The connection between the body and the mind has received a lot of attention lately. Some are even going as far as claiming something much greater than a mere connection, that they are merely reflections of the same underlying reality, two sides of the same coin. But what does this mean, exactly? What’s actually being said, here?
This being a blog, I will only come at this from one angle and only touch on it briefly, but I think there’s a simple change in perception one could make to shed light on this mind-body concept.
First, let’s root out the source, the common thread to mind and body. Let me ask you this – What does everything you will ever see, ever do, ever experience have in common? If you traveled to every country, read every book, saw every movie, what one thing would remain the same?
It’s you, of course. No matter what you do or see, you are doing and seeing it.
Now, what or who do we mean when we say “you”? Think about yourself ten or twenty years ago. Are you any different? Do you look different? Do you think about things differently? Have you learned and changed over the years?
Some people would say they’ve changed drastically, perhaps they have grown up a lot. Maybe they’ve had life altering experiences that forever changed who they are.
So, then, if there’s the you, right now, looking back, and there’s the you of back then – two yous – there is, obviously, a third, the one seeing the two. Who’s seeing you, now, and comparing it to the you of yesteryear?
My point is there is a you, the one that is observing all these things, places, events, even changes of yourself over time, that is separate from all those things. We’ll call it the “witness” you, the observer you.
Importantly, this witness is not defined by character and personality traits. That was made evident by the fact that those things can change, quite drastically even, and, yet, there is still some you that didn’t change, that persisted through all the transformations (because had the witness changed along with those things, there would be no thread, no ability to recollect those changes. Only because they happened to you, can you remember them – that you is the witness).
We could even go a step farther, and maybe weirder, and talk about the you in your dreams. Talk about a completely different reality! You can fly, know, see, and do things that the waking you could only dream of! :) And, yet, there is still that witness to all of that. All that change, all that variation, yet through all of it this witness is present.
So we have this you, this witness. This is the common theme to mind and body. This witness experiences, but is not limited to either of these other things. Obviously, if you were to lose a limb, you’re still you. You are not your hand.
You’re not your mind, either. If you were your mind, you wouldn’t be able to sit and observe how crazy it can get. Whenever you notice yourself getting really upset, you are noticing yourself getting upset – There’s the you, witness, observing another aspect of self getting upset – the witness and the mind.
You are not the thinking mind, either. If you were, you wouldn’t notice when you start thinking crazy things, but you can. You can catch yourself coming to weird conclusions through poor thinking. You notice when you’re not making any sense – Witness you notices.
Now, you may confuse yourself for your body or mind. You may think you are this witty, handsome young gentleman, but you’re not. Sorry. You’re simply witnessing “witty, handsome young gentleman” (or, perhaps, dreaming ;) ). Such confusion is a topic for another post, however…
So we have this witness that is neither body, nor mind, but is, instead, this other observer. Once you realize this, the whole connection between mind and body may start to make more sense (now, who’s noticing it make sense? Sorry, getting carried away ;) )
Where the mind and body change over time, grow longer hair, get smarter, etc., the witness doesn’t. It’s like the center of a wheel; it’s stationary, while the wheel cycles around and around.
Now, I’m gonna switch terms, here, so stick with me. This witness you is consciousness, itself. It is the act of being aware of things.
Any time you experience anything, there is that aspect that is doing the experiencing and is not that which is experienced. You are reading this; there is that aspect that allows for you to read.
Maybe it helps to think of consciousness as a portal, an opening, through which you are able to perceive things. I know, we usually get really caught up in what’s seen. I’m trying to pull your attention to the act of seeing, itself.
As with the witness you, it is that which does not change, ever.
The body and the mind are two expressions of consciousness. One is more dense and concrete, the other much less so. One is more tangible, you can grab your leg, the other is a bit more elusive.
They are both vehicles for experience, and they both can affect you. A bruised elbow hurts just as a sad movie makes you cry. You are moved by both.
This is how, in one small way, they are the same. They are both carriers of sensation, of experience, for this other you.
Clearly, they are different, but, really, they are just two different approaches to doing the same thing. There’s a huge difference between my little Honda Civic and a high-end Mercedes-Benz, yet they are the same in that they are both cars, very different, but the same nonetheless.
Once we detach a little from the mind and body, realize they are not us, simply closely connected to us, we can see how easy it is for the two to affect each other. If I’m swinging a rope in one hand and a stick in the other, they may be different, but both react and respond to me (and, perhaps, affect me, should I get sloppy and whack myself in the head).
What you eat and drink will affect your mind, even though food is physical and is digested by the physical body, because the physical body is connected to consciousness. Mind and body are expressions of consciousness, so anything that affects it, will be reflected in both.
You could say the mind and the body are repositories for your experiences. They are both vehicles, avenues through which you experience sensation, as well as the physical and mental/emotional storehouses.
Have a physical trauma, and the body “holds onto it” for awhile, until it “heals”, all physical evidence vanishing. Have an emotional upset and the mind can be changed by it, just as trauma changes the physical body, until the mind heals from it.
As repositories, the mind and body can hold on to experiences. And here’s where health and yoga come into play. The holding onto, effected by mind and body, limit and obstruct having further experiences and the degree to which you can experience them.
Ideally, the mind and body are like a movie screen. They can effectively convey all the experience of life, a movie, yet, when it’s over, they hold on to none of it, they remain clean.
Another analogy would be like a computer screen which relays information from the computer to you. However, at least with the older computers, the images the screen shows can get burnt into the screen, leaving a shadow or ghost of it. This ghost, this latent image, obstructs your view of new information coming from the computer.
This is exactly what causes disease. Some experience did not pass through completely and cleanly. Mentally, old thoughts and feelings inhibit our ability to experience new emotions completely. The old distorts the experience of the new.
Physically, it’s much easier to see. Any old injury clearly limits your physical ability to do new things.
Health is opening up, cleaning out these old, latent impressions, these old experiences, and this is exactly what good yoga does (and why it’s so much better than typical exercise). It is designed, specifically, to clean out the mind and body. That good feeling you have after is simply a more perfect experience of reality, one less obscured by those blockages.
Over time, after enough clean up work, you can experience life like a child, everything new and exciting, finding tremendous joy in even the most simple things.
And because mind and body are one, you also experience improved physical health along the way.
Pretty sweet, huh?
Speaking of yoga, I must get to this class to go work with these students in “cleaning” ourselves so we may experience life more genuinely, perfectly, and beautifully… :)
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