The Mind-Body Connection
The connection between the mind and the body is important relative to mindfulness, and for good reason. You may have never noticed it, but we have our thoughts in our heads, but our feelings in our bodies. When you go to a theater you don't look at the projector to watch the movie, because it is viewed on the screen. The same is true of our feelings. They may originate in our minds, but they are experienced in our bodies.
Fortunately our understanding of the connection between mind and body has become more sophistocated in recent years. After all, if we are going to work with strong emotions, as in the treatment of trauma, we need to be able to work with them where we experience them--in the body.
Trauma generates BIG feelings--and the experience of them in our bodies is big also. This is why mindfulness, with its emphasis on both emotional and physiological calming, is particularly useful in working with trauma. Along with other modalities of treatment, mindfulness skills help one stay focused in the present and not move as quickly into panic and fear. One of the prominent speakers in this field, whose workshop I attended at a psychotherapy conference, is Janina Fisher. You may enjoy further reading on her site. Dr. Fisher works in the area of sensorimotor psychotherapy, which is a talking therapy that pays attention to the ways that emotions are expressed through the body.
Another place where the connection of mind and body is practiced (and has been for a long time) is Gestalt therapy. I find it to be very helpful.
In psychotherapy it is critical to know what you think and feel, and what your behaviors are. When this self-awareness is present, therapy goes much faster. Gestalt therapy pays a great deal of attention to these events as they are happening in the present time. What you are feeling may be about a past event (called "unfinished business"), but it is happening now, and the feelings that you are having now need attention. Much of this is faciliated by the practice of mindfulness.
In addition to self-awareness, mindfulness is important in being able to be emotionally present to others. In Gestalt one's emotional health is partly gauged by the quality of contact with oneself, others, and the environment. Many gestalt techniques are aimed at increasing the quality of contact in our daily lives.
It's interesting to note that many of the current trends in psychotherapy have theirs roots in gestalt therapy. At a recent training on sensorimotor psychotherapy I asked the speaker after the presentation whether the roots of much of her content were in gestalt therapy. (Sensorimotor psychotherapy pays attention to the ways emotions are expressed through the body.) The speaker indicated that she is often asked that question by those familiar with Gestalt.
How does this matter to you? If you're looking for therapy, a well-trained Gestalt therapist can be a good choice. There has been bad Gestalt therapy practiced over the years, as is the case with other modalities of treatment, but a good gestalt therapist can be a helpful, sensitive facilitator for personal growth.
And now, one more concept in the area of mindfulness...