The body, passivity and contentedness

A Very Old, Very Happy Woman. By T. Sundrup, New Delhi

Photography: T. Sundrup, New Delhi

Our body communicates with our mind in subtle ways

The sway, or influence, of contentedness is a pivotal yet little known aspect of much of our ordinary activity. This is the subtle prompting that emanates within our own mind and nervous body, a prompting which effectively invites us to dwell in an emotionally restful state. It’s not a felt urge or compulsion to do nothing, instead being a reminiscence of the absence of our unhelpful and unnecessary self-interested striving. This reminiscing sway reminds us that our objectives may be accomplished perfectly well when our heated, emotional approach is pacified, and our energies are more helpfully employed.

There’s an inherent passivity within our mind and nervous body, and via reminiscence this passivity exerts a gentle influence, or sway, upon us. It’s a bit like a secret that the body harbours within – a knowledge that a contented passivity is always accessible to us. Our body knows this secret, and attempts to share it with our active mind; but the incessant thoughts that largely comprise our mental world obstruct the hearing of this vital information. The thinking mind instead wants to control life from its own narrow, self-oriented perspective; it fails to appreciate that there is another way, an easier, more fulfilling way.

Tranquillity and contentedness are subverted by the striving ego

Most of us are unaware that the sway is acting upon us in the midst of our everyday concerns, instead being habitually neglectful of it in our engagement with the mundane. In this worldly activity we ignore the very thing, that in any final analysis, we desire most from life: This is to dwell in a psychological and emotional state of tranquillity and contentedness; to be at rest with life as it is. Our self-interested striving is thought vital by the initiating ego, it believing that only in that way may we realise our desires, be productive, and ‘get somewhere’ in life. At the cost of our well-being, we fail to heed the sway of contentedness.

Due to this neglect, we take no account of what was always available to us had we, just for a few moments, reflected upon our current emotional state. Almost without exception, this spell of reflection allows at least some degree of a contentment or emotional passivity to exist. This is because the brief pause in our self-interested attitude opens a space in the emotions which, as nature abhors a vacuum, must be filled. As the default condition of our mind and nervous body is one of passivity, so a contentedness – a passive acceptance – now occupies the space vacated by the heated self-interest. This whole process is entirely uncontrived.

The sway of contentedness is acting upon us continuously

There’s perhaps a useful analogy with the discovery in the last century of a fifth basic taste, prior to which we took for granted only those of sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness. Subsequently, and merely through hearing about the pleasantness of a certain savoury taste, we could acknowledge it, clearly sensing its presence through a newly indisputable obviousness. The sway of contentedness may similarly be given recognition, and with remarkable simplicity too. It’s not a new discovery; people have spoken of it in differing terms down through the ages. Here, we merely give it a contemporary form of expression.

Once we acknowledge the existence of the sway, a comforting passivity remains accessible to us; and more than this, when we look behind the obvious objects of our desires, we see that contentedness itself is what we always sought most from life. We assumed we could rest easy with life, find fulfilment and be happy, through the pursuit of our self-interests. This may take many forms, many of which are entirely free of acquisitiveness and cupidity; yet they remain the objectives of our internalised self-conception, our own misguided notions of what it is to be the enduring self of ‘me’ – an imagined egocentric agent of control.

Selfhood is just a narration sustained by thought

So what brings about this unhelpful neglect of the sway? Well, it all comes down to our sense of self, and how we unquestioningly take this imagined self to be the agent through which all of our desires may be realised, and through which our aversions may protect us. This sense of self is no more than a narrative construct which is knitted together, sustained and perpetuated by a largely uninterrupted stream of mental activity. Some of this activity is verbal thinking (whether chaotic or structured), some of it is simply perceptual activity in general, and some is the habituated application of assumptions, beliefs and actions.

How then, may we access an inner contentment whilst remaining actively engaged in our working lives, when amongst family, friends and others, or when alone? This question is resolved by discerning what may be thought of as our authentic identity, which is our natural condition prior to the overlay of selfhood and the naïve narrative beliefs which comprise it. The resolution comes about progressively in the development of our mental culture, and is largely facilitated through a contemplative exploration of everyday activities. This exploratory form of contemplation balances our activities with our innately intuitive side.

Contemplation brings direct understanding of ourselves

On this site, we will in stages deftly and straightforwardly detail a simple contemplative method of coming to understand our own mind and egoical self-conception. Using a take on a representationalist model of knowledge and mind, the method requires no special skills or intellectual capacity beyond a relaxed and enquiring outlook. We’ll avoid any allusion to the mysterious, the arcane, the esoteric or the spiritual, instead adhering to what can be known and verified in direct experience. Resultantly, no belief is required in the least and all new understanding is firmly and unequivocally established.

Being perhaps the antithesis of any form of self-improvement, the method to be set out will neither enhance nor affirm any self-conception. Rather, what will be explained in clear terms is the means by which the self-entity, which is our inauthentic and fabricated identity, may be subdued. In its place, our authenticity is progressively established, this being free of all naïve narrative formations. The haunting of selfhood with its rapacious acquisitiveness and oppressive egoical control is by stages relinquished. In this way, a reposeful contentedness may be realised in the authentic ordinariness of a non-dual, or selfless state of being.


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