“We do not have bodies, rather we are our body” Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Maurice Merleau-Ponty was a French phenomenological philosopher (my, that was a mouthful!), working in the middle of the 20th century. That means, he thought about phenomena and how we directly experience them. What he found was that the mind and the body are not separate, they are not two things that are somehow connected. He said that together they are our primary way of knowing the world. You can’t disentangle a body from its perceptions, and you can’t perceive directly without a body.
This is quite an important thing to be aware of. It means that you perceive things right now, and only right now. If you think about it, you can’t directly access the past, or the future, you can only sense things in this moment, and recall the past or anticipate the future.
This makes our five senses the basis of our primary experience. Our thoughts are the way we react to them, if you like, the sense we make out of what we sense. Given it is our body that hears, sees, feels, tastes and smells, our body significantly impacts how we experience our world.
Our body does more than just perceive things though. Babette Rothschild famously named a book about trauma ‘The Body Remembers’ in recognition of this. The body is not only the mechanism through which we experience things here and now, it also holds our recollections within it. In other words, memory is not just in the mind, it is embodied.
We can experience this truth in our every day living. For example, when you hear a song that takes you back to a memory, your body takes on the physiology of that past moment, you feel the emotion of it – happiness, sadness – whatever it was that you felt then. This is the somatic memory being triggered, and experiencing afresh what was stored from that past moment.
Knowing that you experience the world bodily, and store past memories and future hopes in the fabric of your physical form hopefully gives you a healthy respect for your body. It means that the way we look after ourselves physically is important. Sleep, hydration, nutritious food, exercise…these things all impact both our bodies and our mind. Without a healthy body, a healthy mind is much more challenging to sustain.
If you are suffering mentally, why not give some consideration to how you can look after yourself physically. What does your body need right now? What would help energy flow through you more easily? What would help you feel physically good?
For support is easing mind and body, get in touch.