We pride ourselves in our capacity to think.
When someone makes a bad decision and suffers from it, we admonish them to “use your head!”
We have looked down on people who are sensitive. We consider people who go with the impulse of their feelings too emotional, and illogical. Somehow, we consider them inferior.
We think that the height of achievement and that which will ensure success in our lives is to be rational, to strategize and execute our personal agenda.
Feeling has taken the back seat in our quest to live good and happy lives. We have been condition to be so, as society always praises the rational man (or woman). The more we are able to not give in to our base impulses or feelings the more we expect to be rewarded.
We celebrate the people who go against their body. But when did our body become such an enemy?
We have become so detached from our body, we have forgotten that just as a rational mind has its evolutionary purpose, the very same feelings and emotions we adamantly try to curb are also part of the design that will help us in our survival.
When I was young, I learned that pain had purpose. During a biology class, we were told that pain receptors are activated in the event that we get burned or cut—It will act as a signal to remind us to care for the wound and make us take the necessary measures to heal ourselves.
I had asked our teacher before, why can’t we just care for the wound and not feel the pain? She said that without it we may not notice that we are hurt, and we would end up bleeding out before it’s too late. More than realizing it was a necessary evil, I realized pain was not the enemy after all. This was a revolutionary thought for me; that something we work our whole life to avoid was designed to keep us safe.
As a woman in modern times, your figure will be called into a question as the years go by. From carefree young girls running and playing, suddenly we are glorified for being able to resist donuts and junk food. The drug was not the fitness trend sweeping conversations, but rather the high we get from being able to say, “I wanted it but I didn’t do/get/eat it.”
Diets cultivate a culture of exclusion, not inclusion. Nowadays, food is either no fat, no carb or gluten-free. This system of lock out or exclusion is largely a product of the rational mind.
Did anyone ever stop to think that perhaps if we took a second to listen to our body we know when it is time to stop eating and when we are full? If we listen to our body, it will tell us that we do need water, we need sleep, we need iron, we need vitamin D, we need fruits, and we need vegetables.
What is the point of counting calories? Such an unfair use of rational thought, when we can listen and feel once we are full. We will see this through our skin, our energy level, our urine—all these form the language of the body. Building on this language, allergies and sickness can be considered a temper tantrum or the silent scream of our body. They are the radical manifestations of our body’s desperate need to be heard.
Yet we don’t listen, because we don’t feel. We think.
When we are afflicted, we look to a doctor for a diagnosis and run to the pharmacy with a prescription. We look to gym trainers, and dieticians, or life coaches. I have the utmost respect for these professionals, and in no way do I mean to undermine the great value they provide people—but we are accountable for our own success and to be fair to them, they cannot bear the brunt of our health and happiness. They are there to guide us, as a supplementary helper to a journey that we alone can be responsible for.
All of these things are a result of thinking alone. In fact, thought like this has often led to more unhealthiness. People who are overweight and suffer from eating disorders, as well as people who are obsessed with each gram of fat in every morsel of food are people who have become tremendously disconnected from their bodies. It’s the lack of mindfulness and awareness that drove them to disregard their physical needs and turn to one or another addiction to compensate for their mental and psychological needs.
Our body knows when it’s time to move; time to rest and time to play. Our body knows when it needs a carnal release, and it knows how to fight disease. But we have taken away its purpose and instead burdened the mind with such responsibilities. Our mind tells us a one-hour yoga class and work out session is enough “me time.” And yet our body is craving for an aimless walk within the woods to reconnect. Our mind tells us “I have had 5 hours of sleep; I shouldn’t be tired.” Our body says, “But I am and I need more rest.” Why have we snatched our body, sense, intuition and emotions from their honorable duties?
It is also a detriment to success and hampers our ability to push the limits. When our body is itching to break a physical wall or push more, we dismiss it as nothing more than wishful thinking. I sincerely doubt that people who have broken down barriers in sports and in a creative sense, did so by following a rigid schedule they had made for themselves. Sometimes the spark of brilliance and that extra something that will make us the best doesn’t lie in a program that we have within our thoughts but rather in the small voice pulsating from our inner senses.
There’s a quote from Deepak Chopra I have always held dear: “You are not in your mind; your mind is in you. You are not your body; your body is in you.”
In Chinese philosophy, Lao Tzu promotes Wu-wei. Wu-wei has always been an interesting paradox within his teachings as it is essentially “effortless effort”. The closest thing we can relate it to in modern day thought is “going with the flow.” But it’s a little bit more complex and sophisticated than that. Wu-wei is trying not to try, setting your intention and allowing it to unfold according to the ‘Dao’ or the way of the universe. It is a balance of mastery and non-attachment. With this in mind, the concept of wu-wei is the perfect common ground between rational thought and feeling.
It is a reminder that we must break free from the shackles of our mind and bring down rational thought from being a deified mechanism into what it is, which is a cog in the beautiful machinery that is our conscious being.
Author: Hannah Jo Uy
Editor: Erin Lawson