I Am/My Body: A TL;DR Philosophical Exploration. LoL

So, in yesterday’s entry, “10 Things I Learned Loosing 100lbs,” I said that the notion of “I am not my body,” was something I could go on and on about. So…we’re gonna do it now and wax philosophical for a bit.

Also, a lot of this discussion is predisposed upon the understanding that something of “us” transcends death. If you don’t believe in the existence of the soul then this may largely be hogwash to you. I’m ok with that.

So, let’s go for a ride, shall we?

The notion, “I am not my body,” can be a confusing or perhaps even difficult to consider for some as it stands in stark contrast with modern Western thought and values.

The concept comes from the Eastern schools of thought, namely Hinduism and Buddhism, which admittedly, have highly influenced my own thinking since college. (I have degree in Comparative Religious Studies if you need my qualifications.)

However, you don’t need to be a robe draped monk to jive with this idea. Consider that one of the primary tenants of Christianity holds that our flesh is weak and sinful by nature. Faithful Christians are called to transcend their sinful flesh much as Christ transcended death.

Thus, this notion of “transcendence” demonstrates clearly that at least early Christians we’re comfortable with the idea of spirit/body duality.

But despite even the tremendous influence of Christianity on Western thought, we place a great deal of value on appearance. Beauty has become a cultural currency of sorts and self-deprecation (especially where our appearance is concerned) has become a common mode of thought.

I’m so fat.

I’m so ugly.

I hate my body.

I hate my hair.

I hate my nose.

I hate my arms.

Beauty and anti-aging products accounted for 999 BILLION of the 3.7 Trillion dollar Global Wellness industry in 2015 alone whereas Health, Medicine (534 Billion) and Fitness-Mind & Body (542 Billion) together combined accounted for roughly the same amount.

We spend more on looking beautiful than we spend on actual medicine and health!!!

Now, consider all the lotions and potions we buy each year.

I don’t say this to shame anyone. I have at least three facial moisturizers in my desk drawer at work. And if you are shamed then I’m shamed right along side you.

But perhaps we both should be shamed. To this point, I believe that our 999 Billion dollar investment is symptomatic of a grave error in our collective thought:

I am my body.

Have we become so ego-attached to our bodies that we’re willing to spend 999 Billion dollars globally on what essentially amounts to “smoke and mirrors” to trick ourselves and others into believing that we’re healthier, younger and more beautiful than we perceive ourselves to truly be?

Not shaming my makeup rep friends either cause I’ve sold my fair share of makeup too. Hustle your hustle, Sisters!

What I think is disturbing; however, is that we’re willing to spend only 1/2 of our money on actual health and fitness.

But let me tell you the truth here:

Health and Fitness bring Beauty. It emanates, naturally, from the two.

So, does that mean we should give up our lotions & potions? No. But if you want to, you can although, you’d probably be in better company living in a monastery….which would be cool! I’d love to visit!

*Chants: Om Mani Padme Hum*

In yesterday’s post I likened the body to a vehicle. Well, our beauty spending habits are tantamount to spending $999 Billion to paint a beat up, rust bucket of a car. It don’t make no sense.

Better to spend that money on a new engine, axles, shocks, tires, etc…right? Rebuild the car then repaint it. (I’m not really an auto guy but you get my drift.)

So then, how do we get from “I am my body,” to, “I am not my body.”

Well, let’s diagram:

I am/my body

I am: the Self, the indwelling, self aware consciousness that lies within, the Atman

My Body: the vessel, the vehicle, the temporal being defined the space in which it inhabits.

My body is composed of flesh, muscle, ligament, bone, and blood. It moves under my direction. It is quiet under my direction. When I bleed, my consciousness remains intact. I am aware my body is bleeding. The drop of blood that falls to the floor is not conscious. It doesn’t know that it’s no longer a part of my body. It doesn’t know anything. It simply exists, on the floor.

If I break a leg, I am aware my leg is broken. My leg isn’t aware that it’s broken. It simply begins an automatic, genetically pre-programmed process of healing.

Ramana Mahashi, one of the greatest Indian gurus said:

You are not the gross body which is composed of the seven dhātus which are plasma (rasa), blood (rakta), muscle (mamsa), fat (medas), bone (asthi), marrow / nerve (majja) and reproductive (shukra) tissue. Neither you are the five cognitive sense organs which are ear, skin, eye, tongue and nose. Or the five vital airs which are prāna, apāna, udāna, vyāna and samāna. You are not your mind which is the root of all your thoughts. Neither you are your ignorance which believes that this illusory world is real.’

We have bodies. We are not our bodies. My body may become sick. That does not necessitate that “I” am sick because the “I” is eternal.

Matter of fact, how we talk about sickness perfectly illustrates how, at a fundamental level, we understand that we are not our bodies. Ontologically speaking, to say “I am sick” requires one to take on the qualities of being sick. Even though this expression is quite common in English, it cannot be true if the “I” is eternal. Our bodies become frail, we do not.

When we become ill, we acknowledge that it is our bodies that are ill because we say things like, “I have the flu.” We don’t say, “I am the flu.”

It is in this way of speaking that we create a psychological distance between ourselves and the illness that affects us. After all, if we were to become our illnesses what might become of our selves?

If we’re not willing to become our illnesses by claiming them with “I am” statements, then why do we claim other negative states like obesity (which like the flu, is a condition of the body) by saying, “I am fat,” or, “I am ugly.”

Why BE one and OWN the other?

I believe it’s largely due in part because society has told us we must own it. Because our fat flies in the face of society’s 999 billion dollar beauty obsession. And so a feed back loop is created:

You are fat.

I am fat.

You are fat.

Yes, I am fat.

Unfortunately, becoming the thing makes it that much more difficult to transcend. When the “self” owns being obese, it has, in essence become “obesity.” Don’t confuse this with the body becoming obese. When the “self” owns the state of obesity (or any perceived negative state for that matter) it becomes attached to it and thus, the identity (ego) becomes dependent upon that state in order to operate.

And yes, there are people who are so attached to obesity that their only goal is to become as fat as they can be. Particularly, in the Gay community these people affectionately call themselves, “Gainers.”

The exact same thing can be said of people who take weightlifting to the extreme. They seek to “become” muscle and are never satisfied. Thus, they continually build and build while simultaneously building their attachment to it.

The same can also be said of sadness and conversely, happiness. “You Are Not Your Thoughts” Coming Soon!

But when we reframe those statements:

My body is fat.

My body is ill.

Suddenly, they become much more easy to deal with. In letting go of our attachment to these “states of being,” they become, in essence, things we possess, not things that we are. And it’s a much easier trick of the mind to let go of something we no longer care to own than it is to change something we believe to be true about our “self”.

And EVERYTHING we believe to be true about our “selves” and the world is true, for us… and it is directly tied into how we talk to ourselves (not only about ourselves but also the world) and how we allow others to talk to us.

And this means that we CAN literally talk ourselves into become healthy, fit, and happy. Not overnight, granted. But by changing our self-talk, we give ourselves the space to become other than what we are presently – the motivation to do those things which will promote those new desired states of being. __________________________________

I’ll concede now that none of mind/body/soul stuff can be proven really; however, scientists believe that within the next 30 years we will have the technology to upload our consciousness into computers. If we’re successful in this, we’ll finally know whether or not we are truly our bodies. Of course, at that point, we’ll have an entirely new set of philosophical quandaries to ponder like:

Is the “ghost in the machine” the same “ghost” that once inhabited the body?

There is an excellent sci-fi show, “Altered Carbon,” which toys with these questions in deeply profound ways. Designer bodies are grown in labs for the wealthy to use as their current bodies degrade. True death has become largely a thing of the past in this world. Body too injured to function? No problem, just upload your “self” into a fresh new body.

And whether you believe them or not, people who have had “Near-Death Experienceswill flat out tell you that we are not our bodies.

So, I have to ask, “do you believe you are your body?”


Joshua Taylor

Instagram @ thetaylormadefit

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