Is the mind more valuable than the body?
It’s funny how it seems like there’s never enough time to take really good care of ourselves.
It seems that if there were just one more hour in the day then we would have time to exercise, or cook more nourishing food. That not taking better care of our physical health is the result of our being so busy with our other activities, like taking care of our family, our job, those irritating things that occasional consume some ridiculous amount of time, like finding out why the password for our Amazon account no longer works, or why I got charged twice for Spotify this month.
That’s partly true, not spending 40 (or more) hours a week at work would be healthier for many people.
But I don’t think it’s useful or accurate for any one individual to take on the entire burden of responsibility for neglecting their physical health.
There is a story in place, and has been for hundreds of years, that has assigned the physical body a rather ignoble role.
Here are a few examples:
*In many religions and spiritual traditions, particularly those that are more dominant in “Western” culture, the role of the body is as a barrier to our development, a dragging anchor that keeps us from achieving goodness and the spiritually sublime.
*The cultivation of the mind is something that a middle class American will readily pay $100,000 for without considering whether it’s worthwhile, or even an option. And the dollar amount and number of years to be invested in a University education only seems to be going up.
*In contrast the cultivation of the body is seen as something only pursued by elite athletes.
*The average hourly income of a lawyer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $71, while the average hourly wage of a highway maintenance worker is $20. In general jobs pay more the less the earner uses their body and the more they use their mind.
*The prevailing view in our culture seems to be that the primary reason for the cultivation and development of the body is for aesthetic reasons. It’s hard to separate the pursuit of physical fitness in most people’s minds from the achievement of aesthetic, rather than functional goals.
It helps to see that there is a larger story in place that we are embedded in. If we see it we can change our part in that story. We can begin to embrace a new role for our bodies and include them as important players in our spiritual, emotional and mental development as human beings.
Our bodies are an inseparable element of our complete development.
Learning subtlety and control in a complex and challenging motor skill teaches us of our own efficacy in having control of our lives. It challenges us cognitively as well as physically.
Feeling our strength and power physically, assures us that we do, in fact, possess those qualities and have them at our disposal.
The qualities that can be cultivated through relationship with and development of the body are many.
- Cognitive ability
- Problem Solving
- Reaction Time
- Self Knowledge and Self Sensing
Through the body we learn to navigate complexity, gain resilience and gain proof of our abilities. We also learn that we have the ability to change what we’re capable of.
Spending time with your body, and exploring and changing what it’s capable of is practicing being in relationship with yourself and with your environment. The precision and presence that the mind and spirit can achieve in attempting to do a task that is just out of our range is the growing edge that carves out new frontiers of experience.
So, I guess what I’m getting at here is that shifting our thinking about the importance the body has in our lives, can make it easier to find, or make the time, to cultivate its development. The body is not simply a vehicle that needs to be maintained. It is the pathway for our expression and our fulfillment.