Guide Exercise and the Mind: The Possibilities for Mind-Body-Spirit Unity

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Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Paul J. Kiell, M.D., is the author of "American Miler," the biography of Glenn Cunningham. He is an active masters swimmer.
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Perhaps believing in a mind-body split means your sense of self is less connected to the physical body—and so the motivation to care for the body is less central to your goals or identity. As someone who cares about public health, I wonder what the applications of this finding might be. In The Willpower Instinct Avery , I wrote about one intervention that takes this last approach — making self-care an expression of religious fatih:. The intervention asks people to consider how self-care and health are important values in their religion.

They are asked to reflect on the behaviors in their own lives—such as eating junk food or not exercising—that are inconsistent with their professed faith and values. When they identify a disconnect between their faith and their actions, they are encouraged to create an action plan for changing that behavior. Believing that losing weight and exercising is what good Christians do is far more motivating than getting a stern warning from a doctor after a high cholesterol test.

I would love to hear what you think, whatever your philosophy of the mind-body relationship. Does your understanding of the mind-body relationship influence your everyday health choices? How do you think about your relationship to your body? Does it feel like you, or something you take of? The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak: The effects of mind-body dualism on health behavior. The disconnected values intervention model for promoting healthy habits in religious institutions.

Journal of Religion and Health, 49, Kelly McGonigal is a psychologist at Stanford University. Her latest book is The Willpower Instinct: Follow Kelly on Twitter: Just how the mind sends signals to the body to control it, the body sends signals to the mind to control it and its auto-pilot thoughts. I have found in my work that the separation of the two results in more unhappiness. In my opinion the mind and body are wired work together but at some point we learn to disconnect the two for various reasons. We learn to ignore the body and become so focused on the mind that we do not even know what the "gut" feelings you reference feel like.

I spend many of my first sessions with my clients simply teaching them how to tap back into listening to their bodies. Although it's only anecdotal, my own experience confirms this. Once I dropped my "spiritual" beliefs, I started taking much better care of myself physically - started taking medications as prescribed, exercising, cutting down on garbage food and smoking.

I've never felt better in my life. It actually started with a realization of just how much damage I was doing to my brain, and it extended out from there. When we think of our "selves" as separate from our bodies, there isn't much reason to treat them well, no matter how much we are told to by our chosen authority. And I believe this shift in understanding has had enormous benefits for my health.

In my opinion, the mind and body are connected. For example, when we touch our toes we feel it in our toes and fingers, not our brain. The brain sends the signals, etc, but the body is an extension of the brain which is part of our body. It's all tied together.

Granted, this doesn't explain why I'm "me" and you're "you" and all that other stuff, but it helps us to understand that the brain and the rest of the body communicate back and forth. Another example I have is that a lot of our fears are based off of our physique. The stronger you are, the more confidence you have. For example if you're a basketball player and you're worried about getting pushed around in the paint for those that don't know much about basketball, that's near the basket , that fear will lessen if you hit the gym and bulk up a little bit.

So, you're mind is reacting to your body. Mind is rooted in body.

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Anyone that thinks mind is not should ask the question where was mind before conception, and where does it go after death. Placing the mind separate from body is abnegation of intellect. Consciousness is a suitcase term that has many biological factors. Those that understand that are more realistic and tend to use evidence to find the truth.

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Because live closer to the truth, they will also be more cognizant of a healthier lifestyle. Don't mean to sound stupid, but isn't it common sense that the mind is a product of the body? Where else would it be? That's why you feel anxious when you have an overactive thyroid and depression when you have an underactive thyroid or glandular fever.

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And that's why you feel physically ill in so many ways when you feel anxious or depressed. Is there really an alternative belief? Could someone explain the opposite point of view to me - that the mind and body are separate? It is an interesting commentary on the present discussion that such a question is possible. Most humans alive today, and most scholars in most societies for most of history hold or held the opposite view: And of course, to someone born and raised in one view, it sounds like "common sense".

The view is that there are two kinds of stuff: Most accounts have it that there is some kind of communication between the two kinds of stuff, between the soul and body. So when your thyroid is sick, it affects your soul. And when your soul psyche in Greek is sick, it affects your body.

As far as I can tell, this is a philosophical discussion with one side asserting that there is only one kind of stuff matter and the other side asserting that there are two kinds. There is no material evidence that conclusively proves one view or the other. Don't you ask yourself why we are dreaming? I've been dreaming weird dreams so many times. I've been to and seen places and people that are unknown to me.

Isn't interesting that how our mind is creating new faces and new places? I am not saying that I don't agree what have been said from the author of this post but the same time I do ask my self the these questions. Could someone explain this? For those of you who do not understand Dr. McGonigal's entry--good for you. You're more advanced than I am.

Soul-Body Dualism? Or Soul-Body Unity? | Thomistic Bent

I understand it all too well. I have led an unexamined life. My existence was all about meeting whatever hedonistic pleasure my mind wanted at that moment. There was no thought about my body. My body told me many things, but I never paid it any attention until there were serious medical issues. I now strive for a mindfulness so as to be aware of all of me, but I am very new to that journey. McGonigal's work has intrigued me, and I thank her for articulating that which I couldn't.

To speak in terms of mind and body is Newtonian physics rooted in that historical period. It is the common sense, every day view of reality, including cause and effect. All scientific knowledge is paradigm dependent. From quantum theory and eastern philosophies, as well as some early Greeks, however, we know that before anything is, there are a myriad possibilities wave which become collapsed into one 'thing' particle when an 'observer' looks?

The observer himself is either entirely an observation by some Other or a verb beyond the banal experience of mind and body. That's why having been a psychologist it was never enough for me; I always knew that the Way was beyond psychology, which was also why I was attracted to Zen Buddhism, Jungian psychology and why my focus was Gestalt therapy an existential approach. Even among Buddhists, who will agree that the self is an illusion, there is a concept of consciousness that exists after death. The natural conclusion is that even if the "mind" as we know it is an illusion, and that it is the product of physical processes in the body, there is something else, consciousness, that pervades both body and mind.

So the questions remains, if the dualists have an incomplete explanation, and the physicalists have an incomplete explanation, what else is there? Calling on quantum mechanics was an important point If light is neither a particle or a wave, but is actually both, depending upon how you look at it, and an electron has the same properties, what does that mean?

That means that it is something greater than the both of them that we aren't capable of knowing. Quantum mechanics also dictates that we will never be able to know more about this puzzle, that it will remain unknowable. Descartes observed his mind, acknowledging that he was a thinking being, and, as we know, later came up with the premise of the "ghost in the machine". As a machinist by nature, but devoutly religious, he was unable to reconcile the existence of the mind within the mechanical structure of the body.

So we can also observe that hormones, and a great deal of our emotions are the result of processes within the body, getting rid of the concept of the mind. That satisfies it, right? Is it a particle or a wave? How can it be both? A Buddhist monk can meditate until he stills his mind, and upon no longer observing a mind, determine that he is not a thinking being, per se. But even despite this, he acknowledges that there is a consciousness within the body that he recognizes as his own. It is different than a "soul" as Western religions determine it, but it carries with it the karma, the emotional memories that were formed within the body over the course of a life.

We have a simpler version of that, with the sub-conscious and the conscious. Depending on the culture, it can me a much more complex model. Calling upon quantum mechanics is also not a bad allusion If our memories are simple electrical pulses stored in our brains, or the result of hormones released in our bodies, which is also the result of electrical activity in our body, why would that information not persist after the specific circumstances of the body dies?

Even as electrons are separated from their original atom, do they not remain connected? If not being spiritual helps you treat your body well, I'm all for it, but my suggestion is that any spirituality that encourages you to neglect your body is not a very good one. I have always felt my mind and body were deeply connected and interrelate. What bothers the mind can manifest itself in physical problems, such as stress and ulcers. When the body is ill, it can result in depression or other issues of the mind.

I also think hormones and emotions are part of your overall mental and physical health. The mind is in the body Also don't forget the guy who discovered the Neuron Sherrington , the guy who discovered the Synapse Eccles and the guy who defined Science in the 20th Century Popper. To be fair, Dualism is certainly out of fashion the last century or so. To quibble a little bit, I looked up the original article and their description of dualism was hardly flattering.

One could tell it was not penned by a dualist at least not an eloquent one. I'd be interested to see how the results carry over to the US, and to see how the effects are correlational. I'd guess that there are several factors that would affect health attitudes that correlate with dualism e. The other thing that I'd be interested in finding out is the effects of Dualism on "spiritual" things.

Are dualists spending all the time and willpower they saved on helping the poor and meditating? Are they nurturing their souls through art and prayer? And the interesting thing is that, though clearly this was easy to do, the New Testament never does it. Wisdom stands out conspicuously. Other variations occur, too.

Within the NT, the remarkable passage in Acts The same is true in the gospels. What shall it profit, asks Jesus, for you to gain the whole world and forfeit your psyche? What will you give to get that psyche back? Clearly this implies that the psyche is something that can be gained or lost; but what does the sentence mean? More particularly, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount challenges his hearers not to worry about their psyche , what they shall eat or drink, or about their soma , what they shall wear.

This distinction is clear, and has nothing whatever to do with Platonic or quasi-Platonic dualism. The body is the outward thing that needs clothing; the psyche is the ongoing life which needs food and drink Matthew 6. What about the famous Matthew The point Jesus is making is, I think, a redefinition of the Messianic battle: And I note that in the Lukan version of the saying, Luke I will show you who to fear: To return to him, and to 1 Corinthians in particular: For the pneumatikos person, however, there is the striking promise: The psychikos person is in fact more or less the same as the sarkinos person of 3.

This then is carried over into the discussion of the resurrection body in chapter For Paul, the psyche is the breath of life, the vital spark, the thing that animates the body in the present life. The pneuma is the thing that animates the resurrection body. This is where the link is made: To speak, as many Christians have done, of the body dying, and the soul going marching on, is not only a travesty of what Paul says. It has encouraged many to suppose that the victory over death is the escape of the soul from the dead body.

That is a dangerous lie. It is resurrection that is the defeat of death. It is simply a description, however inadequate, of death itself. Let us not collude with the enemy. Nor does the picture change when we move from 1 Corinthians to 2 Corinthians. In the famous passage 4. As I have often pointed out, here and in for instance 1 Peter 1.

Throughout the whole New Testament, actually, the questions that have so preoccupied philosophers seeking to hold out for some non-reductive, non-materialistic account of human nature are simply not discussed. Where the earliest Christian authors come close to such discussion, they never use the word psyche in the way which has become common from at least the third century. It is unwise to claim biblical authority for a view which is nowhere discussed, let alone promoted, in the Bible.

If there is some version of non-reductive anthropology which is taught in the Bible, we had better try to discern what it is, rather than assume it will conform to what much later tradition such as the Cartesian philosophical tradition has said or thought. One fourth and final question or challenge to the popular dualistic paradigm. To begin with, however much we may deny it, an anthropological dualism tends to devalue or downgrade the body.

We see this in ethics. Yes, much discussion of things like embryo research, not least in Roman Catholic circles, has concentrated on the question of whether the embryo possesses a soul. But I regard this as the wrong tactic. The important thing is that it is already a body , a human body, and as such possesses dignity and worth. To imply that dignity and worth will only come about if we can postulate a soul is a dangerous hostage to fortune, and falls back into that soul-of-the-gaps problem I mentioned earlier.

The resurrection will give new life to the body, so that what you do with it in the present matters. It is Gnosticism, not Christianity, that focuses attention on the soul; and it is precisely the post-enlightenment Gnosticism of much western culture which has produced the moral morass we see all around us, where the cultivation of the soul allows, and often encourages or even insists upon, a relentless bodily hedonism. But the implicit devaluation of the body and over-evaluation of the mind has been a major problem in the western world for many generations and I would hate to think of this being simply pushed further.

Indeed, it might encourage that rationalism which still persists in much western thought, including some Christian thought, splitting off absolute from relative, objective from subjective, reason from emotion, and indeed reason from sense. All of this fits only too closely with other dichotomies such as sacred and secular and even grace and nature.

And all these split-level worlds, the cosmologies they postulate and the epistemologies they encourage, are in my view leading us away from a truly biblical perspective. By contrast, I wish to propose a differentiated unity in terms of cosmos and of the human person, both rooted in a fully-blown biblical understanding of God and of humans in his image. Such an ontology is the root for what I have elsewhere called an epistemology of love, which transcends these epistemological dichotomies and reaches out for a truth which comes to fullest biblical expression, I think, in the gospel of John.

This brings us to the second, and shorter, main part of my paper. I now wish to propose a kind of thought-experiment, in line with the experiment I offered in After You Believe. Now, in line with this, I want to suggest that the way to discern and articulate a genuinely biblical anthropology is not to start where we are and try to tease out a soul-of-the-gaps, but to start at the promised end and work backwards.


We begin with the obvious telos. Paul, the author of Revelation, and other early Christian writers point to the final goal of an immortal physicality, an emphatically bodily body if I can put it like that beyond the reach of sin, pain, corruption or death. The body of the Christian is already a Temple of the Holy Spirit, and as God had promised in Jeremiah, Ezekiel and elsewhere that the Temple would be rebuilt after its destruction, so Paul envisages the rebuilding of the body-Temple after its bodily death Romans 8. What we see in Paul, I propose, is the anthropological equivalent of what he says about the cosmos itself.

This is realized in advance in Ephesians 2. This is then worked out in Ephesians 5 in the differentiated unity of male and female in monogamous marriage. What I propose is that just as in all these ways there is a present reality which anticipates and points towards the eschatological unity of all things, so within the human being itself we find something similar.

And, let me stress, this is not primarily a matter of analysis but of vocation. I have spelled all this out in much more detail in After You Believe. The whole paragraph, Ephesians 3. Paul repeats the substance, omitting the simile, but anchoring the reality in Jesus himself: There is a question still on the table about just how much the kardia in Paul is a metaphor and how much it is, in passages like this, intended as the concrete reality.

John Wesley was not the only one to experience, and to speak of, a strange but actual warming of the heart. This enables us to read passages such as Ephesians 4. Left to itself, humanity fractures, fragments and disintegrates. The Gentiles walk in the foolishness of their mind, darkened in their understanding, separated by ignorance from the life of God through the hardness of their hearts, giving themselves over to all kinds of dehumanizing bodily practices. There is, I suppose, some sort of integration there. Mind, understanding, heart and action are all, in a sense, synchronized, even though they are all looking in, and going in, the wrong direction.

But it is an integration of death. In verses 20 to 24 we find the elements of the human person put back together again properly, and this time reflecting God into the world. Truth, we note, is here contrasted with the deceit of the old human. Spirit and mind, we note: The kata theon of verse 24 is cognate with the more explicit Colossians 3. Paul refuses to propose an anthropology on its own, self-analyzing, looking at itself in a mirror. He will only propose the genuine article, the humanity which, worshipping the creator, reflects his image into the world.

The same point is visible in many passages, but perhaps most strikingly in Romans And then, as in Colossians 3. I suggest that his anthropology takes precisely the same form: We note that in Romans The psyche is not a bad thing; but its goodness does not consist in its being either the locus of present spirituality or the bridge into future heavenly life. How then — supposing Paul asked himself the question — does he envisage the causative role played by the renewed mind in calling the body to its new role of sacrificial service?

This is one of the points where Bultmann got Paul at least partly right. What then can we say about Paul within his own contexts? He uses language familiar from the debates of the time, but as I have hinted his primary conversation partner is likely to have been some sort of Stoicism. Stoicism was, of course, a pantheistic worldview, which offered a radically different outlook from any sort of Platonism — and indeed from Epicureanism, whether ancient or modern.

Paul is, obviously, no pantheist, but he is no Epicurean either: And, again as a good Jew, he believes that one discerns and discovers in practice what it means to be human not by introspection but by obedience. His language there is, in any case, wholistic: It seems to me, then, taken all together, that when Paul thinks of human beings he sees every angle of vision as contributing to the whole, and the whole from every angle of vision.

All lead to the one, the one is seen in the all. And, most importantly, each and every aspect of the human being is addressed by God, is claimed by God, is loved by God, and can respond to God. It is not the case that God, as it were, sneaks in to the human being through one aspect in order to influence or direct the rest. Every step in that direction is a step towards the downgrading of the body of which I have already spoken. And that downgrading has demonstrably gone hand in hand, in various Christian movements, with either a careless disregard for the created order or a careless disregard for bodily morality.

But, after all, faced with this richly diverse and yet richly integrated vision of being human, why would one want to argue for something so thin and flat as dualism? Of course we must resist something even thinner and flatter, namely the monochrome reductionism of materialists and the like. A rich meal is set before us, and every course and every wine contributes to the complete whole.

So, to conclude, some remarks on a possible biblical contribution to the mind-body problem as it has appeared in philosophy over the last few hundred years. Here, as often, I have the distinct impression that philosophical problems are the two-dimensional versions of what in theology are three-dimensional questions, and that once we grasp the three-dimensional version we see how to hold on to the apparent antinomies of the two-dimensional version.

My basic proposal, as is already apparent, is that we need to think in terms of a differentiated unity. Each denotes the entire human being, while connoting some angle of vision on who that human is and what he or she is called to be. Thus, for instance, sarx , flesh, refers to the entire human being but connotes corruptibility, failure, rebellion, and then sin and death.

Psyche denotes the entire human being, and connotes that human as possessed or ordinary mortal life, with breath and blood sustained by food and drink.