Alternative medicine often refers to the mind-body connection. But what does it really mean? How are our minds linked to our bodies? Is this even possible?
In this culture, we’re all taught a very powerful message that separates the mind from the body. The body is usually considered subordinate to the mind, as in “Mind Over Body.” The body is only worthwhile insofar as it is useful to make money, as int he case of athletes, or when it can be a tool to accomplish something, such as painting the house. Many other times, the body is considered a hindrance, when it becomes ill or injured. And on top of its other faults, it is the seat of sin, wittingly or not, carrying out our base desires.
The mind is not off the hook though, just because it may be “on top.” It can also become sick, “Worrying us to death,” for instance. The mind contains the seeds of all those wicked cravings, let’s not forget. And then there are those, well, you know, those delicious, though perhaps unsavory images that root about our gray matter when we least expect them.
Long ago, somewhere in India, some folks discovered another avenue for existence. It’s a path of union. Through their own experience, they found that the mind and body can be trained to work together. We call this journey, yoga.
I just finished reading a very powerful memoir by an accomplished and unusual yogi:
WAKING by Matthew Sanford, creator of Mind-Body Solutions in Minnesota. Matt shares the lessons from his own life and makes them applicable to every life. Because of a tragic car accident when he was 13, he is paralyzed from the nipples down. His struggle to become fully embodied in areas that do not have neural sensation are more intense, but otherwise not really different from every other yogic practitioner who tries to find the intelligence in their toes, or shoulder blades, or wherever there is numbness and lack of consciousness.
Matthew received the VOLVO For Life Award. The video carries an important and inspiring message.
Please watch it, and then listen to The Body’s Grace on Speaking of Faith, an interview on Public Radio with Krista Tippett. We’d love to hear your thoughts afterwards.
And next time your yoga teacher asks you to move your shoulder blades towards your kidneys, think of Matthew Sanford and try to go deeper with your awareness.