Belonging, Loneliness, and the Subtle Body

April 19, 2023

Shambhavi and the Jaya Kula community gather for satsang and get real about all the questions we humans want answered. Intimate, courageous, heartfelt spiritual talk about pretty much everything. So happy you are here! A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

Each year, Jaya Kula has a theme that we contemplate and work with throughout the year. And the theme for 2023 is belonging.

And this is kind of a Trika answer to the more current language of inclusion. Inclusion implies that someone is dis-included, and this has to be remedied, right?

In a relative sense, that is true. People have been dis-included and violently expelled and all kinds of things. So on a relative level, that's very, very true. But on an absolute level, everything and everyone is already pre-included from the beginning.

So the idea, from an absolute perspective, from this tradition, or any other thoroughgoing nondual tradition, everyone and everything that's here is already included 100% just as much as everyone and everything else. And everything that's here belongs. The fact that you showed up means that you belong.

So the theme for this year is belonging. And basically, the way that I experience it is, how can we take hosting to a deeper level? We like to pay a lot of attention to how we host each other and the teachings. How can we take it to a new level? How can we embody this already belonging quality?

Though it's not like we don't do that in some maybe inarticulate way. A way that we haven't really voiced. But I would like to explore this year how we can embody that idea that you already belong and how can we evoke that in how we host teachings in each other?

So I don't really know. It's a big ask, and we're going to start exploring it soon and see what we come up with.

So many of us feel a sense of not belonging. And it's interesting because I feel like in that we all sort of have commonality.

I agree that lots of people feel a question mark around belonging, but I think that there's other people who just unconsciously take space and assume that they belong wherever they are. So that happens.

And I also think that we do have commonality, but we're all made of, made by, and coming from the same enlightened essence nature. So on that level, we all have complete equality.

But then there's the layer of difference. You know, we shouldn't really be too swift to try to make that layer of difference have another layer of commonality, right? Where we make big generalizations about everybody's experience. I think this is part of the liberal problem. Right?

And It's the same thing with religions. You know, they have these big conferences where they're trying to find how all religions are the same. Or they go in with that assumption that all religions are the same.

And this is like, maybe they succeed at coming up with arguments around that, or maybe they don't. But it's considered to be desirable to find out how all religions are the same. In the way that it's considered or assumed to be desirable to find out how all people have some common experience.

Why is that? We might want to interrogate that. It's not like we have completely different experiences either. It's more nuanced than what we have in common or what we don't have in common. It's more nuanced than that.

I'm wondering whether there's a connection between belonging and understanding.

No. There's no connection. Not in the way I'm using it.

So in terms of all of the huge mountain of relative experience that creates disparities and inequalities and injustices and all those violences. Yes, there's a connection between understanding and empathy and to some degree working through all of that.

But when I'm talking about belonging from an absolute perspective, there's nothing to think about. The only thing to think about is not really a thought, but a feeling. How can we feel the equality of everything that is unquestionable, has no details. It has no story.

So this is what we're going to try to come to this year. And how can we embody that better in our everyday lives at Jaya Kula?

Like, when people walk in the door, they don't just feel included. They actually feel like they belong here. I don't mean in a relative sense. Like maybe they'll hate the tradition, maybe they'll think I'm an idiot. But they'll, like, feel that they're in a place that they belong.

How can we do that? How can we embody that better? Without...There's nothing to question or think about. This is from the minute we arrive, this is our condition. We're always at home. Always. Everywhere. We don't know that because we have all different kinds of concepts about things.

But if there's any way that this community can begin to, or maybe deepen or come to a greater articulation of that in relationship to each other and to people who walk in the door, then that's what I want to try to do this year.

It's an experiment. As I said, it's a big ask.

It's like this big kind of cultural, repetitive narrative about loneliness.

Well, we all feel lonely until we discover our real nature. So it's inevitable. Doesn't matter how many people we have around or what our circumstance is. We are going to feel lonely, regardless. We may feel differing degrees of loneliness. Well we obviously do.

But no human being is exempt from loneliness until we discover our real nature. That's just a fact of our existence, because until we discover our real nature, we feel separate.

It's like being in Portland and longing for the sun. It's cloudy, cloudy, cloudy for days and days on end, but we know the sun is there somewhere, and we feel this longing for the sun. This is our same condition as human beings. We're under this cloud of feeling separate, but we know the sun is there.

And so not only do we have loneliness as an inevitable experience for every single human being, but we also have longing as an inevitable experience for every single human being.

And that longing, of course, expresses itself very, very differently depending on what condition we're in. Right? But it's really always the same longing just in a different state squished into a different shape.

These things are just inevitable. And of course, we feel if we're literally separate from other people, like, you know, during the pandemic, we can't see as many people. And even when we see people, it doesn't feel as connected because everyone's wearing masks or being cautious or whatever they're doing.

There's times when we... There are big cultural things where we might feel more loneliness as a group. But there's really no such thing as avoiding loneliness unless you know who you really are, what's really happening here.

And then you feel intimacy with everything. It's intimacy with a few people does not resolve the problem of our loneliness. You know, only intimacy with everything resolves it. And if we can feel our loneliness really deeply and be with it, that's actually a great capacity.

So many people, when we're lonely, do kind of odd things to get away from our loneliness. They don't seem odd a lot of people but we try to somehow anesthetize ourselves or be relieved of that burden of the self in ways that cut down on our sensory perception.

So then we actually are more separate. We have less possibility to experience intimacy, but somehow being anesthetized feels good for a little while. You know, whether it's, like, with entertainment or food or drugs or sex or, you know, whatever it is. Shopping. You know? [laughs] Could be anything.

Loneliness is a very sharp feeling. And then we try to, like, dull it down by anesthetizing. But if we can just be with it, it's good to... You know, if you're lonely, it's good to, like, call people up and make contact with people and go out in nature and make contact with nature.

I'm not saying...When I say be with it, I don't mean sit in your room and, like, intensely feel it. [laughs] I just mean don't anesthetize yourself against it. And if you can do that, then you have, first of all, more of a possibility of discovering that your loneliness is something that actually links you to other people.

Sounds like from what you're saying, that loneliness and belonging can exist simultaneously.

Absolutely. Longing is incontrovertible. We can't change it. We cannot recognize it. We cannot know about it. We cannot honor it. But there's absolutely nothing we can do to, one iota, alter the fact that everyone that's here belongs here equally. Right? And empathy is something else.

So belonging always exists, whether or not empathy is there or not, you know. It's up for grabs. Belonging is our base condition. It's a fact of our existence.

You know, separation is also a kind of a fact of our existence.

No, it's not.

In our experience until we find that connection.

Yeah, it's a fact of relative experience.

And that the separation and the belonging felt like they were two sides of one coin. But I think how you're talking about it is, like, they kind of exist like in parallel, like happening on different levels.

Yeah, happening on different levels. So separation, according to this tradition anyway, I mean, you know, different traditions say otherwise. But according to this tradition, separation is an experience. It's an ephemeral experience, even though it feels like grinding. [laughs] It's an ephemeral experience that is being produced by the Self that is all of existence.

So there actually is no separation. There actually is no loneliness. This is the absolute teaching. There are experiences of loneliness and separation that are being created by this one continuous self, which is all existence.

And let me underline that separation is not always painful. Right now, we're gathered together. We're experiencing each other as separate beings. Everyone's wearing colorful different clothing. That's enjoyable. We're sitting in a room with different colors and different paintings. In other words, we're in an experience of diversity every moment of our lives.

And largely that is enjoyable. Largely that is an enjoyable, at least esthetically an enjoyable experience. It's enjoyable having the experience of talking to an other and talking to others. These are all experiences of diversity and separation that are being created by this alive, aware, live, self-aware reality, aka God. And for enjoyment. For the purpose of enjoyment.

The only reason why we have an experience of suffering is because we think we actually are separate. So that is also an experience being produced by this reality. The journey of recovering from that misperception or partial perception is the journey of self-realization.

So the more absolute teaching is that there's no separation, there's no suffering, there's no loneliness. There are real experiences of those things, just like you have a real experience in a dream.

So if you have a dream and something, you know, goes awry in the dream, you cry in your dream. You can have experiences of sadness and bereft-ness in a dream. Right? They're real experiences. Those are real emotions that you're experiencing in those dreams.

And then you wake up and you're like, oh, whew, it's just a dream. Well, self-realization is the same thing. It's like, oh, phew, [laughs] things are really different than I thought they were. [laughs]

But our experiences of loneliness and separation are just as real. They're real experiences, but they aren't the same way that we think they are. So we're having a real experience of having this body, and that's a real experience. But our bodies really are not like this if we dig down a little deeper.

So I like to point out, even in scientific terms, our bodies are not this. So the experience of solidity that we have of being a heavy solid object is being produced by atoms. Our body is actually a teaspoon full of matter, and everything else is space filled with subtle forces.

So where is this experience of density occurring? It's being produced as an experience by these atoms that are actually surrounded by empty space. As above, so below. This is just another living symbol of how things operate in reality all the way from top to bottom.

There are experiences being produced of things like solidity and separation and emotions and colors and form and activities. These are just like our bodies are being produced by atoms. Everything here is made of alive, aware wisdom of consciousness and the power to create experiences.

Everything here is made of that. That's what existence is. Existence isn't a collection of planets and bodies and stuff. Those are the theater of this alive, aware reality. Everything here is the life process of producing experiences that are full of form and color and life. But there are no separate bodies here. There are no real objects here.

Just like your body is not really a solid body. It's a collection of particles producing an experience. Exactly the same as that. So everything is working the same way all the way down. Whether we're talking about science or Trika, everything works the same way. Science is just like a crude or more gross narrative about what's happening, but it works the same way.

We live in a really individualistic culture in the United States, and I'm wondering if that makes more extreme our sense of separation, [SHAMBHAVI: Yes] particularly because we're American.

It does. The sense of separation is karma. So a sense of separation is part of our relative karmic experience. It's not the base state of existence. It's not our real nature. It's just an experience that we're having.

And because it's part of ephemerality or impermanence, it can be completely different from one day to the next, from one culture to the next, from one time to the next. It's very, very fluid. Our sense of separation versus connection is very, very fluid, individually and culturally.

I have a question about...Is Brahman separate or is that, like, an actual object?

Brahman is one of the deities of Hinduism, so it's not an object. Deities, according to this tradition, have the same existential status as we do. So they are forms of experience that are created by this alive, aware reality, just like we are. Except deities have different capacities or expanded capacities and different forms of embodiment.

In Hinduism, in general, deities are not immortal. So deities are...they can come and go, and they can be personifications of all of reality, or they can be individual deities worshipped as such. But in any case, all of them are considered to be expressions of one very creative self-aware base state of reality.

So Hinduism is really not polytheistic, as some people mistake it for. Basically every deity is an expression, a creative expression, an expression of wisdom.

So Brahman is the creative function. So you know, Vishnu is the maintainer, Shiva is the destroyer, and Brahma is the creator. So those three basic flows of our relative existence. Things come into being, they appear to stick around for a while, and then they leave like a wave arising and subsiding in the ocean.

So Brahma is responsible for the upsurge of the wave, Vishnu for it seeming to be around for a while and Shiva for it going away again.

The entire universe, like, is that an object? Is that, like, real? Like, does it think? Does it have a mind? Or is it, like, just illusory?

Well, according to this tradition, there's no such thing as illusion, or something being illusory or unreal in the way that it's talked about in some other traditions from India.

There is existence and there is awareness and there is energy. There is something actually here that is real and that's all that is here. And everything that happens here is an aspect of that actually real existence that is saturated with wisdom, with alive, aware wisdom and virtue and self-reflection and the energy, the capacity to create various experiences of worlds and beings.

So everything is contained within that one existent or the Supreme Self is sometimes referred to in Hinduism. And because everything is contained within that Self, everything is a real experience of that Self. It's just not real in an objective sense. So the nature of existence is subjective. It's a subjectivity. It's a person.

And so objectivity or things really existing isn't even a question for this kind of nondual tradition. The...things really do exist as the experience is being produced by this consciousness and energy that is the basis of existence itself.

So there are no objects, but there are experiences of objects. There are no worlds, but there are experiences of worlds.

Shiva is referred to, in this tradition anyway, as the artist or the magician creating this magical display of all these worlds and beings for enjoyment, for the purpose of enjoyment.

So our job is to reconnect with connection. To reconnect with that intimacy and wisdom of our real nature so that we can enjoy and not suffer. That's what our job is. That's why we're doing this.

But objectivity, or the idea of, like, things really existing in an objective sense, from the perspective of this tradition is an idea or a concept being produced from within a subjectivity.

It's basically flipped on its head what, uh, Western Enlightenment thinking says about reality, which is that there's an objective world and subjectivity is contained within sentient beings, and... And that we see the world through our consciousness or through our subjectivity in unique ways. But that outside of us, there's an objective world that would be good to know about.

This kind of tradition says there's no objective world. There's just subjectivity. There's just consciousness. And within that consciousness is this funny idea of objectivity. Or this, like, appearance of something being external, or the experience of externality, the experience of something being outside of ourselves.

It's being produced, just like we produce in a dream. Like, last night I had a dream. I was somewhere where people were worrying about something. I can't remember exactly what it was about. But I just decided to leave. [laughs] And I walked outside [laughs] and I was walking up some kind of city street which kept getting wider and wider. And then I saw rainbow lights.

You know, all of this was just happening in a dream. I seem to go from inside to outside, but it was all happening within my own mind. This is just like what's happening here. We seem to have an external that we're going towards somehow, but it's all happening within this one consciousness and its creative power.

I was curious about the brahma nadi and sort of like the role of the subtle body in awakening from this perspective.

The subtle body is an aspect of our gross body, and it's also an aspect of what could be called the wisdom body. So that wisdom which is informing our incarnation in this life. And the whole process of self-realization is a process of subtilization and opening of our perceptions of our senses.

So it's said, for instance, that we're opening the gates of perception. And as we open the gates of perception, we have more subtle experiences and we have experiences of subtle bodies and we can have experiences of wisdom directly.

And most of us are having some experiences on all those levels, whether we recognize it or not or whether we have a name for it. When we do sadhana, we do it with our physical body, and that is also impacting all of our other bodies. So there is one body cascading into existence from more subtle to more gross.

As we are doing sadhana, we're walking backward from that more gross experience to a more subtle, expansive experience. And so finally, we encounter wisdom and we can embody that more fully.

When we do work with our energy body specifically, we are developing sensitivity to that, and we are creating more capacity in ourselves to become more aware of wisdom and our real nature.

So that's really it, very simply. But physical body, energy body, and wisdom body are not separate. They're just along that cascade of becoming. And we try to work with whatever we have a tangible experience of. Most people have a tangible experience of their physical body, so we do practice with that.

And then many people also have some small experiences, at least of their energy body, and we can become much more sensitive to the energetic expression of our being. And then eventually that opens us to direct encounters with wisdom, which is what everything is actually made out of.

And what is an example of the wisdom body practice?

Wisdom body practice doesn't happen even if you were doing some form of practice that were called a wisdom body practice. It wouldn't be that unless you already had the capacity to relate to phenomena in that way.

For instance, just stepping back a bit, somebody could be doing kriya yoga with energy channels but not have a concrete experience of that. And so it becomes very frustrating and pointless. [laughs]

But examples of practices we do when someone has already had an experience of that wisdom would be open-eyed, nonconceptual meditation, various forms of guru yoga. Those are the two that come to mind right away.

So if you're having more perception of wisdom, then even if you're just doing external asana or puja, you're still doing wisdom body practice because you have that perception and that experience.

Body as a path isn't taken as a primary method in this.

In this tradition? Yes, it is. Absolutely. Absolutely. So the first things that people learn are how to care for their body using ayurveda or some other modality if they choose. Yes, we're always attending to our physical body because that's our vehicle for doing practice.

Even if we're just sitting doing open-eyed, nonconceptual meditation, or even if we're just walking down the street and being relaxed in our real nature, we still go to the grocery store. I mean, we are in human bodies, we're having human lives.

So our physical bodies are always vehicles for us. Always. And my teachers have always taught that it is imperative that we care for our bodies if we want to have the best chance to realize.

In this kind of tradition, there are just so many different practices to meet people in different kinds of conditions. So, you know, we do all kinds of things that involve physical practice—asana, rituals, external mantra, taking care of our health—all kinds of things that people are doing. And all kinds of energy body practices. Lots of kriya yoga, because that's something that I've practiced a lot. Lots of mantra, externally and internal mantra. And internal puja, external puja.

The most important thing is finding out what you can connect to the best. And that's where it comes in really handy to have a teacher who's done those practices because, you know, then they can help you figure out what is going to be most fruitful for you given the condition that you're in.


Satsang with Shambhavi is a weekly podcast about spirituality, love, death, devotion and waking up while living in a messy world.