Sunday, December 7, 2014

Spirituality: In-Body or Out-of-Body Experience?

I was raised in the Roman Catholic church in the era bridging Vatican II (1962). And so from a very young age I learned that spirituality involved having an out-of-the-body focus. This is in my bones. Despite my "falling away" from the church, two decades of church teachings formed the background that I brought into my early studies of Tai-chi Chuan and qigong.

At one point in my early training, I considered out-of-body spiritual practices and the internal martial arts and qigong practices as being complimentary. I interpreted qi as a kind of spiritual quality. After a long, rough road, I now see how confused I was.

Lynne Forrest wrote eloquently about her quest for enlightenment and spiritual development and the revelation that led to her transition from pursuing out-of-body experiences to pursuing an in-body experience. My understanding is that she now considers developing a deep, clear feeling of connection within our own bodies as a "spiritual" path. She writes, "What if embod­i­ment is even nec­es­sary in order to know God?" (emphasis added). See her June 29, 2011 blog article titled, An In-Body Experience.

I like her article for two reasons:
  1. She did a nice job summarizing this generation's counter-culture spiritual values.
  2. I like how she re-frames spirituality from an out-of-body pursuit to an in-body pursuit and then hits a few key points of the experience of an in-body practice.
Her article provides a wonderful segue into considering how the pursuit of an out-of-body spirituality is completely counter-productive to developing the internal aspects of Chinese martial arts and qigong.

A focus on developing out-of-body-ness at least inhibits and at most negates the prospects for developing in-body-ness.

Except maybe for the highest levels, there is nothing about neigong that is out-of-body. My understanding is that any "out of body" experience is more appropriately understood as connecting between my body and the world outside my body. The "home base" is the body. Of course the presupposition is that I-body is first fully connected internally.

Bruce Frantzis hits on a few of these points throughout his interview with Iain McNay.

Bruce Frantzis - 'Journey into Taoism' - Interview by Iain McNay

For me, the following are the key points of this interview:

8:10; It's not about being "spiritual". It's just good common sense to find out who you were. To most people, this doesn't enter their thought system. We live in a society that is utterly numb. And so much of the spiritual dimension is just blah blah blah blah blah

16:13; To mobilize qi, you have to learn how to really relax. To learn how to relax your muscles is hard enough. Then to really relax your energy, that's really harder.

37:30; What's in your head, if it doesn't translate through your body, you'll never notice it. When you're noticing something going on in your head, you're not noticing your brain, you're noticing your nervous system... how it's hitting your body in different ways.

Even though the interview goes on for over an hour and he does make some points that I understand (at my level of understanding), he also talks about some things that don't resonate with me based on my experience.

The bottom line for me is that it is worthwhile to at least entertain the notion of spirituality as being an in-body experience. This might be a way to help resolve the contention between A) my deeply ingrained religious views which devalue the "in here" in favor of the "out there" and B) my current practice which values feeling and connecting the "in here".

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