I’m currently reading How To Be Human by Ruby Wax (a wonderful book, by the way) and in it, she explains how our body and mind are one and the same. This was news to me, because I have always separated the two.
The “me”, I thought, was actually my mind, y’know, that special place where my thoughts and ideas come from, the place that is my personality and the keeper of memories, and my body was just this unfortunate, hairy vessel that I reside in.
Not so, says Wax:
Your brain and body are one and the same; every thought, emotion and action is a two-way feedback loop from brain to body, and vice versa. If you change your thoughts, feelings and actions, your body changes. Neurons in the body… detect the movements in joints, muscles and bones and especially in the ‘big boy’, the spinal cord, which feeds back to the brain what’s going on everywhere in the body like a spy.
I have touched upon my experiences of body image before, including how I learned to accept my body for what it is. What I haven’t really learned yet, though, is how to fully connect my body to my mind. To me, they still feel like separate entities, somewhat divorced from each other.
I feel like I have tricked my mind a little bit, in making myself feel more confident about my appearance, and feeling less inhibited about my body; recent events have left me feeling more exposed than ever, but I don’t feel any shame or embarrassment over it. Rather, I think to myself, that its just a body, everyone has one, mine is pretty much the same as any other guy’s out there. In many ways, I have found it extremely liberating to not care about my body all that much.
But, not being bothered about how my body looks is not the same thing as connecting my body and my mind, to accept that they are one and the same.
Wax explains more about this:
If you pay attention to the sensations in your body, you get a full readout of the emotional state you’re in. When, for example, you’re frightened, your body will tell you and if you lower your periscope and look in, you’ll probably be tight in the shoulders, your stomach will be clenched and your heart and head pounding … Your body is making decisions way before you even think about them. It knows how to deal with situations even before your thoughts translate them.
I have lost count of the number of times I have suddenly noticed my posture; how I’m curled up on the sofa, in a defensive ball, or tucked up against a pillow, clinging on for dear life. What was my body telling me in those moments? I suppose I was feeling vulnerable or worried about something, and in both instances, my body had revealed this to me before my mind had. In times of stress, I’ve noticed that I’ll be hardly breathing at all, as if my body is willing itself to disappear.
So what’s the point I’m trying to make here?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think I have my mind all figured out, but what I need to do is fully connect my mind with my body, to tune into more of what my body is attempting to tell me, because apparently, it has a lot to say.