Last time we’ve considered the Social realm and the idea of increasing meaning in one’s life through increasing connections.
Our exploration of the 3 realms (Social, Physical, Mental) continues with the Physical.
What is it?
Big Idea: The body is a vessel through which the universe acts.
Basically: Have a purpose that is bigger than yourself.
A helpful perspective to take in the physical realm is that the body is no more than a vessel and that the universe is using it to do its mission. There are a few prerequisites to this idea that will be expanded more on in the Mental realm, such as a recognition of some higher and (seemingly) external intelligence (however that may manifest). This was also a core idea in the Social realm when we explored the importance of connection to some external entity. This entity can be anything (preferably something with a perceived life-force, i.e. not a physical object), from “God” to the energy of plants/trees. Whatever you choose to believe. I can go more into this idea, but the big picture is the importance of feeling driven through an external force, this has profound implications to the derived meaning we’ve discussed in the Social realm. Ultimately this belief is not meant to be right or wrong (but you must believe it to be highly likely based on your experience, i.e. don’t trick yourself or blindly believe, but be able to find meaning in your experiences to such a degree that you feel there is something more going on than “meets the eye”. E.g. you feel a different energy from a tree or plant than you do a pillow), the belief is meant to provide a perspective to take in looking at the world, an effective one that allows for you to be carried through struggled with only your thoughts and no need for outside interference (i.e. “no shoulder to lean on”). This is important due to the aspect of disciplining and controlling your mind.
I’ll explore the mental implications of a “vessel” mindset and the importance of perspectives in greater depth at another time. For now, the important point is the perspective that your body is a tool that some bigger picture entity uses to achieve prosperity (however you define it).
The main driver of your conscious perception of reality is your brain, the physical body is no more than a big lump of sensory organs to give information to the brain so that it can understand what is going on (it is in the darkness of your skull!) This is to ultimately be able to understand the environment to move through it in pursuit of energy to sustain it, this could be at the core as to why brains exist in the first place (see the fish that eats its own brain). The brain will apply interpretations based on data from the sensory organs to build an understanding of the world, but the thing that is doing the interpreting is also the thing that creates your awareness of self and thus the thing you can influence to impact what interpretation is taken. This can be difficult at times due to the simple fact that the brain has evolved over millions of years and that there are a lot of behaviors that the brain easily pick up on (e.g. the ease of learning a snake = fear, which is reinforced through society by how we see our parents behave around a snake). But the brain is also highly adaptable (and it evolved to be so!) so you have much more influence than you may at first think over your brain. Any record breaking feat is testimony to the ability for the brain to adapt to achieve things that have never been done before, especially once the individual believes it can be done.
Why is it Important?
Big Idea: A body with a purpose/meaning is highly resilient.
Basically: Viewing yourself as a part of a bigger purpose empowers you with resilience.
The perspective you choose to take on the sensory data coming in from your sensory organs ultimately impacts the effect it will have on your body.
Having sensory organs means you have senses, senses provide some sensation to your body, pleasure and pain fall out as a byproduct to motivate or demotivate your action (based on how the brain interprets the stimulus, i.e. as good or bad to its survival). Once you define one extreme the other is instantly created, you can’t call yourself a “good person” without there also being “bad people”, this is to say that you can’t have the interpretation of pleasure without the interpretation of pain. You will feel pain, it is simply the byproduct of having sensory organs. You have senses, congratulations, you’re alive and can experience the world in all of its raw pleasure and pain. Pain and discomfort is inevitable, BUT suffering is a choice (based on the interpretations of your senses!)
Seeing your body from this perspective of sensory organs to provide data to the brain with a strong connection to some bigger picture entity provides several perspective changing insights. First, it gives you control over the interpretations from these sensory organs (it does NOT remove pain, as we’ve discussed, that is inevitable due to the existence and your recognition of pleasure), once this control is given to you, the interpretation you choose can be one that provides a purpose and meaning to your life.
Anxiety is a different interpretation of the sensations of excitement. Anger is a different interpretation of the sensations of passion (i.e. you can’t be angry about something you don’t care about). How you frame the situation or sensation makes all of the difference.
Together with this notion of the body being a pile of sensory organs with the sole purpose of providing your brain with an understanding of the world, the control of interpretation you have over that understanding, and the big picture idea of your body being a vessel to carry out the deeds of some bigger picture entity all lead to an improved ability to be resilient in the face of struggle. This is something that is trained, it is something that should continue to be trained throughout your life, it is a lifestyle and a life philosophy.
How do I Develop it?
Big Idea: Approach sensation with a sense of curiosity.
Basically: Explore whatever you feel without labeling or judging. Drop the resistance.
Your life is an experience, it is as if the universe is exploring and recognizing itself through you. Just as when you were a kid and exploring curiously the world around you, a sense of curiosity towards the sensations (pleasurable, but also (especially) the unpleasant). The impact of this curiosity is huge as it changes the perspective of resistance towards what is to one of acceptance and exploring what is. This drives attention into the present and allows for internal and eternal growth. Just as the best strength gains in the gym occur when you approach the lift deliberately (and consistently) with the intent to improve (challenging yourself while remaining in proper form), the more you deliberately feel whatever it is that you feel the more control you will gradually gain over it. It will start off intense as you have not had much experience with it (as it is with lifting heavy weights), but you will quickly gain control over it and with this control will come a large and foundational perspective change that will continue to have rippling effects throughout your life affecting your character, personality, and interpretations of future sensations.
This idea of a pile of experiences has huge implications from the very filter that we create through which ultimately influences our interpretation of events and even has connections to habits (i.e. the addition of one experience to this pile promotes the addition of future, similar, experiences as it sort of biases us towards similar/comfortable future experiences). I will explore this in greater depth later, for now understand that this idea is so foundational that it can’t help but have many implications and be related to the 3 realms (Social, Physical, Mental) simultaneously, because what is life but a series of experiences? And what are experiences but the complex interplay and recognition of social, physical, and mental stimulus?
The point being, the sensations we experience are just a byproduct of the sensory organs we have and our interpretation of them greatly influences how they are stored in memory. A great tool to step away from the habit of resistance or judging these sensations is to approach them with a sense of curiosity. This is powerful because curiosity is neutral on the realm of pain and pleasure, it is just a recognition with presence and acceptance, a sense of exploration to what is. There is no focus applied to either pain or pleasure, there also is no expectation of either.
When you feel hunger pains, instead of interpreting it as uncomfortable, explore that sensation in a mindful manner without any interpretation of positive or negative, just the sensation of having sensory organs that feed information to the brain, which you control the interpretation. Next time you feel an itch building up, do the same thing, don’t think about itching it
When you do this you may notice that a lot of what your initial reaction to these sensations are is no more than a habit that likely was initially formed from what your environment made you think you should feel or think given that stimulus, or simply a habit that you’ve built yourself such as feeling hunger and choosing to eat. Just with all habits (i.e. unconscious actions that the physical body knows how to do better than the conscious mind, e.g. usually the more conscious you are of the minor details while trying to shoot a basketball in a hoop, the worse the shot is), you can gain control back by simply bringing them (deliberately) into the conscious (it’s as if the conscious is a mental workspace where once you bring focus to a thing you can then modify it, of course this takes time but after deliberate and consistent action change will start to take place.) The most effective way I found to do this without the sensations overwhelming you to the pleasure or pain extreme is by approaching them with a sense of unconditional curiosity. You will know you are doing this correctly when you forget that you are “supposed” to interpret it one way or another (through the conditioning your environment has imposed on you). This will be realized incrementally, starting with you “forgetting” for only a few moments, in which the actual sensation of the experience you may find was neutral, hardly pleasurable or painful, it just was with a varying degree of intensity. Over time the duration you will be able to go before realizing the disconnect you had from interpretation of sensation will increase. Basically, you know you are correctly approaching sensation with curiosity when the urge to label and apply more thought to the experience diminishes, the sensation of simply existing occurs. This is a point of utter acceptance, surrendering to what is, no resistance and therefore no added, unnecessary, psychological pain.
There are a few very important and subtle points to consider with this curiosity approach. You CAN NOT effectively achieve this state of interpretation-less sensations from any sort of state of ego, expectation, or otherwise conscious motive. This can take form in the tendency to only approach things curiosity so that you can avoid the discomfort but will drop the curiosity approach when things are pleasurable again. This DOES NOT WORK, due to (as mentioned before), you can’t have one extreme without the other. The more attention you pay to pleasurable things, it is just by the simple principle of relativity, that the unpleasant things will be equally as attention-grabbing and intense. This is a tendency that will inevitably exist when you first begin this journey, but as long as you deliberately and consistently aim to improve, the intensity of the sensations you feel will lead to profound changes in the brain. These changes will greatly build character and discipline, they can only make you stronger. This is a practice. The underlying intention behind curiosity needs to come from a place beyond thought itself (i.e. no linkage to ego or selfish motives). This is a transformation. This ties into another important point, avoid the urge to label sensations, this is exactly an interpretation and often one that is habitual (from what your environment has told you to interpret it as, e.g. “this is a flower”, or even “this is beautiful”). You are truly and authentically approaching something with a state of curiosity when the mind chatter dies down, aim for a state of “no-thought”. This is a practice in mindfulness and acceptance.
It is important to note that this is a life-long practice, times of relapse may occur and there will be times and situations that are simply easier to remove pleasure/pain interpretations altogether and others where it is down-right tough. You can always improve and therefore there is no “impossible” other than what you define for yourself (i.e. you’re limited by what you believe you can do, don’t interpret this as cliche or voodoo, this all ties back to the notion of the pile of experiences, interpretations, and your body being a vessel with sensory organs so that the brain can develop an understanding of the world around it in order to promote its survival.) What you find more challenging to bring presence and a state of true interpretation-less curiosity to suggests some past experiences you’ve had that led to this difficulty. This is WONDERFUL, as you now have something to explore deeper (it may not be comfortable to do so!) and through which can build a deeper understanding of the world around you and come to many insights and realizations that help to connect dots as to why you have acted certain ways or felt certain things in the past.
This all ties back to the bigger picture of exploring your conscious existence. This is what is meant by the saying “know thyself”, the more you know yourself, the more you can optimize yourself for effective living and individualize experiences to best match you, i.e. the more you can be productive, efficient, and ultimately give your unique touch to the world and add value. A lot of things are presented in general terms, such as recommended diets or exercise routines, these are meant to have a broader reach and be accurate in a general sense. This advice and information should be approached through trial/error and exploration to see what works for you, if at first it doesn’t seem to work, modify it, the general idea being communicated perhaps is correct but the method suggested might not be accurate for you.
A deep sense of connection and wonder is a natural result of individualization. As with most things, the delivery in words often expresses the ideals, putting it into practice takes work. I often times find a disconnect in what people write about, they state the ideals but they avoid stating the struggles that accompany it, this can make people feel like they aren’t doing it right or that it “isn’t cut out for them”. Here, I want to make clear the contrary, if it is difficult, then it will probably be effective. Change occurs most profoundly with a greater intensity of stimulus. The intensity of thought/stimulus is the main driver in lasting and profound change.
Additionally, you can practice and improve the physical realm by noticing when (in real-time) and thinking about moments where you thought one thing with pure confidence but then a single realization changed your whole state (e.g. late for an airplane, but turn turn the corner to see a line of people waiting still, i.e. you didn’t miss your flight). This is a practice in recognizing interpretations, the more you do this (deliberately and consistently), the more you will find you feel more control over the interpretations of stimulus.
Overall awareness of the present moment and the sensations that your sensory organs provide your brain is the key in developing this realm. Additional practices useful in the endeavor include: meditation, feeling the life-force energy in your hands, limbs, heart, or other alive things (plants, animals, etc.), and any sort of mindful activity.
The whole point of this acceptance is to build up resilience. The obvious and often preached approach of “toughen it out” catches on in the mainstream because it is a romantic idea with a notion of a narrative/story that people can get behind. Reality is more nuanced, the dark moments in life hit hard and the things you did to prepare for them often go right out the door and your subconscious habitual actions kick in. This is why it is vital to prepare for these moments by regularly putting yourself in stressful and uncomfortable situations (e.g. cold showers, not scratching an itch, fasting) to reinforce habits of effectively slowing down your mind to approach the situation rationally. This is also what is meant by the phrase “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”, basically, after the first punch it is very easy for emotion to kick and and rationality to go out the door. Action from primarily emotion is more likely to be ineffective, the skill of calming yourself down amongst chaos and accessing the situation in an effective manner is something that is developed with deliberate practice.
Life will inevitably provide hardships and discomfort, how we approach them will make all the difference. This is the basic idea of stoicism, there is a reason why that philosophy is catching on a lot now and why many successful people follow it (e.g. Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Washington). It is not about whether having the experience or not, but the interpretation of the experience. It is not about struggling or not, but instead it’s about how you handle the struggle. Focus on what you can control. The strategies laid out above are profoundly useful tools in developing a mindset to effectively build this resilience. A more practical and in-depth approach will be taken in the writings on clarity, awareness, deliberate action, intensity of stimulus, and challenge.
Big Idea: A big picture purpose builds resilience, and resilience allows for effective action
Basically: A higher sense of purpose leads to more resilience which leads to more success.
The fundamental starting point to effectively developing the Physical realm is a change in interpretation. In particular, it is the interpretation of the sensations that we experience. Applying the perspective of our body being a vessel through which the universe (or some bigger picture entity) acts to serve its purpose provides an interpretation of physical sensations that ultimately allows us the control to limit the impact pain/pleasure has on our decisions so that we build up resilience and the ability to do challenging things. This ultimately allows for effective action in life.
Next time we finally get to see how powerful the mental realm is.
Stay tuned! Evolve.
Your Call to Action
Thank you for reading!
I want to hear from you. What do you think about the insights shared regarding viewing the body as a vessel? How can it be applied? In what ways can it be improved to be more reachable to a broader audience? Share in the comments section below!
Don’t put off contemplating what the insights from this article mean, find a quiet location and think deeply about what it might mean for you. Just 10 deliberate minutes can make a large difference, set a timer, do it regularly and you will notice the changes within a few weeks. You improve your ability to think and therefore make effective decisions by spending more time deliberately thinking about the relevant subject. Consider applying journaling and meditation to see more profound changes, these are just more deliberate and concentrated forms of quiet and focused thinking. Slow down, find stillness.
I am always looking to improve my reach and the impact that I have with my writing, please provide your feedback in the comments below.
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