Not Your Body

From a young age, we are taught to identify as our bodies.  We fill out forms for school, work and hospitals that are filled with bodily identification questions (gender, ethnicity, hair color, etc).  As we grow, social norms/stereotypes for our bodies guide our lives.  Boys are supposed to be tough and strong, athletic success or physical gains are desired and good grades in school will lead you to happiness.  The media also reinforces how our bodies are tied to happiness. From magazines touting easy body slimming/building exercise routines and celebrities who defy aging to television commercials showing young, successful, beautiful people enjoying life on a beach with their favorite beverage, we are constantly bombarded with depictions of the perfect body.  The message is simple, if your body is beautiful then you’ll be happy.  Follow a few simple exercises or take the new revolutionary health supplement or makeup product and you too can enjoy life like your favorite celebrity.

An issue with tying happiness to your body or bodily enjoyment is that it is temporary.  The happiness you received from these sense enjoyments will either fade away or will make you want more.  Think about it, was there an item you really wanted? What happened once you obtained that item?  It may have provided happiness for a while but it doesn’t solve your problems and can even become a source of stress, if you begin to worry about losing it.  Or exercising with the hope that a more physically attractive body will bring you happiness through increased relationships with the opposite sex. While the increased attention from others may bring more confidence or positive feelings, it can also lead to insecurities about what will happen if you don’t maintain your physical gains.  And this in turn will cause you to focus more time on your body and reinforce in your mind that your body equals happiness.

 The idea that bodily happiness is temporary never crossed my mind growing up.

I idolized sports figures and tried to emulate them.  I exercised and practiced in an attempt to gain the success and perceived happiness that athletes enjoyed.  On a few occasions, I was persuaded by crafty infomercials into purchasing fad exercise equipment that promised earth shattering results with minimal time and effort.  I really believed that if I could get in great physical shape, my life would be better and I would be happy.

Things changed when I learned about the Science of Identity Foundation and the teachings of Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa.  In his book, “Who Are You?“, Jagad Guru talks about bodily identification and why sense gratification will never bring you true happiness.  He explains that we are not our body or mind, rather we are spirit souls and our bodies are merely “vehicles” we use to maneuver in this world.  It is the spirit soul or life force that is necessary for the material body to survive and not vice versa.


Take a look at your body, the body you had as a baby looked much different than your teenage or adult body.  It makes sense that you are not your body when you know your baby body is gone, yet you still exist.  In fact, your body is constantly changing and in “Who Are You?”, it’s stated every 7 years all your cells will be replaced and you will in essence, get a new body!  This fact is truly amazing, every cell will be replaced!  That’s not saying that those cells will be removed, rather its contents or molecules will be replaced so it can continue to function.  Another example given by Jagad Guru deals with people who have lost limbs.  Although the individual has lost part of their body, they still feel that they remain a complete person.  If we were our body, losing part of it would make us feel incomplete.  Knowing these examples, it’s clear that we are not our body.

Therefore, since we’re not our body, there’s no need to strive for a life of bodily or sense gratification because it won’t satisfy our true self.  As a spirit soul and part and parcel of God, we must strive for a life connected to God.  The simplest way to have a connection with God is by hearing and saying his Holy Names.  Gauranga breathing or repeating mantras such as “Madana Mohana Murari” throughout the day are a good way to remember God and satisfy your true self!

 

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Real Forgiveness

A couple of days ago I listened to a podcast of a man who, as a young lad, had lived on the streets of Ireland with a pack of stray dogs. He had been the youngest and smallest of triplets, only a couple of pounds at birth, born into the large family of an Irish father and a German mother, who were often at odds. The dog boy, Martin McKenna, was scholastically challenged, to say the least and hyperactive, what would now be called ADHD. I believe he still doesn’t write although was persuaded to “write” his book with a voice recorder. His father having treated him dreadfully, thinking he was good for nothing, and that the devil was in him. The other children didn’t get the same bad treatment. Whenever his father was drunk, a regular occurrence, Martin would hide or be beaten. When he was as young as seven his father began locking him in the cellar for days at a time, with nothing to eat but coal dust.

forgiveness_1

Eventually Martin ran away, initially digging a hole in the ground to hide in, and eventually developing a life on the streets as top dog of a pack of stray mongrels. It was a raw existence, eating maybe every second day, living on pilfered bread and milk from the home deliveries of those times. After three years, with his brothers saying, come back, come back, Ma is sick, he returned to live at home and stayed until she died, at which time the whole family dispersed. Martin has gone on to make a success of his life, based on his in-depth understanding of the psychology of dogs.

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Happily Let Go of the Desire To Control

We are obviously not in control of everything. When we take an honest look at the immensity of what is beyond our control, it is a wonder that we would even try. In all of our years here, we have not even been able to gain more than very limited and temporary control over just our own mind and body – and virtually no control over the natural environment, other living beings, and so on. Yet, despite our tremendous lack of control, many of us still have such a strong desire to be in control that we feel compelled to keep trying – even though our attempts to do so our are causing us almost constant anxiety, frustration, and misery.

anxiety and frustration

So why do we do it? Why do we continue to try to control what is beyond our control?

Because we think we will find the happiness, peace, and satisfaction that we are longing for in manipulating material circumstances to our liking. We think if we can just control things enough, we will actually be happy and fulfilled – and remain so.

But the reality is that material things and circumstances can never bring us real and lasting happiness. Not simply because we can never completely control them, but because we are made of spiritual energy, not matter. Material things can stimulate temporary and superficial pleasure sensations in the mind and body, but they can never actually touch us – the spiritual being that is temporarily wearing the material mind and body.

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