Bodymind is a term originating in a linguistic alchemy that explores how the body and mind are in constant communication. In essence, bodymind means that the body is the physical manifestation of the mind, and the mind is a energetic reflection of what is happening in the body. Not only do our thoughts matter, our thoughts literally become matter that emerge as biological cascades of emotions, feelings, and moods. This gives rise to the possibility that the biological processes of aging resonate and influence the nature of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
The Origin of Bodymind
The essence of bodymind is that what happens in the mind influences the body on a biological level, and what happens in the body influences the mind on a psychological level. We can then hypothesize that aging as a biological force must also influence the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes that inhabit our mind.
In describing the body-mind connection, Dianne Connelly makes a series of links between our biology and psychology:
The skin is not separate from the emotions, or the emotions separate from the back, or the back separate from the kidneys, or the kidneys separate from will and ambition, or will and ambition separate from the spleen, or the spleen separate from sexual confidence.
– Dianne Connelly – Traditional Acupuncture: The Law of the Five Elements, 1994
Candace Pert’s research into the body-mind connection revealed that our thoughts manifest themselves in our biology:
Mind doesn’t dominate body, it becomes body – body and mind are one. I see the whole process of communication we have demonstrated, the flow of information throughout the whole organism, as evidence that the body is the actual outward manifestation, in physical space, of the mind.
– Candace Pert in Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel, 1997
The Mind-Body Connection
We assume the brain to be a physical organ located in our head. However, as Larry Dossey describes below, brain function is not always strictly local; that is, the functioning of the brain is a distributed property of the body, not a process that only takes place in the head.
The mind steadfastly refuses to behave locally, as contemporary scientific evidence is beginning to show. We now know, for example, that brain-like tissue is found throughout the body… So, even from the conservative perspective of modern neurochemistry, it is difficult if not impossible to follow a strictly local view of the brain.
– Larry Dossey, M.D quoted in Natural News: An Overview of How Stress Kills and How to Develop Your StresSkills
Stress is a primary example of how the brain functions a non-local or distributed manner. What our mind perceives as being stressful translates as physical stress into the body. Chronic stress puts significant stress on our sense of physical wellbeing. In other words, stress is a mode of communication between body and mind.
Chronic pain can change our personality:
Subtle changes in the brains of people with chronic pain could cause personality shifts that make them worry more and be less adventurous, say researchers.
Such personality shifts could result from other diseases too, say the researchers, whose work adds to the idea that our personality can change throughout life.
Anna Salleh – ABC Science
The Bodymind of Aging
Senescence is the biological process associated with the functional decline of the body.
Aging has been defined as the collection of changes that render human beings progressively more likely to die (Medawar, 1952). Indeed, one hallmark of aging in humans and in many other species is an age-related increase in mortality rates shortly after maturity.
(João Pedro de Magalhães – What is Aging?)
Throughout my work, I presume that aging is constantly changing the feeling of being alive. After maturity, every human life experiences an increased sense of vulnerability. It is not as much about be afraid of something as it is feeling more exposed to risk.
Functional decline caused by aging is, in one sense, a form of communication between body and mind. The biological progression of senescence resonates as the emergence of thoughts, feelings, and attitudes in the mind. In other words, the biological progression of aging also changes how we orient ourselves in the world.
It may be that the midlife passage is an authentic age-related phenomenon that moves through body and mind simultaneously. Perhaps the midlife crisis is an experience in which the sensations, feelings, and messages emerging from the body are denied by the mind until they eventually cause self-destructive behaviors, patho-adolescent grasping at youth, and may even lead into a dark night of the soul.
It seems reasonable to expect that a biological process, “that render human beings progressively more likely to die,” would naturally generate an array of feelings and sensations that permeate body, mind, and spirit all at once.
The Direct Felt Experience of Aging
A great deal of age-related discussion today is clinical in nature; we need to balance this with mindful aging and the expansion of consciousness through the direct felt experience of aging.
Direct felt experience of life is all we can really lay claim to. Aging is a natural and normal process at the heart of life. If we think of the Earth as a single unified body, then the diversity of life and habitats that proliferate on it are an expression of an immense creative intelligence. We do not live on the Earth, we live inside of it.
Aging, in this sense, is a form of participation with something far greater than ourselves. It is an animating force that places body and mind in a state of constant communication. Moreover, aging is the underlying ground of every experience we have in life.