Rethinking Our Bodies

It takes little effort to look into most forms of mysticism and find something involving the body and the supernatural forces supposedly within. Energy channels and chakras, planetary correspondences and and vortices, many a form of mysticism treats the body as some supernatural system. Even if it’s not part of a given practice, someone has, is, or will add some spiritual-physical elements by shoehorning it in.

Now as any reader remotely familiar with me knows, as much as I find “blueprints” of such things useful, I’m also cautious about them. It’s too easy to turn a mystical practice into a checkbox of experiences one can merely hallucinate instead of experience. But when it comes to this “psychoanatomy” as I call it, I get the value and appeal even when it’s obvious bullshit.

Our bodies are part of our experience, part of reality, and they should be part of our spiritual practice. I mean you can kind of ignore them, but hunger, horniness, or a stubbed toe are going to bring you back to your body, like it or not.

A moment to look at your body quickly reveals how it reflects – and affects – your mental (dare I say even spiritual?) state. Tensions in your mind manifest in your body, emotional reactions are burned into your physical ones, and sense memories can flood you with recollections. It’s complicated,it’s complex, and not dealing with our bodies in spiritual practice just leaves out part of us.

Someone dealing with any form of psychoanatomy is at least being aware of our bodies and deconstructing and rethinking them. To think of the body as energy flows, or correspondences, or chakras can help see and even “take apart” old habits of thought, tension, and reaction. Sure, some of the techniques we use may be utter bullshit (and there’s plenty on the market) but rethinking your body is valuable.

It’s also something I think a lot of us really need to do. I get why people may buy some hack Quigong book or try to align their energy centers or use emotional support oil, or whatever. In my own meditative work I’ve become painfully aware of my tensions and how my body reflects deeper psychological processes. Sometimes you hurt, or feel uncomfortable, or suddenly have overwhelming musical reactions and you really want to deal with that.

It’s easy to fall into bullshit mysticism over the body. I’m sympathetic.

As spiritual practitioners, mystics, and the like, it’s also a reminder that people may have some real insights from their otherwise ill-informed practices. We shouldn’t just be sympathetic, but should help them out with healthier practices of bodily mysticism – or just recommendations for a good therapist. Even the crap may bring insights, and we can make sure those are channeled in a useful way.

– Xenofact

The Tao of Health and Neuroses

Let me cut to the chase – I’m a hypochondriac in that kind of “annoying worrying way.” You can guess COVID wasn’t a picnic for me, but let’s just say I also felt ahead of the curve. However I’ve also been working to address this as worrying about health too much really isn’t, well, healthy.

As of late, I’ve done a lot of “health maintenance” as assorted regular activities piled up in recent months. I had to catch up on my vaccines. I had a colonoscopy every five years as I’m an older gentleman and it’s good just in case. I’ve had some regular tests everyone goes through and just-in-case stuff.

The test part always gets on my nerves. You go in and give blood or get wired up or whatever and then after whatever indignities you go through you then wait for results. The waiting can be nerve wracking – I’m sure you’ve been there.

So as I waited for the last of my various accumulated tests, and of course worried, I speculated how I could handle this better. Something struck me from my studies of Taoism, meditation, and mysticism.

Good health does not come from just “being healthy.” It’s exercise and good attitude, appropriate food and activities, and of course checking relevant things like blood pressure or getting enough sleep. Good health is a kind of navigation.

The tests I take regularly (my doctor prefers to test early and often to prevent things) may be stressful but they’re ways to navigate to health. There’s no difference between sending blood to the lab and observing ideal conditions for good sleep – one just involves getting jabbed with needles by a very well-mannered medical professional.

Good health lies not just on practices, but checking on yourself. By acknowledging the possibility of ill health or less-than-ideal health, you then can practice good health. It’s very – and I hate to sound this tropey – Yin and Yang.

This further made me think about various Taoist energetic practices, how one cycles and balances energies. From the simple ones to the ones I would call “questionably elaborate” they treat the body as a system not a solid thing, aligning and guiding this process of being alive.

This re-envisioning made me feel at least somewhat better. Good health is based on the chance of bad health. It’s all a system, a kind of dialogue or navigation. These tests I was worried about were just part of the overall “Tao of Health.” Seeing how all these habits worked reminded me of the insights I’d have when meditating, seeing the “parts of myself.”

Everything turned out OK as the last of the data came in. Maybe next time I’m getting jabbed or whatever, I’ll remember these lessons.

(Note, if you do investigate Taoist health and energetic practice, get ready for a ride and to be skeptical. There’s some truly amazing stuff from over the centuries, some of which seems quite modern, and there’s also bizarre and dangerous bullshit. If you want to go beyond metaphors, do be careful.)