I am not my body

Imagine for a moment that you’re a lawyer, and you’re in court.  It is the biggest case in your life. In fact, the issues being debated are so pivotal to the practice of law, that the court proceedings are being video taped. Yesterday, the judge asked you for a brief outlining the key position in your case. She now resumes court and you are standing there when she says in a solemn voice:

“Mr. Goldstein”, “I have been a judge now for 10 years, and have practiced law for 20 years before that, (your heart is now racing, you have no idea where this is going) in all my years on the bench, she continues, I have never read such a well organized, lucid, and logically compelling brief, as the one that you have presented. Mr. Goldstein you are to be congratulated.” And at that moment the judge and the entire courtroom bursts into applause.

At that point what do you think you would feel?

Likely you would be feeling an intense sense of joy; a feeling that begins somewhere deep within you and starts to spread; an elation so deep and so profound that it transcends time and place. You wouldn’t walk out of that courtroom that day, you would float out.

What part of you experienced that? Was it your hands? Your feet?  Your head? Was it your chest, or arms? It wasn’t any part of your body that felt it.  It was you. You felt pleasure. You were ecstatic. This is an example of an “I” pleasure; a completely non physical pleasure that “I” experience. It is a pleasure that has no connection to your physical state of being, and so, isn’t dependent upon your body.  The essence of you experiences it, and that part, the “I”, lives on forever and enjoys the work that you put in, while in this world.

If you think about it, there are many pleasures that “I” experience. Listening to music can be a very moving one. Have you ever come home after a long day at work, kicked off your shoes, cranked up the stereo, and just gotten lost in the music? You may have started off in a pretty lousy mood. You turned on a favorite album and pretty soon, your foot began moving with the beat. Before you knew it you were humming along. Then you started to move with the music, by now you were in a different mood. You were floating, up there, flowing with the music.

That was you enjoying an experience that clearly isn’t physical.  Not your body, but you.  “I” was experiencing pleasure.  There are many things that “I” feel that aren’t physical in nature. The full gamut of emotions from love, to hate, to rage, to jealousy, are things that “I” feel. “I” feel proud of my accomplishments. “I” feel appreciative of kind gestures from others, and “I” feel hurt by words that people say. It isn’t my heart that feels the pain. We may euphemistically use expressions like a broken heart, but what we really mean, is that “I” have been hurt. Me.

Can you remember a time that you were deeply embarrassed? If you bring up in your mind’s eye that time that you were positively skin burning, embarrassed. You said that line that was totally inappropriate, and by the time the words came off your lips, you could already feel a burning sensation spreading. It started in your forehead then spread down your face.  You sensed something hot emanating from within you trying to burn out. As it spread, it seared. And you felt an intense pain.

It wasn’t your heart that was feeling it, it wasn’t your chest, it wasn’t even your soul, it was You. And the feeling was so real, that your entire being was enveloped in it; you wished there was a hole you could climb into and never come out of. The point is that feelings aren’t dependent on your body. Even if you didn’t have legs you would feel the pain; even if your hands were numb you would still cringe. You would still feel that same horrible, sinking feeling; because You are feeling it.  “I” am experiencing something that isn’t physical in nature and isn’t tied to this world in which we live. These sensations, many enjoyable, and some quite painful, are all examples of “I” feeling things that aren’t physical.

That sense of elation you experience when you find out you won the Lotto; the emotion that you feel when you meet your daughter for the first time in the delivery room; that utter sense of joy and fulfillment, the complete feeling of jubilation — can we even describe such experiences? The heart feels them, or more accurately “I” feel them; but they aren’t physical. They are inner conditions that are so fine that they almost defy definition. But they sure are real, and “I” feel them.

The point is that when I am separated from my body, I will live on and feel all of those same emotions. I will rejoice in my accomplishments, or suffer for my shortcomings. But it is “I”, that will feel pain, and “I” that will feel pleasure, just as I enjoy these sensations on this earth.