Physical methods of engineering the body for spiritual and personal development purposes work with the principles of manipulating energy flow. While meditation works primarily with the mind to lead energy and could be described as working from the inside out, physical methods such as Hatha yoga, Tai Chi, Shiatsu, Kinesiology, certain types of massage and Tantra to name a few work from the outside in. At specific stages of development depending on the school, method and teacher the two paths will meet. At more advanced stages all paths are realized as being paths of the mind.
It is valuable to understand the effect that the body has on the mind because by observing the cause and effect we learn how to master the mind. We gain the opportunity to move the mind in different ways, investigate various effects and explore an expanded and “deeper” aspect to ourselves. Even for those of us who are deeply committed to the internal, mental path cross research and experience on the “external” or physical path, can often reveal knowledge that could have taken years to understand by purely following the internal. There are many, many places where the two paths will seem like one and the same.
One of the most basic methods for understanding the mind/body connection is through guided relaxation.
Clench your fist for a moment.
Unclench and allow it to totally relax.
Observe this feeling of relaxation.
Feel it release.
Now apply this sensation of relaxation to your lower back but without physically tensing or relaxing. Do it with your mind and directed imagination.
Whether you were able to elicit the same degree of relaxation is not important. What is important is to feel a level of relaxation being created in your lower back area. Relaxing the hand was more of an “external” practice and relaxing the back more of an “internal” practice. Of course the two are both inextricably linked, it is simply that one uses an obvious level of muscular movement and the other a subtler one. The subtler, more internal practice is what will take us beyond the body simply because it does not rely on the body for movement. This type of mind understands how to move in and out of the body. Spiritual energy is essentially a subtle energy, so it is able to move into the dense areas of the body as well as of course the higher levels of emotion, mind and consciousness. For this reason neither methods is “more spiritual” than the other. All methods and ways have the opportunity to connect to spirit. All that is required is the willingness to look.
Using this external method of practice allows us to loosen the density of our muscles and body enough that we begin to feel subtle flows of energy. Through practice we can take these method and develop it to the level where we can relax any area of the body completely which can lead to a looseness that we had as a child. From here it is easier to make the stretch to connect to yet subtler energies. This is where people have developed skills in astral projection, higher self connections as well as psychic skills. Interestingly “naturals” tend to not necessarily need to learn relaxation in order to connect to subtle energy. This is congruent with practitioners who at higher levels find that they can connect to meditative states anywhere at anytime. In truth these states are there all the time, it is simply that we are no longer distracted by “noise”, tension or emotions. We simply reach out and tune in. This by the way is what directed imagination can help us achieve even at a beginning level. By matching the imaginative “template” of what we are seeking or listening for we open up a gate into that mind state.
The method of physical relaxation is best practiced lying down comfortably. Practice tuning into your body by physically tensing then relaxing each part of your body. Explore how much you can release each part. When you believe you can relax no further see if you can gently breath into these parts to release even more.
Explore this exercise:
Lying down comfortably on you back observe your breathing.
Clench both hands into fists for a moment.
Release and relax.
Move your mind into the feeling of relaxation and letting go.
Clench you forearms for a moment.
Release and relax.
Gently guide your conscious and body to release even further.
Easily and without too much strain open your mouth as wide as you can. Feel your face muscles stretching
Release and relax.
Gently and easily tense your neck muscles.
Release and relax.
Continue this way with your chest area, upper back, lower back, hips, groin area, thighs, shins and feet.
Take your time.
If you should feel impatient at any time simply allow this emotion to be and keep your mind on the feeling of relaxation.
Allow your body to feel heavy.
Allow it to sink into the surface upon which you are resting.
Observe the way the energy in your body is now flowing.
Observe how your mind is feeling.
Don’t be concerned if you fall asleep or start getting tired. This is very normal for this exercise and in fact is a good method to use if you have problems getting to sleep. For the purposes of maintaining consciousness during the exercise, see if you can practice it in the morning after waking and washing your face or perhaps at some other time during the day. The aim is to become familiar with different frequencies of energy within the body as well as to form a connection between the physical and the mental. At times see if you can achieve the same state of relaxation without tensing the muscles first but through pure mind. Eventually this practice will allow you to move through the usual prerequisites of relaxation, silence and concentration and connect to whatever state of mind that you wish regardless. This is a fundamental step of experiencing a movement through illusion and so is an important principle of realizing empowerment.