Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi
  AHYMSIN Newsletter, Issue - Mar 2013  

We Are Not the Body

by Daniel Hertz

I had heard and read it many times. We are not the body.  I thought it was clear and that I understood it.  It was explained to me like this.  If you cut off your hand, are you still you?  If you cut off your hand, arm and leg, are you still you?  This goes on and on until eventually your whole body is gone.  Then what is left?  It goes back to the old Meditative question.  Who am I? Remember the response G-d gave Moses (Exodus 3:14) when he asked what his name was?   It is one of the most famous verses in the Torah.  Translated into English from Hebrew, G-d replied to Moses I Am that I Am.

Last fall, a friend of mine from The Meditation Center, Vimala Chaitanya, passed away in a hospice situation.  On two occasions near the end of her life, even though she was very sick and bedridden, she looked me solidly in the eyes as I was leaving her room and said, “Namaste.”  Her eyes were illuminated in a very unusual way, almost like the eyes of a cat at night.  At the time it felt like she was trying to tell me something but couldn’t express it in words.  Shortly after that she passed away.   The day after her Memorial Service I felt like I received a direct message from her.  This is how it happened.

At 10:00 PM on a quiet, chilly, late October Sunday night in Minneapolis, I had to take my wife Nikki to the Urgent Care at the hospital.  The day before she had injured her foot, and it still bothered her.  The doctor on-call at the Urgent Care ordered an x-ray.   The hospital was deserted, and I waited alone for her outside the x-ray room.  As I waited, I unexpectedly observed this thought running through my mind, “I am not afraid of anything in this hospital.”  For the first time, I realized that the two biggest fears I had about being in a hospital had lost their grip on me.  I had a brain MRI and a double hernia operation in the same year, a couple of years ago.  The claustrophobia of the MRI machine and the thought of being put to sleep for an operation were almost too much for me to bear at the time.  But now, as I sat in the quiet, dim-lit waiting room, a sense of peace came over me.

It turned out she had a fracture of the 5th metatarsal of the left foot.  Nikki got her walking boot and crutches and waited in the lobby for me to pick her up.  On the way to the car, I looked up into the dark sky and saw the brightly illuminated full moon.   That is when the message I attribute to Vimala came streaming into my mind. We are not the body.  I also realized in a much different way than ever before that when we pass away, we leave every last thing behind that we own, including our body.  It became clearer to me that we are only temporary visitors to this planet.  When our time is up we leave behind everything that seemed so important to us.  All those things that we once cherished lose their importance as we let go of our attachment to them.  We can let go voluntarily.  If not, it is forced on us.  We are required to leave it all behind.  At some point the physical world simply and utterly loses its meaning.

After a few moments of staring at the moon, I continued walking to the car and was jarred back into the reality of having to drive home.  It is now several months later, and the thought which was so strong on that moon-lit night has faded away, but the memory still gently lingers.

Editor’s Note:

Daniel Hertz (RYT 500 and Certified Biofeedback Practitioner) lives in Minneapolis and is on the faculty of The Meditation Center. He is the author of Swami Hari: I am a simple forest monk. It is available on Amazon .com and several other online sites. In India, Swami Hari: I am a simple forest monk is available at the Swami Rama and SRSG Ashrams in Rishikesh, HIHT in Jolly Grant, and SRIVERM in Malethi.
Daniel has previously written these articles for the AHYMSIN Newsletter (to read, click on title):