Mind/Body problem

As it turns out, I’m finding it’s not a “problem,” nor even a distinction.

I’ve been sick all week, with the symptoms getting worse and worse. Usually there’s an uptick by now, but it doesn’t seem to be kicking in. Bleh.

Okay, so one interesting thing: I am gauging my condition via how my mind feels as well as how my body feels. You know, like it’s ONE system. πŸ˜‰

I was brought up hearing “listen to your body.” This always baffled me, because my mind has always been a LOT louder than my body. That was my karma (habit). How in the world could I make my mind quiet down so I could hear my body? How could I be convinced it was my body talking and not my mind pretending to be my body? Gah!

I took up lots of physical practices to try to sort this all out: zazen, weightlifting, tai kwan do, climbing. Note a progression here? Yes, the “sport” got progressively more scary. It had occurred to me that the only way to circumvent my loud mind was to scare myself enough that my mind couldn’t fool me. If I could freeze my mind, I’d see what my body did on its own. Climbing was definitely the apex of my scare-yourself-until-you-can’t-think experiment.

But I don’t think that experiment worked, at least not the way I intended. I didn’t manage to turn off my mind, as distinct from my body. All that happened over 100 feet was that my mind didn’t noodle around with extraneous things. So my mind never shut up or went away. But what I did get was an opportunity to pay lots of attention to my system (body and mind) under different stressors. At least 10,000 hours, I’m sure.

So now Ashtanga is in the picture. The zen practice has had time to kick in. And I am sick as a dog.

What’s interesting is that I can feel “how I am” in the moment as a MUCH more integrated system. This integration is super-obvious at work (and yes, I do think of work as a sport and as a practice), where my body has to be still so my mind can see what’s going on in different situations. Kind of like zazen, where it’s really cool if the body can kind of pipe down and the mind can get really light. But it’s not a denial or disappearance of the body, so much as a coordination of body-mind. A specific configuration that doesn’t blot one out while favoring the other.


What got me thinking about this is a story on a friend’s blog, about a yoga newbie who was watching him do dropbacks. She watched carefully, then arched back further and further until she dropped back (one-handed, no less!).

Reminds me of my climbing buddies. Advanced climbers, natural athletes. Ex-gymnasts and martial artists. I say mind/body, they say body/mind. They definitely were super-gracious to lay out the path for me. All I had to do was exert myself and not allow my mind to freak out and doom everybody else.

In my next incarnation, I would like to be a body/mind person.


I went into work for one meeting yesterday, and it was utterly fascinating. Every single person I spoke with (and these are people outside my department, who did not realize I’d been out sick or that there was anything unusual about my state) reached out at some point and touched me on my shoulder.

I’m seen as a friendly, warm person at work, but I am not seen as a “touchy” person, so this touching was very unusual. I assume people were just subconsciously aware of my system being weakened, and they reached out to share some energy. (Oh my, I can totally see The Cop rolling his eyes when he reads this post!)


7 Responses

  1. Even experienced meditators have problems with intense “feelings” leading to intense “mind”. My experience has been that with practice I can label feelings as good,bad, and neutral,and see the influence they have on creating mind states. When these are extremely strong, for example intense fear/fatigue when climbing, it is much more difficult to have the awareness at the time. I am slowly decreasing the interval between occurence and awareness.

  2. Maybe you’re their Peaceful Mechanic fetish. They don’t have carved soapstone armadillos to keep in their pockets so, instead, they give you a little rub when they need to keep steady working on problems.

  3. When the occurrence and awareness happen simultaneously… I wonder if that would look like a siddhi…

    Carl, your comment is hilarious and touching. I’m going to enjoy thinking of it that way. πŸ™‚

  4. I love Carl’s comment too! Oh my god. Pocket Karen’s soothing properties will keep your mind steady and on-task all day long! From Gaiam. hee hee

    Karen, you’re little, aren’t you? Like, under 5’3″?

    I have a friend here who is about 5’1″ and I noticed recently that when she was ill I had sort of urge to actually Pick Her Up. That was weird! I am kind of a touchy person anyway, but I find it weird that when I’m around smaller-than-me females I sometimes want to squeeze them.

  5. I’m not that small. I’m 5’4″. Almost as big as The Cop! (Not really, he’s 6’2″, but somehow I still feel like we are the same size!)

  6. I love how people were touching you- and that you noticed. Do you find that your dogs act differently when you’re sick or unhappy? I haven’t been terribly sick or sad in the last year since I’ve had Henry so it’s yet to be tested on him, but before him there were the two female cats that I had for 17 and 19 years. They saw me go through a lot of heart ache and each time, they sort of rallied around me, it was odd. I felt protected by them!

  7. Tyler was hilarious when I was really sick. I could barely move, so I’d lie on the couch. And he would climb up, sniff my face and lick me a lot more than usual, and then insist upon lying on top of me. He weighs about 85 at this point, so it wasn’t really comfortable, but he was really nervous about not being my blanket. So we had a few days of being very, very close. LOL! Now that I’m better, he’s back to normal.

    I had a cat who used to always be sitting on my pillow staring down at me whenever I woke from a nightmare. It was pretty uncanny.

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