One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Landscape of the Integrated Mind and Body

I've spent a lot of time this past week thinking about integration. Integration of the mind and the body. Integration of one emotion or truth with a seemingly contradictory other emotion or truth (emphasis on seemingly.) Integration of outside-offered knowledge and inside-felt intuition.
from Building Soul

We live in a culture where subtly is often hard to find. Loud is recognized. Absolute thinking is applauded. And an inflexible stand is all too familiar.  Politics make this clear, for sure, but I see it on a more intimate level too. Arguments between two people that fully operate on the premise that one belief cannot exist in the presence of another. Small and large beliefs and everything in between. It seems as if we are under the false impression that in order to feel secure and on solid ground, we need to hold onto one piece of information – a truth, a belief, an emotion, a reason, a decision – like it is a tree trunk, unmoving and firmly rooted.

I'm speaking from personal experience here. Go figure. And it has been causing a lot of heartache. Specifically, I have been experiencing how critical it is to integrate the mind and the body. The mind is capable of being in many places. It can be in the past, it can be in the future.  It can be in a memory, it can be in an expectation. It can be on the beach, in an airplane, in a classroom, a hotel, a forest. All of this time and place travel is fine.  It is extraordinary, in fact. But the mind can get stuck in one of those places, or one of those times, and if there is no path back – well, that is not so fine. That is the stuff of heartache…of losing a sense of direction, of purpose, and of self. This kind of existence is one of almost exclusive mind-living. It is easy to cultivate. Again, our culture kind of encourages it. Our intellect is revered.

But it is dangerous.

Integrating the body with the mind is a critical process in living a full and connected life.  Because the body is present. It is always present.  Wherever your mind may take you, your body is still right here, right now. You are thinking about 7th grade? Your feet are still standing on the floor of your house today. You are imagining what it would be like to leave your job? Your hands are still wrapped around your tea mug now.

In an earlier post, I talked about this mind-body practice I have – I'll use the word, yup! – integrated into my life. I love this practice. It keeps me grounded in right here and right now. And, at the risk of sounding old and familiar, all we truly have is right here and right now. Or, hold up…wait a minute…let me revise: all we truly have to come back to is right here and right now.

That is the integration process.

And it goes back to that desire we all have to feel secure and on solid ground. But holding on to that piece of information – that absolute truth, etc – will not achieve that groundedness. Holding onto our bodies will though. Sinking into our bodies will. I like to imagine the landscape of the body and mind like a large tract of land and an island with a bridge between them. Build that bridge if you don't have one. Clear it of debris if it has fallen into disrepair. Imagine it into being. For me, it is a lovely wooden bridge with railings and the open sky above. I can trek across it, into my mind, and hang out there, dreaming of fulfilling all of my longings, and then I can stretch my legs and arms, turn around and trek back into my body and settle there for the day, working hard on whatever is my work in this moment, playing hard at whatever is my play for this moment too.

In this way, my longings are realized, bit by bit, moment by moment, a hundred journeys between my mind and my body, a well-worn path, an ease, an integration.

My dear friend and yoga teacher, Kara, read us this poem in class today.  I leave it for you.

Joy For No Reason

I am filled with quiet
joy for no reason save
the fact that I'm alive.
The message I receive
is clear - there's no time
to lose from loving, no
place but here to offer
kindness, no day but this
to be my true, unfettered
self and pass the flame
from heart to heart. This
is the only moment that
exists - so simple, so
exquisite, and so real.

                        Danna Faulds

With gratitude,

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Tam. This makes a lot of sense with my Buddhist practice. The breath is always in the present moment, so if we can follow it we can be present. Easier said than done. Thanks also for that beautiful poem! Much love to you.