Thursday, July 29, 2010

Matters of Mind

Over the ages, a lot of energy has gone into discussing and arguing and articulating the presence of a split between mind and matter, a divide between mind and body, in the human experience. It's at the heart of all psychoanalytic theory, and seems to underlie most religious systems. It's widely accepted, for example, that all the various parables about a fall from grace, an alienation from God, are metaphors for this schism between the physical, corporeal world of the material body; and the ethereal realm of the mind and spirit. They are thought to be two separate states, which we would desperately like to reunite. It's the base state that creates various legends of falling from grace, being cast from the Garden of Eden.

Yet the older I get and the more hours I log in pure observation, the more convinced I become that the schism doesn't exist, never did exist, and that much human sorrow occurs simply because we subscribe to an idea that was erroneous from the get start.

I say this largely because I'm increasingly aware that there is just no real separation between mind and body. A disturbed mind is soothed by relaxing the body, and relaxing the mind is the surest way to relaxing the body. Recently, I've learned that healing my broken knee has been in no small measure a matter of relaxing my mind about the whole matter. It's a package deal, and always was so.

The world as we know it is really a construct of mind. One cloudy day might be dreary experience indeed that interferes with all our happiness; another rainy day might be delightful excuse to lounge with a book and listen to rain tap on the leaves of giant hostas outside an open window. The same worlds, but entirely different worlds, thanks to the various spices which the mind brings to experience. There is no world to experience, in fact, except the one flavored by mind.

We have no experience of the world at all that is independent of mind, and you are therefore left with no conclusion except that mind and the material world are utterly indivisible. You can't be aware without being aware of some thing, so does it not then follow that they are indivisible aspects of the same phenomenon?

So, although we generally think that coming to wholeness and happiness is about healing some kind archetypal division or achieving at-one-ment between matter and mind, perhaps the truth is that this perceived wound was imaginary all along.

The sense of separation we long to heal turns out to be the separation we've chosen for ourselves.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Lots to think about in this post. Aging, as you suggest, clarifies a lot of erroneous assumptions.


"You can't be aware without being aware of some thing, so does it not then follow that they are indivisible aspects of the same phenomenon?"

Reminds me of the koan "form is emptiness; emptiness is form."

For something to be empty, it must be empty of some thing. Therefore, there must be something to it.