How do we answer this question?
In a moment I’m going to ask you to come with me in shifting perspective…ever so slightly — yet powerfully…so you can answer this question for yourself.
Mind Body Connection:
We all want to live more meaningful,vibrant, fulfilling lives with less stress and more joy. And there has been a heap of talk lately about how the mind body connection can help you do this.
There are 28,500,000 hits on google and 20,000 books on amazon for the search “mind body connection”.
Scientists have shown that as far as we know the single best thing you can do to maintain your mental functional capacities as you age is to engage in aerobic activity.
Its also becoming understood that the way we organize our posture and movements influences our perceptions, our thoughts and our emotions.
You’ve heard about positive thinking. Think good thoughts and you’ll feel good. Think bad thoughts and you’ll feel bad and stressed and end up depressed or with ulcers or a heart attack or some other nasty thing.
The problem is the positive thinking movement is a bit too simplistic, often ineffective and even dangerous in certain circumstances.
So what’s the deal?
Our brains are hardwired for duality.
Imagine yourself holding up a coin with one side facing you and the other side facing a friend. You see “heads”. Your friend sees “tails”. Is it “heads” or is it “tails”?
In fact, its inaccurate to say its either because these are just two sides of a the same, singular unity.
It takes some effort to see past your usual ways of perceiving. Language and the seeming hardwiring of your brain re-enforces this dualistic, “either/or” tendency.
Putting in the effort is worth it because the quality of your life, what you create and your relationships can change in spectacular ways. And your life is worth it!
Yet its hard to know exactly what and how to implement all this in real life.
The good news is that it doesn’t take as much time as you think.
There’s a change you can make that takes only a second and its not an affirmation or a positive thought.
Its a change in perspective that you achieve by paying attention to particular things in a particular way.
Here’s the secret…
Maybe there is no mind/body connection.
What if you really understood and believed that you are a complete and complex whole?
To say there is a mind body connection implies that the mind is separate from the body. Separate things can either be connected or not. What if they simply are not separate?
Consider that in more recent years, new scientific fields such as pyscho-neuro-immunolgy are developing as our understanding of the intricate complexity of life grows. It isn’t enough to know just about psychology, or just about neurology or just about immunology.
There is an understanding that separating out one aspect of the complex whole gives an inaccurate understanding of the living being operating in the real world.
Start thinking of yourself as a complete and complex whole — a self.
Your body is not just a means of keeping your brain alive and transporting it from one place to the other. You don’t have a body the way you have a car.
Rather than think of yourself as your thoughts or your feelings or any other one aspect of yourself, think of yourself as a person.
It sounds obvious, but its not how most people live. Even those of us who think and practice this way of being don’t always live this way.
Notice the difference between: “My shoulder is doing this crazy thing and it is causing me pain” and “I’m doing this crazy thing with my shoulder and I’m experiencing pain.”
In the first sentence, its all your shoulder’s fault and you have nothing to do with it, in which case you have no control of the outcome and are helpless to change anything. In the second sentence you actually speak as though you can do something about it because you are the one doing it. You have self-agency.
You are a whole and integrated person.
Every waking moment, the very process of being alive is a gestalt of moving, sensing, thinking and emoting — all intermingled into your experience of your self living right now and every “now” to come.
Living from this viewpoint in a real and tangible way day to day provides a path to a more fruitful, fulfilling life with deep presence.
Listen to your sensations to inform your thought processes. Access your moving self to enhance your mood and emotional life.
Do this now as you read…
Let your attention go to your eyes. As you read this, feel…
Are you working harder with your eyes than necessary to see the words clearly and move them along, line by line?
Is it necessary to have any tension in your eyes?
Can you move your eyes with even less effort? Soften them more?
In a non-judgemental way, bring your attention to your breathing.
Re-organize yourself such that you could shift your weight effortlessly in all directions equally well.
Actually do it. Go on — do it. I’ll wait for you….
Now bring these all together with a broad, inclusive attention: Breathing simply; softening eyes; a relaxed readiness to move in any direction…
It can be astonishing what 30 to 60 seconds of sensing and allowing for freedom of movement can do for your thinking and your mood.
Have all of life’s problems and difficulties disappeared? Of course not.
And yet, sometimes all you need is a crack in that rigidity for the process of living to start to unfold in a richer, more fruitful way. A momentum builds: “Hey, you know what, its going to be okay” or “I think there may be some possibilities here that I didn’t see before…” or “Oh, look how beautiful that is….”
That little crack creates a wondrous opening. Like the great Leonard Cohen wrote in Anthem, “Thats where the light gets in.”
When we’re not stuck or pinned in place and there is a little bit more ease in our experience of ourselves, we are open to possibility.
As you begin to feel what it is to let go of the tiny and not so tiny ways in which you rigidify yourself it becomes easier to practice and develop the new way of perceiving yourself — that you are an indivisible whole!
Do it now — as you read this, instead of only attending to the words you read, attend to yourself.
As your eyes scan these words and you make sense of these sentences and ideas, be cognizant of your entire self right down to your toes.
Imagine that you’re reading and understanding not with your brain alone, but with your entire being (brain included).
Notice how you feel now, the sensations of yourself breathing, the sensations in your face and around your eyes…
And there’s more.
As you sense yourself as a whole rather than as a bunch of connected parts, you’ll be more deeply present in the moment as it is. There is less delusion and confusion. There is more room to move, discover, create and participate in this grand unfolding world in a way that feels authentic and real.
Do this simple exercise often every day for a week, and note your experiences. It might become a skill you’d like to develop over the rest of your life!
Is the mind body connection real?
It depends how you look at it.
Certainly, I’d say there is no mind body duality. You are just one, integral whole.
I’d love to hear about your experience of exploring this shift in perspective. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Tune in next week for part 2…