Living from the Neck Down

"Get out of your head and into your body." I first heard this as a teenager beginning to study movement. But even this has existed mostly as a thought. The necessity of living from the neck down is becoming more and more clear in my own life and in the world. The consequences of living in thought are far reaching: compromising our enjoyment, our treatment of each other, and even our ability to think clearly.  But it is difficult. And not only because it is new. Not only because culture has taught the opposite–encouraging us to live by reason. But because of pain. If the heart has been broken, it makes sense that someone would not to go there. Many have no idea the depth of pain their system has learned to avoid. 

Without the heart, I do not know what I want. I may get frustrated when I get other than what I desire, though I had no way to know that desire...but feel its absence. Without the body, I make decisions that look good on paper, but have no reference to how it will feel. I design myself, I push myself, I do what I think I "should" do. I continue patterns of the past where my feelings were not acknowledged, only now I am the one who forgets to consider how I feel. In the mind alone, I try to hold things still. There are ideas of how things should be or who I am, but when these forms fall apart, and the heart starts to break, I run back to the mind and wonder "why." Why what? "Why anything at all." "What's the point?"Or, in the head alone, I try to control others, I divide the world into right and wrong. "Here's what you should do."

Now, the mind most certainly is important. But it is very interesting that a culture so focused on the intellect has trained it poorly. It's funny to say that living in the head makes it hard to know what to do and compromises our thought, but we must be a whole system of wisdom. In order for thoughts to be clear, they must be connected to the whole body, the other, the environment and source.

A lack of a firm foundation send us into the ego. And the ego is not the place for contemplation. Hearts are broken, and so people are in the egos. We need the safety of being from which we could learn think clearly. Not defensively. From which we could open our minds while still living in our bodies. And land the contemplation in our hearts. We must be able to live skillfully in duality. But the mind cannot hold a paradox. It can hold the idea of a paradox, but two opposing truths in the mind are called a conflict. And this is the way of the world. A paradox can only be embraced in the heart. This is a level of ability to think and contemplate that we need to learn.

The truth is that most of us were raised by people who lived from the neck up for various reasons. It may be fair to say that they managed to survive, but did not learn how to live. A combination of escaping the pain of the broken heart, and of just trying to get by. We may be the first generation where the heart can start to melt and cry these tears. For many generations, survival was all that could be done. Repetition of patterns of survival was essential. Even now, even in more-stable, less-dangerous places in the world, the difficult of just getting by could easily send us back into the head and just add one more generation to the repetition of pain. 

But in living from the neck down, life becomes the medicine. Even in our difficulties, we have the chance to seek the beauty and the pleasure (notice that pleasure does not actually avoid the pain). The pain is the medicine that begins to melt the heart. It feels like it will kill you, but when the tears come, it is the coming back to life. It is the not-feeling that will kill you. We are all learning how to do this. Sometimes, it's as easy as following thing breath down into the body. Many times, its more complicated, like convincing a soul to return from a place it has been hiding, far far away. Letting it know that this life can be good. It can be ok. And that, actually, in this life time, is enough beauty to heal so many life times of pain.

I say these things as someone whose soul often leaves. As someone who too often lives in the head. As someone working to heal generations of depression and and dissociation. And as someone who has had glimpses and knows the necessity of melting the heart and continuing to do whatever it takes to get back to the medicine of this life. We must have compassion for why people have left the heart. A full knowledge that everyone is doing the best that they can. Kindness, self-love, forgiveness, infinite love and non-judgement of the other are so important. Now is the time to heal and its sometimes ugly. But we must feel the pain and begin to heal.

Joseph Campbell wrote, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”