Thank you to my body

I started with the basic Taoist inner yoga practices again, including the inner smile. These were important for me in my late teens and early twenties and may have been one reason I got much better from CFS during that time.

When I do the inner smile these days, I notice that it naturally moves to saying thank you to my body. Thank you to my body as a whole, to the cells, mitochondria, the organs one at a time, and so on.

Thank you for being here for me. Thank you for your work. Thank you for keeping me alive. Thank you for doing your best. Thank you for your love and care for me.

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I am not this body?

Some folks like to say: I am not this body.

I imagine why they say it. They may want to make a point, and it can be meant as a pointer. But it can also be misleading.

To me, it’s more accurate to say that I am not most fundamentally anything within the content of experience, including this body. I am more fundamentally what it all happens within and as. I am what it all comes and goes within and as.

And it is also accurate to say I am this body in a couple of different ways.

In a conventional and pragmatic sense, I am this body. That’s what my passport says. It’s what most people see me as. And that’s completely fine.

I am also this whole field of experience, including this body. What I am forms itself into its own content of experience, including this body and the wider world. I am all of it while it’s here.

There is some validity to each of these views and many more.

Image by me and Midjourney.

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Perception of the physical when we notice our nature

How does our perception of the physical change when we notice our nature?

Here is what I find for myself.


As a human being in the world, I use and relate to objects as anyone else. I move around. Try to avoid walking into things. Make use of objects. Enjoy experiencing certain things with this body. And so on. All the ordinary and usual things humans do.


And in terms of what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience, this looks a bit different.

To myself, I am consciousness. And the world to me – any experience at all – happens within and as consciousness.

That includes this physical body and anything physical. It happens within and as consciousness, and within and as what I am. It’s as if I can put my arm through it.

A night dream is created by consciousness, and it is made up of consciousness. And so also with this body and the physical world. My experience of it is created by consciousness. And it’s made up of consciousness.

To me, my nature is the nature of my body and any physical object.

If we are so inclined, we can say that all inherently is consciousness AKA God, Spirit, the divine, Brahman, and so on. And if I take a slightly more grounded and sober approach, I’ll say that to me, I am consciousness, and to me, the world happens within and as consciousness. It happens within and as what I am.


In daily life, I operate in the physical world as anyone else.

And I also notice the dreamlike quality of the physical world. It’s created by consciousness. It’s content of consciousness. It’s made up of consciousness. This helps me hold it all a bit more lightly.


When I was fifteen, there was a shift where it felt like the world – including this human self – was very far away and seemed like a dream. In hindsight, I see this as a shift into a simple observer-observed duality and a perception of all as consciousness. (It was terrifying and confusing to me at the time. A year later, this shifted into oneness and the perceptions I write about in many of these articles.) This shift gave me an early visceral sense of the physical as consciousness.

Later, I have continued to notice and explore this, including through inquiry and sense-field explorations.

When I explore how my mind creates its experience of my physical body, I find that it’s a combination of mental representations and sensations. In general, certain mental representations (mental images and words) are associated with certain physical sensations, and the mental representations give meaning to the sensations while the sensations give a sense of solidity, substance, and reality to the thoughts. That’s how a sense of a solid physical body is created. And when this is explored in some detail, we see through the illusion and the sense of solidity softens. (Living / Kiloby Inquiries is a good way to explore this.)

Note: I have written similar articles on distance, movement, time, doership, and this human self.

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This human self is connected with my world in a special way

It’s not unusual in an awakening process to have apparently unusual experiences.


For instance, around fifteen years ago, I was in a Breema class in Oregon. We were three or four pairs practicing a new sequence. (On a beautiful Persian rug in front of the fireplace.)

And Big Mind shifted into the foreground (not unusual) and where there was no knowledge of which of the bodies were “mine” (less usual). There were several bodies in my field of vision.

Somewhere in me, there was the knowledge that “I” was supposed to be one of them. But it was impossible to find which one it was.

I am not sure how long it lasted, probably just a few seconds, and then it shifted again so I knew that this body – the one I can only see the arms, legs, and parts of the upper body of, is the one I am in the world.


These types of experiences, which I have had many versions of, help us notice certain things about the relationship between who and what we are. And more than that, it gives us a viceral sense of it.

In this case, it showed me that as what I am, as Big Mind, any content of experience is essentially the same. As Big Mind, I form myself into any and all content of experience. My nature is the nature of all of these experiences. It’s all essentially consciousness. There is no special relationship with any of it.

At the same time, there is a special connection with this particular human self. Yes, it happens within the content of experience as anything else. It happens within my sense fields, including the mental field in the form of mental representations, just like anyone and anything. At the same time, this human self is the only one there is inside information about. It’s the only one whose thoughts, feelings, sensations, and so on are within this content of experience. And it’s the only one others consistently take me to be.


It’s perhaps not so much of a mystery.

In a conventional sense, to others, and to myself when I take on the identity of this human self, I am in this human self in the world. That’s not wrong.

It’s also not the whole picture.

To myself, in my own first-person experience, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am more fundamentally capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

As what I am, this human self happens within and as what I am along with any other content of experience. As what I am, this human self is the only one I have consistent inside information about. And this human self is the only one others consistently take me to be.


On the one hand, there is no special relationship between what I am and this human self. It happens within and as what I am, just like anything else. It lives its own life, just like anything else.

On the other hand, there is a special relationship with this human self. It’s the one there is inside information about. It’s the one others take me to be.

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The body as capacity, space, and consciousness

I just had a conversation with someone who is taking a Vortex Healing class and said she experienced only space in her chest area.

It made me realize that the way I experience my physical body may not be how it is for everyone. At some level, I know that. And at another level, it’s not something I am aware of or think about.


So how do I experience my physical body?

For me, it’s mainly capacity. Everything is capacity and this capacity forms itself into the content of experience, the world as it appears to me, and this includes how this body appears in my sense fields – the shapes and colors, the sensations, the movement, and so on.

I can also say that this body is space. It’s space and this space sometimes takes the form of sensations. The sensations happen within and as awake space.

And I can say this body is consciousness. It’s happening within and as consciousness, just like the rest of the world appears to me.


This experience of my body and anything physical came with the initial awakening shift when I was fifteen and sixteen.

And I keep exploring it.

I explore what I most fundamentally am in my own experience, and find what I can call capacity for the world as it appears to me, and what the world to me happens within and as. (Headless experiments.)

I do inquiry on my experience of this body and any sense of being this body. I notice the sensations. Visual impressions. I notice the mental representations associated with these. I notice the sensations are sensations. I notice the mental representations are mental representations. And what’s left is this capacity and awake space taking all these forms. (Traditional Buddhist inquiry and modern versions like the Living Inquiries / Kiloby Inquiries.)

Through this, I also notice how any sense of solidity is created. It’s created in the same way as much else, through associating physical sensations with certain mental representations. The sensations lend a sense of solidity and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. And, in this case, this meaning is physical solidity. Here too, when this is seen and explored and we get familiar with this terrain, the “glue” that holds the sensations and thoughts together softens. We see through how the mind creates its own experience of the world. And what’s left is capacity and awake space taking all of these forms.

Why do we tend to be identified with the head area?

Most of us in the current western world are identified with the area where our head is. We have a general identification with or as the body and a slightly stronger identification with the head area.


There may be some physical and practical reasons for this head-identification.

Some of our most used senses are located in our head: Eyes, ears, nose, and tongue.

And others tend to look at our face and eyes when they look at us, suggesting that’s where we are mostly located.


At the same time, there is a cultural component here.

Our head-identification is not inherent in who or what we are. It’s not inevitable.

We happen to live in a culture where most people are identified with their head, so we naturally adopt it as well. We learn that’s what people here do, so we do the same, mostly without even noticing or questioning it. It’s natural and innocent and even sweet. (Our culture’s value on the intellect and, indirectly, the brain, may also play a small role here.)

We can imagine a culture where it’s different. For instance, a culture where we are most identified with or as the heart area. If we grow up in a culture that values the heart, and where people are mostly identified with or as their heart area, our main sense of self would likely be there as well.


How is this identification created? How does the mind create a sense of an I or me mostly in the head area?

If we explore this through the sense fields, we may find that the sense of self in the head area is created the same way the mind creates any other identification with a mental representation.

We have mental images, in this case of our head area. We have words saying we mostly are in the head area. The mind associates these images and words with certain bodily sensations, often in the same area. The sensations lend a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the mental images and words. And the mental images and words give a sense of meaning to the sensations.

As we discover this, we can more easily recognize the mental representations as mental representations, the sensations as sensations, and we are less blindly caught in the temporary appearance of a sense of self in the head area – or the body in general.

And this allows us to more easily notice our more fundamental nature as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and as what the world to us happens within and as.


In general, what do we find if we explore this for ourselves through, for instance, inquiry or basic meditation?

We may find that any sense of an “I” or observer or doer in the head area (or anywhere else) happens within the content of experience. It comes and goes like any other content. Since it comes and goes, it’s not what we more fundamentally are.

It happens within and as what we more fundamentally are.


This typical head-identification is, I assume, why Douglas Harding created the Headless experiments and the Headless Way.

If we are mostly identified with the head, then pointing out basic headless nature is the most direct remedy.

In our own first-person experience, we don’t have a head so we cannot be a head. There is a pink blob where my mind tells me the nose is. If I am in front of a mirror, there is a face out there in the mirror behind the glass. If I look at my mental images of myself, I see a head but that’s just a mental representation. That’s not me. Others may tell me I am this body and head, but I cannot find that in my own first-person experience.

I know this can easily sound silly, childish, and just like an oddity to mention at a party.

And if we explore it for ourselves, with sincerity and diligence, and see how it is to live from it, it can be profoundly transformative. It shifts our deepest sense of identity. It transforms our perception. It transforms how we live our life. And it, over time, transforms our human self and psyche.

Drawing: Self-portrait by Ernst Mach, 1886.

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Listen to the body – important although there are caveats

Some talk about “listening to the body” in a general sense, without caveats.

But there are caveats to listening to the body.

Mainly because we never listen to the body. We listen to our thoughts about what the body says. And these thoughts are interpretations and guesses, and may be misleading. They may be influenced by emotional issues and our (unexamined) hopes and fears.

That said, I listen to my body. I check in to see if I need to put on or take off clothes, or change the indoor temperature. When and what to eat. If I have the energy to do something or need to rest. And so on. (I may even check in with my body to see if there is a yes / relief or no / tension to do a particular thing.)

I also check in to see if this is influenced by issues, hopes, fears, and so on.

It takes time to learn to recognize a more neutral interpretation from one influenced by my own issues. And although I often listen to my body in daily life, and find it helpful and important, I am also aware that when I listen to my body, I am actually listening to my own thoughts and interpretations.

Adyashanti: As soon as you move out of truth

As soon as you move out of truth, you feel it, kinesthetically; you feel it in your body when you’ve disconnected.

– Adyashanti, Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic, chapter 6

One of my current favorite ways of exploring this is the “I can if I want” test.

I can […] if I want, and I want. I can […[ if I want, and I don’t want.

Say each one to yourself and see how your body responds. Does it tense? Does it relax? (Tension is a “no”, relaxation and relief is a “yes”.)

In the last few days, I have had a slight dilemma on whether to use antibiotics or not. I try to avoid it as much as possible, but I have had an infection over several days that didn’t get better. So I said to myself I can take antibiotics if I want, and I want and noticed how my body responded, and then checked I can take antibiotics if I want, and I don’t want. The first one felt like a relief in my body, and the second tension and stress. So I went with my body, got the antibiotics, took it and it felt like a relief. (Of course, my doctor’s advice is primary in this case, but he had left it open for me to decide so I did.)

This is obviously a much bigger topic. It’s not just about everyday or life decisions. It’s also – and perhaps mainly – about the stories we tell ourselves and how we take them. Whenever we tell ourselves an untrue story – a stressful or painful story – our body tenses up. And when we find what’s truer for us, our body relaxes and it’s a relief.

And yes, I know that can sound a bit naive. Most of us would say that some true stories are stressful. And yet, this is what I have found over and over through – for instance – inquiry. The more true stories and interpretations feel like a relief. Something falls into place. My body can relax.

I have written a lot about this in other articles so I won’t go into it much here. But I’ll say that one relief-giving insight is that no story reflects an absolute or final truth. I can hold all of them lightly, as a question. And there is always some validity in the reversals of any story, and seeing that is also a relief. And we have to discover this for ourselves, by examining one specific stressful story at a time.

Why does the body respond in this way? My take on it is that somewhere, we always know when we tell ourselves something not (entirely) true, and when we take it as more true and final than it is, and that is reflected in the body. Our mind tenses up, and so does the body.

We know what we tell ourselves is not true in the way we tell it to ourselves, the seamless whole of our mind-body tenses up, and that’s a sign we are telling an untruth to ourselves and an invitation to find what’s genuinely more true for us.

Bessel van der Kolk: To overcome trauma you need to wake up your body again

To overcome trauma you need to wake up your body again. So that you can really take pleasure in the small things of life, and learn again to pay attention to yourself.

All over the world, except in [North-]America and Europe, are people singing and moving and dancing together in response to trauma, to re-establish a sense of harmony.

– Bessel van der Kolk, Cumulative Effect of Trauma from the Collective Trauma Summit

Body contractions as a component of trauma, anxiety, depression, addictions, low self-esteem and more

Body contractions are an important component of trauma, anxiety, depression, addiction, low self-esteem and more.

The mind needs sensations to give imagination a sense of solidity and reality and to give it a charge. So it tenses muscles to create these sensations.

They are sometimes temporarily amplified as needed in the situation. And if the mind wishes to create a more lasting experience of trauma etc., then the body contractions can be more lasting and chronic.

These contractions are somewhat individual and can be just about anywhere on the body, although they are often in the torso along the mid-line and also in the throat and head area. They can be on the skin or deeper in the body. (They can even sometimes be experienced as outside of the physical body, when imagination makes physical sensations appear in the space outside of the body.)

There are many ways to work with these contractions and what they are a component of. We can do inquiry on them and see how we relate to them and also what imaginations are connected with them.

Through inquiry, we get to see how we relate to the contractions and also what imaginations (memories, images, words) are connected to them.

We can tap on them, hold, massage.

Therapeutic tremoring (TRE) can help release the physical contraction. This will, in turn, take some of the charge out of what the contraction is a part of whether it’s trauma, anxiety, depression, addiction or something else.

We can use different forms of energy and/or bodywork to (a) shift how we relate to the contraction (befriend it), or (b) release the contraction.

Exploring the contraction both from the mind (inquiry) and the body side is often helpful and sometimes essential.

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Mind and body

Here are some ways to talk about mind & body, each with some truth to them.

In immediate experience, the body happens within mind. The body is an experience happening within and as awareness. It’s a set of sensory input and associated imaginations (mental images and words) combining to create the experience of this body, and all of that happens within and as awareness. As somebody said, the body is the part of the mind visible to the senses.

Health wise, body and mind are one seamless system. If we decide to imagine them as two, we can say that each influences the other. (And the brain and body is one seamless system as well, obviously, with extensive two-way communication.)

In terms of ecology and cosmology, the body is a seamless part of larger social, ecological, and cosmological systems. It’s a holon (part) within a holarchy (system of parts). Again, any separation and even any distinctions are imagined. (And that imagination is essential for helping us orient, navigate and function in the world.) Our wider social, ecological, and cosmological systems are – in a literal and concrete sense – our larger body. This is not just poetry or the visions of a mystic, it’s literally how it seems to be. The universe is one seamless system, and we are seamlessly embedded in it.

In our culture, we are so used to thinking of separate units that it’s difficult to take this in and really embody and feel it. We are used to thinking of mind and body as distinct and largely separate, and ourselves as a person as distinct and largely separate from the wider whole. There is some truth to it, and yet it’s not the whole picture, and it’s also not the most useful way of looking at it these days. A more integral view, or systems view, or holarchical view, makes more practical sense.

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Dialog with the body

We often have an unintentional dialog with our body, so why not make it more intentional?

I can ask it questions. I can ask it how I have related to it. I can ask how it would like me to relate to it. I can ask what it would like me to know. I can apologize for how I have treated it. I can share what I wish from it. I share that what’s happening is not a life-and-death matter and it’s allowed to relax.

And much more, all in the context of kindness.

This can be very healing, and it can change my relationship with my body.

In addition, it can be helpful to explore how my mind creates my experience of my body. I can do this through inquiry, for instance the Living Inquiries.

For instance:

Body, how does P. relate to you? He likes me most of the time. He appreciated me. He also struggles with me when I don’t do what he wants from me. He struggles when (he thinks) I create fatigue and brain fog.

How would you like him to relate to you? Continue to feed me good food. Go for walks. Get fresh air. Do what you enjoy. Find love for me, as I am. I am doing my best.

What advice do you have for him? Find some patience with me. Continue to explore how his mind creates his experience of me. Continue to find genuine love for me. Enjoy.

Body, can you do something for me? Yes, what? Can you shift into full health? Into an intention of full health? I will do my part, as much as I can. Yes. Remember, it’s a partnership. I am following your cues.

On the last topic, I have found that when I have asked for healing and health, there is a shift in orientation and into a more clear intention. I may also be more aware of what in me fears healing and full health, and can explore that. And I may find something or someone who can support my health.

It may not seem like much, having dialogues like this. And yet, something shifts. I feel more aligned with my body, and on the same side. I see it’s always there for me. I see how it’s taking cues from me, from my intentional and unintentional orientation.

And with so much I write about here, these dialogues are very natural and almost effortless. They happen anyway, so why not make them more intentional?

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Byron Katie: The body is the ego’s greatest ally

The body is the ego’s greatest ally.

– Byron Katie

Yes, in so many ways.

I am this body. I will die. I don’t want to die.

My body is sick. It will get sick. It’s not good looking enough. It’s too old. It will get old. I won’t be attractive anymore. They won’t like me. I am wearing the wrong clothes. What will people think about how I look? Am I good and impressive enough looking to find a partner?

I am this body. The rest of the world is not me. It’s something that can help me or hurt me. It’s a precarious situation.

And more basic:

These sensations are connected to these images and words, and means these images and words are real, solid and true.

The mind is great at coming up with thoughts related to or relying on the body. And there is no end to how much stress can be created by these thoughts when they are unexamined and held as true. (Even if just a part of us hold them as true.)

Body contractions follow and make possible stressful beliefs

It’s easy to think of body contractions as an effect of stressful beliefs (Velcro, identifications), and that’s accurate enough. It does seem that stressful beliefs create bodily contractions, and persistent and persistently retriggered beliefs may create persistent and chronic body contractions.

And the reverse may be true too.

Body contractions fuel stressful beliefs, and with it unquestioned fears, deficient and inflated selves, reactivity, and compulsions. Without body contractions, it may not even be possible to believe a stressful thought.

As I have written about before (long before I got into the Living Inquiries), it seems that in order to believe a thought, it has to be associated with sensations. These sensations lends a charge, and sense of solidity and reality, to the thought, so it’s possible to hold it as real and true.

So in order to believe a thought, the body-mind tenses certain muscles to create sensations which in turn can be used to give charge and lend a sense of solidity and reality to the thought. That’s, at least, one way to look at it.

It’s really not easy to believe a thought, so tensing muscles is one way to make it easier and more possible. And when the stressful belief is persistent and recurrent, it tends to require a persistent and/or recurrent body contraction.

This is one reason it can be very helpful to work at this – stressful beliefs, anxiety, depression, compulsions, addictions – from both the mind and body sides. We can do inquiry, loving kindness, ho’oponopono, natural rest and more. And we can massage the contraction, release tension through therapeutic tremors (TRE), do yoga, receive bodywork, and more. These approaches go hand in hand, along with working with the larger social system if possible, spending time in nature, engage in physical activities, improving the diet, and whatever else is helpful.

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TRE and back pain

Therapeutic tremors – the ones all mammals have after stress or shock, and is initiated through the Tension & Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) – heal the organism, and doesn’t seem to differentiate between body and mind. The healing happens wherever it’s needed.

One healing that happened early on for me was my lower back. I have scoliosis (still there), and used to have days where my back seized up and I stayed in bed for half a day or a full day to recover.

During the first few weeks of doing TRE, I had periods of soreness in the lower back, and trusted that it was part of the healing process. (While I also monitored it, and adjusted the frequency and length of my TRE sessions, so it wouldn’t get too uncomfortable.) After some weeks, or perhaps months, I noticed that the muscles in my lower back felt much softer and healthier, and it has continued to be that way.

There are still areas of chronic tension in my body, most notably in my shoulders. The shaking goes up there, as it has for a while, but I have – for whatever reason – taken that process a bit slower.


The part of the mind I call the body

For me, in my immediate experience, the body is part of the mind.

My body is part of my mind since it’s happening within and as awareness. All bodies, and any experience, is like that.

Also, anything I think I know about “the body” is created by the mind, by stories, by sensations and an overlay of images and words.

In both of these ways, the body is part of the mind.

So if I say my body tells me….., or my body feels….., I really mean my mind.

My body tells me….. –> My mind tells me…..

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Taking stories as true, and bodily contractions

When I believe a story, it seems to come with a bodily contraction.

There are good reasons for this.

To believe a story, it seems that it has to be attached to sensations. Sensations associated with images and words gives them a charge, and lends them a sense of reality, solidity and truth. It seems that it may not be possible (?) to believe a story unless it’s attached to a sensation in this way.

And to create sensations, we need to tense up muscles. In other words, create a contraction.

As usual, there are different ways to explore this.

Rest with the sensations and any images and words that come up. Notice and allow.

Inquire into the associated images and words. See what’s there. See if they are a threat. See if they are X. (A deficient self or whatever the contraction seems connected with.)

Perhaps also meet it with kindness. See it’s there to protect, it comes from caring, from love.

Neurogenic tremors (TRE) can also be helpful, releasing the tension out of the body. (Of course, this tends to come back unless the stories creating the tension have been examined and perhaps loved.)

These contractions – and really the beliefs creating them – seem to fuel reactivity, anxiety, depression, compulsions, addictions and more. That’s why it can be very helpful to not only explore this from the belief (velcro, identification) side, but also the physical side.

What’s the mechanism that leads from beliefs to bodily contractions? One way to look at it is that beliefs often come from and create (unloved) fear, and that’s why the muscles tense up – in order to prepare us to flee or fight.

Bessel van der Kolk: You need to help the body feel like it’s over

After years and years of working in this and grappling with this, the conclusion that many of us are coming to is that in order to help these animal, frozen, inappropriate, fight/fight/freeze responses to come to an end, you need to work with people’s bodily responses. You need to help their body feel like it’s over.

– Bessel van der Kolk

The different approaches I write about here can help with that. Resting with and feeling sensations, and images and words. Meeting experiences, including sensations, with love. Asking simple questions to see what’s already here. Releasing tension through neurogenic tremors.

My body tells me

I sometimes will say my body tells me….. to eat this, not that etc .

There is a wisdom in the body, and one of the ways it’s expressed is in guidance for what to eat. (And it seems very accurate.)

Of course, it’s not really my body telling me. It’s my mind.

Using conventional language, I may say it’s the part of my mind more connected with my body.

Or, closer to my experience, it’s the part of my mind that appears as the body. It’s the part of my mind that we often call the body. 

Really, those are all stories. It’s what the mind calls guidance that another thought says comes from the body. And recognizing that doesn’t mean I won’t listen to and aim to follow this guidance.

Throat contraction

Over the last year-and-a-half, I have noticed a body contraction that seems to move up.

It started with a strong contraction in the solar plexus. Then the heart. And now the throat. Each one has lasted for a few months, and it has corresponded with old wounds and traumas surfacing relating to each. For instance, with the heart contraction, there was a lot of wounds around being unlovable and unloved that came up…. to be seen, felt, loved, rested with.

Now, with the throat contraction, I find my voice sounding held back and contracted as well, and I cough quite a bit. There are also wounds (identifications, beliefs) surfacing relating to being visible in the world, being seen as an authority, taking more of a leadership role, communicating my truth, and more.

These movable contractions is in addition to a more persistent contraction in my shoulders, and some in my calves, which I also hold in presence when I remember.

Body contractions seem to come from identifications and beliefs at odds with the world (which beliefs necessarily are). And they also seem to fuel reactivity and compulsions, including the compulsion to go to ideas and identifications for (a sense of) safety.

When I explore images and words associated with these contractions, what comes up range from abstract images, to personal memories, to family and cultural patterns.

Body, then mind

Sometimes, it’s difficult to do inquiry, or various forms of meditation, or even shift into natural rest. The mind is too busy, too agitated, perhaps in too much reactivity.

At these times, it can be especially helpful to do something physical. Go for a walk. Run. Lift weights. Seek out nurturing touch. Do yoga. Tai chi. Chi gong. Breema. Even tapping. Or just take a break.

After this, it can be easier to do inquiry, meditation, or shift into natural rest.

Most, or all (?), spiritual traditions have known this, and often recommend doing a body-centered activity before (or during) inquiry, meditation, natural rest, or prayer.

It helps channel the restlessness or agitation in a way that’s more supportive of these practices.

It can also be helpful to inquire into ideas about this such as: “I have to be in the right state of mind to inquiry/meditate/pray”, “I need to inquire/meditate/pray now”, “it’s better if I inquire now”, “this agitation/distress is preventing me from …..” and so on. (The Work.) Also, can I find agitation, distress, reactivity, or even inquiry, meditation, or prayer? Or someone unable to do inquiry now, or someone who should? (Living Inquiries.)

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Body image

In psychology, body image is typically studied as if seen from the “outside”, through questionnaires, interviews and similar.

And it’s also quite interesting to explore it in immediate experience. What words, images and sensations are here, connected with how I see my body (as I think it is, would like it to be, and perhaps fear or hope it may be in the future)? What do I find when I look at each of these, feel the sensations, and see if I can find what I initially experience is there? (Threat, a threatened one, a body as I think it is, a body as I fear or hope it may be.)

It will have most meaning for me, as it helps me see what’s here, and perhaps allow sensations to “unstick” from the words and images. And it can also be studied on a larger scale, looking at commonalities and differences between people. What dynamics do we find? What’s shared? What’s the cultural component? What’s the differences and similarities between cultures?

I assume this approach will be included in mainstream academic and therapeutic psychology, perhaps within the next few decades. It seems inevitable that it will, since it’s so useful, and since other types of Buddhist-type practices have already entered mainstream. Mindfulness was first, and inquiry may be next.

It seems that the Living Inquiries can be a good tool in this process, this more phenomenological and first person exploration of body image.

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Mind and body

A few very basic things about mind and body:

Life is one whole. And sometimes, for practical reasons, we divide it into (a) individual and the wider world, and (b) the individual into mind and body. These boundaries are created through overlays of thought, – of words and images – and are not inherent in reality.

That means that when it comes to any aspect of our health, what we call mind and body both are at play, as is the wider (social and ecological) whole.

For instance, with physical pain, there is the physical pain (body)  and there is our response to it (mind), both influence each other, and our cultural expectations and norms, social support (wider world) and more also play into it. If there are fearful beliefs about the pain, the pain may intensify. If we see the words and images, and feel the sensations, making up the pain and our responses to it, there may be more ease and ability to experience the sensations as sensations. There may still be “pain” but less suffering.

More in general, the processes of the mind influences the body – weakening or strengthening it which in turn influences health, illness and recovery. (We are so far just scratching the surface of this in terms of research.)

Also,  from the view of physical science, mind appears connected with the body and is a mystery. (“What is it? What is it’s relationship to the body?”.) From our own immediate experience, all is mind. The body – and the wider world, and any other content of the mind – happens within and as mind. And both views are valid in their own way. Each have their value and function. They are two facets of how we can perceive the world.

P.S. These are things that seem very basic and obvious, but I still notice some confusion about this in the media and other places.

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Adyashanti: Let the body know its OK for it to find its equilibrium, its balance

When the body does its dance, sometimes its perfectly appropriate to let it do it, to find its way. Really invite it to find its way, to find its equilibrium. And if you have an intention to allow the body to find its equilibrium, its balance…. If it knows that, if you have told the body its perfectly fine for it to find its equilibrium, then it will be much more likely to find it.

If you don’t have that in mind, sometimes the body can keep going through patterns. It releases and goes through the pattern, releases and goes through the pattern.

If you know inside that you are asking the body to find its natural state of equilibrium, wholeness, release,   it really helps it a lot.  Your communication with it is really quite useful to it. It really helps if we are in synch with our bodies.

– Adyashanti, Silent Retreat, 2009, disc 12, track 6

Satsang with the body: You are welcome here. Your health, vitality and wholeness is welcome here.

And with the mind/psyche: You are welcome here. Your health and wholeness is welcome here.


Body and awareness

I had a conversation with someone who mentioned bodywork within a nondual context. It seems quite natural for me, although there is obviously more to explore! When I investigate my body through the different sense fields, I find sight, sensations, sound, taste, smell and images. Each of these are awareness, they happen within and as awareness. There is no substance there. And there is also no substance there when they come together, and there is the label “my body” or “a body”.

That’s the context any bodywork happens within as well. When I do Breema, my body and the recipient’s body are both awareness. They happen as awareness, and as the play of awareness. The image of an I – as a doer, observer – happens within the mental field, and is also awareness. Taken as true, the mind is temporarily identified as an I, and it appears real. And even then, nonidentified mind is here. It’s identified mind –> it’s nonidentified mind. Can I find where that’s true for me, here and now?

Here are some thoughts it’ can be interesting to look into:

There is a body. I have a body. It’s a body. The body is real.

This body is …. years old. This body is made of matter. This body has been born. This body will die.

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Get a load off my chest: Body-related metaphors and inquiry

Metaphors are images in my mind, and they can be taken as true or not.

To the extent they are taken as true, they influence my view, feelings and life. I perceive, feel and live as if it’s true.

And that’s true for body-related metaphors as well.

I have a weight on my shoulders. Cotton in my head. Butterflies in the stomach. It was as getting a knife in the stomach. I want to get a load off my chest. I feel lighter. A weight lifted from me. 

An experiment

This morning, I noticed my mind felt a bit slow, and was reminded of the cotton in my head metaphor. As an experiment, I labeled it cotton in my head and intentionally solidified the experience. How would it be if I take the story of cotton in my head as true and real?

I noticed the sensations that made up the experience, and then the image that went with it. The feeling of cotton in my head seems entirely made up of (a) certain sensations in my head area, especially a slight pressure/tension at the temples and forehead, and (b) an image of wooliness or cotton in and a bit around the head. Outside of that, I cannot find it. It’s quite funny, in a way, how it’s only sensations and an image that create the experience.

I have explored this before, with this and other body-related labels, so cotton in my head doesn’t feel real or solid anymore, even when I don’t intentionally investigate it this way.

Before investigating, the experience of cotton in my head and other labels – including the more basic ones of pain, hunger, dizziness and so on – seem quite real and solid. I have stories of what it means, and tend to take these as true as well. When these metaphors and labels are investigated – perhaps several times and over time – they don’t seem so real, true or solid anymore. It’s clear that it’s made up of a set of sensations, and – if it even comes up – a label. The label may come up only when it seems helpful, for instance in conversation. And even then, it’s not taken as true.

With this, the stories of what it means tends to fall away as well. And it can also be helpful and interesting to investigate these. I have cotton in my head, and that means…. (I won’t function as well, I will have to avoid mental tasks). I have cotton in my head, because…. (I have cf, I didn’t sleep well). 

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What do I do in my body to believe a thought?

What happens in my body – what physical sensations are here – when I believe a particular thought? (A question from The Work.)

Or, said another way, what do I do in my body to believe a thought? (A question from TRE.)

Although each belief comes with a particular pattern, here are some general and common ones I notice for myself:

In general, I tighten the calf muscles. This reduces blood flow and sensations in my legs, which in turn reduces a sense of “grounding” so it’s easier to go into – and get caught up in – stories.

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Spiritualization of matter

At a CSS talk, one of the questioners used the term spiritualization of matter. I don’t know much about how it is ordinarily used, but it seems that it can be talked about in a couple of different ways.

All is already awakeness, and that includes all appearances, overlay of stories, identifications, sense of I and Other, doer, observer and so on. What we label matter is already Spirit so no need – or even possibility – to spiritualize anything.

To explore this, I can chose something that seems very much material and physical, for instance a cup. How does it appear in each sense field? Through sensations, sight, sounds, images? What is its appearance in each sense field made of? Is it awakeness itself? Can I find what stories label “matter” outside of these sense fields? Can I find “matter” outside of images and stories? Can I find it as anything else than awakeness? (The very ordinary awakeness we are all familiar with, which is here independent of context of experience and identifications.) This may sound very naive, and I suppose that is one of the reasons we usually don’t explore things this way.

Awakeness can awaken to itself, notice itself, and identification shift out of stories. Our human self will then reorganize within this new context, and this can be called spiritualization of matter. Our body, energies, emotions and views shift and reorganize within this context of what we are awake to itself. Our human self heals, matures and develops in this new context, and does so in ways that appears sane and mature in a conventional sense as well.

This reorganization can also happen before such an awakening, through practice and at least to some extent.

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I spent an interesting night at the ER with kidney stones on the move. (Not out yet.)

And what comes up the most is gratitude… for modern medicine, hospitals, friendly and skilled staff, and being able to get there in just a few minutes from where I live. Very appropriate, since yesterday was Thanksgiving and I had explored what I have to be thankful for. 

I also noticed, and find an easy gratitude for, the pressure valves of pain… When it gets too intensive, the experience of it shifts. It becomes something else. And there are also the temporary and very welcome distractions through movement and sounds. 

And then finding myself with one foot in the world of what I am, and one foot in who I am. It all happened within clarity and a quiet joy. A clarity inherent in what is, independent of its content. A quiet joy inherent in any experience, independent of its content. And then the human self doing its thing, in excellent fashion, including twisting, grunting and moaning in pain. (And discovering that the child’s pose helps alleviate the pain, as does a hot water bottle on the painful area.)

I also got to notice what thought does with this. Coming home, I looked up kidney stones online (Wikipedia, Mayo Clinic, etc.) and realized that I do not fit the profile at all for having kidney stones. I drink lots of water daily. I use my body. There is no history of it in my near family. I have a low protein diet. I do not drink coke or other soft drinks. I am younger than what is typical. 

Up until reading this, I was fine with having kidney stones. It was just another adventure. But after reading it, the thought came up that I shouldn’t have them! Why me? I am doing everything “right” so why did I still get them? 

And then seeing the silliness of it, and a release. Kidney stones are guests, as anything else. Temporary. Inviting me to just experience, and also notice what is happening. 

Finally, the slight hesitation or apprehension coming up. The stone or stones are not out yet, so it is quite possible that I will experience that pain again as they move through or want to move through. And then appreciation for that too, because it is just the human self taking care of itself. It experienced something unpleasant, it may return, so it naturally is apprehensive. And that has a function. In this case, it helps me take the pain medication even if I currently don’t experience much pain.

Taking the effects of beliefs as support for beliefs

I have written about this before, but wanted to look into it again for myself.

When a story is taken as true, it has several effects. Mainly…

My stories tells me it is true. I find supporting stories. I find allies who believe the same. I deny the truth in the reversals of these stories. And I deny the limited truth in these stories. In short, attention goes to stories aimed at proving a position.

My emotions become reactive. (Reactive anger, sadness, depression, frustration.)

My body tenses up. (Tensions, jitteriness, dullness, shallow breath.)

And since these effects are always associated with beliefs, I come to take them as support for the initial belief.

Life shows up a certain way. It triggers reactive emotions, tension in the body and stories aimed at proving a point, and all of this is taken as support for my initial belief.

My stories tells me it is true. My emotions tells me it is true. My body tells me it is true. So it must be true.

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Tug of war

Over the last few days, and especially last night, I have noticed what seems like a gentle tug of war going on in the body. Maybe a tension between dynamics from a mistaken identity and existence inviting in a release of it. A gentle murmuring tug of war between confusion and clarity.

This is probably something that goes on all the time, for most of us. A tug of war between beliefs in stories and what is more true for us. A tension between what we try to take as true, and what we know is true. A tug of war that goes through all of who we are, including the body and its energies.

And sometimes, like now, it feels like something is working itself out. But those are all interpretations, and it feels better to let it have its life without me needing to know.

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Feel awareness

Some teachers emphasize to feel awareness. It may sound funny, but there is a deep wisdom behind it.

When I shift into Big Mind, finding myself as what I am, feeling awareness is an invitation to bring attention to what is happening to my body. I bring attention to the felt-sense, to what is happening with my felt-sense when what I am notices itself.

(I can invite this shift in through the Big Mind process, headless experiments, exploring the sense fields, allowing experience/choiceless awareness, or by following a number of other pointers. And the noticing of what I am can be more or less clear. But the felt-sense will still shift along with it.)

What I notice is a deep relaxation of the body. When it is no longer taken as an I with an Other, it is free to release the tension that comes from being taken for an I with an Other.

Bringing attention to the body, in the context of what we are noticing itself, is also an invitation to the body to reorganize within this new context. It is an invitation to deepen into the felt sense of what we are noticing itself, and to allow the body – and our human self as a whole – to reorganize within it.

And if the heart is brought in, there is a whole new flavor to it, and the relaxation and reorganization goes even deeper.

I shift into Big Mind, invite in Big Heart, a kindness and well-wishing towards anything within form, bring attention to the body and embrace the body, and allow the body – and my human self as a whole – to deeply relax and reorganize within that awareness and love.

Free from the tension and stress of being taken for an I with an Other, and within being seen, felt and loved as it is, here and now.

Flow & Capacity

“The single thing that comes close to a magic bullet, in terms of its strong and universal benefits, is exercise.”

“The data show that regular moderate exercise increases your ability to battle the effects of disease,” Dr. Moffat said in an interview. “It has a positive effect on both physical and mental well-being. The goal is to do as much physical activity as your body lets you do, and rest when you need to rest.”

The New York Times has a great little article on the universal benefits of exercise: You Name It, and Exercise Helps It.

When I look at the effects of exercise, I see that the benefits seem to come through flow and capacity. Exercise get things moving and builds capacity.

And that is true for exercise at any level.

At the thought/mental field level, inquiry into beliefs gets things unstuck. It also builds capacity for inquiry, and for seeing a story as only a story.

At the emotional level, being with and allowing experience allows the content of experience to flow and move on. And it builds capacity for being with and allowing experience.

At the energetic level, exercise – such as different forms of yoga – again invites flow and capacity. The energies get moving, and it builds capacity for working with and holding energies.

At the body level, aerobic and non-aerobic exercise obviously gets things moving and unstuck, at all levels, and also builds capacity.

And the same is also true for relationships. Working consciously with relationships invites them to flow and unstick, and it builds capacity for working with relationships and allowing them to flow.

Energy hole and hara

I have mentioned this before, but I noticed again today.

I used to have a moderate scoliosis in the lower back, with the most noticeable misalignment right at the level of the navel. And that is exactly where I have noticed an energetic hole since the initial awakening. Along with this, there was a sense of a generally weak hara, and also a neurotic pattern of irritability over certain sounds. (People eating loudly, rustling loudly with the newspaper, talking loudly in public, etc.)

Since I started doing Breema, my hara has been filling up more, and has a much higher baseline level. After a while, there was a sense of the energetic hole filling up, and the scoliosis is much weaker. (I have also received massage for the scoliosis). And  following that, I have noticed that the neurotic pattern has lessened quite significantly and is often absent in situations where it used to arise.

My sense is that the Breema helped the hara fill up, with a nurturing fullness and trust, which in turn invited the neurotic pattern to shift, helped along with The Work inquiries on people making sounds. And the massage invited the spine to realign, probably helped along with the energetic shifts in that same area.

Working with body symptoms

I had an opportunity to explore ways to work with body symptoms last week, this time mainly just by fully allowing the experience, exploring the sense fields, and also resting attention on certain sensations.

Here are some ways of working with body symptoms…

  • Allowing the experience, in a wholehearted and heartfelt way, as they are, as if they would never change. Can I be with what I am experiencing right now? Bringing in the heart at times.
  • Resting attention on sensations, gently, stably, over some time. This is using body symptoms as an object for stability practice.
  • Exploring the sense fields, what is happening in each, and the gestalts that appear when they are combined. What is happening in sound, sensation, smell, taste and thought? How do thought combine with the other sense fields, such as sensations, to create certain appearances and gestalts? What happens when these appear solid, substantial and real? What happens when I notice how a thought combine with other sense fields to create those appearances?
  • Noticing the beliefs I have around body symptoms, health, disease, life, death, and inquire into them, finding what is already more true for me. (The Work.)
  • Finding myself as headless through the headless experiments. Am I the content of my experiences, or that which these experiences happens within and as?
  • Being curious about the process behind the symptoms, allowing it to unfold. What is left out of my conscious awareness that wants to be seen and included? (Process Work.)
  • Explore the voices that come up, such as the body, pain, illness, health, and so on. What do they have to say? How does the personality relate to them? How do they relate to each other? How does each one contribute to and help the human self? How can they do this in a simpler and more straight forward way? (Big Mind process.)
  • Deepening into empathy for myself and others. What I am experiencing now is universally human. Shared by all living creatures. We are all in this together. It is not (only) about me, but about us.
  • And then all the conventional ways of dealing with the symptoms or illness… going to the doctor, taking pills, changing diet, get more sleep, exercise, getting surgery, going to an acupuncturist, and so on depending on the situation.

As with anything else in life….

  • We can work with the content of it in a conventional way. In this case, going to the doctor, getting acupuncture, changing our health habits, and so on.
  • We can explore how we relate to it. Do I resist the experience? What happens if I more fully allow and stay with the experience? What happens if I bring attention to the symptoms in a stable and gentle way?
  • We can explore what is already more true for us about it. What are my beliefs around it? Are they true? What happens when I believe that? Who would I be without that belief? What is true in the reversals of my initial story?
  • We can allow it to work on us. When I fully allow experience, sincerely investigate beliefs, find myself as headless and so on, I can invite it to work on me, placing myself under it.
  • And we can use it as an invitation to notice what we already are. Am I the content of my experiences? These sensations, sounds, smells, tastes, thoughts that all live their own life, coming and going on their own time? Or am I that which these come and go within and as?

Being with body symptoms

I had an opportunity to explore being with body symptoms yesterday, as headaches and nausea peaked from something that has been brewing for a couple of days.

As long as the symptoms were mild and moderate, I was able to do other things, including distracting myself by watching movies as it got a little worse. At some point, when it went over the “moderate” threshold, I had no choice but to turn off the light and just be with the symptoms.

If attention wandered, the discomfort increased to feel almost unbearable. But when attention stayed on the body symptoms, it was OK. It was a great laboratory to be with and fully allow whatever happened, and a great feedback mechanism for attention to stay with it in a stable way without wandering.

After a while, there was a shift into a sense of clarity and soft expansion. I feel asleep for a few minutes, and woke up to a sense of clarity, a sweet nurturing fullness, a quiet bliss, and a sense of purification. The body symptoms had shifted into all of these, although I had to lie still for the physical aspects of the nausea to not kick in again. (Meaning: puking.)

So in fully allowing body symptoms, they too are revealed as something else, as any experience. They appear one way when – even subtly – resisted, and another way when wholeheartedly allowed, as they are, as if they would never change.

It is also interesting to notice that this happened on its own during my initial awakening. Whenever I got physically sick, there was a tremendous sense of clarity, bliss, nurturing fullness, and purification. During the dark night phase, I got sick the more usual way without any of this. And now, with some intention, it seems that the shift happens again.

During the initial awakening, the physical illnesses were usually quick and intense, during the dark night longer and lower intensity, and yesterday, quick and intense again.

Body watching and remembering

In the form of bodywork I am doing, they say watch with the body, and allow the body to remember.

When I look at this for myself, I find that the experience may be that the body watches and remembers, but something else is going on. It is those visual, kinesthetic and tactile thoughts that registers and remembers the form, the ones similar to our body image and images of extent and continuity. They often operate outside of attention, although can certainly be noticed as they happen, with a little bit of practice. (For instance simple labeling practice.)

While watching and giving a sequence, these non-verbal thoughts can be supported to a certain extent by discursive/verbal thoughts, for instance by consciously remembering. But they are often more readily available to surface when these other thoughts are more quiet, or focused on counting the breath, or bringing attention to the weight of the body or the breath.

As I often find when I explore how they talk about these things, the way they express it is somewhat vague and poetic and focuses more at gestalts and medium level holons. The beauty of this is that it meets people where they are, if they have not explored these things before, and allows people to explore and discover the details of it themselves. The drawback is that these gestalts may be taken as more real than they really are.

Additional note: I notice how “watching with the body” for me, right now, means allow attention to include your own body as you watch the sequence being demonstrated. And this in turn activate the kinesthetic (visual+movement+sensation) thoughts, the thoughts mimicking a felt-sense moving and quality of movement, which makes it easier for a remembrance of the sequence to surface when I do it on my own.

Feldenkrais and body image

I am getting back into the Feldenkrais lessons/explorations again through a friend studying to become a Feldenkrais practitioner and also classes just down the street.

These sessions are great opportunities to explore body image and how this mind creates an image of the body and uses it in different ways.

Some of the things I notice…

  • Thoughts create a visual image of the body. This one is most easily noticeable when the eyes are closed, but can also be noticed as an overlay over the visual perceptions when the eyes are open.
  • This image provides mapping for sensations
  • It is used for anticipating or remembering movements, visualizing what can be or was
  • It serves as a guide for attention, for instance when we are instructed to bring attention to our left foot
  • And it also serves as a map for a sense of subject and object. Each of these are located in different areas of space and the body, creating a sense of distance between the two, which also makes it possible to differentiate the two. Without a sense of distance between them, no subject or object.
  • When I explore the sense of subject and object, I notice the visualization of a fuzzy boundary around the head area serving as a location for a subject, seer, and doer. And the rest, such as other locations of the body and also the wider world, then becomes object and seen. If attention is brought to this sense of subject, the boundary shifts (usually to slightly in front of and above the head) and what previously appeared as subject now becomes an object. The specifics of how this works is probably different for different people, and changes over time as well.
  • All of this happens on top of basic visual thoughts of extent or space, which allows us to experience perception as spread out in space and located in different areas of space. These are basically visualizations of space, which allows us to map perceptions on top of it.

Going to the mind and body for truth

Adyashanti often talks about how we go to the mind and body for the truth, and when I explore that for myself, I find the same.

Going to the mind for the truth is pretty obvious. We rely on thoughts to tell us how the world is, what is true, and how to behave.

Going to the body for truth is maybe a little less obvious. (I wrote about this one in the previous post.)

I find that I go to the body for truth, relying on two different signs. One is emotions, which are really just sensations and a story about these sensations. And the other is sensations such as tension, discomfort, shallow breath, and so on.

And I find that the bodily sensations I rely on for truth are the ones coming from beliefs. Any beliefs trigger reactive emotions, muscle tension and changes the breathing pattern, especially when it clashes with life as it unfolds or may unfold. These beliefs are, by definition, taken as true. So I associate these bodily changes with not only a story, but a true story, a truth. The outcome of all this is that reactive emotions, muscle tension and changes in breathing patterns are all taken as indication of truth.

Or more precisely, I see that beliefs all have to do with shoulds, with how life should be. So these bodily signs tell me that life is showing up differently than it should.

Somebody acts in a certain way, which triggers these bodily signs of reactive emotions, muscle tension and shallow or forced breathing. I notice these bodily reactions, and take them as a sign that life shows up differently from how it should, and that this person acted differently from how he or she should. And from there, I look for a story behind it, a story also telling me that life is wrong, life is unfolding differently from how my story and body tells me it should.