Meaning in the face of deep catastrophe.

When life as you have known it, and as you had hoped it would be, seems to be imminently unsustainable, and likely to descend into chaos, despair and denial are not the only options. They both arise from a limited and limiting perspective. One that compresses human nature into its biological expression. One that overlooks our spiritual nature completely.

By spiritual nature i do not mean anything speculative, no matter how ancient its pedigree, how institutionalised its assumptions.

Human nature is not a speculative phenomenon. It is expressing itself in your existence, in your experience, in your life. Of course it can be analysed and conceptualised in different ways. Those differences will be based on underlying assumptions and beliefs.

My analysis is based on my experience as a somatic educator. It is my experience, easily validated, that human nature has three fundamental expressions or domains.  These are the cognitive, the biological and the spiritual.

Our ability to think is perhaps our most distinctly human ability. This is our cognitive nature. Our ability to act we share with all living creatures, although with different degrees of ‘freedom’. This is our biological nature. Our ability to experience is also shared with some, many or even most living creatures, although not always in the same ways.

It is within our ability to experience, to know that we are tired or hungry, that our spiritual nature lies hidden. Most human beings have sensed it: few have thoroughly examined it.

Most of those have lived long ago. They did not have the scientific, technical and conceptual knowledge that we have. They did not know about nonlocality, quantum entanglement, nuclear physics, chemical bonds, cellular membranes nor the double circulation of the blood. Therefore they did not have the vocabulary to describe it as we could, as we can.

No doubt religions provide powerful social cohesion, and bonding protocols that allow us to feel safe and supported. This does not mean that they only express our biological nature. It is equally likely that they are actually expressions of our spiritual nature. Expressions that have elaborated and embroided on simple, unsubstantiated intuitions. As Spinoza said: “ we all know that something about us is eternal”.

The fact is that there is more to human experience than body and mind. While it is likely that many of the more simple organisms on this planet can act and feel, they can not think in a conceptual symbolic way. Nor is it likely that they distinguish between love, lust, infatuation and friendship, as we do.

Whenever we experience something thought will play its part. Even when you are not directly thinking, thought plays its historical part in allowing you to recognise what is happening.

When you experience your body, mind is interpreting the sensations being generated by your body. You know that you are hungry, tired or thirsty. The intelligence of mind is responding to the intelligence of the body: cognitive intelligence engaging with, responding to, somatic intelligence.

Yet there is more to experience than body and mind. Just as there is more to daydreaming or planning than the intelligence of mind. That more is consciousness. Consciousnes as conscious awareness, or less often consciousness as the conscious mind.

By conscious mind i mean awareness of thoughts and thinking. By conscious awareness i mean awareness of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, vibrations etc. These two can come together, just as they can obscure each other. The conscious mind is an extension of conscious awareness. One in which we know that we are aware, that we are thinking, that we are alive, that we are hungry. One in which our elaborations can become more and more abstract.

A creature without the abstract thinking ability of cognitive intelligence can still be aware. It can feel and respond to hunger, but without telling itself that hunger is what it is feeling. It simply heads for food or eats. Its knowing is sub-cognitive, but it is a knowing. It does not curl up and close its eyes when it is hungry.

When you feel hungry, you usually know it. You know that you are hungry on two levels: cognitive and sub-cognitive. You can eat without thinking about it if food is to hand. Yet when you know it, it is because a third factor is present along with body and mind: consciousness.

Yet there is more to consciousness than conscious awareness and the conscious mind. If there were not you would not awake from deep sleep when the tremors of an earthquake shook the building in which you were sleeping. You may have been unconscious, but awareness of the powerful vibrations and sounds woke you up. This is subconscious awareness.

Subconscious awareness registers stimuli below the threshold of conscious awareness. Yet these stimuli can also be recognised within conscious awareness. If you had been awake when the earthquake struck you would have known that you felt and heard them. This is conscious awareness. Then your cognitive intelligence would have immediately tried to identify the nature or cause of those sounds and vibrations. This is the conscious mind.

Inside your body many things are continuously happening. Some of them you can experience, such as the beating of your heart. Some of them you can not, such as the pressure of the blood in your veins. You can be aware of the rhythm of your breathing. You can not be aware of the nerve impluse flowing from the hypothalamus to the fibres of the diaphragm.

Yet this impulse is not generated at random. The power and spread of that impulse is a direct response to many factors taking place in your body. This includes recent and immediate muscular activity (oxygen demand) and the oxygen/carbon dioxide ratio in the blood. This is the activity of somatic intelligence.

This intelligence is keeping you alive. Until you die. It does so almost completely below the threshold of conscious awareness. Some of it can slip over that threshold. Most of it, however, will remain forever in the unconscious.

Yet this unconscious somatic activity is governed by intelligence. An intelligence that evaluates chemical ratios, and much more besides. This evaluation is not a thought or thinking process. It is a somatic process of analysis and evaluation. It is somatic intelligence.

If you were to take the time to become intimate with this intelligence, you would discover something both remarkable and reassuring. You would discover that it is not the only intelligence functioning below the threshold of awareness.

At first you would find a continuously changing flow of obvious sensations. Some would be more subtle, some more intense. Some would have anatomical implications, such as ankle, skin, pressure, bone. Some would have physiological or neurological implications, such as inhalation, flowing, emptying, circulating, pulsing, throbbing. At the same time you might encounter feelings or emotion such as sorrow, anger, loneliness.

The more often you take time to hang out with somatic intelligence as the presence of your body, the more different sensations you will feel. All of these sensations occur in more or less limited and locatable parts of your body. Although some may have a broader spread, they are local sensations. They take place in a particular part or parts of your body, however large or small.

As the inner domains of the emotional, pyhsiological, anatomical become more familiar mind relaxes into them. In doing so it relaxes through them. It begins to encounter sensations and qualities less local, less concrete, less intense.

You will begin to feel, and deeply enjoy experiences of spaciousness, lightness, openness, formlessness, boundarylessness, peacefulness. It will not be easy to attribute emotional, neurological, physiological or anatomical implications to the consistency of these experiences.

This will be because you are directly experiencing consciousness. You will be directly experiencing your spiritual nature. As you explore that experience over time many of your treasured assumptions about life, individuality and meaning will become harder and harder to cling to.

You will be deeply confronted with the presence of wholeness, and all of its implications. One of which is that your existence is not random, arbitrary or meaningless. Quite the reverse. You will feel the core of your own being as a wholeness, a love, an invulnerability. You spiritual core is not only always present when you drop inside deeply enough. It is what you most deeply feel yourself to be. No matter what thoughts you have been given to contradict or doubt that.

You will discover many apparently paradoxical things. One of which is that you are the universe made conscious in your momentary, mobile location. Also that the universe could not exist as it is, which it does, without you being just as and where you are in it.  That you are indispensable to the universe just as it is. That your meaning, value and significance is derived from the simple fact of your existence. That this is true no matter what you experience or do. That the universe actually needs you as much as you need it.