The Mind is an Emergent Behavior of the Body, the Body is Experienced by the Mind

Some of you may have heard me muttering some such thing in times gone by and hopefully have not been completely perplexed.

One of the things I like about New Zealand is that this sentiment, which seems so obscure from our whole western mind/body duality perspective, is much more a part of the culture here than in the USA.

For instance, the well publicised slogan of a local fitness center is “Free the Body. The Mind will Follow.” I also saw some consumer personal-care product in the grocery store expressing a similar sentiment-that a) there is a relationship between the mind and body; they are not purely separate with some unbreachable firewall between them, and b) together they form a synergistic whole. Of course the slogan on the body lotion was far more concise seeing as how they had to fit it on a little tube.

Perhaps this would all be clearer were you able to smear that lotion upon yourself, but for those who must suffer with this low bandwidth medium of text, let me try to explain this (currently) central part of my philosophy.

So what is emergent behavior? Emergent behavior is something that is highly complex though it is the result of many smaller elements following simple rules. When you see the amazing patterns that a flock of birds make you are seeing an emergent behavior that results from each bird following very simple rules about how close and in what position it should be to the birds around it. An ant colony is an emergent behavior easily comparable in complexity to a human brain that comes from each ant following very, very simple rules.

What’s really cool about this whole thing is that it is not a one way relationship. Your mind is not =just= an emergent behavior of your body. The volitional and attentive powers of the mind can and do make changes to the body.

Let me leave you with this simple but powerful technique to increase sensory motor awareness: when you move your body =slowly=, and =pay attention= to that part of your body, you instantly build sensory motor awareness. When you repeat this process you build more sensory motor awareness, ad infinitum. A good sign that you are doing this correctly is that your movement might be a bit jerky.

When using this trick it is wise to perform movements that have been determined over time by numerous researchers to be reasonably beneficial for your body/mind system. Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Gung, and other eastern movement practices fall into this category. In general, when evaluating systems of movement take a look at the long-term health benefits. How long do the practitioners live and in what state? Note that pumping iron using these techniques will help build big muscles, but Governor Schwarzenegger now has artificial calves and requires kidney dialysis. The author of the book _Running_, Jim Fixx, I think, keeled over in his 40s or 50s. One of my top recommendations for an accessible, powerful system that uses these techniques to quickly and easily increase bodily awareness and mobility and to reduce or eliminate pain is called Hanna Somatics. The book Somatics by Thomas Hanna is on Amazon, and the CDs available from (start with The Myth of Aging) are fabulous. All you have to do is =move slowly= and =pay attention=!

So, bringing this back to New Zealand, I am feel like this is a supportive environment for my further exploration of these notions. When I was here alone in December of 2005 scouting for real estate investments and deciding I wanted to move here, doing Somatics in my room at the backpackers filled me with such a good feeling that I knew that I could live here and be happy even without all San Francisco had to offer. I could attribute this to something intrinsic to New Zealand which harmonizes with these ideas. I’ve been told it is a spiritual/energy power center. Or maybe New Zealand is just a blank slate where, having eliminated so much of my life for the last 13 years, I have fewer distractions to my attention so that I have more to spare for further explorations of inner space. I think both are true, but at any rate this is, so far, 4 days into it, how I am spending a lot of my time here, it feels very good, and I am glad.

The full version of this post is available on Bruce’s Tribe page