This article was adapted from Dharma Ocean Podcast 239, a talk given by Dr. Reggie Ray at the November 2016 Meditating With the Body Retreat held at Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England. Dr. Reginald “Reggie” Ray is the Director of the Dharma Ocean Foundation, dedicated to the evolution and flowering of the somatic teachings of the Practicing Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
Good morning, everybody. We have this wonderful opportunity to be together for a few days and to do the most important thing in the world. And that’s a very rare thing in human life. Most of the time, we spend our time doing things that are not the most important thing in the world.
We spend our time doing things that don’t touch the depths, and more and more in modern culture, our lives are set up, so we never touch the depths. Many people don’t even know there are such depths within. Hence we spend our whole lives trying to feed ourselves dust and ashes, eating sand and drinking brackish water while we’re starving and dying of thirst.
But there is a different way, even though the modern world has almost entirely lost sight of it. This is a different way in which humans were born to be connected with what is timeless in ourselves. We were born to go to the full depths of life and live from that place because that’s actually where life is found.
It’s very beautiful here with the changing weather, the sun coming and going, the wind blowing through the trees. And this beauty is also in ourselves—a tremendous beauty and depth of feeling from being alive and feeling the sacredness of our own life.
Sometimes people make a distinction between the secular and the mystical or religious. That’s a very superficial way of thinking because if you fathom the world’s great traditions, you end up at a source of life, the eternal depth of the human person. If you fully fathom the secular world, again, you wind up at a depth of life and the timeless source of our person.
You wind up in the same place. And that’s what traditional meditation is about, whoever you are, whatever your religious or political beliefs or your culture, or your station of life. Until we discover the road back to the source, we have not become fully human, and we can’t live a fully human life.
This isn’t about individual people. It’s about a lineage that goes back hundreds and thousands of years. People come and go, nations come and go, cultures come and go. But the stream of spirituality that we are part of endures beyond all of the changes.
Public traditions and religions fall apart or become corrupt. We see this in the history of religions. The public external traditions often became corrupt, polluted, and even poisoned. But for some, the inner depth was never compromised. Especially the meditators would go to their own depths, their inner lives, their felt sense of life, their body’s unfailing intuitions and discover there the same things people discovered in the external initiations, such as going into the mysterious depths and darkness of underground places.
There’s a very famous person in our tradition from the 5th century in India named Saraha. One day he was meditating in his little hut by the river Ganges. Somebody came along and said, “we’re going to go on a pilgrimage.” A pilgrimage is when you go to sacred places, perhaps because your life isn’t working and you’ve lost track of yourself, and you’re living too much on the surface.
“We’re going to see all these wonderful sacred places; there will be all kinds of colorful experiences, it will be so much fun. Why don’t you come with us?” Saraha declined—he said the greatest place of pilgrimage on the planet is my own body because within my own body is the holy river Ganges and all the sacred sites in India as well.
He was saying that by exploring my body, by exploring my inner world, I can make a much more profound and transformative pilgrimage than you people can by wandering around and looking for it somewhere outside. And that’s very much our tradition. That’s what we’re doing here. Our embodied, or “somatic meditation,” is a Vajrayana tradition from the Eastern regions of Tibet, a region called Kham—a total backwater.
If you saw pictures, you wouldn’t understand how people could live there. These little rundown huts and stone houses and tremendous open territory with not much happening. And this is where this tradition survived for 1,000 years. That’s what we’re doing here. We have taken off the Tibetan cultural trappings, which are very heavy and really get between us as modern people and the teachings that we seek. And they’re not necessary. But what is left is stunning, and it is what all of us have most deeply longed for, forever.
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.