We are evaluating the tools of the mind in order to see what can help us approach this question of being. And we have rejected nondirected thought, the background of associative images, because of its hypnotic effect. We have also rejected directed thought as something fundamentally rooted in the past (or as the past projected into the future as prediction) which cannot, therefore, illuminate the vital present. And we presume that the vital present is the home of being.
We have further noted that we normally possess no unified conscious 'I' who might separate itself from thought, whether directed or nondirected, and therefore no entity, outside of thought itself, can be defined in us. And we have examined the phenomenon of conscience, concluding that it might be useful in bringing a degree of consciousness to semi-consciousness. And after all this - we will turn now to the question of what, if not the contents of the mind, constitutes being.
We must begin with an assumption - because without that we can take this field of questioning no further. Let us then assume that the body is one thing and you, or I, are another thing - we are not the mind and we are not the body either. However, we possess both a mind and a body - the mind can bring us into a more conscious state by way of conscience. It may not last very long or feel very pleasant but conscience undeniably increases our clarity. Can the same be said of any function of the body?
By simply opening a newspaper, or observing oneself honestly, one can see that human dignity is reduced when one submits wholly to the body, to the animal appetites. A person in the grip of a strong desire is noticeably less conscious, more mechanical. And we become attached to bodily pleasures just as we also become attached to intellectual and emotional pleasures. There are no independent observers when we are in the grip of these attachments - no being outside the magnetism of pleasure. But why should we wish to oppose pleasure-seeking? we are not monks.
Nevertheless, I think it is an important question as to whether the mind can overcome bodily appetites. Surely, before an investigation into the nature of being can occur there must be one who searches - that is, something in us must be free from identification, free from the the activities of the mind, the flux of the emotions, the attractions of the body.
At the same time, an experience of the real - a conscious experience - seems to require the equal participation of mind, emotion and body. I remember walking on the beach - my body recalls the feeling of the wind, I can re-enter my train of thought, relive the emotional quality of the experience. If one of these three elements were missing perhaps I wouldn't remember the walk at all. Most likely I'd have been 'lost in thought', or 'overcome with emotion', walking on 'autopilot' - an experience of a less conscious state.
So it seems that when one centre - either the body, or thought, or the emotions - dominates over the others, then whatever 'self' might otherwise exist independently in one becomes identified with the object of attraction (be that a mental, emotional or physical pleasure) - nothing remains that can stand apart. But when all three elements are in balance, this potentially impartial seed is not so easily taken. We need the body after all.
And while one is often advised to temper an intellectual decision with the emotions (to "follow your heart"), or vice versa (to 'sleep' on an otherwise emotional decision) it is rarely suggested that one consult the body on emotional or intellectual matters. We tend to take the body for granted or, if we are so-called spiritual people, we may try to ignore or deny it. And in our inattentiveness, or in our denial, we fail to notice the unconscious manifestations of the body - the hundreds of unnecessary muscle tensions, the urge to talk pointlessly, the gradual loss of vivid sensation in the skin (apart from the extremes of pleasure and pain). The body becomes less and less vital as the years pass.
Perhaps we don't try to bring consciousness to the body because we don't think of the body as a cognitive tool. And yet sensation in the body - ordinary sensation as opposed to extremes - is the counterweight that allows us to remain conscious in the grip of emotional or intellectual attraction. It allows us to keep something apart in us. Hence, if we wish to create an impartial observer in ourselves and begin unraveling the mystery of our existence in the world, we should aim to increase sensation, and by extension consciousness, in the body.
The following points are offered in summary:
1. When the attractions of one centre - of thought or emotions or of the body - dominate the others, there is nothing within us that can remain apart. We become identified (lost in thought, overcome with emotion etc)
2. If all three centres are in balance, some degree of separation is possible. For this sensation in the body is necessary.
3. Relaxation of the body (i.e. an absence of unconscious muscle tensions) and focused attention (undistracted by nondirected thought or emotion) might indicate a more conscious, or more impartial, state.