There are 37.2 trillion cells in a human body[i] and 86 billion neurons in the nervous system. There are more neurons in the human brain than there are stars. It is estimated that there are 100 trillion synapses in the brain.
There are 35 billion epithelial cells in our skin, these cells are in contact with the world outside us. To the atoms in these cells there is no separation between what is inside and what is outside. At a cellular level there is no separation between us and what is outside of us. All of our 37 trillion cells are connected to the rest of the universe and are part of the great cosmic web. As we take a breath in and breathe out we pulse the universe. With each beat of the heart we create waves in the universe. George Leonard writes, in his book The Silent Pulse[ii] “at the heart of each of’ us, whatever our imperfections, there exists a silent pulse of perfect rhythm, made up of wave forms and resonances, which is absolutely individual and unique, and yet which connects us to everything thing in the universe. The act of getting in touch with this pulse can transform our personal experience and, in some way, alter the world around us.”
There is a “sacred rhythm” in our bodies, this rhythm is unique to each of us and part of the symphony of the universe. The ancient Chinese practices of Tai Chi and Indian Yoga are designed to bring one’s body and mind in harmony with this silent rhythm, and it with the rhythm of the universe.
Sri Aurobindo, an Indian mystic, wrote extensively on integral yoga[iii]– a union of mind, body and soul. Michael Murphy[iv], the founder of the renowned Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and George Leonard codified the teachings of Sri Aurobindo into a practice called Integral Transformative Practice (ITP). I decided to explore this practice and became a member of ITP in 2010. Through this practice, I discovered that the body has a wisdom of its own, separate from the mind. It is only when the mind and the body are in alignment that we experience peak performance and are at our best.
In his autobiography, Second Wind: The Memoirs of an Opinionated Man, Bill Russell evokes the “mystical feeling” that on occasion would lift the action on the hardwood to the level of magic:
“At that special level all sorts of odd things happened…. It was almost as if we were playing in slow motion. During those spells I could almost sense how the next play would develop and where the next shot would be taken. Even before the other team brought the ball in bounds, I could feel it so keenly that I’d want to shout to my teammates, “It’s coming there!” – except that I knew everything would change if I did. My premonitions would be consistently correct, and I always felt then that I not only knew all the Celtics by heart but also all the opposing players, and that they all knew me.” [v]
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied athletes, musicians, artists and people from all walks of life for his book, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”[vi], and he found that the state of flow occurs when the mind and body are in complete harmony. In this state time seems to stop and movement seems effortless, and the subjects report their experience as being mystical.
My body is not just a vessel or a container, it is an active participant along with my mind in creating the experience I call my life. The 35 epithelial cells that constitute my skin are sensors that gather information from the outside and transmit it to my brain, which processes it to create my reality. Conversely my cells tune-in to my mental states and convert them into bodily sensations. These sensations carry information about my mental state. This is what is meant by body language. Our bodies telegraph our mental state. When we smile the world smiles at us.
The epithelial cells are two-way sensors that link to and communicate with the worlds inside and outside us. Our body is both a transmitter and a receiver, it broadcasts our mental states to the world outside and it receives signals from the outside which it transmits to our brains. We are constantly receiving and sending signals through our bodies. We are in non-verbal communication with our mind and the world outside through our body.
Our bodily sensations are unfiltered messages from our unconscious giving us an accurate read of our mental state. For example, when we are happy our body feels light and airy, when we are sad it feels heavy and burdened. We feel our emotions in our body. We often hold our emotions for long periods of time, hence the expression “bottle up our feelings”. Our feelings want release, when we hold them back, the tension builds up in our body and either becomes a scar tissue in our psyche or releases itself as an outburst at some importune moment.
I have learnt from my dog to release my emotions as they occur, I shake them off. Have you noticed how dogs shake off their emotions and carry on as if nothing happened?
I have learnt to listen to my body and tune-in to my bodily sensations. I have discovered that “quieting” my body is as important as quieting my mind for achieving flow state.
This I believe:
- My bodily sensations are unfiltered messages from my unconscious. There is wisdom in my body beyond that which is in my mind.