Of Two Minds: Coming into Greater Balance

by Erin Burch, PT
(Great Barrington, MA USA)


As it turns out, there is a hard-wiring in our mind/body that allows for the full functioning of only one function of our brains at one time. It happens that we cannot think a thought and feel a sensation at the exact same time. One can sort of think and sort of feel, or one can go back and forth really quickly, or one can think one is feeling, but ultimately these are not the same thing. In other words, one can either be immersed in thought OR immersed in feeling. Perhaps this is why humans have been so fooled for so long by the mind. When immersed in thinking, it is as if there is no connection to the body.

A client of mine came in with back pain so severe that she could barely walk. She was half bent over and wincing with every step. She had slipped in the shower and then bent to pick something up, and her back went out. The only exercise she gets on a regular basis is to walk a half hour to work. She sits for extended periods of time at her desk, sometimes for 11 or 12 hours for 5 days a week. Her sleep is not usually for the prescriptive 8 hours and she spends most of her waking time in her head. Having seen her before this “attack” and having felt her spine, it was obvious to me that this kind of episode was easily forthcoming. Her spine had lost the anatomical curves from extended sitting, and there was a great deal of compression. She, however, had no idea that she was heading for this kind of situation. This scenario is all too common in American workplaces. My client basically uses her body as a vehicle to take her to work and home, and does the most rudimentary things to care for it, but there is no living connection. Because she spends her time “in her head”, the body sensations do not really exist for her until they become overwhelming and demand attention. Does this sound at all familiar? I am sure we all at least KNOW someone that this describes. My client was horrified when I suggested that she take the following day off from work. REALLY?? How identified are we with our work, and how dis-identified are we with the body? In the long run, where will this lead us? This level of disconnection to ourselves and our bodies can only lead to illness and degeneration, and ultimately suffering.

The most accurate description of the relationship that people have with their bodies is MASTER/SLAVE. They make demands, and the body performs the best it can, given what it has to work with. The body is basically seen as and utilized as a tool. Again, looking at the long term outcome, can this be good? I propose a redefining of this primary relationship to one of a PARTNERSHIP, where the body has some input, and a balance is cultivated. This kind of relationship will ultimately lead to a healthier and happier life.

How is this achieved? Right off the bat, the mind will protest… “This is not possible! I have a very busy life! I can’t possibly make the kind of changes that would entail!” This sounds much more dramatic that it is. What is required is to BEGIN to create the ability to make a shift and to cultivate the SENSING aspect of ourselves. ( Here is another important thing. Unless we have contrast to our present experience, we do not know what we are missing.)

The fact that we cannot fully occupy more that one function at the same time is actually a saving grace. It gives us the opportunity to develop a skill set that takes us out of our thinking mind (haven’t you ever wanted a vacation from thinking?) and allows us to connect to the body and create a partnership for improved health and well being. What is needed is to consciously direct our attention into the body and focus on sensation. This is easier for some to do than others. If it is difficult, it will be an indicator just how identified one is with the thinking mind. However, it is doable for everyone.

The easiest, most available and time-tested point of reference is the breath.

The breath is universally utilized as a jumping off place to transition to the body. It is ever present and there are a myriad of sensations available. The breath is intimately connected to the body’s stress response and also to the relaxation response. Begin by deepening the breath, imagining a balloon that inflates into the “bowl” of the pelvis. By bringing the breath all the way down into the pelvis, the body naturally gets derailed from the stress response and switches to the relaxation response.

By simply changing the Where of the breath, you take charge of your physiology and also shift from a mind dominated existence to a more balanced, whole self.

Erin Burch, PT is a 30 year practitioner of healing arts. She has developed a unique style of bodywork she calls Body Whispering which builds on all of her vast experiences and education as well as the benefit of astute observation and intuition honed over the years.
She may be contacted via email: thebodywhisperer@me.com

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