Each of the past two summers, I worked at my high school. As the self-titled “Campus Beautification Assistant,” I mowed, cleared brush, painted, installed flooring and did various other jobs. Working with my hands was a healthy break from the classroom, and it challenged me to think about embodiment.
Secular philosophy has a long history of separating mind and body, declaring mind to be good and body to be evil. The mind-body split is a part of our philosophical heritage, and it often impacts the way that we think about ourselves (i.e. the “I am not my body” movement and other, less obvious manifestations).
Christian orthodoxy, however, joins Genesis 1 in affirming that God’s created world is very good. Modern psychology, too, has joined in with a growing body of research that shows psychosomatic connections.
This affirmation drastically impacts how we view ourselves. We are not souls trapped inside flesh. Rather, we are an embodied people. Our bodies are good and are a part of who we are.
This is especially relevant to a college campus; so much of the work that we do is “head work.” We sit at desks in class and then sit again to read and write for our assignments and tests. Our job is relatively devoid of physical activity.
(I should acknowledge that many teachers seek to integrate activity into their pedagogy. I commend them, but it is simply the nature of learning that most of it happens within the mind.)
We are here at school to learn, to train our minds to know certain things and to think in certain ways. And that is good! Both mind and body are very good and need attention and development! But, as students, we are at risk of neglecting our bodies.
A first step toward feeling the unity of mind and body is simply being in your body. Take a minute to stop, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Feel what is going on in your body. Take note of areas of tightness or heaviness. We are often so disconnected that we do not notice things going on within ourselves.
The Counseling Center offers many better ways of reconnecting your body and mind; I hope this is just a starting place.
The next step is to work your body. In my summers working with my hands, I learned so much about my body—both my abilities, limits, pleasures and pains. At school, I like to go on long runs. This gives me an extended period to simply ‘feel’ my body. I may feel heaviness in my legs, or I may feel the elation of pushing myself beyond a barrier I thought I could not cross. For others, creating may be a good practice of embodiment. Taking something physical and making it into something else. Whatever it is, take a break from working your mind and work your body.
As you are intentional about being a unified whole, I hope that it becomes natural to rejoice in your embodiment and celebrate your body as well as the bodies of others.
Take a moment to ask yourself, “Do I think my body is good? Do I feel unified?” And once you answer those questions, begin asking “What is my body created to do? What does my body rejoice in doing?”
To explore the thoughts and questions of this article further, tune in to Croc Thoughts on WTUR, Tuesdays at 7 p.m.