Got to thinking about my cat this morning. As I reached over to pet her, she purred and pushed into my hand. “What’s going on?” my sleepy mind wondered. As my mind drifted in and out of sleep, I thought of the body mandala.
Well, maybe not the body mandala, maybe the body mind mandala? In an interesting book The Body Has A Mind of Its Own, authors Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee use the term “body mandala” to describe how our mind maps represent and understand the body. They also refer to it as our peripersonal space and “how the body maps in your brain help you to do (almost) everything better“.
When we pick up a tool – a hammer for example, Sandra and Matthew explain, our brain maps outwards from our body and the hammer is included into our body mind mandala. When we drive a car, the car becomes an extension of our body. Cars are big, and hard, and noisy. Maybe this is why we become bigger, harder, and more aggressive when we are in our car?
So, back to the cat. When I touch the cat, and the cat touches me back with a nudge and purr, the cat becomes part of my body mind mandala. I become me and the cat, as one. I wonder, do I become part of her body mind mandala? Does she perceive us as ‘one’?
The authors write about how our mind maps our body, and holds and uses those many representations of our body – and how this can affect our healthiness and be affected by our healthiness, illness, disability and disease. The authors view of healthiness stops, however, at the body and mind. They do not consider the our spirits, nor our communities – important aspects of the hierarchy of healthicine.
So they don’t think about what happens when two bodies intersect. The book is, about the ‘singularity’ in the hierarchy – the body, and about individuals, not about pairs, groups, families, nor communities.
When we hold hands, hug, and shake hands, we create communities. Not just communities of bodies. We create communities of body mind mandalas. Sometimes, communities of body, mind, and spirit – and even sometimes, communities of communities.
When we shake hands, two bodies merge momentarily into one body mind mandala. When we hold hands, in pairs or in chains, our bodies merge into the safety and comfort of one body mind mandala. When we shake hands, we often get a contract; when we hug – we get what we give.
Hugs, holding hands, and handshakes are very different intersections of body mandala.
Handshakes are quick. When we meet a handshake can range from a simple cultural gesture, to a gesture of friendship, to a momentary joining of our bodies – and thus a momentary alignment of our ideas, goals, etc. However handshakes can sometimes be gentle, sometimes brutal. Some people see the handshake as an opportunity, or a need to express aggression or dominance. Grasping with force of grip, rapidity of motion, in an attempt to control the situation. Others might see the handshake as ‘something to be avoided’ – to avoid the occasional blatant aggression – or simply out of inexperience or lack of confidence. The handshake is more than just a gesture, more than just a touch – it is a joining of bodies and of minds. But not always comfortable, not always ‘equal’.
Handshakes can be an artificial joining of the body mind mandala, thought, by some to be a gesture indicating that the hand holds no weapon, no threat. The handshake is a joining of bodies, of forces, but there is little implication of joining minds, spirits, or communities – unless that is in the contract. When a handshake is used to ‘seal the deal’, it is understood that the participants are ‘joining forces’ – body and mind, dollars and contracts, lawyers (and possibly liars) to the cause. But it does not necessarily imply that we are joining in spirit.
When we shake hands, we create a community of two. When we shake many hands, we can build larger communities. These individual communities might be small, but they’re a step forward. Repetition and reinforcement can build larger, stronger, healthier communities.
What about holding hands? There are two main types of hand-holding. Parents and friends (or lovers).
Holding a parent’s hand – or holding a child’s hand, is an act of protection. This can be extended into chains of hand holding – alright children, let’s all join hands while we walk to school. When we hold hands we join our bodies. The child becomes a bit more like the parent, and the parent a bit more like the child, while holding hands. In a chain, the more mature look after the less mature. We learn to lead, and to follow, depending on our nature.
When lovers, or close friends hold hands, their bodies, minds and spirits join together, creating an integration of body mind mandala. Public hand-holding is frowned up on in some cultures, or some situations. Hand holding is sometimes a step stone towards more intimate engagement of extensions to the body mind mandala.
The closeness of a hug begins before we are born. We can hear our mother’s heart and breathing. We can feel her moods, and sense her resting. We leave our mother’s body, and then she holds us to her breast. In that embrace, we are again one body, mind, and spirit. When the baby cries out the mother’s calm hug can calm both of them. The hug is about joining of more than body, more than mind, more than spirits.
A hug can be short or long – an embrace, a snuggle or a cuddle. When we hug, there is more commitment to each other than to a ’cause’ or project. A hug is about community. And a group hug is about a larger community. It’s pretty difficult to arrange, or make sense of a group handshake – but a group hug is easily understood. When we group hug, we merge many into one body, mind, and spirit.
What about those tree huggers? A tree has no nervous system – so we can’t integrate our nervous systems, but we can feel one with nature. A tree hug can be one person one tree, or for large tress it might be many people hugging a single tree.
In fact, we don’t need to ‘hug a tree’ to integrate our body mind mandala with nature. When we lie on the grass at night and watch the stars, our senses reach out millions of miles. We can feel this immensity, as if it is part of us, and it is.
Our body, mind, and spirits can truly be one with the universe. We just need to free our hugs.
I’m sure that when the mother washes the kitten, their body mind mandala’s join together and when I pet my cat and she pushes back, we merge into a community that extends beyond the human realm, beyond our bodies, and our minds, creating community of spirit.
welcome to the community of healthicine
Disclosure: I was once very shy of hugs and handshakes… but I’m learning.