~StREsS~, the subtle body, etc.


I’ve written previously here about how one often-overlooked aspect to so-called spiritual practice is that which involves the subtle energetic body. Granted, many or probably most people in our culture may look at you a little funny if you start talking about the subject of the subtle energetic system, but at the same time, many of those same people appreciate the feeling of receiving a good massage or the effect of a yoga class or an acupuncture treatment. As it happens, all of those particular things work in a rather direct fashion on the subtle body, but it’s perhaps worth noting that everything affects our subtle energies; hence we experience feelings of relaxation and well-being when we eat nourishing foods appropriate to our constitution, or when we engage in pleasurable sexual activity, or spend easeful time in a pleasing physical environment. By the same token, we are certainly familiar with the experience of frazzled nerves and general overstressedness of our systems that can result from being in overstimulating, unpleasant environments, or from overworking, or from being around abrasive people, or not getting enough rest, and so forth.

The unfortunate fact is, most reading this (well, okay, both of you…and by both of you, I’m referring to my left and right eyeballs!) live in a world in which our subtle energetic systems are quite out of whack, rendering even initial forays into spiritual practice far more difficult then they need be. Even the most health-conscious of us are constantly being upset, overstimulated and in general thrown out of balance by the world in which we find ourselves living. Taking time to undo the stress that accumulates in us can make efforts at meditative or other practices worlds easier.

I was so happy to recently come across some excellent articles by the amazing Tsoknyi Rinpoche which deal with this very subject matter. It’s at once heartening and exciting to me that a Buddhist teacher is taking the time to address these issues in very explicit terms geared towards a present-day Western audience. The first two articles are about working with Lung (rlung), which is equivalent to Vata in the Ayurvedic system. Due to the chaotic, stressful, overstimulating nature of contemporary life in our culture, even those of us whose Lung has not been aggravated to the point of chronic anxiety/depression still suffer from low-grade conditions of tension, discomfort, and emotional imbalances which rob us of the feelings of peace and well-being that are native to us. In addressing these imbalances, the tensions and impurities in our energetic systems begin to dissolve and purify, and spiritual practice is made a thousandfold easier to pursue.

From Part 1 of A Very Human Condition: Subtle Body Difficulties in a Fast-Paced Life

…In fast-paced societies, we aren’t taught about subtle body agitation, but we can feel something is wrong. So we try to dispel the distress with remedies using holidays, parties, drugs and drink, meditation, massage, going to the gym, self-help workshops, yoga classes, you name it–hoping one of them will do the trick. They all can bring lung down temporarily, but subtle body’s deeply etched patterns have not been touched and the trouble returns as soon as we swing back into high gear.

from Part 2 of A Very Human Condition: Subtle Body Difficulties in a Fast-Paced Life

…However, even though mind is less cloudy and body less painful, when things become very active again, lung will most likely race back into action. Despite ego’s belief that we need lung’s full speed to be successful, we really don’t. So simply talk to lung, saying something like, ” Come on back down, Honey. This is your cozy home, right here below the navel. You don’t need to be racing all over the place. Stay in your cozy home.” By using kindness, rather then ego’s hope and fear-inducing stories, upward moving lung will calm down and learn to stay in its proper place, even when we have a busy day. Really, talking to lung this way helps. And it’s important for another reason as well. Lung can only do its job of balancing mind and body from within its home below the navel.

In the third article that I am linking to here, Rinpoche points out how difficult it is for many of us feel in touch with our natural openness and warm-heartedness, due to these very same Lung problems that most of us are afflicted with to various degrees.

Here is a quote from What Does it Really Take to Open the Heart of Love?

…It seems that a lot of today’s problems are connected to this nervous speediness, problems that keep us from feeling the pulse of basic love. If you look at our own heart right now, can you say it’s really open and at ease? Actually look and see. Chances are our hearts are not able to stay consistently open because we don’t feel that basic ease of well-being.

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