A Proposal for a Universal Practice:
Embodiment as the One Heart
I have asked questions all my life:
What are we here for?
What does it mean to be human?
Who am I?
Why is the human world so full of problems, conflict and suffering? Why are isolation and polarisation such a prominent feature in our communities.
Why does humanity appear to tend to fall into paths of self-destruction? How can we change that?
My impression is that one thing humanity doesn’t do enough, is ask fundamental questions.
There are too many presumptions we pass on from generation to generation about anything and everything. We tend to live by beliefs that are not investigated. If someone suggests for instance that they don’t believe in life after death, or in religion or in god, it doesn’t mean that life isn’t built on certain sets of beliefs. These are not just limiting self-beliefs imprinted by individual and ancestral trauma, but also beliefs about what it means to be human altogether. For instance someone told me once that “world peace is unrealistic”. Is this an ultimate and unshakeable truth or a limiting belief, that holds humanity back from manifesting a co-creative, mutually empowering, sustainable and peaceful global humanity? How do the beliefs we hold limit the possibility of understanding and living by what may actually be real and true? How do we differentiate between ‘belief’ and ‘truth’?
Our intellectual and scientific approach to life tends to have the capacity to objectify and be descriptive of ‘what happens’. It is a world of naming and knowing about ‘objects’ and ‘processes’. This is how we observe. We can recognise a bird for instance and then we see that ‘it’ flies. This gives us a sense of understanding what we see as ‘the world’ around us. We name atoms and cells and viruses and souls and trees and plants, but do we know what these very alive and highly intricate systems are, that we labelled? How much can we really know by observation from an ‘outside point of view’? I remember taking my son to the planetarium once, and I was immediately in awe of the beautiful representation of a night sky in the dome shaped projection screen. Then suddenly a red arrow showed and a rather monotonous voice told us that “this is ‘Venus’ and that this is ‘Pluto’”. But really has the beauty and the aliveness of the mystery of life not just been interrupted by an empty attempt to label what can not really be defined?
Also how can a someone define anything without really knowing what the process of observation is? Who is the observer? ‘Who’ looks at a ‘star’, or who is isolated?
In recent years I found that there is a lot of new understanding emerging about being a human. The term embodiment suddenly popped up everywhere. We learn about the vagus nerve. We learn that trauma is seated in the body. We learn about being and experiencing and healing our personal and ancestral wounds through what we call the physical body rather than just by observation and naming and objectification. My sense is that we as humanity are only just beginning to tap into a deeper understanding of what life actually is or can be. Learning through embodiment in my experience can lead to fundamentally new ways of seeing, being and communicating, especially if we are willing to enquire deeply into who we really are, beyond the idea of being separate and defined.
Let’s look at the global issue of polarisation and isolation for example and let’s look at that in the context of a porous body, as was so beautifully said in the abstract of the call-out for submissions that I felt moved to respond to. The sense of isolation appears when we feel separate, when we live in cages of concepts and beliefs. Polarisation is in my experience a consequence to feeling separate, and hence under threat.
Through the body we begin to see each other through a dimension of feeling-being and resonance which opens the heart and brings curiosity to learn from each other’s differences rather than see each other as threat. Through the body we also begin to see the cruelty humanity has inflicted – and is continuously inflicting – on one another. The entitlement to exploit other living beings, to suppress them, to take advantage and to even control and impose a limit to their lives, is heartbreakingly painful. From an embodied understanding of life only mutual respect and mutual empowerment creates a happy flow of energy through the body and hence literal vibrancy and true fulfillment.
When we feel happy, confident, fulfilled and trusting in life, we do not need to put others down to feel better, nor do we need to exploit and suppress anyone or anything, be it personal, interpersonal or global. We do not need to build an identity on any idea of superiority.
The question I asked myself is why humans tend to feel, that their wellbeing relies on an idea of superiority over something or someone else, be it superiority over nature as a whole, or over other parts of humanity or over animals. The answer that rang most true was that through the living in labels and beliefs, we suffer from a sense of disconnectedness. Or we could say that the way we speak and relate reflects our sense of separation. We feel small, vulnerable, threatened and fearful because the immensity of being alive as a human body can be rather overwhelming. Horrible things can happen and do happen everyday. Endless terrible human suffering spreads across the planet continuously. And then of course there is the tremendous fear of death, that is way too frightening to even acknowledge. Wouldn’t we fall into endless despair if we did not ignore fundamental fears, feelings and questions?
I have spent two decades as a visual and performing artist investigating embodiment as a creative enquiry into life, which necessarily supported the exploration of those deepest fears and that excruciating sense of separateness. The more I looked for the ‘separate and threatened person’ I was supposed to be, the clearer it became that it was nothing more than the idea that somehow I lived behind my face. The label of being an ‘I’ dissipated, as it was nothing but an empty physical sensation, a contraction behind my face inside my head. The more I allowed myself to be and feel as the whole body, the more I connected with life as a whole.
Once I tapped into the incredible possibility to be embodied as the deeper intelligence of life itself, seeing one life in endlessly changing unique expressions, I found my life-long passion: the exploration of how to be life, live life, breathe life and act as life. And how to allow the healing of all the ideas of separateness and self-protective survival strategies to be transmuted one by one as they organically arise.
Now I find it easy to sink deeply into the mysterious nature of the physical body, with all its endless internal functions. And I find the same mysteriousness and incomprehensible beingness there, that I find in whatever I understand of being the universe. In fact, I can not separate between the mysteriousness of the body and the universe anymore. I learnt to be comfortable with the realm of the unknown and the unknowable, because really it is there where I found profound peace, joy and an abundance of Love and compassion. In fact, the more I can drop the sense of separateness, the more I feel one with everything there is. This is where the heart just begins to radiate abundantly. And then the boundaries between teacher, teaching and the taught begin to fall away. Conflicts, tensions and frustrations turn into opportunities for positive transformation.
I can easily envision this understanding transforming humanity as a whole. It is universal. It would naturally change humanity’s priorities to happiness, sustainability, richness of feeling-expression and mutual empowerment and we would consider it of utmost importance to end the endless new creation of repeating the horrors that traumatize and disable humanity from flourishing to its full capacity. What I am talking about is certainly not new. it is not ‘my’ idea. The wisdom of intrinsic unity of all of life has many faces in humanity’s wisdom ancestry: Just one beautiful example: The Fourth Way Update from July 2022 – an Indigenous Strategy to Build Sustainable, Peaceful and Harmonious Prosperity in the Americas and Beyond – states: “Until we believe that we can build a New World Civilization, based on the Oneness of the Human Family and all Living Beings, free of inequality, injustice and abuse of any form and act together in unprecedented, unified action with “One Heart and One Mind, in Many Bodies” as Crazy Horse called it, our suffering will continue to deepen!”
The potential of being embodied as oneness with all of life radiates and reveals a yet-unknown potential of human nature. A level of beingness, where we can begin to live from Love rather than the fear of survival, which leads to endless distortions of threats to overcome and endless unhealthy points of view, such as the superiority of certain humans over others.
‘Embodiment as the One Heart’ is a seed for this exploration of what is possible. It turns the belief that we can build a “New World Civilisation, based on the Oneness of the Human Family and all Living Beings” into a tacit and embodied understanding and knowing that Oneness of Life just is what is the case. ‘Embodiment as the One Heart’ has continuously evolved from a simple creative consideration of how to embody non-dual poetry and has led unexpectedly to a vision for a new blueprint for humanity. This blueprint indicates a global human community that is open to learn as one and transform life on planet earth, unleashing a remarkable capacity for creative solutions that can not be conceived of as long as we try to fix or even dominate and control a realm of separate things.
I want to end this article with one of my favourite poems. It is a universal prayer for this day and age. Four years after writing it, I coordinated a co-creative film project for it. The film that came out of it demonstrates beautifully how the foundation of oneness encourages and empowers uniqueness of expression in ways separativeness just cannot.
A Universal Prayer of Peace
one inexplicable universe
one starlit endless sky
one green and blue planet amongst countless others
one profound mystery
as one you dance
as one you dance
as one deep, vast ocean all around
as one body of earth and rock and fire and bones and flesh and hair
one air one water one wind one breath one sun one moon
one intricate and incomprehensible web of particles and waves
and atoms and cells and empty space
one day one night
one inexplicable universe
one magnificent and magical organism of aliveness
In forever changing forms of wondrousness
one true happiness shining in all eyes
as one you dance
as one you dance
the one pain of all the horses
The one pain of all the face divisions
the one pain of all ideas of ‘I’ and ‘me’ and ‘mine’
the one pain of all the “I am good” and “you are bad” perceptions
the one pain of all the fears of the so-called other
one pain of all the love-destructive forces
one pain of all the unnecessary sufferings
as one you dance as one
as one responsibility
as one heart
as one love
as one love one love one love
as one colourful and bright and shining humanity
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