Most of us in the Western World were raised with the view that the mind is our most important feature. In fact, the rational intellect has been prioritized in western civilization from as early as the 13th Century and was codified in the 17th century in Descartes’ Cogito ergo sum – I think therefore I am. This paved the way for The Enlightenment, otherwise known as The Age of Reason. It is only recently that this primacy of rationality has come up for re-examination, and for some, it has been found wanting.
Robert Bosnak is an Alchemical Psychotherapist, and founding director of The Santa Barbara Healing Sanctuary. He trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich and did his training analysis with James Hillman and Aniela Jaffe (who collaborated with C.G Jung on his book Memories, Dreams, Reflections). It is his experience that embodied intelligence (which he names MQ) is on par with rational intelligence (IQ) when it comes to offering profound information and initiating embodied shifts of consciousness. It is also part of his life story that his body has known things that he wasn’t rationally aware of at the time. Once he was able to decode the images his body was offering, the direction of his life took on an entirely new trajectory, one that is far more aligned with who he really is. Based on his experience, he has launched a revolutionary new online course, entitled Going Out of Your Mind. I chatted with him to find out why he believes that moving out of our minds and into our embodied intelligence holds the key to becoming more resilient and adaptable to our inner lives, and more effective in the outer world.
‘Because we have been schooled in it since we were in kindergarten, our rational mind is linked to our habitual consciousness,’ he explains. ‘Routines we follow with our minds as a matter of course. Since our minds are linked to our self image – who we think we are – it often leads us towards stale repetitive ruts rather than insight. What we are looking for, is to decenter from the ego-centered self so that other non-ego perspectives can offer different lenses.’
I’m intrigued. This sounds like a far more interesting way to engage with life. But the concepts are complex. Fortunately I’m in the hands of a consummate teacher.
I ask for an example. As a committed phenomenologist, he reaches in to his immediate situation. The phenomenon he experiences at this moment is pressure in the small of his back, going down to his coccyx, he says. At first it’s simply a somatic experience (relating to the body). But when he probes, and asks if there is anything else going on here, he starts to notice that he is afraid. It has something to do with anxiety about the upcoming course, and the complexity of the subject matter he’s trying to tackle. It feels like something coiled, something rolled up in there, maybe a serpent. He notes with some amusement that at the mention of the word ‘serpent’ his mind – with ego hot on its heels – immediately grasps at the possibility of Kundalini. He knows he would love to say he is experiencing the first stages of Kundalini rising, with all the self-congratulations that would bring. But it is not actually a curled up serpent at all. It is something else. He observes a little longer. It’s more like an embryonic rolled-up entity, a foetus curled up, he says. Like something that is new and open to possibilities, a state of relative openness, rather than control.
‘Is control a bad thing?’ I want to know.
‘It’s not a bad thing,’ he replies. ‘But wanting to be in control is not a very good way of approaching the unknown. If I can get into the perspective of this foetus, this infant, this untrained point of view becomes a far more useful perspective with which to explore the unknown: more open to new possibilities than the habitual mind that prefers control and to maintain old habits at all costs.
I can get there through my body, he points out. I cannot get there through my rational mind. My mind would get me back into control.’
I’m starting to understand, but I need to know more.
‘How do you differentiate,’ I ask, ‘between something that is in your body – like an ongoing chronic health condition – and information that can help you on a soul level?’
‘You have to learn to tell the difference between a strong somatic experience that you may experience daily, and an embodied one. Somatic experiences have not necessarily an inherent image to them. The notion of embodiment means you can experience both the somatic and the image at the same time. Embodiment is the way image takes on body – as in She is the embodiment of beauty. Embodiment has intelligence to it. I define the somatic as strictly the subjective experience of the physical.’
‘What about emotions? Where do they come from, our minds or our bodies? Do we ignore them and stop being so emotional, or do we listen to them?’
‘Emotions are fully embodied states,’ he explains. ‘Emotions get the whole body involved. Like fear for example. You get muscle contractions, shortness of breath. That’s because you’re exposed to danger. Often fear is a very intelligent emotion, because there is danger out there and you need the adrenalin to respond.’
‘What about those times when you feel two emotions at the same time?’ I think of those times up on campus when I’m teaching a new class.
‘You can definitely feel emotions such as happiness and fear at the same time, he replies. Yes, these are very different emotions. And usually you feel them sequentially. But if you can feel them both at the same time, you have a great deal more information. You do this by feeling them in your body in different locations simultaneously: like the fear may arise in the belly and the happiness in the heart.’
‘Do you hold them both within the framework of the body?’
‘Absolutely. For instance, right now, I have fear in my coccyx and happiness in my heart. Happiness because I enjoy talking with you. To be able to hold both of them means I can stay in communication with you, in spite of being afraid of the subject matter. The advantage of holding both states at the same time is that I can be afraid and still in communication.’
I have many more questions, but will have to save them for the course. For now I understand that old stories create stale routines and prevent fresh perspectives. Going Out Of Your Mind will help participants develop their own tools to break free from habitual consciousness and their pre-programmed attitudes. I look forward to accessing fresh approaches to situations that have grown tired.
More info about this course, click here.
Susan MannResident Blogger
Susan is a writer and a teacher. Her interest in Jung and post Jungian work has grown out of a love for mythology, dreams and the imagination, as well as a fascination for the creative possibilities that exist within the shadow.More Posts by Susan Mann