Mind and body

Here are some ways to talk about mind & body, each with some truth to them.

In immediate experience, the body happens within mind. The body is an experience happening within and as awareness. It’s a set of sensory input and associated imaginations (mental images and words) combining to create the experience of this body, and all of that happens within and as awareness. As somebody said, the body is the part of the mind visible to the senses.

Health wise, body and mind are one seamless system. If we decide to imagine them as two, we can say that each influences the other. (And the brain and body is one seamless system as well, obviously, with extensive two-way communication.)

In terms of ecology and cosmology, the body is a seamless part of larger social, ecological, and cosmological systems. It’s a holon (part) within a holarchy (system of parts). Again, any separation and even any distinctions are imagined. (And that imagination is essential for helping us orient, navigate and function in the world.) Our wider social, ecological, and cosmological systems are – in a literal and concrete sense – our larger body. This is not just poetry or the visions of a mystic, it’s literally how it seems to be. The universe is one seamless system, and we are seamlessly embedded in it.

In our culture, we are so used to thinking of separate units that it’s difficult to take this in and really embody and feel it. We are used to thinking of mind and body as distinct and largely separate, and ourselves as a person as distinct and largely separate from the wider whole. There is some truth to it, and yet it’s not the whole picture, and it’s also not the most useful way of looking at it these days. A more integral view, or systems view, or holarchical view, makes more practical sense.

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Body contractions follow and make possible stressful beliefs

It’s easy to think of body contractions as an effect of stressful beliefs (Velcro, identifications), and that’s accurate enough. It does seem that stressful beliefs create bodily contractions, and persistent and persistently retriggered beliefs may create persistent and chronic body contractions.

And the reverse may be true too.

Body contractions fuel stressful beliefs, and with it unquestioned fears, deficient and inflated selves, reactivity, and compulsions. Without body contractions, it may not even be possible to believe a stressful thought.

As I have written about before (long before I got into the Living Inquiries), it seems that in order to believe a thought, it has to be associated with sensations. These sensations lends a charge, and sense of solidity and reality, to the thought, so it’s possible to hold it as real and true.

So in order to believe a thought, the body-mind tenses certain muscles to create sensations which in turn can be used to give charge and lend a sense of solidity and reality to the thought. That’s, at least, one way to look at it.

It’s really not easy to believe a thought, so tensing muscles is one way to make it easier and more possible. And when the stressful belief is persistent and recurrent, it tends to require a persistent and/or recurrent body contraction.

This is one reason it can be very helpful to work at this – stressful beliefs, anxiety, depression, compulsions, addictions – from both the mind and body sides. We can do inquiry, loving kindness, ho’oponopono, natural rest and more. And we can massage the contraction, release tension through therapeutic tremors (TRE), do yoga, receive bodywork, and more. These approaches go hand in hand, along with working with the larger social system if possible, spending time in nature, engage in physical activities, improving the diet, and whatever else is helpful.

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The part of the mind I call the body

For me, in my immediate experience, the body is part of the mind.

My body is part of my mind since it’s happening within and as awareness. All bodies, and any experience, is like that.

Also, anything I think I know about “the body” is created by the mind, by stories, by sensations and an overlay of images and words.

In both of these ways, the body is part of the mind.

So if I say my body tells me….., or my body feels….., I really mean my mind.

My body tells me….. –> My mind tells me…..

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My body tells me

I sometimes will say my body tells me….. to eat this, not that etc .

There is a wisdom in the body, and one of the ways it’s expressed is in guidance for what to eat. (And it seems very accurate.)

Of course, it’s not really my body telling me. It’s my mind.

Using conventional language, I may say it’s the part of my mind more connected with my body.

Or, closer to my experience, it’s the part of my mind that appears as the body. It’s the part of my mind that we often call the body. 

Really, those are all stories. It’s what the mind calls guidance that another thought says comes from the body. And recognizing that doesn’t mean I won’t listen to and aim to follow this guidance.

Mind and body

A few very basic things about mind and body:

Life is one whole. And sometimes, for practical reasons, we divide it into (a) individual and the wider world, and (b) the individual into mind and body. These boundaries are created through overlays of thought, – of words and images – and are not inherent in reality.

That means that when it comes to any aspect of our health, what we call mind and body both are at play, as is the wider (social and ecological) whole.

For instance, with physical pain, there is the physical pain (body)  and there is our response to it (mind), both influence each other, and our cultural expectations and norms, social support (wider world) and more also play into it. If there are fearful beliefs about the pain, the pain may intensify. If we see the words and images, and feel the sensations, making up the pain and our responses to it, there may be more ease and ability to experience the sensations as sensations. There may still be “pain” but less suffering.

More in general, the processes of the mind influences the body – weakening or strengthening it which in turn influences health, illness and recovery. (We are so far just scratching the surface of this in terms of research.)

Also,  from the view of physical science, mind appears connected with the body and is a mystery. (“What is it? What is it’s relationship to the body?”.) From our own immediate experience, all is mind. The body – and the wider world, and any other content of the mind – happens within and as mind. And both views are valid in their own way. Each have their value and function. They are two facets of how we can perceive the world.

P.S. These are things that seem very basic and obvious, but I still notice some confusion about this in the media and other places.

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Shutting down and booting up

Just as this human self falls asleep, and wakes up, some of the layers of how we are put together are revealed.

As I sometimes listen to radio before falling asleep, it is especially noticeable.

The three clear shifts I notice, over and over, are…

  1. Voice and understanding (regular awake functioning)
  2. Voice but no analysis
  3. Voice, and any other sensory input, fading out

And the reverse as I wake up, where the fading in of sensory input is most noticeable.

Each of these shifts are relative sudden, happening over maybe just a second or so, and a very clear shift – from understanding to just the sound without understanding, and then the fading of sensory input to an absence of these. For the sounds, it is just as a relative quick volume fading, from normal volume to zero, and then up again to normal as this human self wakes up again.

This helps me see how much energy goes into analyzing and making sense of input. At some point in falling asleep, this energy and attention is just not available anymore, and the sensory input remain but with no analyzing of it at any level. They are just sounds, but not even known as sounds. There is not even the most basic level of analyzing, such as adding labels of sound, voice and so on. Just the pure input and awareness.

It also helps me notice awareness as distinct from its content. First, the thinking mind falls away. Then sensory input themselves fall away, fading into an absence of any input. But even then, there is awareness that this takes place within (and as). The awareness remains as the thinking mind fades out, and it also remains as sensory input fades out.

Sometimes, it goes out with the thinking mind, or with the sensory input.

Other times, it remains as those two goes out, and then itself goes out a little later.

And some other times, it remains throughout the night, even through the dreamless sleep phases, without any content apart from itself as pure awareness.