The thing is, humans still have bodies. Fun fact right? And so as long as we have bodies, we can pay attention to them and learn the messages we can gain from our actual felt and sensed experience. So what’s the catch with all the recent years talks and best sellers about mindfulness. (check out this great article on this really cool website) As long as someone has a computer, a computer in their pocket or purse disguised under the name of phone or some kind of futuristic sounding b0t, people already tend to be in their mind. Are they actively engaged? Perhaps not, but that doesn’t really matter, because the blood and lymph and life juice of that body is hanging around the head a whole lot more than other parts of the body. Ok, so it’s not really that basic or literal as standing on your head for an hour to turn your face so red you pass out, but the point is people are often easily out of touch with their bodies in the first place. What else puts people in their heads and out of touch? Fear. Most people, reasonably speaking here, want to live. Depending on the person, it may not take a whole lot to turn a person over to hypervigilence, particularly if that person has had any kind of traumatic experience in their life. Trauma is far more common than we might think. And I’m not referring to embarrassment or temporary confusion that can lead to life difficulties, like not getting what you want (bum bum bum!) but physical and/or emotional trauma. Physical trauma often receiving the focus, and then emotional trauma, a trauma that may been more difficult to access for the means of perceiving such are not as direct and requiring a trained and critical approach. Still, neither are to diminish the other, trauma is not a this or that sort of thing, but as I have preferred to learn things, on a spectrum, and to which areas in that spectrum are functional, navigable, and sustainable versus dysfunctional, immobile and degenerative.
Think about how popular meditation, yoga, massage, and alternative medicine are becoming in the U.S and Europe. What culture would be best suited to developing functional resources to help people ease pain, relax, destress, than cultures where oppressive tyrrany and obsessive rules were the norm for the mass bodies of peoples. Sure life might have seemed amazing for the rulers since they lived in such a different way and ensuring their post in command to be protected, so as long as the rulers were not among the rest-people doing the work to keep life going. I do find it a bit easy to presume life was just peachy for such ruling folk? My imagination doesn’t come up with roses and sunshines when I picture what would motivate an individual or group of people to demand another body to enslave itself for some proclaimed higher good or moral order. And so now there are machines and conveniences that keep life going along, and then more tasks can be done in the same amount of time, and more people can enjoy a lifestyle like those who didn’t have to do the work of staying alive. It’s not an uncommon phrase for people to describe feeling like a cog. A cog to what, churning what machine? The body itself is not a machine. Perhaps through a metaphor, but not in the least an accurate description. The body is more biological, which though we have research pointing to knowing more, it’s all still pretty mysterious in terms of applying knowledge in a functional form. And this is the disjoint that I have come to witness in forms of medicine. Traditional Western medicine practices are demonstrative of the embodiment of a function of understating rooted in mechanics, situated in the mind through pathology. Traditional Chinese medicine practices are rooted in long term observation with simple means, situation in a framework of metaphor and literal attunement to nature cycles. And how many remember the facts from their high school math test versus those who can remember their favourite book or movie? The ability for humans to comprehend and integrate stories (and myths) often employing metaphor and examples gleaned from observation seems almost built right in. Of course there are some minds attuned to numbers and systems, I simply seek to emphasise the value of some of the functional resources humans have at hand.
In mindful practices, and sometimes in the academic practices, throw the word nature into the conversation and quite often people go on spin cycle with language and reasoning. All kind of emotional hot buttons can be triggered, cycled and compared, combativeness and basically any kind of form of discussion about nature becomes shut down unless it agrees to disagree or can concede how constructed nature as an idea is, regardless of its concrete implications on reality. In short, it just doesn’t make sense because it is in the mind. A sort of complex constructed and then contracted out to the ways in which people employ to keep life humming along the way they have been accustomed, by my understanding, since around the 1940’s and probably a lot earlier. (I never feel like I have all the information.) As much as things have changed, on a mass scale, I remain immensely skeptical. And so an act of presence can be something like observing a moment in a body, fulling engaging focus on a physical experience, not mediated by a device, or meditated by a device, but focusing on the sense of presence. Making art is a tremendous act of presence, available to anyone. (Don’t be tricked to thinking you need a special anything to create.) What other kind of activity can you conjur that returns direct sensory feedback? All kinds, not art alone, of course. For the sake of an example here’s a simple breakdown of a creative process: impulse or idea –> execution through materials –> review of what came to be …and here you can see how conceptualism became popular. Isolate an idea and see what comes from that. Ok. Crickets…now what? Well all kinds of other creative things, sell it, sit on it, destroy it, make something else out of it, and so on. Creating can really service humans in so many ways. And so when it comes to nature, I have really learned a lot about creating by observing nature. And its been far more lasting and sustainable than anything I cooked up in my mind. For what seems like nature exists in reality and whatever is in my head is not. It can be, but we have a lot of history showing not all ideas are experienced to create a wellbeing for life.
Keep in mind (oh hey now!) turning attention to the body is not some kind of anti-intellectualism. That kind of critique is way to simple, if you ask me. The point is to turn the attention toward the body, toward the function of the nervous system, emotions, the feeling and sense, for in doing so we may approach something that can provide all kinds of enlivening experiences. The thing is, they may likely not all be pleasant and cheese! smile for the camera! (also developed during the aforementioned time, since the last time a big change happened in North American and European society. Remember all these relaxing and alternative medicines were birthed out of deeply traumatising situations for people. This is not an element to discredit or be afraid, but simply realise a life of following a program, of complacency, of vague unease is not a life, lived at all. And a lot of people realise that and might be really scared to do anything at all. And that’s ok. Each person gets a life of their own to make choices on and for. For those that want life, to feel life deeply, to be present (and not in this be here now, perpetual state of singular beingness bullcrap which is offensive in that it coerces and individual to be forceful with themselves when feeling anything but wonderful and butterflies) but to go ahead and live, then getting down into the wisdom of the body and seeing what develops from there seems to be the ticket to a deep experience of life. An experience that, quite frankly, cannot be bought. Another post, and until next time. Thanks for your attention, and I look forward to your comments and future conversations. Tea or coffee? Here’s a fun internet meme: