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The heart and body know the way when the intellect flounders.
After years of intellectual seeking for a ‘breakthrough’ perspective, I came across Matt Kahn. Matt describes dimensions of personal experience I have no access to, can hardly imagine and have little interest in. He is the most ‘out there’ of anyone I’ve read, and I relate to his life less than to other teachers’. Yet… his simple message of loving whatever arises and his emphasis on the body as a gateway to truth have helped free me from a head-bound rut. He might do the same for you.
Matt’s approach strikes me as fundamentally psychological — based in the western therapeutic model as much as eastern wisdom traditions. Everyone has an innocent child within that had to contort and limit itself in search of love and security in an overwhelming world. We each also have many shards of self that our child hid along the way. Seeking attention, these arise in our own anxiety and acting out, or through our interpretation of external events and the actions of others.
In his programme of radical acceptance, Matt encourages us to welcome all of these — however painful, embarrassing or annoying they are — with the gift of our unjudging attention and the words, “I love you.” We should be as gentle with every aspect of ourselves as we would be with a frightened five-year-old child.
As “I love you” becomes one of the most popular phrases you either say to yourself or send as a blessing to others, your subconscious mind is rewritten to recognize love as a familiar experience. (351)*
Saying these words for yourself to hear is just one part of the self-love involved. Matt also advises to slow the breath and attend to the bodily sensations that accompany the uncomfortable thoughts you need to befriend and re-integrate. As you embed this practice, you show yourself that these thoughts and sensations are workable; they needn’t give rise to secondary agitation. With this growing realisation, your nervous system begins to relax.
No matter how many years you have spent immersed in spiritual discourse, the living realization of truth cannot be fully revealed until the nervous system is relaxed. (1,075)
This relaxation is your body demonstrating your release of rigid, outdated strategies for dealing with present events that aggravate childhood trauma. Both your mind and your body become more flexible, more attuned to current reality. You respond maturely to a broadening range of circumstances rather than reacting with unconscious childishness.
Above and beyond any degree of understanding, the greatest demonstration of your true divine nature is a body that feels safe enough to participate in life with openness and enthusiasm. (1,307)
This opens the door to the surrender we hear so much of in spiritual discourse. But here, at least for me, it feels more accessible and concrete, with the body as the connection to life’s unitary flow. It is to the body and life’s flow that we ‘surrender’. This is just the dissipation of a rigid self-image and the calming of an overstimulated nervous system that, in its agitated state, has assumed an imaginary identity.
When you allow your body to determine the most relaxed, loving, or exciting choices to make, you no longer have to feel the pressure of wondering what’s going to happen or overthink what you should do. (985)
Matt reminds us: although this path uses various special terms and may include numerous ‘a-ha’ moments, no concept or discovery is sacrosanct. As with science, progress involves releasing details of our earlier frameworks for more elegant ones that integrate all that has come before. Each awakening leaves a subtler, less bulky conceptual infrastructure as intellectual knowledge gives way to experiential understanding.
The recurring theme In a spiritual journey is awakening out of every conclusion, belief, and reference point, including those created out of your most-treasured moments of clarity. (1,400)
As your personal self and your mental world-view become less substantial, you see “your job” in life is not to acquire, achieve, solve or even cope. You are here to experience with ease whatever arises, and all things in your world, especially life’s most troubling ingredients, exist solely for your awareness.
Have you seen how quickly and effortlessly everything falls into place when you accept that everything is here to be blessed by the grace of your attention? (1,939)
But your recognition of your true, great Self doesn’t end your role as a person with an expanse of positive and negative life experiences. Instead, it makes you more able to engage with the whole range more intimately.
Even after you realize that you are the entire universe playing in physical form, with others doing the same, the play still continues. We’re not here to end the play but to transform it into higher vibrations of consciousness. (1,715)
One of the roles pain and other negative experiences play is to remind us of the limits of our control. It acts as an alarm, triggered by our clinging to something (a view, a demand) at odds with reality. Reality is always true. Honesty is about tracking with truth. Pain shows us when we are not.
As a catalyst of divine will, part of pain’s role is to make you more honest with yourself about the things you can’t control. (2,323)
This brings us back to loving all that arises, particularly to loving the discomfort that spotlights where we are not letting go. Discomfort is a guide, pointing us toward the next thing we need to work on. And we ‘work on’ it by accepting and loving it. Doing so adds one small chunk of territory to the domain of our mature living.
When pain and confusion can be viewed as allies instead of enemies, you are able to feel safe in your body under any circumstance. (2,404)
But we don’t befriend pain to make it go away. Matt doesn’t promise a threshold beyond which we will be free of pain and other negative experiences. These are integral aspects of life. Once we master the art of loving all that arises, we then practice that art for the rest of our lives. There is no winner’s lounge in which we put our feet up and celebrate spiritual victory without disturbance.
…your most profound insight. This insight is an acceptance that there is no way out of pain or judgment. As you relax into this healing mantra, you might be surprised to see how quickly your war against life comes to an end. (2,567)
In preparing this article, I had to winnow an initial list of more than thirty powerful quotes to this set of ten. If this taster resonates with you as Matt’s words have with me, I recommend you read his book, Whatever Arises, Love That.
* All citations are Kindle locations in Matt Kahn’s Whatever Arises, Love That.