Can we allow ourselves to perceive the body as a process?
This process is the four elements working together, building, forming, falling apart, over and over again. When we do this, it becomes more difficult to identify with the body as being ‘me’ and ‘mine’, even as an entity in itself. The body as a static entity dissolves and we begin to see it in terms of the elements working in this way. What is unfolding here is a constant play of conditions coming together, existing for a while and then falling apart. And we can observe this directly.
When we look, for example, at the water element in the body, how can we actually experience this? When you think of the water element in relation to your body, what image comes to mind? I am sure we all have different responses. We might think of blood, tears, sweat, spittle or urine. It could be any liquid that the body contains. “But when we look at that in terms of ‘me’ or ‘mine’, is it really possible to continue to identify with the body? What happens when we see it in this way?
Can you really believe that the heat of the digestion process is ‘you’? And what about the brain, where the play of all of the elements comes together: the warmth of the fire element, the cohesiveness of the water element in the liquid around the brain, the earth element as the main substance and the air as the space it occupies? Can I believe that this brain is really ‘me’? That it’s really ‘mine’?
The absurdity of exaggeration shows us more clearly what we are in fact doing all the time. This is what this contemplation is all about: looking through the illusion of our identification with this body.
Our bodies are in constant flux, forming, shaping and re-building, growing and falling apart. When you were born, what did your body look like? What does it look like now? Very different, I’m sure. This process is the result of these elements coming together, interacting, decaying and re-forming, in a constant flow of growth, maturation and change.
This reflection by Ajahn Metta is from the book, The Body, “A Process of Change.”