The Body

by Dennis E. Bradford, Ph.D.

in spiritual well-being

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As often as possible, ignore the body.

What, if any, sense does this make?  What does it even mean?

Everything depends upon understanding our nature.




“A human being is, as human, Becoming and, as being, Being” [from my Getting Things Done].  Becoming is temporality whereas Being is eternality.  Whatever is in time is Becoming whereas whatever is not in time is Being.

In other words, as has often been noted, there are two “sides” to every human being.  They may be called “the material” (Becoming) and “the spiritual” (Being).  Bodies are material.  (If so, Paul’s notion of a spiritual body in The New Testament is confused.)

Yet the recommendation to ignore the material as often as possible initially seems unbalanced.  Why shouldn’t we tend to them equally?




The answer depends upon understanding what we most value in our daily lives.

Even a bit of introspection reveals that all (or nearly all) our thoughts and doings involve the body.  Ask yourself:  “From the time I awake in the morning until the time I fall asleep in the evening, with what do I concern myself most?”  Isn’t the answer that you tend to your body?

You eat when there is hunger.  You think about your several daily meals by, for example, planning them, shopping for food, preparing food to eat, serving food, and cleaning up after meals.  Even if someone else does such tasks for you, you not infrequently think about what they are doing for you.  The same goes for drinking when there is thirst.

You also think about resting and sleeping.  You eliminate bodily waste.  You may have sex or, at least, think about having sex.  Many of your thoughts and doings involve ensuring that you (and, perhaps, your family) have adequate shelter from weather and protection from others (from criminals to the IRS).  If you are ill, it’s difficult not to focus on regaining health. You probably plan and take vacations.   You interact with other humans and, perhaps, also pets and other animals; in fact, you may spend more time thinking about interpersonal relationships than any other topic.

Perhaps you meditate or have some other spiritual practice.  Notice how often the mind tends to drift into thinking about bodily doings from the past or possible bodily doings in the future.

In short, accurate introspection may reveal that all (or nearly all) of your attention throughout the day concerns the material.




In fact, let’s here agree to use “doings” to refer only to bodily doings, which are material acts.

When, for example, you walk or dress or rake leaves or drive a car you are doing things, you are engaged in bodily doings, you are actively engaged with the material, with the domain of Becoming.

On the other hand, for example, if you think about something or change your mind about an issue or wonder whether it will rain tomorrow, you are not (necessarily) doing anything.  (Of course, you are also, for example, breathing, but such a bodily doing is different from your mental state.)




All or most of your attention during a normal day is tied up with doings or thinking about doings.  Most of your life is absorbed by Becoming, by what is temporal.

Is that not a fact about your life?  I presume that it is.




This at least gives some initial credibility to the recommendation to pay as little attention as possible to doings and thinking about doings.  Why?

If there really are two sides to our nature and if we tend to occupy our attention with only one of them, we are, obviously, living unbalanced lives.

What’s good about being unbalanced?

In order to restore balance, pay much less attention to doings and thinking about doings than is normal (usual).  In short, pay much less attention to Becoming.




Living well is living balanced between Becoming and Being.  The more out of balance we are, the poorer our lives.

From this perspective, it’s easy to understand that sages, those who live well, lead lives that are more balanced than the lives lived by the rest of us.

Sages, like us, are physical beings.  They must do what the rest of us do in terms of, say, eating and drinking and resting and so on.  They, too, are human beings.  It’s a mistake to idolize them; they do not live solely in Being.

However, it’s not a mistake to emulate them.  In particular, it’s wise to emulate their paying much less attention to doings and thinking about doings than the rest of us.

The critical mistake that the rest of us make is getting stuck in our thoughts.  Although it seems counter-intuitive, we would be much better off if we detached from more of our thoughts.

Why?  What are our thoughts about?

Our thoughts are ultimately always about (real or imagined) doings, in other words, about Becoming!  This is an important insight.




To think is to conceptualize; a thought (judgment, proposition) is a conceptualization.  To conceptualize is to separate (divide, classify, group, sort, categorize).

For example, if I think “That is a tree,” I am separating that object (thing, form) from its background.

This is why thoughts are, if they are true at all, at best only partially true.  It’s a logical impossibility for a thought to capture unity, the whole of reality.  Being is beyond thinking.  While not beyond thinking, thoughts about Becoming are, at best, only perspectival.

This explains why most thoughts are about perceivable or imaginary objects.  (To imagine is simply to imagine perceiving.)  Unless, say, you are a mathematician or a logician (and it may even be true for them), aren’t most of your thoughts about perceivable or imaginary objects?

Don’t take my word for it:  check!  Notice what you think about all, or nearly all, the time.

If this is correct, thoughts are only about the material, about Becoming.




If not by thinking about it, how, then, are we to apprehend Being?  How are we to rectify the imbalance in our lives between Being and Becoming?

It’s simple:  by letting go of thoughts.

I do not, of course, mean by falling into a dreamless sleep.  I mean by dropping all conceptualizations and directly apprehending Being.

Although you may not have paid much attention to it it’s likely that this has happened to you.  Here’s one description from A Course in Miracles:

“Everyone has experienced what he would call a sense of being transported beyond himself . . . a sudden unawareness of the body, and a joining of yourself and something else in in which your  mind enlarges . . . as you unite with it.  And both become whole as neither is perceived as separate.”

Such a direct apprehension of Being is impossible to conceptualize, which explains why Being (Wholeness, Unity) cannot be thought.  Since all thoughts are, ultimately, about Becoming, to apprehend Being, simply let go of all thoughts.  Although, at least because we fear losing our identities, it’s not easy to do, it’s simple.

Letting go of all thoughts is the end of separation.  Since all dissatisfaction comes from separation, it also is the end of dissatisfaction.

Letting go of all thoughts is also the end of the Becoming/Being classification itself.

Letting go of all thoughts is the subject matter of all spiritual practices.  So, to live better, to live a more balanced life, master some spiritual practice or other.

In other words, as often as possible, ignore the body.  This means dropping attachment to all thoughts, which involves dropping attachment to Becoming.

This leads to another question:  “What’s the best way to ignore the body?”  The short answer is that, if you teach yourself how to tend it effectively and efficiently, doing that takes surprisingly little time.  [I plan to discuss this in my next post.]