The Body-Mind or Mind-Body Continuum
As always I seem to be reading two or three books at a time, but that is okay because they are not novels, so there are no intricate plots to follow. My type of reading is in autobiography, biography, self-help, popular psychology, mainstream psychology, philosophy, science and literature – all generally books that you can dip into.
At the moment I have two travel books next to me as I write, namely Sailing for Home by Theo Dorgan and Himalaya by Michael Palin. They are travel books at one level – physical travel that is, but they are also books recounting deeper journeys. The first certainly fits into this latter category to a greater extent, the second to a somewhat lesser, though no less rewarding one at a spiritual level.
I have also been reading Going on Being by Mark Epstein M.D., a book on Buddhist psychology for the West and a beautiful book with a riveting title, The Art of Effortless Living by Ingrid Bacci, Ph.D. Both wonderfully enlightening and healing books.
As I write I’m listening to the pained voice of Kurt Cobain singing what is a quite a listenable and moving number called “My Girl” from Unplugged in New York. That’s what I like about my iTunes Player on my P.C. - the “Party Shuffle” throws up surprises, pieces I have never listened to before from all the music I have copied, some randomly and some purposefully, to my computer.
Facing the pain, that’s what’s important, not avoiding it. That’s the lesson from the books I’ve been reading. Avoidance is a sure way to bring problems down on your head, if not now, then certainly at some time in the near future. Face the shadow within, face all the stuff that your dreams throw up, face any and all the issues meditation offers for your consideration. Be aware of how your body is carrying the issues that you are dealing with – this is also very significant. Bacci is at one with Dr Eugene Gendlin, he of Focusing fame, as regards the fact that our bodies carry our emotional wounds, both acknowledged and unacknowledged, those we’re aware of and those of which we are unaware. Hence paying attention to or listening to the body is one of the most important things we can do in our lives. My body is ageing, getting gradually less supple, yet also there is a lingering tiredness (though not exhaustion) which I feel on an ongoing basis which I attribute to the medication I have to take – three tablets for high blood pressure and one for endogenous depression. This feeling is infinitely preferable for me to that horrible feeling of agitation, inability to concentrate, to think straight or even to sleep restfully.
Another deep conviction I’ve acquired over the past few years is a new appreciation of my body. As we grew up as children it was as if society and church had been indoctrinating us with this slogan: “Spirit /Soul good, body bad” (Church), “Mind (intellect) good, body less good” (State). I suppose it’s no surprise that one becomes more aware of one’s body as one grows older, simply because like anything in this world it begins to break down or decay. Hence it begins to make itself felt in no small measure. Culture seems to point to all the more creative and spiritual aspects as being the more important – language, literature, music, art in all its many guises – in short, that is culture in all its manifestations. Yet as one gets older sometimes this spiritualising and transcendentalising (if you will suffer my neologism) of life robs it of a certain lived reality, of a certain experiential aspect for which the body is a necessary prerequisite.
However, it appears to me that the only way to get over this Cartesian Dualism and the older and more destructive Manichean morality inherited from Christianity is to realise the intimate relationship between Body and Spirit, to see them as a unity or a continuum. I really don’t see at all how one can have one without the other. It makes more sense to me to talk about the Body-Mind or the Mind-Body Continuum.
What I avoid and deny on an emotional level has consequences for my body and what I experience and suffer on a physical level has an impact on my emotional, psychic and spiritual level. I can only deny one at the expense of the other
The picture above is once again one I took at Delphi this year, March 2006.