A SOULful body is a "Perfect Body." It is defined as-
“that state of physical awareness and equanimity where there is thorough knowledge of the functioning of body, where there is no feeling of owning the body, where there is no attachment to body as my body, and where there is only awareness and knowledge that it is body.”
Such a state of physical awareness and equanimity can be attained if we perform all of our physical exercises and physical activities as a SOUL Meditation and as a means to assist us in meditation.
SOUL Meditation for developing
Awareness of Body
Choose an exercise of your choice and begin the work-out with an intention of developing body-awareness. While exercising, become aware of every single body movement, every position of your limbs, and overall posture. Observe all movements and all sequences with open eyes. In order to maintain the continuity of awareness, in the beginning, you may even silently verbalize all the movements like a commentary in your mind. The key is to observe only body movements externally using outward awareness, which means, observe your body movements as a third person. It is similar to shifting your awareness in the space surrounding you and observing yourself with a bird’s eye view.
As you mature in your awareness, you will experience an occasional flash of ‘body-as-body’ experience. You will feel that the body is simply moving as body. It is not your body but it is simply body. You will feel as if you are not the body; you are just awareness. The body simply will move effortlessly and you will just abide in the awareness of that. This flash of awareness is a glimpse of selflessness which is very powerful. It brings profound transformation by reducing your attachment to the body and by removing the gross physical delusion that “you are the body.”
Extraordinary yogis, martial artists, athletes, and dancers frequently go through this experience. Familiarize yourself with such experience and become established in it.
SOUL Meditation for developing
Awareness of Bodily-Elements
While exercising, become aware of the weight-ness, heaviness, and rigidity of the body. Observe body’s resistance to movements. Understand this experience of body’s weightiness, heaviness, rigidity, and resistance as predominantly the indirect experience of "Earth element."
Similarly, become aware of physical pain, body heat, and coolness of the body. Understand this experience as predominantly the experience of "Fire element."
Become aware of the breath movement, contraction and expansion of the chest region, and movement of limbs, and understand this experience as predominantly the experience of "Air element."
Become aware of how body flows into different postures; become aware of body’s cohesivity and interconnectivity of tissues, cartilages, muscles and limbs. Understand this experience as predominantly the experience of "Water element."
In this way, through actual experience, understand how body is simply a material phenomenon made up of four essential elements of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air.
Such experience and understanding has profound implications. Knowing pain as predominantly the element of Fire and not as pain can significantly reduce the reaction to pain. Knowing body’s heaviness and sloth as predominantly the element of Earth can significantly improve body’s flexibility by reducing reaction to sloth.
With ardent and diligent practicing of this meditation, a stage will come when you will experientially understand that body is nothing but a bundle of material elements which come and go without your control. The ultimate reward comes when this experiential understanding removes the subtlest physical delusion and turns into the wisdom of selflessness. The awareness that “there is really no “I” in this body but there are just these four material elements in the body,” eventually dawns. The awareness that “this body is not mine” arises. The awareness that “this body is body” unfolds. When that happens, you can say that you have attained a Soulful body in relation to its ultimate reality as matter.
SOUL Meditation for developing
Awareness of Body-Breath
Become aware of your exhalation while performing the exercise. With each exhalation, intentionally breathe out toxicants from the body-mind.
With each exhalation, breath out whatever unwholesome or unpleasant feeling is predominant at the time.
If you are feeling lazy and dull, become aware of it first and then intentionally breathe out sloth and torpor with each exhalation. Feel the expulsion of sloth and torpor as you intentionally exhale.
If you are craving something and not able to focus on your body movement, breathe out that craving as you intentionally exhale. If you feel fearful of losing balance and getting hurt, exhale out that fear. If there is pain in a localized area, confine your exhalation to that area and breathe out the pain.
In this manner, clean the toxicants of the physical mind using the power of the intentional breath. The subtle bodily toxicants (unwholesome physical mind) are expelled in the physical action of exhalation especially if there is a strong intention for their expulsion coupled with awareness.
With regular and ardent practicing of this meditation, a stage will come when you will experientially understand that feelings of pain, fear, slot, torpor, etc are physical-mental phenomena which come and go in dependence of the body and breath. If you abide in this understanding, you will slowly begin to realize how breath changes as emotions change; how breath becomes hard and fast when you are fearful versus how it becomes shallow and dull when you lazy out. You will also understand how you can skillfully use the breath movement to change your emotions from fear to fearlessness and from slothful to energetic. You will then be able to handle or overpower many unwholesome or unpleasant feelings without succumbing.
If you are a serious meditator, at some juncture, you will understand that the feeling of pain and fear are rooted in hatred and delusion, and feeling of sloth and torpor are rooted in greed and delusion. The ultimate reward comes when this experiential understanding removes the subtle physical-mental delusion and turns into the wisdom of selflessness. The awareness that the bodily feelings are simply a body-breath as well as body-mind phenomena eventually dawns. The awareness that there is really no “I who is feeling,” arises. The awareness that “the feelings are not mine” but “feelings are feelings,” eventually unfolds. When this happens, you can say that you have attained a Soulful body in relation to the breath and mind.
SOUL Meditation for developing
Awareness of Body-Mind
While performing the exercise, feel the pressure, contraction, extension, heaviness, and lightness in various parts of various limbs. Feel every stretch of every limb. Feel the pain, burning sensations, numbness, as well as the pleasure, happiness, uplifting joy and lightness. Feel the balance as well as imbalance. Feel the fear of imbalance and pain as well as feel the pleasure of balance and lightness. Feel the sense of satisfaction, a sense of achievement at the end of each work-out. In this way, feel and become aware of all emotions that arise out of the body-mind interaction.
It may not be possible to observe and feel all the parameters at all times. Therefore, during each session, choose a set of parameters (balance and imbalance for example) and work only on them diligently. Then change the parameters, repeat the process, and like that, become aware of various physical feelings. If you continue such practice, you will soon begin to notice that all the feelings that you experience during exercise are primarily triggered or caused by the body. You will understand that body is their proximate cause.
After a while, with awareness, start using the mental elements of Volition and Vigor to maintain a particular posture for a longer period of time. Use Volition and Vigor to stretch, elongate, or contract further. Use Volition and Vigor to hold the balance little longer than usual. Also use Volition and Vigor to maintain pleasant feelings that arise due to balance and due to the sense of accomplishment. This way, start developing the faculties of Volition and Vigor. Maintain awareness of Volition and Vigor and their positive impact on your posture and on your feelings. In general, use Volition and Vigor to maintain and strengthen wholesome feelings and to eradicate unwholesome feelings. In this way, by practicing exercises as a meditation, begin to improve your will power and also learn to take control of your emotions. In this way, not only make your body strong but also the mind.
With regular and ardent practicing of this meditation and its variations, a stage will come when you will experientially understand that all emotions and feelings are nothing but mental phenomena which come and go in dependence of the body. If you are a serious meditator, and, if you practice this meditation in various different ways, at some juncture, you will understand that unpleasant bodily feelings are naturally body-mind-mind-body phenomena which can turn into unwholesome emotions if you react to them. You will also understand that pleasant bodily feelings are natural body-mind-mind-body phenomena which can also turn into unwholesome emotions if you react to them. The ultimate reward comes when this experiential understanding removes the subtle mental delusion related to bodily feelings and turns into the wisdom of selflessness. The awareness that “bodily feelings are physical-mental phenomena,” eventually dawns. The awareness that “there is really no “I who feels,” or, that “feelings are not mine” arises. The awareness that “feelings are feelings and emotions and emotions” unfolds. When this happens, you can say that you have attained a Soulful body in relation to the mind.
SOUL Meditation for developing
Because of performing various exercises, the body and mind start becoming alive and sensitive. Especially, at the end of each exercise session, there is incredible freedom in the body and breath. Such conditions are extremely favorable for practicing meditations that are subtler than the four meditations we have discussed so far. There is one such subtle meditation which should be practiced immediately after the end of each exercise session. The practice of this subtler meditation is necessary to completely root out the attachment to the body and bodily feelings and thereby eradicate all addictions and afflictions. Moreover, it is the most effective way of locking-in all the benefits that can be possibly derived from any type of physical engagement. Here is how it should be practiced:
After the exercise is over, wipe your body to remove wetness caused by sweating. Whether you are thirsty or not, drink small quantity of water. Then, quickly settle down in a comfortable sitting posture and let go of all the movements. Simply sink into the posture and intentionally get ready for a meditation.
Start observing your breath by feeling the touch of the breath in the entire nostril area. After a few minutes, move your attention to a small area below the tip of the nostrils and above upper lips and feel the touch of the breath there. Maintain your awareness at this location for some time until the touch of the breath feels like soft cotton or soft silk. With sustained awareness, you may feel soft and subtle vibrations or tingling sensations at this location. At this stage, you have developed a certain level of concentration.
With this level of concentration, move your attention to small areas of the body and maintain your attention there for sometimes until you feel that area of the body. Begin with your lips. Feel the lips thoroughly. (Understand that you are feeling the lips only with mere attention: the mental touch). Then move your attention to left cheek then right cheek and so on covering the entire body. Do not move your attention continuously. Make sure you maintain your attention in a small confined area of the body for some time before moving to the next area. Simply feel the chosen confined area of body. Do not label it as ear or nose. Your task is to simply feel the body parts by confinement (by mentally touching then), so that, eventually, your entire body can be felt. It is important to not move your attention continuously from part to part because it works against developing concentration. Maintain awareness on one small confined area until you feel it to some extent or at least for a minute, and then only move further.
If you meditate in this way for an extended period of time, you will eventually become aware of the whole body, meaning you will actually feel the whole body as you move your attention in a flash from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. You will feel as if the whole body is alive and yet hollow and empty. You will then feel the whole body as a mere flow of awareness. The ultimate reward comes when this experience is cognized as a bundle of consciousness. This experiential understanding removes the ultimate delusion related to the experience of body and turns into the wisdom of selflessness. The awareness that “the experience of body is simply a phenomenon of consciousness,” eventually dawns. The awareness that “there is really no “I who is experiencing the body,” arises. The awareness that “there is only body-consciousness” unfolds. When this happens, you can say that you have attained a Soulful body in relation to the consciousness.
During this meditation, you may experience pain or stiffness in isolated areas; you may feel like just getting up and doing something; you may want to open your eyes and look around; you may feel an itch, etc. Without reacting as much as possible, simply observe all these bodily feelings and develop the faculty of non-reaction to bodily feelings. Once you are able to maintain non-reactive awareness, then, start giving wise-attention to those feelings. Notice how and when they arise and how and when they pass away; notice how all feelings eventually die out; notice how none of the feelings last forever; notice how the nature of feelings change depending upon your liking or disliking for them.
Observe the feeling of, say, pain in your knee or leg. Notice how it becomes aggravated if you dislike it and how it lessens if you simply let go of it by observing it equanimously. Observe the feeling of, say, lightness of body. Notice how you begin to start liking it and how you cling to it; notice how bad you feel when that pleasant feeling eventually goes away. In this manner, using your faculties of mindfulness, non-reaction and wise attention, develop the wisdom of impermanence. Experientially understand that nothing lasts forever. Eventually, the experiential understanding of impermanence along with all the experiences of other four meditations will reveal the fact that “there is really no such thing as “my body, my feelings (in body), my mind (in body), my consciousness (in body);” there is only this “body as body;” there is only this awareness of it and that’s all there is.” You will then experientially understand that there is no “I” in the body, behind the body, or beyond the body. When you are established in such understanding, you will be completely freed from bodily attachments which are primarily responsible for all addictions and afflictions. You can then say that you have truly attained a Soulful body.
How to Work and Exercise
A physical activity should not be done merely for taking care of stuff; an exercise should not be done merely as a work-out routine for attaining physical health, but as a means to develop the awareness of the body in relation to the mind and as a means to develop neutrality of mind towards the body.
While doing daily physical work, or a professional job, or an exercise (which may be as simple as walking on a treadmill, as intense as martial arts and weight-lifting, or, as exotic as yoga and tai-chi), we should focus on training for physical awareness and equanimity. The ultimate purpose of any physical engagement should always be to facilitate mental development. Otherwise, a physical engagement can easily make a person body-centered. The body-centered-ness arises due to increasing physical strength, flexibility and beauty resulting from exercises and due to the sense of power resulting from the use of tools and limbs. The body-centered-ness increases the ego and defeats the purpose of SOUL empowerment.
The initial physical awareness and equanimity arises when we transcend physical pain and pleasure, physical emotions (such as hunger, fear, craving, aversion, etc which are rooted in the body), and physical addictions. The final and complete physical awareness and equanimity arises when we experientially understand the impermanent and impersonal nature of body, body-breath connection, body-mind connection, subtle bodily sensations and feelings. When we are established in such physical awareness and equanimity, we become liberated from all the suffering and imperfections that arise from intense bodily attachments. We are then said to have attained a perfect body – a Soulful body.
Transcending Physical Pain
As we perform any physical activity or exercise, the body is subjected to stretching, straining and resistance from gravity because of which unpleasant feelings of discomfort or exertion arise. Become mindful of these unpleasant feelings which always arise before the advent of pain. Observe these feelings without reacting to their unpleasantness. Do not suppress or fight the unpleasantness but simply observe it as it arises in a prolonged state of physical activity, and notice how arisen unpleasantness eventually ceases due to mindfulness and non-reaction. Also notice how arisen unpleasantness aggravates and eventually turns into physical pain if you react or if we try to fight it out. Once you are established in such mindfulness and non-reaction, apply wise-attention and begin to realize that when you fight unpleasantness (or pain), it increases exponentially, and, when you let go of unpleasantness (or pain), it ceases to control the mind. Thus, experientially understand that the degree of physical pain is directly proportional to your attachment to the body.
In this way, first experientially understand the phenomenon of pain. Then, slowly start increasing your physical efforts and intensity of work-out only up to an extent where you can maintain equanimity towards unpleasantness in the body, which means, increase the intensity of unpleasantness until it just starts aggravating but not reaching the level of pain. As your stamina and strength increases along with equanimity, continue to expand your envelope of physical tolerance using the elements of physical mindfulness, physical non-reaction, and wise-attention while constantly focusing on transcendence and not on physical-mastery or control. This process of slowly and skillfully increasing the tolerance with the help of physical-awareness and equanimity is called ‘refinement.’ With ardent and consistent practice, a day comes when, due to refinement, you will be able to transcend the pain all together.
Rooted in the Body
If you remain intensely aware while exercising or working, you can experience and understand all the emotions that are rooted in the body such as the emotions of sloth-torpor, rigidity, hunger, lust, fear, pain, pleasure, craving, aversion, energy, etc. You can observe how sloth-torpor is present in the beginning of a work-out session and how volition and vigor can be used to eliminate sloth-torpor and replace it with energy. You can witness how feelings of fear arise in difficult physical conditions and how it can be transcending by arousing energy coupled with mindfulness, non-reaction, wise-attention and concentration. You can witness how feelings of pleasure arise and how, sooner or later, they vanish; thereby teaching you not to take delight in them because they are momentary. In this way, by meditating while physically engaged, you can understand the nature of your physically arisen emotions and learn to deal with them skillfully.
Majority of people are extremely attached to their bodies. Their bodily attachment forms a large portion of their ego. They do not know this because their body is mostly subjected to comforts and rarely subjected to pain. The practicing of meditation along with an intense workout can provide an opportunity for such people to go beyond their usual comfort zone. Because body is subjected to variety of unusual and extraordinary conditions during an intense work-out, such people can actually experience variety of emotions that are rooted in the body (such as fear, pain, craving and aversion) which they have not experienced before or which they were not aware of. This can lead them to the understanding of “who they are” and “where they stand.”
If mindfulness, non-reaction, and wise-attention are maintained throughout the physical engagement, such understanding can lead to the purification of unwholesome emotions of fear, pain, craving, and aversion. What I am trying to say is that, you can greatly purify your mind and body of the coarse physical and mental toxicants simply by meditating while being physically-engaged. This is especially true for those who have a reactive physio-psychological mind and for those who are suffering from addictions that are rooted in physical sensations.
How to Remove
Addictions & Physical Afflictions
When a smoker sees a cigarette, it arouses feelings of pleasure rooted in the body. If the smoker is not in touch with his body, meaning, if he does not have physical awareness, he cannot realize it. Because of this unawareness, the aroused pleasant feelings gather strength and turn into a craving. Because a habitual smoker is neither aware of the craving nor he has the capacity to observe it equanimously, he reacts and ends up lighting a cigarette to satisfy the craving.
If this smoker begins to meditate while smoking (!), he can have a substantial chance of getting rid of smoking. Due to the practice of meditation, the smoker will be able to become mindful of the addictive craving as soon as it surfaces; he will be able to reduce its strength by not reacting to it; he will be able to understand the impermanent and impersonal nature of the feelings of craving by giving wise-attention to it and, he will be able to concentrate on the ill-effects of smoking and the benefits of non-smoking.
For any addict, in the beginning, it is extremely difficult to even observe the craving. When it becomes intolerable to just sit there and observe the craving, the smoker should light a cigarette with complete awareness, knowing that he is lighting the cigarette as a result of not being able to tolerate the craving. He should then smoke the cigarette with such awareness and simply observe pleasant physical sensations that arise while smoking. He should simply observe these pleasant sensations and not take the next puff until the pleasant sensations completely die out on their own. Only then, with awareness, he should take the next puff, and this time around, he should inhale the smoke while recollecting and concentrating on the ill-effects of smoking such as asthma and cancer. He should repeat this process throughout the episode of smoking. As the pleasant sensations are observed without reaction and as smoking is done while recollecting its ill-effects, the ‘reaction time’ to craving will increase. It will eventually increase to such an extent that there will be no more reaction to craving, which means, the smoker will no longer react to cravings. Whenever these cravings arise, they will immediately begin to lose strength and eventually die out. With consistent and ardent practice of such meditation, cravings for smoking will significantly reduce and the smoker will be at last freed from the slavery of it.
This is a fool-proof way of taming the habit of smoking or any other such habit that is deeply rooted in the body. Note that there is no coercion or suppression involved in this approach. The only thing involved is a regular practice of SOUL Meditation which facilitates physical awareness and equanimity.
For completely rooting out any addiction or physical affliction, all five specific SOUL Meditations described earlier should be practiced so that the unwholesome root elements of Greed, Hatred and Delusion are removed from the mind in relation to the body, because, at the ultimate level, these unwholesome root elements are responsible for all cravings, addictions, and physical afflictions. Eradicating these unwholesome root elements in relation to the body is same as removing the attachment to the body, which is same as attaining a Soulful body.