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The World in the Body

March 26, 2011

The World in the BodyFor the Taoist, the statement “as above, so below” is one of the fundamental truths of life. The body (including the brain) is a microcosm of the universe, and operates under the same laws. Not only is the body “in the world,” but the world is “in the body”—especially the conscious body. For those who can be sensitive, who can learn how to sense themselves impartially, the rich landscape of the outer world—the rivers, lakes, oceans, tides, fields, mountains, deserts, caves, forests, and so on—has direct counterparts in the inner world of the body. The energetic and material qualities of the outer world—represented in Taoism by “the five elements”: fire, earth, metal, water, and wood—manifest in the body as the network of primary organs: the heart, spleen, lungs, kidneys, and liver. And the atmospheric movements of matter and energy that we call “weather”—wind, rain, storm, warmth, cold, dampness, dryness, and so on—have their obvious counterparts in the inner atmosphere of our emotions. Likewise, the cosmic metabolism of the outer world—the conservation, transformation, and use of the energies of the earth, atmosphere, sun, moon, and stars—has its counterpart in the metabolism of our inner world, in the movement and transformation of food, air, and energy. To begin to sense the interrelationships and rhythms of the various functions of one’s own body—of one’s skin, muscles, bones, organs, tissues, nerves, fluids, hormones, emotions, and thoughts—is to experience the energies and laws of life itself. As Lao Tzu says: “Without leaving his house, he knows the whole world. Without looking out of his window, he sees the ways of heaven.”

Whether or not we agree with this vision of our organism as a microcosm of the universe, the work of self-sensing will quickly show us that the rhythms of breathing—of inhalation and exhalation—lie at the heart of our physical, emotional, and spiritual lives. We will see that it is through the sensory experience of these rhythms that we can awaken our inner sensitivity and awareness and begin to open ourselves to our inner healing powers—the creative power of nature itself. But for this to occur, our breathing must change from “normal” to “natural”; it must become free from the unconscious motivations and constraints of our self-image.

Copyright 1997, 2006 by Dennis Lewis. This passage is from my book The Tao of Natural Breathing.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2011 12:49 pm

    Excellent thought piece and advice! Breathing is ALL!

  2. March 27, 2011 4:52 pm

    Beautiful 🙂

  3. Elayne permalink
    March 28, 2011 6:49 am

    Living near the ocean quickens me to this connection of natural rhythms. Breathing with the rise and fall of ocean waves of life can throw me off course, as well as sync me into the pattern when I bring my awareness to conscious heart connection. Thank you Dennis for tools that help me live more gracefully on my life journey, through all weather.
    peace and joy. With gratitude from the Pacific coast.

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