The Path toward Serving the Body

MindfulBiology’s Reconciliations are listed as sequential reversals in the way we treat our bodies.

Early in the path, we concentrate on treating old wounds: we replace criticism with appreciation, punishment with nourishment, and commanding with listening. We cease treating the body like an unreliable device and appreciate it as a sensitive being. Before long we recognize the body’s profound intelligence and begin to place ourselves in its hands. We stop resisting and start serving, we stop fearing and start trusting, and we stop escaping and start nesting. We strive toward an ideal: a mind that depends on the body for intuition and support while guiding the body through the complexities of modern life.

The body did not evolve in technological landscapes; it lacks instincts for roadways and computer systems. But if we want to choose a mate or find a calling, the body—with its ancient wisdom—knows best. As we transition from healing our wounded mind-body relationship to building a trusting bond, we can unburden the mind of tasks it performs poorly. The intuitive body can make the big decisions about people to love and values to pursue, while the rational mind can manage the designing, scheduling, and strategizing.

What’s more, the body is the mind’s base of operations. Like a child who explores the world with confidence when she feels secure in her mother’s love, the mind can negotiate adulthood with ease and purpose when it trusts its body’s support. When we recognize our secure base in the body, we feel less desperate in our relationships and less ravenous in our desires. We discover that an improved mind-body relationship corrects deficiencies in our attachment style.

Improving our friendship with our bodies can be understood as a sequence. It begins with a close look at how we’ve learned to treat our bodies like possessions, like complex biological robots. MindfulBiology, of course, considers the body a companion to the mind, not a utensil of it. As we move from seeing the body as a utensil to knowing it as a friend, the transition from Stop Commanding & Start Listening to Stop Resisting & Start Serving marks a an important shift. It’s halfway through the sequence of pairs, and it’s where we move from a focus on repairing wounds to one on building trust.

We begin by commanding a lot and listening very little. We may pay some attention to bodily sensations, but only in the way we glance at gauges on an instrument panel: they tell us when to refill or seek maintenance and repair. So the progression is to first notice how we are commanding the body and then begin listening to it on an ongoing basis (not just when the signals grow insistent). As we listen, we learn; we discover that the body’s needs often differ from the mind’s. If we value the body and its health, we take steps to accommodate. We stop resisting its signals. What’s more, as the relationship improves, we realize the body is our best guide to happiness. Immune to cultural messages, the body knows what truly matters to us as individuals. It ignores superficial societal values and helps us uncover our deeper nature. As the body’s wisdom becomes obvious, our relationship with it inverts: where once we bossed the body around, we now follow its lead. The mind begins serving the body.