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Harnessing the Body’s Innate Power.
Harnessing the Body’s Innate Power
Have you ever seen a Shaolin Monk in action? It’s pretty astounding. Not only do they have extreme speed, agility, strength, and endurance, but they also appear to be impervious to pain and fear. These abilities were borne of incredibly intense training from a young age that included: contorting their bodies into shapes that would induce violent screeching in most people while calmly remaining in the pose for hours, wrapping themselves in wet blankets while meditating outdoors in the frozen hinterland of the Songshan mountains, and allowing themselves to be repeatedly punched, kicked and even stabbed all over their bodies.
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How do they do it? I personally have challenges stepping into my shower if it’s a single degree lower than, well, “an awesome shower.” Many people crave the hale and hearty accomplishments of the brave folks who go through Navy Seal training, Triathlons, or endurance events like Tough Mudders. Few people seem prepared to do what would be necessary to pull it off—which is ultimately for your mind to enroll your physical form in the chosen endeavor. Our bodies, by and large, are not interested in taking the pain required to achieve in these arenas, so a dialogue of sorts would need to be opened—a meeting of the physical and spiritual minds.
To this end, I recently had the privilege of interviewing David Rosmarin, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School who is helping to pioneer a new hybrid treatment method rooted both in traditional psychology and the spiritual technology of the ancients. He calls his system The Connections Paradigm, and it seems to be as effective as it is insightful. At its core, it strives to (re)introduce the mind to the body and get them to speak to each other. Over time, the body learns to accept the counsel and coaching of its older and wiser counterpart, while the mind (or soul) learns tolerance, patience, and understanding of its underperforming and often wayward disciple.
Modern psychology has all but ignored the spiritual aspects of humanity and, in so doing, may have inadvertently neutered the effectiveness of psychology itself. It stands to reason that if we are a composite of a physical and a metaphysical being, an approach that only addressed half of us could fall short of the mark.
Dr. Rosmarin is also a marathoner and spoke about the struggles the body endures as it crosses mile 20. “Why would anybody do this?” he asked rhetorically. He describes the soul’s enrollment of the body in the process as a beautiful partnership—a mutually agreed upon goal to be tacked jointly in body and spirit—ultimately, a very transcendent experience.
A Musical Take
Serendipitously, I also revisited a podcast I did on the band Death Cab For Cutie, lead by singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard. Aside from being a fantastic musician, Gibbard, as it happens, is an ultra-marathoner (50-100 miles) and also views the undertaking as a transcendent experience.
Running, for me, is very much a spiritual practice at this point. I certainly don’t think that you need to run as far as I do to achieve a level of enlightenment. But I have found when I’ve been deep into an ultra marathon, there is inevitably a moment where everything falls away, and I’m just a being in space—just moving through the world.
Moving through this beautiful environment on a trail on a mountain somewhere and all the concerns that you might have about anything in your life just disappear, and you have these moments of just flow and Zen that people achieve them in myriad ways. People do yoga. People take psychedelics. People run. People fast. People sweat it out, whatever. But this has just been something that I’ve found has been a very real spiritual practice in my life.
The song I focus on is appropriately entitled “When Soul Meets Body.” It beautifully complements Dr. Rosmarin’s practice and the teachings of spiritualities and faith traditions from time immemorial. Gibbard sings:
I want to live where soul meets body
And let the sun wrap its arms around me and
Bathe my skin in water cool and cleansing
Feel what it’s like to be new
’Cause in my head, there’s a Greyhound station
Where I send my thoughts to far-off destinations
So they may have a chance of finding a place where they’re
Far more suited than here
A Shift In Identity
Most of us have had the experience of a shift in identity before. Going from middle to high schooler is a shift in identity that comes with a new status, rules, and a new way of thinking about oneself. For many, getting married is a huge change of identity—whereas single folks have much freer schedules and much more control over their decision-making.
When you’re married, you change. You quickly realize that the old habits won’t work—that there is someone else with her own set of values and expectations. If someone cannot make this shift and continues on his merry single ways, the relationship won’t last long, but if he does, he begins to grow as a person—he has expanded to encompass something beyond just himself. It’s a step onto a new road.
We should consider a shift in our identities from a wholly physical entity (that may or may not have a spiritual essence) to a spiritual essence (a soul) that happens to have a body as a garment. This garment is one that inevitably wears out and will eventually be discarded. Until then, we all do indeed live “where soul meets body.” One way or another, I believe we will eventually all make this shift in consciousness. Making the choice earlier and on our own terms could vastly improve the quality of our inner and outer worlds.
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