Because suffering is impermanent, that is why we can transform it.
Because happiness is impermanent, that is why we have to nourish it.

-TNH, 10th June 2014

These are beautiful words written by Thich Nach Hahn. The great leader on compassion has written a great deal about the transformation of suffering and how our body can assist us along this path of discovery, compassion and the nourishment of happiness.

Thich Nach Hahn asks us to contemplate for a moment what happens when there is pain in the body, such as a splinter in your foot. Immediately, without any thought a hand reaches down to assist the foot, either in removing the splinter and/or in comforting the foot by holding it, rubbing it, etc. It happens in a split second this signal to the brain of protection and survival. Well, what would happen if we actually spent the time to focus on this kind of communication that exists in our body that is happening all the time? What if we did start to pay attention to the flow of compassion that one part of our body has toward another? The inner workings that sooth, comfort, balance, and support one another?

The truth is we have an amazing teacher of compassion that is with us each and everyday, yet most of us tend to not even notice. Or if we do we are too caught up in what I call the “surface image” of the body, i.e.: what it looks like, as opposed to what it can do and how it functions. We often lose sight of the miracle that it is and all it does day after day to keep us alive and offer us the gift of presence, the ability to love and be loved, and the ability to be alive in all feelings, whether they be ones of suffering or ones of great happiness. Now, we all know that our body is impermanent. We often know this too well, either through sickness and/or from fears of sickness, and through the loss of those we love. The body clearly reminds us of our impermanent state. This is not an easy thing to accept is it? The problem I find is that most folks get stuck here. Stuck in the concentration of the impermanent state of the body, not as a vehicle to propel themselves back into the present, but rather as a force that propels them into desperation of hanging on to the body as if it will last forever.

You know what I mean by that “lasting forever” piece. We have all gone there. Anti-aging, diets to promote longevity, vitamins, etc. I am a huge proponent of it all, however, as long as we understand that the more we are focusing on the “prevention” of the inevitable impermanence of this body, the more we may be losing sight of it’s present gifts. The gifts of the moment such as the inner compassionate workings; it’s ability to move you through exercise; it’s ability to restore and rest in sleep; the amazing ability your brain has in remembering all it needs to remember. Those are just a few.

So here is a simple little embodied exercise around appreciating the gifts and “happiness” that our body can teach us day to day. When you wake up and take a breath see if you can fell what that breath feels like in your body. Can you actually picture the air bathing each organ? Can you feel what happens in your chest cavity, your rib cage? How about the difference a big breath makes in your energy level?

Now as you step out of bed, can you attend to the coordination on movement between your legs and feet? If your body is compromised in this way, can you attend to how it has learned to work with the compromise? Have your arms learned to do more because perhaps your legs are not working the way they used to? Attend to what you normally do not attend to and see what happens as far as suffering around this body or the transcendence of suffering into happiness, contentment, compassion, and surprise. How can you continue to nourish happiness in your body today?