Have you ever been in a situation where your mind and your body are not in agreement with each other?
Interesting and unpredictable things may occur. That’s what happened to me yesterday.
I was about to board a plane, suitcase in hand, and instead I just turned away and walked back home. But before I did that, I let my mind and body communicate, and I learned—or remembered—three important life lessons thanks to that decision.
First, a little bit of context: I’ve spent the last couple of months travelling around the world, giving workshops, receiving training, visiting places and meeting people. In short, living the adventure of being a nomadic teacher, with all its ups and downs. As interesting as this lifestyle can be, I had a growing desire of stopping and spending a few weeks at home. Unfortunately though, I planned my schedule till October. And spending two weeks in any given place—let alone home— wasn’t going to happen.
So when, about a week ago, I came back to my home base in Barcelona, Spain, I knew it was only going to be a short visit, and I set up to make the most of it. Barcelona is beautiful in the summer. The alleys of Gracia, my neighborhood, the sun in the little streets, the terraces of the bars bustling with people all day long—it all felt so enticing. I didn’t feel like leaving soon! But I said to myself, “C’mon Raffa, you have practiced the art of non-attachment for so long…it should be piece o’ cake now.”
With this resolution in mind, I woke up yesterday, ready to go to the airport and fly to my next destination: Berlin. I did my morning yoga routine, grabbed my bag and walked to the nearest metro station. The streets were calm, with only the suffocated, muffled sounds of a quiet early morning, when the bars and bakeries haven’t opened yet and it feels like the houses themselves are half asleep.
As I was descending the stairs to the subway station, I noticed a contraction in my belly. Soon my whole body started to tighten up. Like a faithful but rather unhappy animal, my body was timidly protesting. “No. I don’t want to go, I want to stay.” My mind snapped back immediately. “Wait a second. What about the people waiting for you in Berlin? What about your brother, who you talked to yesterday, and who is going to pick you up at the airport? You said you would go. Now you have to.”
These two different voices within me put on a quite lively discussion. Both had valid arguments. I listened to their conversation for a while—and then I decided to do an experiment.
Now, please don’t jump to the conclusion that I “just listened to my body.” That’s too simplistic. Yes, standard new-age wisdom tells us to always listen to our body and emotions and silence the mind. But I am a lover of the mind, and I hold it in the highest respect. I didn’t want to end this discussion with a winner. I didn’t want to shut off my body and feelings, but I didn’t want to shut off my mind either.
I wanted my mind and body (and the emotions caught between them) to come to an agreement.
In the meanwhile, I had gotten out of the subway and reached the bus stop. The bus to the airport was waiting just in front of me. I only had about five minutes left, but I asked my own mind to do a quick, objective review of the situation.
“Dear mind—if I don’t go, will anyone be in an emergency or get hurt? Is there anyone who would be in trouble if I don’t take this bus to the airport?”
“Hmmm, no. I mean, your friends in Berlin—especially those that haven’t seen you for a couple of years—are going to be disappointed, that’s for sure.”
“Thanks mind. But disappointment isn’t exactly an emergency. I mean, nothing really terrible is going to happen if I don’t board that plane, right?”
At this point, my mind started to yield. “Okay…you have a point. You know what? Do whatever you want. After all, it’s just an experiment. I won’t make too much fuss about it.”
Wow! I had reached a consensus of sorts between my body, emotions and mind. The decision came naturally: I would not go. I immediately felt lighter and more lively. Now, I only had to deal with the practical consequences. But my being was in harmony again. I walked back home at a brisk, lively pace.
And this is it—nothing earth-shattering, to be sure. And yet, yesterday’s quite ordinary events made me reflect on three important lessons of life.
Lesson 1: Our emotions, our body and our mind aren’t always in agreement. When they are not, the difficult but exciting task is letting them talk to each other, express their own reasons and see if they can find an agreement. Shutting down one of our internal voices creates more disharmony and prevents us from reaching a higher level of integration. That said, it is perfectly normal that some of us are more “mind-driven,” others more “body-driven,” and others still follow their emotions.
Lesson 2: it’s okay to say no. It’s also okay, within certain limits, to change our mind and say no to something we agreed to do. Some evaluation is necessary here. For instance, it’s usually okay to call our friends and tell them that—after all, we’re not going to that birthday party, even if we “promised” we would go. On the other hand, it is not so great to decide we won’t go to the hospital to assist a friend in need, if we said we would. It’s all a matter of both feeling our emotions and rationally evaluating the situation. We need both our minds and our hearts to be able to both feel and evaluate. When the mind and the emotions talk to each other, finding a solution isn’t all that difficult.
Lesson 3: Whatever choice we make, there are consequences. Others are going to be affected by our actions, and we should be responsible and accountable for that, while still following our truth. (In my case, having made my choice to stay, I decided to make extra time for the people that were waiting for me in Berlin and that wouldn’t see me after all.) Taking care of those consequences and leaving everything as “neat and in order” as we can is important. Just as important and complementary, as needing to be ourselves, listening to our intuition, and unapologetically doing what we are meant to do.
To conclude—how marvelous is life? How amazing it is that it can teach us important lessons in each and every moment, even the most ordinary? Each daily situation can bring us in contact with deep questions of autonomy, freedom and responsibility.
If we are open to evolution and growth, opportunities for it arise at every corner and at every bus stop.
Author: Raffaello Manacorda
Editors: Catherine Monkman; Yoli Ramazzina