About Having a Body–and Being a Self Who Has a Body

About Having a Body--and Being a Self Who Has a Body

Good day, everyone!
Here are a few snippets from the “Five Skandhas” class that just started, which it seems may have universal interest. We’re working right now on the first skandha, which is the body–and, particularly, We’re working on seeing how conditioned mind uses the body to create an artificial self. See what you think!


“Boy, that idealization of youth is a wicked trap, isn’t it? A perfect way to create suffering over time. It’s bizarre that we would set up the expectation in our culture that we should look young forever, knowing that this is perfectly impossible. I feel sad for everyone, including me, in that we bought that crazy expectation, did not appreciate the youth we had when we had it (isn’t that the case with everyone, nearly?), and then grow old to wish for the youth we no longer have. As the saying goes, youth is wasted on the young. It would be so much better if we were taught to love who we are and how we are at every stage of life, not just the time when we were vital and strong.”

“Shocked and dismayed! Me too, friend. When I went to the monastery I had a big head of curly brown hair, and a brown beard. When I left my hair had all gone grey, and when I grew my beard out, for the first time in many years, it had greyed also. It’s so difficult to accept these changes, isn’t it? And yet that’s exactly what we have to do.”

“What you describe is such a good example of what I talked about in the intro to the exercise. The only reason, really, to have all that thinking going on about your body and what’s wrong with your body, etc., is so that you can be someone who is unhappy about your body (and, by extrapolation, unhappy in general, and dissatisfied). Being afraid of food, which is something that many, many people share, I believe, is the bizarre and sad result of being that false unhappy self, in relationship to artificial standards and expectations about the body. In fact, as you know very well, you are okay no matter what your body looks like; no matter what shape it’s in, or anything else. Okay is who you are. It’s our work in practice, as you also know, to let go into our direct and immediate understanding of that fact, which applies to all of us, and to live within that understanding.”

“Reading what you wrote, I’m fascinated by the extent to which we are controlled by our fear of pain. That has to be nearly universal. There’s the potential for internal bodily pain, as you said, and then there’s the potential (seemingly) external pain that comes with the disapproval of others. My hip hurts, and so I’m not happy. I’m not as good looking as so-and-so, and so I’m not happy. Same thing, in a way. And so in our fear of pain we try to force our bodies to be what they cannot be, or ignore the realities so that we don’t have to face them, and other things. All because we take our own bodies personally, and imagine that they are some reflection of who we really are.”