Bodyfulness: Mindfulness definition as embodied experience
Sometimes, mindfulness is defined as ‘mind’ observing ‘body’. It is good to remember that this is just a way of speaking. There is no such thing as a disembodied ‘mind’. We are a ‘whole person’ process, whether we are aware of that or not. Mindfulness refers to our embodied experience of this ‘whole person’ process.
The words ‘body’, ‘mind’ and ‘spirit’ come to us from a long tradition of seeing a fundamential discontinuity: According to it, thoughts, feelings and spirit are intangible, whereas the body is tangible. But the ‘body’ is not just a bunch of bones, muscles, organs. There is an enormous difference between a living body and a corpse. The living body is in constant process. Think about the visual of a hospital room with monitors showing all kinds of curves constantly flowing. When there’s a flat line, the person is dead.
The living body is constantly interacting with its environment, through processes that range from the most basic (the ones we share with the most basic life forms) to the most sophisiticated (our ability to assess situations, to learn from experience, etc..).
So, the living body is not just ‘soma’, as something separate from the ‘psyche’, the mind. It is a ‘mindful body’. Our true sense of self is rooted, not in ideas or thoughts, but in a ‘feeling of what happens’ that is experienced at a bodily level. Mindfulness / bodyfulness refers to our ability to experience the ‘felt sense’ of what happens.
Conversely, what we call mind would better be described as a process rather than a thing. Daniel Siegel, MD, author of The Developing Mind and The Mindful Brain, defines the mind as “an embodied and relational regulatory process.” See: conversation with Daniel Siegel
In other words: ‘body’ and ‘mind’ are not different entities, but aspects of the ‘whole person’ process. Even phrases such as ‘mindful body’ or ’embodied mind’ are a legacy from the old dichotomy between ‘mind’ and ‘body’. Much of the content of this site has to do with various ways of working with the ‘whole person’ process in psychotherapy.
See also: Functional definitions of mindfulness.
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