Episode 2: You Are A Body
What is our body? Is it a vessel? A machine? An object? In this episode, I explore what social lessons I've learned about the body. And I propose a controversial idea - a new way of thinking about and relating to the body.
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You’re listening to the Ekstasy Vine Podcast, episode two.
Hello - my name is Ekstasy - and this is the Ekstasy Vine Podcast, where we explore the sensual landscapes of nature and the body.
So last week I introduced the concept of descent - of dropping down into the experiences of our bodies in order to encounter and reclaim our wildness. And so one of the things I wanted to talk about in this episode is this relationship with our body. What is our body and how do we relate to it.
And one of the things I remember from when I was a little kid was that my body wasn’t really something separate from me. I didn’t really divide myself into a body and a mind, or a body and a spirit. I was just me - everything was rich with sensation and experience and I had all these different opinions. And I was scrapes and bruises and stomach aches and dreams and thoughts and hopes and fears. There was this unity between all these different aspects and experiences of myself. I had a sense that I was a whole person - I was a complete human. I felt pain and I felt pleasure and I felt joy and I felt sadness. But I was whole. I felt this wholeness.
And as I grew up, that sense of unity started to fracture and come apart. And I think a large part of that is because I kept learning all of these lessons from society and from the different cultures that I was encountering that my body was something separate from me.
And one aspect of that was that the different religions and spiritualities that I was encountering (both traditional and new age) were teaching me that my body was a vessel. A shell of sorts that contained me - and me was a spirit, this immortal and pure thing that was ethereal and hard to really pin point or place in the physical reality. And my body on the other hand was a messy, temporary, kind of dirty shell - and when that shell died, I - my spirit - would leave this body and move on - either to another body (through reincarnation) or to another place (like heaven or an afterlife of some kind). I was learning that my body was actually a temporary home and I was its tenant.
And at the same time, I was also told by social institutions that my body was a machine that was being operated by me - “me” being my mind. My government, school, my bosses, they were instructing me that the body was a complex, multi-faceted piece of technology and that my mind was able to do great things through my body. So I could discover, to explore, to invent. But my body was the tool through which my mind interacted with the world. So again there was this separation between me and my body. And when that machine broke - when my body broke or got sick or hurt - there was a place that I went called a hospital where I would go and get fixed or patched up just so that I could come back and keep working, keep creating, keep doing things with my body, with this tool that I had.
And then there was the beauty industry, which was teaching me that my body was an object - something to be sculpted or perfected like an art project. It was a thing, or an ornament, or a piece of clothing that I could and should keep clean, or smooth, or youthful. And if it wasn’t that way, then I needed to do everything I could to alter it - to shape it, to adorn it, to basically make it attractive for other people to look at and experience.
And so I don’t know about you, but all of those lessons of looking at my body as something separate from me - either as a vessel or a machine or an object to be looked at - it left me feeling broken and disconnected - fractured into lot of little pieces. And it didn’t help that other people used my body as a means for shaming me - attacking the way I looked or walked or dressed as a way to bully or gain social power over me. And as an adult, my body also started to feel like an obstacle - a messy, breakable, needy thing - suffering from depression and chronic digestive pain - and basically getting in the way of achieving my goals - of feeling beautiful, of being successful, of being useful.
And so the result of that was that I started to look at my body as almost like an enemy. It was something that was causing me problems. It was betraying me. It was getting in the way. It was causing me physical pain and shame. And all of that just contributed to feeling even more and more fractured and more and more separated from my self and from this organism - this one complete organism that I had felt when I was younger. I didn’t feel that anymore. There was a separation and a conflict between my body and this sense of self that I had.
There are lots of reasons why I think all these different institutions and different cultures have this perspective of wanting to sort of cleave us away from our body. There are a lot of political and social agendas at stake - and a lot of money at stake for example in the beauty industry - andlike we talked about last week in cultures of ascension, fear is at the core of it. A fear of our mortality - a fear of sufferingand the sensations of the body. Maybe not understanding what they mean or what they are.
So I think that we’re basically ill equipped - we’re not raised to really know or understand the body and the experiences, the sensations that we feel. And so when we talk about returning to our wildness, or reclaiming our wild nature, what I’m talking about really is returning back to that sense of wholeness and being one thing connected to our body - all these different aspects of ourselves - and in a sense unlearning all of these things that society and different institutions have layered on top of us and used to separate us from our bodies and our lived experience.
One of the things that is at the core of what I talk about on EkstasyVine.com and what I want to keep talking about in this podcast is how to reintegrate and reconnect and go back to that sense of being one organism and feeling whole and connected to our bodies not as if they’re some kind of tool or vessel - but that we actually ARE our bodies. We’re not in a body - we’re not using a body - but we actually are our bodies - we are our sensual experience.
Without our bodies, we wouldn’t exist - we wouldn’t have a sense of identity or a sense of self because our bodies are the way we experience this world and we take in sensory information and this incredible organism and incredibly complex and multi-faceted organism takes in all of that information and processes it and experiences thoughts and feelings and emotions and creates this thing that we call a self. Without the body, none of that can really happen.
The idea is really controversial. A lot of my new age friends or even a lot of my friends in the herbal community, when I mention the idea that we are our body I feel a lot of resistance. There’s a lot of resistance from people.
The thing is I can really understand why we’d want to think about the body as something separate from ourselves. Especially when our body hurts, or is sick, or suffers from chronic illness or pain. And when our body is the reason for why some people hate us, or imprison us, or want to kill us because of our color, or our body shape, or our ability, or our sex (or perceived sex, rather). And I really understand the impulse to want to throw away the body - or to hold it at arms length and say, no - this is not me. I am not my body. I am something way beyond my body, something that exists outside of my body.
And I want to ask you to just suspend your resistance just for a little bit as we go forward through the podcast - and maybe put aside some of these lessons that you’ve learned about your body - that it’s something separate from you. Give a try to this idea that maybe you’re not something different from your body, maybe you’re not separate from it, maybe you are still this whole organism that you might have remembered being when you were a child.
So I’d really love to hear from you. If you have any questions or comments that this episode has brought up for you, you can head over to EkstasyVine.com and send me a message. Or even leave me some suggestions for upcoming episodes if there are some topics or issues you’d like me to talk about. I’d love to hear from you. You can also head over there to download a transcript of this episode. Or subscribe to the monthly newsletter.
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I hope until next week that you have a wonderful week - and I hope you’ll join me next time.