interest are at an all-time low. What that tells me is that we’ve run from the things that matter most, and found the least satisfaction in the things that matter least. How long before we stop, collapse in the dust, and simply say, “this is not working.” That point is the beginning of personal transformation. It doesn’t come through working harder, but through giving up. The body only knows working harder, because it only sees material causality in a physical world. Either we work hard to survive, or we die. The idea of surrender to the body is death, because the body-self sees no other reality. To the body-self, we are in a desperate situation. The world may well be burning down around us, but we still must choose to try and survive. To jump into the fire and die is insanity. Thus, the solution of surrender and death will never make sense to the body-self. In a purely material world, we must keep struggling to survive, or we will die. When things are going terribly wrong, we still have to struggle. We cannot give up. But to the larger self, giving up is the relief we’ve been waiting for, and wanting. The Body Knowing Center can actually perceive this, because it can intuit things beyond the purely elemental world of the body. Isn’t that interesting. The gut, as we might call it, can actually see a world bigger than the material. It knows, somehow instinctively, that there is something more. This is what the mystic and spiritual teacher Paul called the evidence of God’s qualities in the material world. As my spiritual teacher Richard Rohr once said, the physical universe is the first Bible. The natural world is the first revelation of who God is, because it was created out of the same God energy. Even the Body Knowing Center, all by itself, can see this deeper reality through the physical world. But we must begin to learn how to see through the material world. The body self is trapped when cannot see past the physical world, and at itself, past the surface of things to the deeper reality behind it. But the Body Knowing Center can see past the surface. I think this is where we most often begin to step beyond the body self, through the Body Center. It is the next closest part of ourselves, which can begin to lead us back to our fullest self. If we can begin to intuit a bigger world, through our instinctual gut center, then we have begun the spiritual journey. That is also why it’s important that our Body Knowing Center is abstract, because it can begin to step us out of the purely physical and back into the larger, more abstract world. It’s also important to remember that this world merely seems abstract, especially to our physical self, but the goal is to realize that the spiritual world is just as concrete as the physical. It only appears abstract to our smallest self. Once we become more fully engaged in a bigger world, we’ll begin to see that what we once thought of as abstract is actually the most concrete. As I’ve said before, the spiritual is actually the most real, because it is the most lasting. It is our spiritual self which cannot die. As we reconnect with that self, we become grounded in a reality that is eternal, and all the anxiety and fears of the smallest, body-self get balanced by the reality that nothing of our truest self truly dies. We suffer most when we cannot see beyond the material world, to the larger world and our larger self, because the limited reality of the material world seems to speak only of entropy. In the material world everything is dying. But the gut center has the ability to see beyond that, to a world where everything is actually coming to alive.
We’ve already talked about the cycle of death, burial, and resurrection in the first post of this series (post 22). The purely physical self only sees the first part. It only sees an inevitable progression towards an unavoidable death. It cannot see past the grave to rebirth, even though that pattern is clearly visible in the physical world alone. The fingerprints of God are everywhere. The message of life in constant renewal is everywhere. The body-self cannot see that, but the Body Knowing Center can. The way we begin to step towards that rebirth, is to let the concept of our most limited self die. It’s really a simple step. Do you believe there is more to the world than the material universe? That can be struggle if you’ve never believed in that before, so let me help you with a little non-sensical logic. There are only three possibilities for the origin of the material universe. I call these the impossible possibilities, hence my non-sensical logic. Either the material universe came from nothing, has always existed, or came from another source that has always existed, a source which we can call God. Aristotle called this the unmoved first mover. Notice, the first two impossible possibilities are deistic in nature, meaning that they do not require an intelligent cause behind the existence of the material universe. Most people in this scientific age, religious nor not, take a mostly deistic view of the material universe, meaning that we mostly see the world as a great big biological machine. This has done a lot to produce our most limited self, trapped mostly in a purely physical identity. To this self there is no energy behind the workings of the material world. It’s just one big, biological clock. But the last impossible possibility requires a mind behind the material, which we may call God, and the last is actually the most logical. Any created system implies a creator. Everywhere we look we see the result of a conscious, living mind. No one ever looks at a painting, car, building, shirt, coin, airplane and assumes it just popped into being on its own, through pure causal accident. We always, even without thinking, instinctively know created things have a creator, an artist if you will, except when we look at the created universe. To step back out of our smallest self, we must begin to allow for the same common sense we apply to the human created world, we must understand that the most likely impossible possibility for the material universe is an immaterial, spiritual, intelligent, eternal being. I'm not trying to be offensive, but Atheism or Agnosticism will not get us out of this deistic prison. No God, or a far-removed God, is not able to help us reconnect to the energy of the universe which sustains and connects all things. You can believe whatever you want about the existence of God, but you cannot get out of your small self unless you believe reconnection to God is possible. Fortunately, there is a part of even your physical self which knows this, and believes it even when your conscious self does not. That part is your Body Knowing Center, which is able to look through the physical universe and see more. The question is, will we begin to seek out and listen to the message of that Body Knowing Center?
I certainly don’t want to isolate or exclude anyone in this journey of personal transportation back to our fullest self, including those coming from a more Agnostic or atheistic background. If it’s more helpful for you to think about this God flow as an impersonal energy force, that’s fine. Whatever works for you in order to start to reconnected with this larger view of the world is fine. The point is less about how you view this energy, and more about reconnecting to it, even when you don’t have a good understanding of what that is. Experience always precedes understanding. That’s what makes the Body Knowing Center so important, because it is so experientially based. This is what we call the dichotomy between rationalism and empiricism. Rationalism is how the mind handles truth; empiricism comes through the body. It is an experienced truth, an experience of truth. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “that was rationalized,” meaning, someone came up with a reason for doing something that made sense in their heads, even though it was still wrong. This speaks to the distortion of reality that happens when we detach our truth from experience by using only the mind. The mind/rational is always balanced by the body/empirical, that’s what contemplation is all about. It’s also why the over-intellectualized Christian religion is growing exponentially irrelevant in an age where we’re reaping the fruit of such disconnection from our whole self. We are coming to the conclusion, experientially, that the over rational system for truth, through which we’ve tried to understand the world, isn’t working. It isn’t connecting us to reality, it’s disconnecting us. Science actually has a better framework for this than religion. In science we call a purely rational conclusion a theory, and we call a workable conclusion a fact, which is a mental theory that has actually proved true in the physical world. The same is true with God. Unfortunately, most of modern western religion has spent too much time engaged in theories, not much time in seeing if and how those theories work. Contemplation does not accept this. It maintains the highest integrity for truth, that it must work in reality if we are to believe it with our heads. Contemplation is the attempt to put spiritual theories into practice, in order to experience God for real. The Body Knowing Center is perfectly fitting for this, because it grounds us in the most experiential center of all. It attempts to know God through the first Bible, experiencing God through the natural world in ways the mind cannot perceive. The mind engages with the mind of God, the heart with the heart of God, and the body with the body of God, which is the created universe. Getting out into nature, then, is good therapy for the body (along with many other body experiences), in order to reconnect us back to the body of God. But we must begin to allow for a seeing through the physical world, the very thing our gut intuition is made for.
Just as the best communication of God to the mind comes in visions – revelation through image driven pictures – so too is vision the best communication of God to the body. This body vision is seen literally, as we view the created world aglow with God’s divine presence. It’s not just the novelty of seeing the natural world, of entertaining the eyes with curious sights and sounds. It is seeing in a deeper way the image of God through the world, as we might also see the creativity and personality of an artist through their art. This is how the body can intuit God through the natural world. When we begin to “see” in this way, the world comes alive with an enchantment that imbues all things with divine mystery and excitement. Then we can begin to “hear” God speaking through nature, “see” God moving through nature, “taste” God flavors in nature, and “feel” God’s embrace through nature in a way that begins to bring us back to life. Then we will not just "see" a fallen tree in the woods, we will "see" the magic of renewal alive in all things through the process of death, burial, and resurrection. Then we will begin to hear the deeper message of God through the world, telling us that even though we die, yet shall we live. The finality of death is an illusion. It is just the first step in the divine dance of renewal. Entropy is just the introduction to a waltz. God is inviting us into an eternal dance, but we cannot see that with only physical eyes. To the physical, all we will see is death. We must get to the rest of the dance, but we can only see that as we look beyond the first step to the never-ending flow of eternal energy which enlivens, fills, and fulfills all things. How do we do this? The answer is surrender.
Remember, we do not get to choose what reality is, only how we relate to it. We can attempt to control the flow of data to us, or we can surrender to the data and learn how to process it in better ways, as led by God. To filter reality always produces a filtered reality, which means we never really know or experience what is real. The solution is to step away from the filters, let reality come to us as it is, and trust that God is big enough to help us deal with it. With the Body Knowing Center, what this means, is that we surrender as fully as we can to the experience of the body in the world. This can be harder than it seems. We live in a world that is an increasingly dangerous place for our bodies. There is so much overt and blatant bodily abuse and oppression. In Human trafficking, misogyny, the “Me Too” movement, and the objectification of the body through visual media, we see bodies being abused in one form or another. In light of this, it can seem counter-intuitive and unsafe to surrender to the data. It can also seem easier to desensitize our bodies in an effort to protection. But as we’ve already discussed, numbing doesn’t remove us from the data, it just removes our awareness of it. The data is still streaming, still bombarding us, still there to hit us whether we acknowledge it or not. The difference is whether we're going to face it, and deal with it consciously, or cast it into the subconscious where it can still damage us unaware. Bringing the data into the light can be hard, and painful, but it is the healthiest way, and reconnects us back to our bodies as we were meant to be. Of course, we need to know that it is safe to do this. We can only know this if we understand who is God, and how he/she is truly at work in the world bringing things back to life. For me that’s meant letting my body go through things that have been startling for my body, because re-sensitizing what has been desensitized is always a shock. In an earlier post I talked about this in terms of some recent panic attacks, but really, those were just the last convulsions of my body shaking back to life. If you remember, God’s message to me in that experience was, “don’t run from this,” and I think that’s the best advice for us all. God will reveal the ways you’re pushing away such visceral experience of the world. Your job is to just try to be still instead of running. That takes trust and surrender. We’ll never surrender if we do not trust the One in charge of the process. In this way the process is like a dance; as we learn to trust God more, we step out more, which helps us see that we can trust God more. It’s important to remember that, especially when it comes to the body, experience not thinking leads the way. You cannot think you’re way back into the body. But you’ll know when it’s happening. I had that experience last night.
This was the scene as my wife and I sat on the couch watching television. I was near the middle of the couch, she had her legs laying straight out over my legs, and the dog was on my right resting his head on me. For some reason I looked down, took notice of my present situation, and asked my wife, “did I used to like this.” “No,” she said, “you would get squirmy after about two seconds with my legs on yours.” The same was true when we were in bed. In the past, I could never be close to her while we slept. I needed space to sleep. In many ways for me, touch was more than uncomfortable, it was painful and shocking. It was like a jolt to my body. I just always accepted that as my norm, and tried as best as I could to avoid many forms of touch. I didn’t mind giving hugs, and certain other forms of touch. But it was mostly on my terms. When it came to being touched, I usually had a visceral repulsion. Now, that has changed a lot, and still is, as I’m learning to let go and let the experience happen. The one thing that helped me the most was learning to say “yes” instead of “no” in my body-mind. When I saw something coming, and felt my body starting to say “no” to it, I made an effort to let go of that “no” and say “yes” to the experience. As Joe Dirt used to say, “you can’t have no in your heart.” I think that’s about as good as you can get when it comes to embracing the full experience of the body. Stop saying “no”. Start surrendering to the moment, trusting that God is with you, guiding your experience with a higher wisdom. Eventually, the work bears out, we learn to relax the body, stop trying to protect and shield it from the world, and then we begin to enjoy the experience of embodiment as it’s meant to be. Then, we can begin to more fully open to the energy of God in the world around us. God will speak through our body experience as much as any other, but if we’re not open to it, we won’t be able to feel it in our gut. Our work is to stop resisting the data, and start trusting the Divine to walk us through it in a more open stance, acting as our filter. That is how we come back alive, fully engaged as a body in the world.
The question is, do you want that? Are you ready to suffer through and grow? I know just how unsettling that can be, especially when dealing with recovery from trauma. But you don’t have to walk through it alone. God really is with you, and so am I. I hope you can also find others near you to help. Let them help. Let them know what’s going on. We need walking companions on this journey to greater wholeness. We may even need a professional counselor. Explore every option. Get as much help as you can on this journey. Don’t do it alone. It takes a lot of bravery to open up and let others know what’s going on. Not everyone will understand, or be sympathetic. Don’t get discouraged. The work is worth it. I hope you can see that, and can feel the energy of God surrounding you, calling you back to life. It is an enchanted universe. Magic awaits. Love awaits. Love is always worth it, and love is a God who loves you every day through the hug of a sunrise, and the kiss of a gentle breeze on your cheek. Embrace each day with that hope and promise. The night will pass, and the sun will also rise in your heart. A new day is coming. I hope you can feel, know, and see that. You are loved. You are not alone. God is right beside you. Let him/her lead you into that new day. Amen.