The Body-Mind Connection
Like many in the West, I grew up with a concept
of the superiority of Spirit over Matter and of intellect over
emotions. I have subsequently come not merely to regret my "imprinting," but
to feel deeply remorseful about my own misunderstandings, this
to the extent of wanting to spend the rest of my life atoning for
misconceptions and the imbalances that issued from them.
My present understanding cannot be
grasped outside of the context of the healer who genuinely wants
everyone to be happy and well. About 17 years ago, I met a psychologist,
a neighbor named Cynthia Stauffer, now Thea Nye, who took an immediate
interest in my work. As a psychologist, she was trained to look
at needs and what makes a person feel "good" and what
undermines the psychological sense of well-being. We were forever
brainstorming these issues from the angle of what is now called
the inner child.
The inner child was, of course, always
there. People simply were not trying to make contact with that
child and did not recognize the importance of the child. I had
some vague preparation for my meeting with Cynthia. Morrnah Simeona,
the kahuna in Hawaii, had told me that the subconscious cannot
take in what does not feel good to the subconscious.
In other words, if the healing that is offered
does not feel healing, the subconscious will resist. The Hawaiians
use the term unihipili to describe the complex nature
of this lunar self, inner being.
Morrnah's first comment was
with respect to Rolfing. Massage was becoming popular in Hawaii
and Morrnah was an expert on lomi-lomi, a method of massage that
includes walking on the person while the person is face down.
Morrnah was 165 pounds and she walked on the bottoms of my feet
up to my skull and I felt that I was in Paradise. Her point is
that the subconscious has few choices: it was receive or reject.
Its nature is magnetic so it takes effort to reject. The subconscious
therefore gladly accepts what promises to feel good and strains
itself to deflect what it does not want. In the years I spent
in her presence, I became increasingly convinced of the importance
of this mechanism in healing. I would sometimes go so far as
to say that I cannot be healed by platitudes or poisons, give
me that which will make me well.
The second preparation I had
for working with the subconscious was some research I did, after
20 years still unpublished, on memory. This work involved the
use of music to lure memories to the surface. It was clear to
me that the psyche does not experience the drastic interruptions
in life that we call birth and death. The psyche accumulates
experiences and stores them in memory as a sort of amalgam of
experiences. Anyone who has worked as a psychologist with memories
can understand how powerful the role of associations is and how
tricky the historic component of memory is.
In any event, Cynthia and I
made great headway in the work with the elements.
The ancient theory was that for health to be maintained, the
elements of fire, earth, air, and water must be in balance. What
we learned is that each person has a tendency to express a favorite
element and the areas of experience associated with that element
feel good whereas the experiences normal to the other elements
do not give rise to the same level of satisfaction.
For instance, a fire type thrives
on enthusiasm and suffers when that enthusiasm is dampened by
detractors who want to point out the shortcomings of half-baked
ventures. Ayurveda teaches similar strategies: do nothing to
polarize a fire type because his/her natural tendency towards
self defense will focus on the healer rather than shift the underlying
causes of illness.
Similarly, an earth type needs
to function with a high measure of certainty and predictability.
Even when it works out in the long run, risk taking is psychological
harmful to these people. Earth types want facts and a large measure
of control over what is being done to them in the name of cure;
but they can be very compliant and responsible if they are given
the tools to direct their own process.
Air types need information
and communication. They flip out when a doctor says, "hum" and
leaves the room. They want to be recognized first as people and
only secondarily as patients. Generally, they do not like being
left alone nor treated as unintelligent or unequal. Most important
is that therapists should avoid saying and doing anything that
would raise the level of pain or anxiety.
Water types usually lack discipline
and need to be guided through their processes with a sort of
parental firmness. They need to feel nurtured and protected and
become quite hysterical if they feel unsafe. They are often quite
psychic so saying something encouraging while thinking something
more drastic is generally detected. It is therefore better to
trust that these people have the inner resources to handle bad
news if it is the truth.
Elsewhere, I discuss these
issues in great deal, especially on my audio tapes called
The Elements: Constitutional Type and Temperament. The point
here is simply to make it clear that each person receives and
heals in a different way. However, nearly every patient with
whom I have spoken states that emotions require validation, acceptance,
Given this understanding, I spent many years during
my own dark night of the soul searching for what would be healing
for others. It has been a long journey. Thirty years ago, I started
an article called "Recovering Innocence." I have never
been able to complete this article but I recognize that it the
most difficult work we ever do.
We all have a schism between the
body and mind and between emotions and spirituality. The easiest
way to explain this is to take the rules of monastic disciplines.
Whether in the East or West, it was generally accepted that a person
of the cloth could not serve two masters. The novitiate to renounce
wealth and sensuality. I can remember films of "great" teachers
throwing gold coins into the river to prove they are above materialism
and greed. Poor people, even children of the teachers, might watch
as the water buried the coins in the silt. Celibacy has been an
even more difficult challenge to many nuns and monks. They were
given chaste berries to subdue their hormones and made to feel
incredibly guilty if the dosage wasn't high enough to work!
Many of us in the West are deeply
conflicted about our bodies. On the one hand, we aspire to an extremely
high level of romantic and spiritual love and on the other cannot
find what we desire and succumb to a counterfeit expression.
I now see the body as the outer manifestation
of emotions. The body is not independent of feelings but rather
a reflection of them. It is also built in the mold of memories
and holds the keys to our origins in Time and Space, our link to
our place in the Cosmic Scheme. Intellect is a much more curious
phenomena. It is what makes people different from other species
and even angels; and, as we were taught, it is also what gives
rise to ego, overconfidence, and a capacity to pit ourselves against
natural law and divine guidance so that we can exercise our free
will . . . and sin, sin being any deviation from the Law of God.
It is extremely important to differentiate the Law of God from
the laws of man. God did not tell us to be hungry, poor, or celibate.
I do not want go into religious arguments
about what God did or did not instruct each of us to. I want to
focus on the essential schism between the psychological and spiritual
components of our being. On the psychological level, we are each
of us seeking to be understood, to be accepted for who we are,
and to recognized as innocent. Even the law now recognizes the
importance of some of these factors because victims are often believed
to have just cause for acting out against the perpetrators of their
This is extremely critical because
all emotions are reactions to something that happened to the one
having the emotional experience. That in each of us that is receptive
is not causal but reactive. That which is receptive holds the memories
of the events that have occurred and judges the events according
to the unique feelings that the experiencer had at the time.
On the other hand, the spiritual
seemingly puts impossible demands on the psychological. The spiritual
component of each of us would have us make sacrifices that affect
the physical and emotional parts of our being but are deemed unimportant
by the spiritual. We put down our lives for causes: why? Isn't
it total nonsense to die on the battlefield and leave a beloved
family behind? Who in his right mind would do such a thing? The
answer is that a mind could get so carried away by its brand of
truth that it could do such a thing, but the body would never willingly
sacrifice itself. Within the body, there is a survival instinct
and deep fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of love from
that upon which the receptive depends.
Yes, the soul is immortal but the body is
not and there is a great desire in every body to live.
Little by little, I came to understand
that the spiritual is, in fact, causal. It creates the thrust of
destiny that brings the rest of the individual into situations
in which the experiences are amassed that fill our psyches with
fear, dread, grief, rage, depression, and so forth. None of us
went out in search of fear. Fear occurred because we ventured into
an arena in which the decks seemed to be stacked against us.
I therefore began to develop a system
of healing that acknowledged the subconscious and brought the spiritual
into loving acceptance of the perils of the incarnational journey.
I came to understand that the physical feels constant pressure
to adapt to the demands of a seemingly tyrannical overlord. In
a mundane sense, we could call this tyrant "Mrs. Should Do" or "Mr.
Must Do." However we wish to view this authority, unbearable
pressure is put on the inner being to submit to the voice of authority.
In a positive situation, it is precisely because of our obedience
that we express conscience and loyalty and many other virtues that
are esteemed by the "higher self." The problem is that
the "lower self" is expedient because it wants some recognition
for itself in its own right.
The even bigger problem is that tyrany
does not feel loving. The inner child is not idealistic enough
to share agendas with the soul. It simply wants to be appreciated
because its safety and security depend on the sincerity of the
spiritual self, its willingness to look after the vulnerable child
and to protect it from danger.
Hildegard of Bingen wrote that cancer
patients must be careful to avoid spiritual risks factors. Chief
among these was a lack of faith. Faith in what? In the lovingness
of God or the world? Because the church has been so heavily tangled
up in religion at the expense of genuine spirituality, many individuals
do not have a lot of faith. In their realism, they see a world
in which the God has not protected them from the worst things they
can imagine happening to them. I do not mean this in any sort of
irreverent way. I know I might be sounding irreverent, but I mean
to sound psychological. If a parent does not intervene to stop
the abuse of the other parent, the child naturally believes that
the parents do not care. So, why does God let bad things happen?
It is extremely hard to have the
kind of faith that enables us to get to the bottom of the Laws
of the Universe and to understand our personal journeys within
this Universe. What I am proposing is that our existence is predicated
on the bond between Spirit and Matter. If Spirit is not expressed
through the personality, it may lose interest in the survival issues
of the personality. Likewise, a very material person may be so
dense that not much Spirit vibrates in the inner space. On the
other hand, if a great deal of Spirit is projected into the personality,
the personality may have to expand to accommodate this energy.
This leads to an ever expanding Space as the frequency of the spiritual
being accelerates. A very fast vibration is dematerializing.
In my most sensitive work with clients,
I try to facilitate a greater recognition of the relationship of
the Spirit and Matter and to evoke a compassionate connection between
these often disparate parts of our being. For this, I usually work
with music, but sometimes as a channel or astrologer. I totally
believe that the longevity of the body is dependent upon the free
flow between the emotional and spiritual, the feminine and masculine,
the inner child and the soul.