My problem with transcendence

I recently wrote an article for a client on “meditation 101”. It was fun to write, given my study of the topic and my practice for the past 2.5+ years. It was posted at the client website, sadly without a byline. But it is all good practice and part of my writing portfolio, so to speak.

I wanted to reflect on a principle that I think is a misconception about meditation, at least in my experience. People often assume that you must do something to “transcend” the body, when in reality the goal for me is to get grounded in the body. I seek to come back to my body not to transcend or escape it in any way.

Photo credit link – my article without the byline

Most of my days are spent “in my head” and outside my body. I recently realized that my body contains a tremendous amount of wisdom and intuition that my over-active brain conveniently “skips” much of the time. When I come back to my home, the body itself, I access what my soul is trying to tell me. It is through understanding the subtle emotional language of the body that our truths can be revealed to us. 

A lot of the men and the male teachers of meditation that have instructed me have encouraged us to “transcend” the body, and go to some ethereal destination. Perhaps this works for them, and I will not disparage their efforts.

We are built with this mammalian architecture that is incredibly subtle and wise. We ignore it at our peril. Women have been “escaping” and transcending their bodies for millennia due to patriarchy, cultural norms and many other reasons. It is time we stopped taking that advice, and stepped into full ownership and joy in our bodies. That’s where the magic happens. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Transcend or Ground?

A lot of people think of “transcendence” when it comes to meditation practice. I used to think of that as well, and it’s the reason I never succeeded in my many early tries to adopt this as a habit of mine.

In both my yoga and my meditation practices, what I realize now is that I need to return to the body, to “ground” myself in the present moment, again and again. I seldom really find that I stop thinking, only that I now notice when my mind has drifted from the task of noticing breath or body sensations.

I am sure there are some enlightened gurus out there who can transcend the body and mind and commune with the oneness or something. But let’s be real, most of us (and I think this applies especially to women) are pretty out-of-touch with what our bodies want and need. Our culture and society tell us either we are inadequate or that bodies are dirty and “carnal” entities. In fact, I have come to understand my body as a beautiful and exquisite instrument.

Body awareness image

It is Western and mostly Judeo-Christian thinking that separates our spiritual “center” from our bodies. Ironically, we use the body as a symbol in some Christian rituals, like communion. The body and the blood of Christ are taken as a symbol of union with the savior. Turned another way, perhaps that is a way of “grounding” in the body as a ritual of unity and integration with the Almighty.

Sadly, when we think of the body as dirty and “base” it can lead to neglect and disgust for this beautiful instrument in which we were born. Certainly it is imperfect, and there are things we may wish to change. But to honor the body we have, at this very moment, is to offer thanks for our being. This is the body we live in, and it does its very best to keep us healthy in the face of numerous challenges.

Perhaps someday when I have done complete work on accepting, rooting and grounding in my body as it is, I will reach some state of spiritual transcendence. But right now, I prefer to come back and ground myself in the body and the breath. That is what anchors me, and helps me make better decisions in my life.

I watch my “puppy mind” with affection, understanding and curiosity, knowing that it likes to run around and play. And then I come back again. I rest in the present moment and cultivate this awareness of the body that was somehow lost along the way as I absorbed the cultural messages around me. That feels like genuine progress for me.