Holistic traditions address all the aspects of ourselves as a complete being: body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit. Each of these aspects of our self plays a vital role in making up who we are. Working to bring them all into alignment provides us with a framework to awaken to our full human potential.
Holistic arts, by definition, are practices that assist with bringing these together and awakening the potential that lies deep within us all. Each of these aspects makes up part of the whole. However, it is necessary to understand that the body and mind are the foundation of our human potential. Like anything we build, the foundation must be firm and strong in order to support what it holds up. The body and mind must be balanced and aligned in order for us to fully access and entrain with the other aspects of our being, or we will find ourselves wobbling back and forth, unsure of who we are and what we are doing.
The body is our physical form. It is our connection to the physical world and allows us to interact with the world through our senses. Our body is the temple in which the rest of our being resides. The better care we take of the body, the longer it survives and the deeper we are able to explore the other aspects of our self. If we are eating healthy food, regularly moving the joints and muscles, and breathing properly, the body grows strong and resilient, providing us with more energy and the ability to do more. If we eat poorly, don’t exercise and maintain shallow breathing habits, the body will grow weak and fragile, unable to meet our needs. This is basic common sense. Continuing regular practice allows us to remain strong as we grow older.
I remember living in Japan, training karate for four hours every day, and frequently meeting older Japanese men who, upon hearing of my training, would immediately launch into a discourse of their prowess in one or another martial art. Invariably these men were out of shape and unhealthy, having stopped training once they finished their university studies and entered the work force. They seemed to think that the fitness level they achieved in their younger days remained with them, even though they did no physical exercise at all in the present. I have found that this is a common mind-set.
The changes that take place in the body due to poor diet and lack of exercise are gradual. The body has a way of going numb so that we don’t recognize we have gotten out of shape. The longer we go without caring for the body, the harder it is to get back to a state of good health. The truth is that it really doesn’t take that much effort to reverse this process. Daily gentle breathing and movement practice will get the energy flowing through the body. A regular routine can soon make the body your ally, in whatever you seek to do, instead of a limitation.
The same goes for the mind. The mind is our thought process. It is that part of us that carries on the continuous inner dialogue throughout our waking lives. It is also that part of us that analyzes problems and creates solutions to solve them. When the mind is calm and centered, we are able to think clearly and adapt to whatever situation arises. If our thoughts are scattered or we are stressed out about events in our life, then the mind becomes preoccupied and is unable to deal with the problems that arise. Calming the mind is a challenge because the only method for doing it is to sit quietly and allow the thoughts to settle. If the mind is calm and centered, we are able think clearly and reason objectively. However, the modern world is full of distractions that have been designed to capture our attention. We need to cultivate a calm mind in order to navigate the challenges that appear before us. Practicing daily sitting meditation is a simple way to gain a measure of control over hectic thoughts.
Once the body is healthy and the mind is clear, we are more fully able to embrace our heart, soul and spirit. Perhaps it helps to imagine the body and mind as a garden bed. If we care for the body and calm the mind, we create the fertile soil for the seeds of our heart, soul and spirit to grow and develop. By cultivating this rich soil, our heart will open, our soul will be revealed, and our spirit will expand. It all begins with the body and mind.
The true awakening of the human potential within us is like slipping into a groove that was always there. It is as if we were bumping along off kilter until that moment when things suddenly click into position and we start to recognize our place in the universe. We begin to go with the flow, and the flow begins going with us. When such a thing truly happens there is a feeling of completeness that pervades our being. It is a wonderful experience that continues to unfold as we continue generating the energy that fuels our potential. In a world full of distractions and stress this can be a daunting undertaking. It means finding the strength within from which to begin the process. It takes courage and self-awareness in order to travel the path, and there are many roadblocks and detours along the way.
Building a strong foundation of body and mind gives us a place to begin.