Dr. Reggie Ray on Somatic Meditation, excerpted from his book The Awakening Body, Shambhala Publications, 2016. Dr. Reggie Ray is a Spiritual Director of the Dharma Ocean Foundation, who has developed a unique system of practices and teachings called Meditating with the Body.
The somatic approach teaches that the spiritual is already, from the beginning, implicit within what we call the material—not only in our own physical body but also in the larger of our incarnate situation in the cosmos. Any attempt to present spirituality as disembodied is a bogus spirituality, a conceptualized, self-serving construct; at the end of the day, it is simply ego’s game, over and over again, just on a subtler and more hidden level.
The body is a gate—a portal and a process—through which the larger domains of our being, and of Being itself, become accessible to us. In the view of the somatic lineage, the body is not only the temple of enlightenment, but also the one and only gateway to knowing, touching, surrendering into, and identifying with the Totality of Being. That is what enlightenment really means. As we say in our lineage, ‘true spiritual realization, authentic enlightenment, is found in the body and nowhere else.”
Through the methods of Somatic Meditation, we learn how to extend our awareness into our body and we begin to sense what is there. Through the Soma-based practices, we are softening the boundary between our highly intentioned, restricted conscious ego mind and the limitless, unconscious domain of the body. When we do this, our conscious mind begins to tap and connect with the somatic awareness that is already going on—mostly unbeknownst to us—in our body.
In the practice of Somatic Meditation, simply in learning how to come into our body and inhabit it with awareness, we are already entering the embodied spiritual journey. Being within our Soma, or body awareness, in this way enables us to meet our experience directly, to receive the pure experience of our life, and this, right away, and without doing anything else, plunges us into a process of spiritual discovery that is inspiring, compelling, and deeply fulfilling.
This is a kind of knowing that does not rely upon and is, in fact, completely independent of conceptual thinking. Just what that is and how we receive it is the journey. When we explore our body—the Soma—from the inside, we enter into a seemingly endless series of discoveries about what it means for us to have a body, to be a body. For example, we find in the body an objective witness to our life that has no investment whatsoever in our skewed ego-version of things. In addition, our Soma not only knows the truth of how it is with us, others, and the world, but it appreciates and, in a strange way, delights in everything. Even more, it wants to communicate this to us and provide mentoring. So Soma is literally an infinite ocean of practical wisdom, and it offers itself as a guide for our life that is impartial, resourceful, and utterly reliable.
About Dharma Ocean
Dharma Ocean is a global educational foundation in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, focusing on somatic meditation as the way to help students – of any secular or religious discipline, who are genuinely pursuing their spiritual awakening. Dharma Ocean provides online courses, study resources, guided meditation practice, and residential retreats at Blazing Mountain Retreat Center in Crestone, Colorado.