Body and Psyche: Healing the Divide

The Body

Well, we made it! Starting this week Barn Life programs are officially on campus! I thought it an interesting experiment as we connected through such physical distance. Our last theme, I believe, reflected our best efforts under the strain of social distancing. Alchemy is a heady and slippery world of ideas that support a mindful journey through our thoughts and emotions. However, it also addresses the significance of the body itself. Our return to campus offers us a great opportunity to explore the importance of physical and psychological connection. It is my hope that we will gain a better understanding of the psyche and soma (body) relationship and improve our attendance to the wisdom and messages of the body.

A Powerful Way of Healing Trauma

First, I want to elaborate on a few fundamental assumptions about working with the body. As studies continue to reveal, bodywork is an extremely potent and powerful way of addressing and healing trauma, freeing the mind from rumination. This includes cravings, depressive thoughts, anxiety, and more. In fact, no single cultural or mytho-religious background completely neglects working with the body. Psychology, with its broadening horizons and narrowing treatment methods, has to contend with the undisputed significance of the relationship between the body and the psyche.

The Unio Mentalis

By majority, most of us walk this earth with a severed head. In alchemy, this is referred to as the unio mentalis, a separation of the objective world from the thinking mind. On the one hand, this is an important step because we begin to observe the distance. On the other, however, we are often doomed in psychotherapy to the constant observational perspective. Psychologizing, as we might refer to it, is all about observing ourselves with language and category. We learn to be analysts, scientists, and researchers of our thinking, our moods, and our relationships. The problem here lies in the circular reasoning. Should we stay in reflection, we resemble Narcissus himself, oblivious to the love and beauty of the world. Should we remain severed from the wisdom of the body, we serve, in the end, to strengthen the mind’s perspectives alone.

The Unification of Mind and Body

The body becomes, then, a receptacle for all the contents we cannot or will not recognize. As we move through thought, reflection, and strategy, though, we may end up with a physical illness, a numbing to the sensory experience, and, ultimately, a great distance from the soul. How can we break free of the division between the mind and the body? Depth psychology is but one tradition that helps us to access the work of integration. Not only of aspects of our inner life but also the unification of mind and body.

Dr. Jeanne Schul and the Subtle Body

In Dance the Body Electric, Dr. Jeanne Schul suggests that the body is a powerful conductor of psychological and emotional life. The “subtle body” is the space between mind and physical body where a sensory relationship can be experienced. Through, for example, a sensory exploration of movement, we discover the truth about ourselves. Movement is honest. It does not explain itself or rationalize. Movement confesses. It reveals, without words, expressions of the substance of our nature. Movement may reveal frozen emotions or ignite fires of intense expressions. Movement works on our reservations and our need for control.

The Confessions of the Body

This week, I want us to remain mindful of the bodily sensations and the impulses to move. Honesty, in the most spiritual sense, is always an expression of love and not strategy. Should we open up to the confessions of the body, we may find ourselves thoroughly present, sincerely engaged, and wildly human once more. For the next several weeks, we will be engaging with the body from a few different modalities in groups. We will explore the 7 primary chakras and support a connectivity between these real and living centers of consciousness. I encourage you all to remain firstly in the body and, as we come together in a real physical environment, to strive to honor those vessels of substance that differentiate you from me. May we all remain at home beneath the skin and near the heart of wisdom that transcends the mind.

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