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Embodied Mind

Updated: Jun 20, 2023


Embodied Mind

Yes, that’s right. It seems like an oxymoron when we think about embodying our minds, partly because in the modern, Western world we have been conditioned to think of mind and body as separate. It’s as though thoughts and what goes on in our heads are not part of our body, or that how we move our bodies is unrelated to what goes on in our mind.


Spoiler alert: IT IS!!


Another manifestation of this mind/body split is a ‘new age’ world proposition that we ditch the mind in favour of the body. The intention here might be to switch off or to quieten the ‘thinking’ or ‘monkey’ mind; the eternal chatter of thoughts, which would understandably be welcome. The result, however, can be a demonising of mind; an inability to include its richness of creativity and imagination in dance and movement.


Mind Body Connection


Neuroscientist are now able to demonstrate the link between body and mind in the brain’s structure. Research from the Washington University School of Medicine ‘shows that parts of the brain area that control movement are plugged into networks involved in thinking and planning, and in control of involuntary bodily functions such as blood pressure and heartbeat. The findings represent a literal linkage of body and mind in the very structure of the brain’.



Dance on the Bridge that connects small mind to Big Mind


I have recently returned from the third Phase of the Open Floor training in the beautiful Basque region of Spain. The focus was Embodied Mind, where each day we moved and danced with different elements of this theme. Here’s what Open Floor say:


‘Using the Open Floor movement resources, we can use the dance as a direct way to develop greater awareness and agency, and dance on the bridge that connects small mind to big mind. As a mover, sensation and story happen simultaneously, it seems (psycho-emotional mind loops). So “body and mind” are truly one. On the dance floor, we are constantly moving with our stories about ourselves, others, the music, the teaching, the teacher, the dance floor, the smell, etc. Sometimes these stories support us, sometimes they get in our way’.



4 Aspects of Mind


Open Floor teaches that there are 4 aspects of Mind:


1) The Thinking Mind which allows us to make sense of the world

2) Psycho-Emotional Patterns which provide stability, orientation and continuity

3) Creative Mind which allows expansion and new possibilities

4) Big Mind which allows for liberation and a sense of the Transpersonal Self


What is Big Mind?


Big Mind is a mindfulness skill which allows us to have ‘dual awareness’: we experience our lives and at the same time we are the observer of it. We are then able to move from habitual thinking and behaviour to being in a position of making choices. Our patterns of thinking which may be restrictive – often based on early survival patterns - can be loosened and softened, and we can create more life-affirming stories.


Imagination


When we dance the contents of our mind, the stories that we play out in our heads take on a different meaning. We have a new angle on often old, repetitive belief systems and ways of seeing ourselves and the world. As we play with the texture, depth and colour of our thoughts and beliefs, the content is rendered less powerful. Instead of being subject to our thoughts, we create space so that we can give consideration to whether we want to adhere to them. New possibilities can emerge through our imagination.


Freedom


When we are given permission to fully inhabit our bodies and move in any way we want, there is an immense feeling of freedom and liberation. There is the possibility to differentiate our immediate, lived experience from the many (and often restrictive) stories we tell ourselves generated by our minds. We are able to have the experience of ‘not knowing’ as we trust our bodies to lead, to move in unplanned ways, opening up new patterns and possibilities. This is true liberation.


Neuroscience and embodied mindful movement


Neuroscience describes habitual, wilful or automatic thoughts in terms of the ‘Default Mode Network’. Experience shapes our thinking, and we seek out experience that reinforces these neural pathways. We can feel very stuck.


Dance and movement can offer a cellular imprint of the present moment creating an immediate and tangible feedback loop. We get to feel possibility, hope and the embodied reality of new horizons. We have the opportunity to unstick what feels stuck.



Dance and the Brain


In their fascinating book Dancing is the Best Medicine, two Neuroscientists, Christensen and Dong-Seon, state clearly:


‘If we want to stay mentally fit, it pays to challenge our brains. Even dancing as a hobby can bring important benefits for our cognition and the development of intelligence because it makes comprehensive demands on our brain. The brain receives different sensory inputs, and motor processes are reinforced’.


‘Intelligence means, amongst other things, the ability to come up with creative solutions to problems. That requires quick decisions and great cognitive flexibility. When we dance, each movement demands a decision. Where shall we put our weight? Where our leg, our arms? What’s the next step? Such decision-making is good for our brain’.


Move, dance, be resourced


So we now know, if only we can get off the sofa and jiggle ourselves around there are great gains to be had, not just for our bodies but for our minds as well. And dancing in a ‘conscious’ capacity; unchoreographed, free, expressive movement, where we become present through breath and awareness, only strengthens the benefits. Dancing in groups heightens the experience as our mirror neurons kick in, responding to the movement of other people.


Flomotion Dance


Running since 2019, Flomotion Dance has evolved over the years to include the most sophisticated understanding of embodied practice alongside the opportunity to be in a friendly and open community. There is also plenty of space for just good music: jazz, soul, house, Latin, samba, African, reggae and more.


Come and join us! To book Flomotion click here

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