Friday, May 20, 2011

Body; Mind; Body-Mind; Body/Mind; Bodymind; ?

Guest Blog by Dawn Jordan

With this title I confront myself with a central dilemma of my own being.  A duality, a polarity, a confusion, a riddle, a fork in the road, a labyrinth--a dilemma that aches for resolution, a unifying idea, an encompassing feeling, an over-arching field theory or revelation that can cradle and nourish the entire motley litter of the layers of my existence: cells, tissues, sensations, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, history, future.  What is the chaos of molecules and symphony of energies that I call my life?

There is certainly a body here.  It has an undeniable location, feel, presence.  But is it that I have a body, or that I am a body?  Is body my vehicle or my baggage?  And who is driving?  Is this body a part  of what I have and am?  I certainly think so.  And the rest?  Where exactly do I locate and feel that other presence?  Is in within me, outside of me, in the sky (that infinite repository of unlocatable entities)?  These are not semantic questions for which I have ready replies; they are existential and easily muddled.  I do not experience my most thoughtful answers to them as solutions, but as further riddles.  Descartes felt whole-heartedly that he had found his anchor in this sea with "Cogito, ergo sum."  "I think, therefore I am."  But for me this bold statement simply puts a finger on the central question.  It touches not the resolution, but the heart of the confusion.  Who is the "I" in "cogito" and what is the "am" in "sum"?

In our language and in our inherited conceptual frameworks we have no word or words that adequately expresses a unity of mind and body.  Other languages may possess them, but their words do not bypass for us our difficulty in translating them into an immediate understanding.  It is not simply that we lack the word;  it is that we lack the idea, the historical, cultural and linguistic context  that could give a translation a transferrable meaning.  Nor do various machinations with our own dualistic vocabulary bridge the gap.  "Body-Mind." Body/Mind," or Bodymind" do not really serve the purpose.  No hyphen or slash or artificial fusion can suture together two realms of being that our traditional concepts have long regarded as separate and distinct.  We can only talk and think about them as one or the other, an then try our best to articulate chains of cause and effect  springing from a physical world and from a mental world that somehow imply their interconnection.  We do not have a historical, religious or scientific context that can embody the idea that "they" are one.

However, in my experience as a bodyworker (one more stunted verbal hybrid) I have discovered for myself another dimension of language, one that is at the same time more personally articulate and more universal in nature.  Traditionally we have come to regard language as words, but through my work I have discovered within me and my clients and my students a very different streaming of information, a language that is far older, far deeper, and far more imbued with an organic immediacy of meaning--the language of touch.  There is a vocabulary, a grammar, a syntax--a history and a poetry--that is generated only by the touch of flesh with flesh.

You cannot touch a body anywhere without engaging the entire organism in all of its physical and mental dimensions.  You cannot excite a nerve anywhere without sending a ripple through the whole nervous system. Any point of contact creates a shift of attention and arouses a complex array of sensations, images, feelings, memories, novelties, associations streams of thought and cascades of responses.  You cannot experience a sensation, an emotion or a thought without generating a muscular response.  You cannot have a single muscular response that does not generate others, which in turn generate new sensations, feelings and thoughts.  And you cannot experience a change in any of these elements without shifting in one way or another the whole gestalt of awareness.  These interactions cannot be described in terms of linear chains of cause and effect.  They are simultaneous and global in nature, and the fullness of these responses flow back into the organism of the toucher.  There is, in fact, no duality between the "touched" and the "toucher."  The contact is both mutual and immediate, and the multiple array of responses within each individual flow simultaneously through its conduit.  There is an instantaneous communication, and if the exchange is mutually open and sustained there is a communion.

Every therapist who wants to increase their effectiveness, who wants to most deeply reach another individual, to help them grow and to heal must study the silent vocabulary of this language, learn to comprehend and articulate it and to communicate through it.  This is a primary skill that underlies all modalities, and without it no theory or protocol is of practical use.  Unless the mind dimension of the body and the body dimension of the mind are mutually unified in this dialogue their oneness cannot be perceived.  The function of words is to excite an interest in having the experience.  After having the experience there is no need for the words.

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