The body-mind

The body-mind

In the English language, we refer to body and mind as two separate entities. We have been taught to value the importance of the mind over that of the body. Sayings like "mind over matter" imply that somehow the body is subservient to the mind (or at least in those we admire, we assume it ought to be). We impose this idea on the youth by forcing children to sit still in school all day while their bodies yearn to move and play. We punish the ones who fidget too much. Those who struggle most with our unnatural imposition are "diagnosed", their supposed pathology "treated" with pharmaceutical drugs. We can't have a society of people connected to their primal wild power, now can we?

Throughout our education, we are taught to memorize the names of muscles, organs, hormones, and chemical reactions; but never how to feel the function of these in our own flesh. We are molded to regurgitate disparate facts on command; to build a great repository of information that we parrot back to those wielding red pens at exam time. Yet tragically, we know very little about our own embodied experience. Many among us scarcely feel their bodies at all, save for times of illness and pain.

Through this unbalanced development of the intellect, our heads have become so inflated that we collectively believe we have out-smarted nature. Yet the state of our physical and psychological health as a society proves the opposite. Of the top-ten leading causes of death in the US, at least eight are related to personal conduct. We would be hard pressed to find another organism that, of its own free will, makes choices that secure its own demise.

We might not be as smart as we thought.

All of this is indicative of a cosmology that has separation, and therefore conflict, at its very foundation. We are in conflict with ourselves, with each other, and with our own habitat. We learned this through religion, politics, academia, and by the misuse of the scientific process (as a validation mechanism for self-serving agendas, instead of as an instrument in the pursuit of truth). The notion of separation is woven into the substratum of our cultural world view. It is built in to the structure of our language (and most Eurocentric languages). The basic structure of an English sentence exposes our unconscious assumption of separation. Grammar dictates that there must be a clear break between the subject and the object, such that the subject may demonstrate its power by acting upon the object. Take the case of body and mind. Clearly body is the object, mind the subject. "I hate my body", the teen girl says. This type of thinking and speaking persists even though modern science has proven that no such separation exists whatsoever between body and mind. Who is hating whom?

All of this is steeped in an erroneous understanding of basic physics. Even an elementary look at the natural world quickly exposes the undeniable realization that everything is intrinsically interwoven. Ancient people from all corners of the globe understood this. It is not separation that is the ruling principle, it is interdependence.

We have known full-well, since in inception of quantum thinking, that all things are literally interrelating as a vast spectrum of energy-consciousness. Einstein proved it (E = mc2), and every great thinker since has followed suit. Mass and energy are the same entity. Mind and matter are a continuum. And of course, all of the world's ancient wisdom traditions share this basic understanding. We see traces of this inclusive thinking in languages still connected to the cosmology of wholeness -- such as classical Chinese, Japanese and Sanskrit -- where words often include a vast spectrum of interrelated meanings.

Take the Chinese ideogram xin (心), for example.  Xin can mean heart, mind, center, intention, core, feeling, emotion, and more. Here the notion of mind as separate from body does not exist. Hence, the English word mind does not translate perfectly into Chinese.  People usually say "heart-mind" to more accurately convey the classical Chinese idea of body-mind as a interrelated web. In classical Japanese, the word hara (Vital Center) is often used when talking about a person's mind state. Hara is located in the belly and denotes the spiritual-visceral essence of a person. Here mind is thought to originate inside the abdomen.

In the same way that every coin has "heads" and "tails", body and mind form two parts of one whole. Day and night. Winter and summer. Life and death. Emptiness and form. The web of life cannot be separated into parts. The attempt to do so causes a deep division in the human heart. This conceptual insistence on separation is the cause of great suffering to ourselves and our planet. This is what perpetuates the Cycle of Affliction.

Anytime we use the term body-mind, we are referring to the natural law of interdependence. We are pointing to the fundamental unity of all things. This is not a lofty spiritual concept. It is the very basis of our own direct experience.  When we say body, we also imply mind. If we speak of the mind, we refer equally to consciousness and physical matter.

With all of this, we ask ourselves to cut through the habit of dualistic fixation. This habit has been conditioned into us without our consent. It serves the agendas of those interested only in control of people and resources.

For the sincere spiritual seeker (or anyone interested in freedom), the notion of separation must be severed at its root, at the level of self-contraction, self-protection and fear of intimacy. The fictitious boundary between self and other, between us and them, must be dissolved.

A profound liberation happens through the constant application of self-observation and self-honesty. Through this practice, the erroneous world view we have been force fed begins to break down. Something deep inside finally relaxes. We realize that we are innately whole and free.

As we wipe the dust from the mirror of our own body-mind, we discover a brilliant reflection looking at itself.