WHEN YOU APPRECIATE the power of awareness, your ego is no longer in control. You know that you have thoughts, but you are not just your thoughts. You have feelings, but you are not just your feelings. There is a distance between who you are and the thoughts and feelings you are aware of. You are no longer automatically identified with them.
This level of consciousness is a relationship that allows you to question your beliefs and to dance with feelings in ever new ways. Thought by thought, feeling by feeling, perception by perception, you can choose new behaviors and thereby invent yourself anew.
Self-invention is an opportunity presented to every human being. It is the path all great souls have lived. Every person who inspires us because of the depth of their humanity did not follow a path laid down by others. Although they were no doubt influenced by those who inspired them, what they lived came out of themselves as they chose a new relationship to their beliefs and fears, and above all dove deeply into the immediacy of their embodied experience.
When asked why he never spoke with anger of the Chinese who had invaded his country, killed millions of his countrymen, and were systematically destroying the ancient Tibetan culture, the Dalia Lama responded simply, “Because I feel better.” He chose the immediacy of embodied well-being over anger, bitterness, or righteous judgment. He clearly knows that the temple of the body is the primary place of worship where the Divine is celebrated. Living deeply into his embodied self, he recognized love, compassion and forgiveness as healthy, not bitterness or powerlessness. In this way he, like all the great souls, is inventing himself, not from beliefs or automatic reactions, but from embodied truth.
When Jesus teaches “turn the other cheek,” he is not being merely moral; he is teaching from embodiment. He is saying that returning a blow with another blow only leads to more anger and hatred. The teaching is simple: If you want peace, you must be peace. When St. Francis kissed a leper, he turned toward what in his time was a terribly misunderstood disease that filled people with terror and superstition. Instead of being ruled by fear, he embraced the fear and offered love. Again, this is not a mentally generated morality or spirituality; it is fundamental creativity born of being deeply embodied. He was inventing himself by choosing a new behavior, and at the heart of that behavior was an unshakeable connection to his own embodiment. As it says in scripture, “In this flesh we shall see God.” We never know God in our heads.
When you choose to live in present-moment awareness, you can feel instantly how every thought uplifts or poisons you. If you live in your head instead of in your body, you will identify with your thoughts and believe whatever you have been taught by others. The sickness of righteousness, pride, exclusiveness and anger that your thoughts create will be considered normal emotions. They are not; they are self-pollution and flagrant disrespect for your own embodiment. If you live in your body, your body will show you truth in every moment and the deepest truth is the peace that “goes beyond understanding.”
A closed, tense body is a poor transmitter of the grace of life. An unhappy body leads to negative moods, which in turn create reactive, self-protective thinking. The choice is not about morality, it is about true intelligence. It is essential to be present in your body because the body is always in the Now and tells you immediately what your thinking is doing to you. As you learn to be embodied and not trapped in your head, you begin to realize a sense of inner stillness that is your link to the universal wisdom that all the great souls have drawn from.
When you pull yourself out of your head, where do you land? Right here: breathing, feeling, seeing, hearing, touching, tasting. Thinking stops, because there is no thinking in the Now, only awareness. The mind is simultaneously focused and spacious and the body is at once ready and relaxed. Every perception is more vivid. Every breath feels alive and you can sense vital energy flowing through you. Deep insight arises spontaneously. Once you know this deeper connection to yourself, the emotional world created by your thinking becomes much less interesting because, mostly, it is bringing you suffering.
In the Tao te Ching, the ancient book of Taoist wisdom, it is said the wisdom of the great masters was so mysterious that few could understand it. Instead, the book advises that it is easier to describe how the masters appeared: “Cautious as a man crossing a frozen stream; alert as a warrior in enemy territory; subtle like drops falling from an icicle; shapeable as a block of wood; gracious as a grateful guest; clear as a glass of pure water.” Then it says, “The master remains still until the right action arises of itself.” In other words, the master acts when the body is silent and still. In comparison, most of us make important decisions because we feel anxious and scared, which is the absolutely wrong time to decide anything.
When you step out of your head and into your body, you inhabit the nobility of your own being. You recognize instantly when your head has pulled you into judgmental thinking and stress. Knowing “home” is in you and how to keep returning there, you become your own teacher — and this is the most important thing anyone can learn.