Transcending The Physical

There is something I’ve noticed this year, more than any before and I suppose it has to do with being in my fifties. Stuff hurts. My son and I went snowboarding this last week. Granted, we had the mountain virtually to ourselves so we were limited only by how fast we could make it down the hill. Still, I can remember not that long ago when I would be the first on the lift up the mountain, and the last down the hill and still left wanting for more. Not so this time. Two hours into our day, I found myself constantly checking the time to see how much longer until lunch. After the lunch break, my legs were the consistency of lime jello and I was reminded of gravity, catching an edge and jackhammering my head backwards against the hard pack. Thank God for helmets.

The next day wasn’t so bad. The third day, I was a one-man bitch fest. Every small muscle group I didn’t know existed screamed out for recognition. Even my bunions hurt.

Good Lord, I sound like my dad.

But it does bring something to the surface for me. How much I have defined my life by my physical experience. Not that there hasn’t been contemplation. Meditation. Discernment. But in large, my life has largely been experienced through the lens of the physical. In motion.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna explains the various yogas, and the Karma Yoga, the

Prince Arjuna and Lord Krishna

performance of work without the attachment to results. This illustrates the primary path I have lived, though somewhat light on the attachment part. The letting go of attachment has been the work within the work. The letting go of expectations and attachments to results. I can’t explain enough how conflicting this has been at times. As a business advisor, results have been a primary focus of my work. As an executive coach, discipline in doing the work, ignoring results has been the focus. One brings means, the other brings meaning.

All this to say, my body is telling me, louder every day, that as my primary vehicle to doing the work, it is not unlimited. It is finite rather, and there in the acceptance there is humility and a dose of grace. To do anything else would be ignorance. Plastic surgery is not for me and it only delays the inevitable and invites the macabre.

I heard the thought run through my mind the other day, “is it over?” Life that is, through the physical lens. In a sense yes, but I have to laugh. That is my ego talking. Worrying rather.

But, this is about a shift. A transcendence from one experience to another. In the BG, Krishna talks about the Ksetra–Kshetrajna Vibhaga yoga–the separation of matter, the physical experience, to the spirit, the One consciousness. And as I reflect on this, I realize how human history is filled with examples of this transcendence, but only through a binding of the physical. Some limitation of the body that forces one to go within themselves and seek to detach from it. St. Ignatius experienced his transcendence while convalescing from a life-threatening battle injury, which lead to the founding of the Jesuit order. In the waning moments of Pope John Paul’s life, he spoke of the perfection of his suffering in the failing of his body and his pending transcendence through physical death.

This is why I love to read Anne Lamott. She seems to embody this letting go and writes about it in an amazingly authentic, uproariously funny way.

I hope to transcend before I die.

All this to say, profound things happen, or at least can happen if one is willing to accept the failing of the physical, the temporary nature of the body and be open to the larger consciousness that is right in front of us. Right in front of me.

My new affirmation is this: In this failing, I will rejoice in this increasingly aching body. I will rejoice in the extra time it takes to get down the mountain and laugh at my ego’s attempt to decry losing it’s edge. To do anything else is to reject the cosmology of the universe, that the sun does not rise and set, and that hair plugs, teeth whitening and tummy tucks will bring lasting satisfaction.

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