Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body?

Morrisey of the Smiths once asked the question “Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body?” and Morrisey is not the only person to have pondered such a question – the 17th century french philosopher Descartes had asked similar questions. He is famous for his dictum ‘I think therefore I am’ – the idea that thinking proceeds experience. In Western thought we generally view the body and the mind as separate entities. This results in a splitting and dualistic view of the mind and body. Eastern thought tends not to split the mind and body, which may be due to the practice of meditation having been an important part of oriental culture for thousands of years.

When, in our practice of yoga and meditation, we bring our full awareness to our embodied experience we notice a complexity of thoughts, feeling, emotions and sensations – all coming into our awareness and then passing away. The Buddhist view of mind holds a perspective that includes our feelings, bodily sensations and emotions. As a yoga practitioner I have found it more helpful to view my mind as something that exists within my body rather than something that sits aloft at the top of my head, reducing me to experiencing the world within largely conceptual models (which often leaves me feeling more isolated and disconnected from myself and other people). By reclaiming our relationship to our bodies we experience a sense of arriving home again – what it means to be alive and human on this planet.

“So deep is our modern disembodiment, then, that many of us have no trust in the body whatsoever and content ourselves with disregarding it on every occasion and at every possible level. In all of this, not surprisingly, there is rarely a sense that the body, on its own and from its own side, might have something to offer us; that the body might, in some sense, be more intelligent than our conscious self or ego, or that the body might have its own designs from which–if understood–we might stand to benefit a very great deal.”

Reggie Ray Buddhist teacher