Healing Your Body with Your Mind
If you look at people who live under pre modern conditions, embedded in the natural world, doing what they need to do to live, you can see that their bodies are healthy and their faces are calm.
They walk, they work, they live together. Maybe they farm, they gather, they hunt. Certainly they protect their children, they make sure their houses keep out the heat and the rain. They rest.
They venture out, they are reminded, they are surprised, they act and they return home.
That’s not paradise. It is human life.
If you look at people now, even looking back to the 150 years to the earliest photographs, it is easy to see the contrast between modern industrial urban people and people in the wild. Look back further at how people are depicted in paintings, and you can see the same differences.
Our cultural and physical environments are not suited to human life and our lives are degraded by accommodating it.
Sitting. Watching. Deferring action to others. Lacking skill, agency and control in almost all areas of life. Eating food that has been handled and manipulated and depleted of context, love and nutrition. With travel, movies, games and drugs as poor substitutes for purposeful action and inner nourishment.
In our dojo it is easy to heal the body, using the mind. Just by moving. By deciding how we want to live and following through with action. We put our hearts and minds into how we use our body.
As a side note: It is possible to heal a physical injury with the mind. Partly by making good choices as to what to do and what to avoid to allow the injury to heal. By placing our attention on the injury, we don’t just forget about it and unintentionally reinjure it. But also, through using the breath and imagination, we can send a flow of energy into the injured area and exhale the pain. The physiological effect of placebos is real. So maybe that is what this is. Anyway, it seems to help – so our minds can heal our bodies in many ways.
Healing is not the primary purpose of what we do. Getting fit, strong, flexible and skillful is. But we all get hurt once in a while, so it is good to know how to recover. And if we are suffering from limitations we do not notice, imposed by the pathology around us, it is good to know we can fix that too.
Modern people can look and feel as resilient and whole and healthy as ancient people, who lived close to the world and to each other, did. Here, through our, training we have a way to do it.
As we train, beside healing our body with our mind we also heal our mind with our body. Without noticing it, just accepting it as “the way things are”, people endure all sorts of negative mental states: people get nervous, arrogant, flat, volatile, distracted, led by the nose by desire, intoxicated, attached, addicted and angry. Rather than talk about it, medicate it or run from it, we can train our way out of these toxic states.
We can even use the toxic states to fuel good practice and transform the negative states into positive ones.
Training, as we do it, forms a coherent guide to how to move and how to be. By using the simple geometry of the kata, we train ourselves to move with skill: efficiently, with balance, with purpose, precise speed, power and skill. Our breathing deepens. Our muscles get stronger and more alive. Our awareness sharpens. We feel good. Our mind settles down and focuses. Our lives become our own.
We use the form of the kata to establish an ideal of physical action which we strive to meet. We use the form of our training schedule to set demands on our lifestyle including diet, work, family time and rest. As we strive to meet these demands, we change. Since the demands of the kata, the training schedule, and of the dojo culture are good and healthy demands, we change in a good and healthy way.
We become stronger and more purposeful. We feel good. We are able take on challenges that once would have been beyond our capacity. We become calm and courageous, strong and virtuous.
In this way, just by moving, we can heal the mind by using the body, and heal the body by using the mind.