We are living in challenging times. The world as we knew it, both natural and socio-political, is collapsing rapidly. Nobody knows how, when or if this collapse will resolve itself. On every side our political and natural resources are crumbling. Democracy is eroding into authoritarianism. Habitats are collapsing under a combination of human waste and global heating. Our biological resilience is being challenged by the same. Never have we so badly needed the courage and fortitude to face this multidimensional crisis with dignity and grace. It is hard these days to feel safe.
External responses: social, political, environmental, are clearly necessary. Not least co-operative initiatives amongst people who are used to ignoring and exploiting each other. Yet perhaps even more necessary, especially given the unpredictability of events, is an effective internal response. Even in order to co-operate effectively we need to radically transform our attitudes to the ‘other’. Whether this is other human beings, other living creatures or the natural world as a whole.
As long as we perceive them as the other we can never feel safe.
Yet as individuals we have not chosen to see them that way: to experience ourselves that way. Rather we have learned to feel ourselves to be isolated, independent individuals struggling to survive in a dangerous, competitive world. We did not need to go to school to learn this. We do not need to believe the prejudiced ideologies of competitiveness and greed that have been propagated by those who claim to understand human nature and its needs. We just need to be dependent upon the global system of production and consumption that has invaded almost every corner of this planet. As we are. While those who have not yet been sucked into its ruthless exploitation will be soon.
Hidden within all of this is a tyranny more subtle, potent and dangerous than any institution or regime: the tyranny of the mind. The human mind has been running away with itself, individually and collectively, for a very long time. As long as it continues to do so nature, every species and human being remain at risk.
The root cause of this tyranny is as simple as it is persistent: ignorance of human nature.
Many have been the theories of human nature. Almost without exception they have actually been explanations of human behaviour. Human behaviour is generated by a simple interaction between inner and outer, between human nature and external circumstance. What we observe in human behaviour is as much a product of historical circumstance as it is of human nature.
While we remain ignorant of exactly how evolution generated the human organism, we know that it did. The structure of our DNA demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that we evolved here on this earth in interaction with its many, changing, forms of life.
The first priority of any organism, and its species, is to survive. In our case survival has depended not on agility, speed, strength or armour, but on our minds. It is our minds that allow us to so effectively bond and co-operate with each other. Without the remarkable intelligence of mind there would be, could be, no human race.
Yet the human mind has become so disembodied that its ungrounded creativity has precipitated the destruction of the biosphere. As long as it remains ungrounded, it remains cut off from nature. As long as it remains ungrounded we remain cut off from our nature.
The vulnerability of our bodies and the creativity of our minds are not all there is to human nature. There is also Consciousness. Without which you could not read nor hear these words. You could not know that you exist. You would not experience, think or feel anything.
Of course all this is true of the conscious mind, and of conscious awareness. Yet Consciousness is more than they. Anyone willing to take the time to examine their own experience of consciousness deeply will begin to know this. While knowing also that the richness of Consciousness is not only the source of the conscious mind, and conscious awareness, but also the source of our deepest longings and impulses.
These deep, shared impulses and longings underpin all of the spiritual, mystical and religious beliefs, stories and methodologies by which human beings have always tried to make sense of our transient vulnerability. There is something in our nature that makes us grope for meaning through the eternal and invulnerable. This is not a spandrel quirk of human neurology. It is the echo of Consciousness reverberating in the creative virtuosity of our minds.
If we are to come to terms with our vulnerability. If we are to come to terms with our individual and collective destructiveness. If we are to live with courage and resilience from the fullness of our human nature we must become intimate with the presence of Consciousness within our own experience, within our own longings and within our shared lives. We must encounter and explore the deepest intelligence of our nature: the Spiritual Intelligence of Consciousness.
The most simple, direct way to do this is to use the (cognitive) intelligence of mind to become intimate with the (somatic) intelligence of the body. The most simple, direct way to do this is to become intimate with the presence and nature of physical sensation. As you fall into the heart of sensation you will find yourself in your Spiritual Heart, soothed by and bathed in the Spiritual Intelligence of Consciousness.
To do so is to be provided with a great and unexpected gift: embodied mind. When cognitive intelligence becomes intimate enough with somatic intelligence it begins to access the wisdom and power of Spiritual Intelligence. This wisdom and power express themselves as a momentum towards Wholeness. This is the momentum underlying evolution and sex, hunger and thirst, healing and rest. As mind becomes embodied in the momentum towards Wholeness it becomes grounded in what is actually possible and fruitful, rather than whatever can be imagined.
An embodied mind is one that expresses its curiosity and creativity from the momentum towards Wholeness in direct response to what is actually possible. It has no need to run away with itself into crippling stories, or irrelevant speculations. An embodied mind is a stable and satisfied mind that leads to a satisfying and meaningful life.
To embody your mind you need to become intimate with your body. You need a regular, consistent, somatic practice that will allow you to feel more and more deeply into your body. Deeply enough to encounter its nonduality with your spirituality. Deeply enough for the cognitive intelligence of your mind to become one with the Spiritual Intelligence of Consciousness. Then your inescapable biological vulnerabilities will be soothed and softened by your Spiritual Invulnerability.