A central principle of Morita Therapy is that we have much more control over the body (actions) than the mind (feelings/thoughts).
During my 30’s I lived for a short period of time in a Zen temple in Japan. During long meditation periods I would find that my mind would be all over the place – “I wonder what’s for lunch today?” or “I wish I would have slept better last night.” But I could keep my body relatively still during the same period.
Our bodies have much more capacity and power than we give them credit for
Off the cushion, I’ve found that I could eat a bowl of beet soup (beets are one of my least favorite foods) even as my mind was saying, “Yuck, beets are totally disgusting.”
When you’re angry, you can have the thought, “I’m going to strangle this person,” and not actually attack them.
We don’t realize how much control we have over our body, because we don’t pay much attention to how often the content of our mind is out of sync with our actions. If we acted on every thought or feeling we had, our lives would be utter chaos.
Of course, you can’t always control the body, particularly if your body is medically or physically incapable of a particular action. No amount of willpower will allow me to jump six feet in the air from a standing start.
But in many cases my body is able to do what my mind doesn’t want to do or believes it cannot do. Rather than go through a period of mental gymnastics trying to motivate ourselves or attempting to get the mind to change its mind, we can simply let the body take the lead.
So in Japanese Psychology, we use the maxim,
LEAD WITH THE BODY
We can put on our running shoes even as the mind is thinking, “I’m way too tired to go for a run.” We can gather our cooking supplies even as the mind thinks, “I don’t feel like cooking – I’ll just order a pizza.” We can pull out the file with our tax information at the same time the mind is thinking, “Forget taxes, I’m just going to see what’s happening on Facebook.”
Our bodies have much more capacity and power than we give them credit for.
So we can take the opportunity to let the body take the lead. The mind becomes the follower. It doesn’t have to be motivated. Or enthusiastic. Or psyched up. If you put the body in charge, don’t be surprised if the mind begins an internal dialogue in which it laments how frustrated it is, or how bored, or how you would be much happier watching a movie. Your job is to just observe the chatter while your body goes about the business of what needs to be done.
So when you notice that your mind seems lazy or uncooperative, just put your body in charge for a while. And take your mind along for the ride.
(adapted from Tunneling for Sunlight: 21 Maxims for Meeting Life’s Challenges by Gregg Krech)
Gregg Krech will be conducting an online program, Taking Action: Finishing the Unfinished (and Unstarted) from February 17 – March 17, 2021. Identify a project you want to get done and join us for a productive, fun, engaging month!
(photo credit: SustainLife blog)