The chapter that I have just finished working on is about the importance of balance between the body, mind, heart and spirit. In my experience there are few things more frighteningly dull than a person who has focused on one aspect of him/herself and and developed it to the exclusion of all else. There is something wrong with a person like that, we can feel it straight away. Although most of us are not in this category, many of us have areas where we favour, where our natural strengths lie – and other areas where we find things a tad more challenging, which might be a little neglected.
In my own life, I am naturally a person who gravitates toward the mind and the spirit. I love education, learning and intellectual pursuits, and have always been fascinated with spirituality and all things esoteric. For example, I decided at the age of 8 that this would be my last life here, thank you very much, and that in order to make that happen I was just going to have to reach enlightenment before I die. No problemo. I have always been a good student with an analytical and questioning mind. I preferred reading to a party any day (in fact, I still do). It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that I realised that I was neglecting my body and heart in favour of my spirit and mind, and that something needed to be done. As I have grown up, there have been certain keys which have unlocked doors that were inaccessible to me. Yoga was the first key – it connected me with my body while satisfying my need for spirit. Motherhood, deep friendships and a long term relationship spanning decades were (and are) very important for opening my heart, as is working with children. Here, I can combine my love of education with the heart enrichment that young children bring. It may be that the best way to convert a weakness into a strength is to combine the two.
We have been taught in our culture that our mind is uppermost – thus, Descarte’s philosophy: I think, therefore I am, and a mechanistic approach to things that are not machines, like nature, our bodies, our emotions and relationships. We tell ourselves that our mind is what separates us from the animals and it is our intelligence which makes us special, which may even be true. However, there are some problems with a mind-centred philosophy. A mind that is un-anchored in the body, disconnected from the heart and severed from spirit is a frightening thing. We call people like that psychopaths. There is more to life than reason or rationale, and not everything can be detected with the five senses or understood with the information that we have. The mind does not comprehend mystery, which is a limitation, especially on the spiritual path.
The same pathology can be seen in any kind of extreme imbalance. Think about a person whose heart is disconnected to their mind – they have a frightening lack of discernment, and will often find themselves in dangerous relationships or situations, repeating the same mistake over and over again. Or what about someone who is completely body-focused? They are vain, shallow and dull, constantly on diets, strict health regimes and obsessed with youth and how they look. And then there are the people who are consumed with the spiritual life. They are un-grounded, disconnected to their earthly experience and unable to participate in life.
In the way of the Practical Mystic, we bring all the parts of ourselves together, honouring each part and loving what each of them brings to us. No one part is more important than any other, although there are situations where one will be more useful than another. Each of us will have an area that we are naturally strong in, which is perfectly natural. It is good to be aware of your strengths, just as it is good to be aware of the areas that need more attention.
Which aspect of yourself is the strongest, and which tends to be a little neglected?