(Thanks to Hinterlandblog.Wordpress for the photo)
I am going to try and weave three strands of wisdom into one beautiful skein for the tapestry of life :). Bear with me!
It all started when I planned to take some of my numerous books to the charity shop in order to make a bit of space – but I started reading one of the books, and it’s got to stay! For a while longer, at least! Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking lay in the pile awaiting removal, but I picked it up and started reading it and it was really interesting. Later in the afternoon I sat down and read some more and it is quite fascinating. If you are a psychologist you might already know the findings, but I’m not, so it was all quite new to me. It is about investigating the ‘gut reaction’, the ‘intuitive response’ that we often have in all sorts of situations. It starts with an example to illustrate the point: on seeing an supposed ancient sculpture that had recently been unearthed (in someone’s attic rather than from a dig!) a number of experts intuitively felt something was wrong about it, even though the museum directors thought it legitimate – and the former turned out to be right. How to account for the ‘gut reaction’? The book continues by examining if the body reacts in a situation sooner than the conscious mind, and particular scientific tests were constructed to assess this, one concerning decks of cards that could give rewards or penalties. Various studies showed that the participants’ body reacted far quicker than the conscious mind – in the experiment with the decks of cards the activity of the sweat glands in the palms was measured and shown to respond to the person’s nervousness that something was wrong, a long time before the conscious thinking of the person had caught up, warning that the red decks of cards were loaded against them. I’m looking forward to reading more studies to support the idea of the power of the body to ‘think’ far in advance of our rational faculty. Strand One.
This idea of the body’s intelligence reminded me of the wisdom in another book I am reading which explores the chakra system of Eastern traditions through the lens of Western psychology. What it said about the first two chakras particularly struck me, as they relate to the physical body (chakra one) and feelings/emotions (chakra two). It said that our feelings give us their own kind of intelligence about situations which can we used by the body to react appropriately. Of course when I read it, it made perfect sense but it was heartening to read a clear exposition of those quick-as-a-flash feelings about a person or situation, that we can then act on if we are in tune with its directives. When I read about this I thought about various situations in the past when I had had a strong feeling about something or someone, but didn’t know what to do with that, not realizing it is a kind of ‘early warning system’.And the chakra system ‘locates’ the ‘feeling’ response to the stomach area: interesting that in English we have the phrase ‘a gut reaction’!
Why the dolphin? A whole while ago I read an interesting book that married the chakra system with the idea of totem poles, where different animals designating each of the seven chakras. Back then, I envisaged my stomach animal as a dolphin, making its presence known through its movements – (imagine a dolphin in water, not the stomach and digestion!!). And it struck me that I need to learn and go on learning to discern what various ‘feelings’ or ‘gut reactions’ are telling me – listening more to my inner dolphin! Strand two.
The third strand comes from a verse in the Tao which says ‘Open yourself to the Tao*, then trust your natural responses; and everything will fall into place’ [no. 23]. It also gives a warning: ‘When the body’s intelligence declines, cleverness and knowledge stop forth’ [no. 18]. I suspect that our understanding of the natural harmony of our whole body and mind has been put out of kilter with the emphasis of rationality in the Western tradition since the Enlightenment, to the detriment of other ways of knowing. Perhaps we could paraphrase Blaise Pascal’s phrase about heart having reasons that Reason knows nothing of, into ‘The body has its reasons, which Reason knows nothing of’.
I for one want to be more dolphin!
[The Way/harmony with Nature]