The body we inhabit is a distinct entity from the child- the consciousness- that is invested in it. Nonetheless, they are not separated. The child of Being that grows within a body can only do this work within that body, in the same way that a butterfly can only form inside its chrysalis.
We end up with confusing contradictions in our efforts to understand the way in which we inhabit a body. Several things tend to go wrong.
One is when we end up identifying with the body and thinking we are the body. This reduces our view of life to an essentially materialistic and carnal one. There's your average man for you.
Another is when we end up identifying with the mind, and presume that "escape" from the body- re-investment of Being in the higher alone- is the answer. This encourages asceticism of various kinds, and a disconnect from the immediate reality of our existence.
THERE IS NO ESCAPE. No escape into the carnal world of the body; that will end. No escape into the dreamy clouds of nirvana either; as Dogen repeatedly reminds us, that, too, is imaginary.
No matter where we are or what we are, we, and everything we experience and do, are inseparably wed to the Dharma, the One Great Truth.
The body is a sensory tool that is needed to feed Being all the material it needs to grow. A greater investment in the connection between body and consciousness will help this understanding to take a deeper root. We need to learn to respect this body we inhabit for what it is-- to make the tool work for us.
We need both our consciousness and our body to do our work.
What is the difference between sleeping and dreaming? To inhabit consciousness without body is to dream; to inhabit body without consciousness is to sleep.
We wish to neither sleep nor dream, but to awaken. Only in new kind of union can this take place.
The body needs to serve its own legitimate needs at the same time, and in the same manner, that our higher parts require such activity. Spiritual works that deny the body its intelligent due carry their own set of penalties and dangers. Hence the middle road, or Gurdjieff's work in life: study of the conditions as they are, without slapping an extra, new set of rules- beliefs- fixed ethical codes- on them to "control" things.
Let's face it. Everything with man is always out of control, no matter his best efforts. For those who want to pretend it's otherwise, fine. For the rest of us, what we need to study are the conditions themselves- without our usual presumptions of their relative deficiencies or advantages. Those conditions themselves include our current codes, our current beliefs, our current prejudices and weaknesses, as they are- not as they will be once we have applied the latest version of a "fix" to them by adopting some new system that is supposed to provide the answers.
How do we reconcile the relationship between the body, which is mortal, and our consciousness, which springs from an entirely different level altogether, in a manner that both respects the body's experience, and sees the greater picture? How do we, within this experience of consciousness, meet the experiences which our body mediates with love and support?
An effort to experience the body as a sensory tool can help. The sensory potential of the body is enormous; proper preparation in the morning during meditation can prepare a fertile ground for the arrival of much deeper sensations, much deeper perceptions. This preparation consists specifically of bringing the centers into greater relationship.
The great thing about this work is that it can be pursued without signing on to a form or a belief system. You do not have to become anything other that what you are, as you are, to investigate the inner centers and the connections that form between them.
Then study your state within daily life, and draw your own conclusions.
May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.