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bag of bones

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bodyDuring meditation yesterday I experienced not being my body. It felt as if I was observing a mechanism that gurgled, pumped, creaked, and functioned independent of ‘me.’ Meditation teachers say that we’re not our bodies, that my body is a construct of the ego which wants to control and know everything. They encourage us not to be separate from the body, but to see it for what it is, a ‘bag of bones’ (Old Chinese expression). The Sutra on the Four Grounds of Mindfulness, one of the fundamental texts in the Buddhist tradition, tells us that …

… when the practitioner walks, he knows he is walking. When he stands, he knows he is standing. When he sits, he knows he is sitting. When he lies down, he knows he is lying down. When he wakes up, he knows he is waking up. Awake or asleep, he knows he is awake or asleep. This is how the practitioner is aware of body as body, both inside the body and outside the body, and establishes mindfulness in the body with understanding, insight, clarity, and realization. This is called being aware of body as body.

Jean-Paul Sartre thought of the human body as “an assembly of sense organs,“ as mere “flesh.” Reminds me of sitting in the medical clinic, watching the nurse place a stethoscope against my skin, listening for vital information. Kay Toombs writes: “My body, like the world in which I live, has its own nature, structure, and biological conditions …”.

source: Toombs, S.K. (1992). The meaning of illness. Springer Verlag, p.60. image:


One response »

  1. Thank you so much for the link to the Sutra on the Four Grounds of Mindfulness! It is new to me.


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