Category Archives: Philosophy

Practicing wisdom for a better life

Solving the Mind-Body Problem and How it Relates to Chi

By Jace Lee

The Mind–Body Problem

M. Rowlands, in Encyclopedia of Consciousness, 2009

Summary

Mind-Body Problem – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics  

“The mind–body problem is really two problems. The item problem concerns the nature of mental items: are they or are they not physical? The essence problem concerns the nature of the defining essences of mental phenomena – consciousness and intentionality: can they or can they not be explained in physical terms. With regard to the item problem consensus gradually seems to be coalescing on a combination of (1) mental–physical identity at the level of tokens, (2) mental–physical supervenience at the level of types, where this supervenience is underwritten by (3) a functionalist account of the nature of mental properties.” 

-Another quote from same website-

Philosophical Puzzles Evade Empirical Evidence

I. Sarıhan, in The Human Sciences after the Decade of the Brain, 2017

Case Two: The Mind-Body Problem

“The mind-body problem is the problem of understanding what the relation between the mind and body is, or more precisely, whether mental phenomena are a subset of physical phenomena or not.”

THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM by: Matthew Van Cleave

Introduction: A pathway through this chapter, Introduction to Philosophy

The mind-body problem – Introduction to Philosophy (ucf.edu)

 “the hard problem.” For dualists, the mind-body problem manifests itself as “the interaction problem”—the problem of explaining how nonphysical mental phenomena relate to or interact with physical phenomena, such as brain processes.”

Solving the mind body problem and how it relates to Chi

This mind-body relationship view has long posed a problem for many scholars as it dictates that the mind and the body are separate and not responsible for the other. Thus, the lack of a clearly identifiable meeting point between the intangible mind and the physical body has shown to be challenging to dualism. No longer is this a Challenge.

This is a very plausible solution based on years of research, practice and direct experience. When I think about the mind-body problem it seems to be a matter of the separation of mind and body, the relationship between the two and what is the mind made of if it is not physical. Also, when there is no brain function, the mind does not seem to exist.

In my experience working with the mind to affect my body I find that there is a clear separation of the two. Even though the mind is continuously aware of the whole body, the conscious awareness of it really only falls to a small area of the body. The matter of how integrated the mind is into the body, is a matter of the individual. This can be a natural full integration or it can take work. And when it comes to what the mind is made of, I can only offer the concept of Chi. But what is Chi, exactly? This is where it gets complex because I can only describe my experience of it. I can however get others to experience Chi themselves and to experience my Chi as well.

To give Chi a name that might elicit a better idea of what it is, I would call it mind energy. This is why. When I focus on a part of my body, the size of awareness being the size of my palm, I can feel a difference in awareness from my normal awareness. I call this connected awareness because I feel much more connected to my body, where my mind is focused. In turn that area becomes more responsive to my thoughts. Where this feeling starts to feel like energy is when I move it -the awareness- around my body. Also, when I imagine that feeling moving like water or wind through an arm, I feel what I am imagining. This certainly gives the impression of energy and how energy, in a non-solid form, moves.

The real question; is Chi and mind one thing or are they separate? The Mind-energy problem? This has been the tough question for me. For one, Chi seems to be more than just mind energy. Chi is also in all things living. It has its own program to promote growth, life and healing. One explanation, from Taoism, describes the mind energy as an energy body or Chi body. Technically speaking this makes sense, if this mind energy feels like energy and it is related to my awareness, then it must be in the shape of my body because my body is filled with Chi. But by force of will I can visualize Chi to do any number of things to affect my body and others. Which technically would take it out of the body shape. So therefore, there must be some measure of Chi, or lifeforce energy that remains in the body where the direct awareness is not. Which begs the question, what Chi is mind using to feel the body and manipulate it on a physical level? This is what mind energy is. It is an energy in the body that the mind interacts with directly to affect the body. There are also other forms of Chi that can be cultivated and used. In a way Chi is a general term for spiritual energy because Chi has many aspects. When considering the mind body problem, there is a clear separation between mind and body.

The question still remains, if Chi and mind are separate then what is mind made out of?

In my experience, there is us, the root consciousness, the observer. Then there is the mind, and then there is Chi (mind energy) and the body, which has its own energy. The consciousness can observe the mind and control it. I can have two distinct thought patterns between the two. My mind can be thinking of something and I can also be thinking of something else. But I can only really focus on one or the other. Focusing on two things at once is doable but not easy. Like chanting two different mantras in my head at once. I get one going and then start the other one.

Unfortunately, the mind can also control the observer. But by what means does the consciousness observe the body. We know that we have our senses but we need a way to interact with it and move it. The nervous system. Through chemical and electrical impulses, we can feel and move the body via awareness and however our consciousness desires. These impulses can be voluntarily manipulated because our body is wired to reflect the will of the observer.  

Here is the thing, when we merge mind and observer, this is described as focused and can be classified as meditation. Then when these are merged with the body, not necessarily as a whole, this can be considered the melding of mind, body and spirit. This is the very noticeable feeling I described as connected awareness.

There is the question, if a person is brain dead, there is no evidence of mind. I think of it like this, let’s say you are driving your car. As you are driving the cars computer stops working. Suddenly the car is no longer responsive to the driver’s input. The driver is fine but the car can no longer function. You manage to stop and get out but the car can still keep running because it still has fuel but it won’t shut down because the computer is broken. Since the brain is broken, it can no longer function and the conscious observer’s input no longer works. The scary question is, when the brain can no longer respond to the consciousness, did the observer manage to get out?

This leads to the question, is the mind relegated to only existing in the brain? Spiritual practice and experience say no. In meditation while concentrating on connecting to an area in my body in order to release tension, I had the experience of my mind/awareness moving. Suddenly, as I focused, I felt as if I was much closer to area of my focus. Now, was my mind still inside my head? Technically yes, but it seemed as if I had moved to a realm past the physical. It was kind of like being in a room then turning the lights off, there was no more sensory input to tell me where the walls ended. In the Yoga tradition, meditation is meant to lead to samadhi, this is when observer and observed become one. This can give the experience that the individual’s consciousness has moved into the object or person of their focus. Then there is the matter of out of body experience. I have met a few people with this ability. So, it seems that the conscious observer can move out of the head and out of the body. This certainly raises a couple of questions. Does the mind come with the observer? Or is the mind separate of the observer? Well, we know that when the individual is focused, mind and observer are one, and going out of body takes focus. So, in theory, mind and observer are one. They can become detached in the same manner as people from their body.

I think it boils down to voluntary and involuntary functions of the body. Our bodies can function without the mind. But with the mind these functions can be taken over. This ability that we have to be aware of and control the body is the key. The body is built to respond to the mind and the mind to the observer. I see Chi as a bridge between mind and body, like an interface. Like the saying goes, “mind moves Chi and Chi moves the body.”

This is a good explanation but does it solve the mind-body problem? We have a clear separation of observer, mind, Chi and the body. But at the same time, we can merge them all into one experience. But the question that remains is what are Chi and mind made of? I can only posit that mind is made of Chi. If we can move that awareness around the body and observe it somehow by mechanical means then this could be a breakthrough. But even if we could identify what is happening in the body chemically when Chi is moved, this is just the observation of an effect the Chi is having and not the Chi itself.

Electricity is still an unknown substance. We know how it exists and how to cultivate it and harness it, we can experience it but yet it is different from the particles that exist with it. At least with Chi/mind-energy, we can do the same.

Mind, body and Chi can function on their own, it is the observer that can control them. Maybe we should be asking, what is the observer made out of? That is another article, but there is one thing about Chi that is going to probably create more questions. My next question is, if it is an immaterial substance, how is it that I can move it into another person and they can sense it physically and there are visible physical effects in the body? This means that my mind can affect anything that has Chi.

There we are, the mind and body are separate or at least appear to be. It just takes a lot of concentration to move it from the head center of the body. The reality is that we can postulate all we want but as we can see Chi is a substance that is experienced by everyone physically through our awareness of ourselves and our ability to manipulate our body on a conscious willful level. What we need to be aware of most of all is the existence of and relationship between the three. In a way this proves the connection between mind and Chi and how the conscious observer affects all three. It is funny, the saying of connecting mind, body and spirit. Mind and spirit are already connected, it is mostly about melding mind, body and observer. This is part of the path to mastery. Becoming aware of all three, integrating them with total awareness and with only a thought, they all react as one.

The question of what consciousness is and what is it made of can only be answered by the turning off of the senses and thought. What is consciousness without the internal dialogue and imagery and physical/sensory awareness? Is there still awareness and if there is what is it like?

Faith

Faith is a concept that usually is deeply rooted in religion.  Sometimes I think it is a bit misunderstood out of fear.  When we talk about faith in a religious sense it usually comes as blind faith for a god that if we don’t believe in it we will come to great harm and possibly worse.  Personally I don’t think that if god exists then he/she/it would not be so low as to hurt someone for not believing.  To me that seems like a lowly human trait.  Especially when no real proof of knowing that god exists is available.  It’s not like God comes around every hundred years or so to check on us.  That might be nice because it would solve all problems of religion but it doesn’t happen.

Personally I believe that something way more intelligent and powerful than us created us and our universe and I give thanks to that.  What I don’t think is that they (god) meddles in our affairs and is always on call to answer our prayers like an errand boy.  If god exists and did create us I imagine is like a father to his children and wants the best for them and all but using his will on us does have his own will.  Although I may not always understand the plan for humanity, I do look at nature and see how hard and violent it can be.  We were given free will to do as we see fit for ourselves.  Unfortunately most people choose ill will over goodwill, which keeps us from exiting the animal kingdom into becoming a civilized and enlightened race.

Whether given to us or not by a god we have abilities that still are not cultivated enough in our society.  Jesus and the many masters of yoga, Buddhism and Taoism understand these abilities.  The ability to cultivate ourselves to reach a place where we can experience consciousness at its root, by cultivating our minds.

Our minds are very powerful and what we think usually manifests in our bodies and in our lives.  This is incredibly important to understand!  If you are happy then life seems to be magical and things work out.  When we are angry it only seems to create more situations that keep us angry.  Not that we can’t feel these emotions and they are bad.  It is when we hold on to them and let them run our minds and lives, that becomes detrimental to our progress.

What does this have to do with faith?  Here is a question for you.  If you were an employer who would you hire, the person who is fearful and seems to have anxiety or the person that has confidence in themselves and that everything is great?  Faith is the mindset of having confidence in one’s self and in the fact that everything is going to be OK because you believe in yourself and what you are doing in life.  This is the mindset of success!  And if anything goes wrong then it may be you need a change or learn something.  Because is truly about moving towards that root of consciousness and achieving the highest state of your humanness.

This is also why the world sucks, because when you have faith in what you do you succeed and too many bad people have power and faith in what they are doing even though they are ruining humanity.

Faith isn’t easy and sometimes mine waivers but I still try to hold on strong because I believe in what I am doing even though everything in the world might seem like it is against me.  Worry fear anger won’t help you be happy.  I have had many breakthroughs with faith.  It was something I learned from a great man.

I had put stock in hope many times over and been devastated when it never came to fruition.  Then I finally gave up hope and took on faith that all will be fine.  This was all in regards to finding work and the next day I got a call for an interview and got a job.

Another instance is when I had returned to New York after many years and went on a whim and only had so much money.  After a few months of trying to find work I was freaking out and running out of money.  After a huge blow out I finally had a breakthrough and soon found a job.

Then next year I did the same thing but this time I used my money however and whenever and didn’t worry about a job and just when my money was about to run out, I found a great job.

As I look at my life I have always been a worrier and struggled but I always managed to have what I need.  This doesn’t mean you can worry and things will still be ok.  It means that you shouldn’t worry, be patient and everything will happen when it is supposed to.

Just to be clear faith is a lot harder when you are broke, struggling to survive and/or putting your life on the line for your dreams or what you want in life.  This is when you are truly tested.  Not when you have a great career, money and all you want when you can have it.  But even then people seem to worry and freak out.

We all want to be in control of our lives and sometimes we try to force ot and when it is not happening we freak out.  Well here is all you need to take control of your life.  Your mind is very powerful, be confident, patient and have faith and what you want will come.  It might not be right away, something bad might happen because you are in the wrong place, just keep faith and stay positive and you shall prevail and be the master of your destiny.

Strangely, I typed in the word relief and this was one of the pictures that came up.  The caption for it was anxiety relief.  It also has quite a resemblance to someone thanking the universe for something.

The Mind and its Relationship to Chi/Prana, the body and Life

When it comes to the mind almost anything is possible.  Our minds are more powerful than we have yet to realize or remember.  Yoga and other arts such as Qigong and Tai Chi has taught this for thousands of years.  Yet somehow the concepts of chi and prana have faded into a mysterious force of which a general understanding is lacking.  Through these arts we know of their existence and when we practice these arts these energies are present and sometimes, we feel sensations of the energy.  When coordinating movement with the breath and a relaxed state of mind, energy is circulated and cultivated.  The only thing missing is the awareness of it.

Why be aware of it if it is cultivated naturally and what does this have to do with the mind?  As we know the mind has a great effect on the body.  On one level stress can be very detrimental, on another we can see how attitudes and mindset can be expressed through posture and facial expressions.  To this effect we can determine that if we can hurt the body with thoughts then we can heal it with thoughts.  In turn these thoughts when expressed through action can affect our lives through the interactions with others and influencing our decisions.

This is why it is important to be aware of prana/chi, because they are linked to the mind which affects the body and your life.  Chi/prana are also made of the same thing that mind is (spiritual energy) and are extensions of the mind.  Also, to be noted is that mind is separate from the observer; you.  Through your consciousness, mind is transformed into thoughts, imagination, emotions and actions, like light through movie film.  So, it is not only important to be aware of chi/prana for practice but also to be aware of it because you are literally using it all the time.  This means that what you think is what you practice. It is said that mind moves chi and chi moves the body. Chi is like an interface between mind and body.

So now what?  Now you learn what chi feels like and how to cultivate and use it properly in your practice.  The first step is to become aware of it.  Put your hand up in front of you, take a few deep breathes and relax yourself and your hand.  Then feel the palm of your hand, without your other hand and without looking at it.  You should feel a slight tingling sensation.  Now move your awareness to the inside of each finger, then to the back of each finger, then to the back of the hand.  Et voila! That is chi/prana.  In Tai Chi it is said that chi goes where the mind goes.  Now move that awareness up your arm to your elbow, make sure to feel the awareness along your arm.  The next step would be to move that awareness around your whole body and take note of what you feel.

If you don’t feel it right away, you might need to concentrate a little more. Really work to feel the area being focused on. Once you connect you will know. This is what I called connected awareness. There is also what I call “passive awareness.” This is when you move your attention to a place on the body and of course know it is there without any real effort. Sometimes the feeling of your body or the awareness of it seems to be just above your physical body. Once a person can concentrate to the point where they feel a real physical sensation of the area (skin and/or muscles), a connection is felt. Sometimes this connection is accompanied by twitching, release, heat, cold, or any number of chi sensations.

The importance of this, is that this is where mind and body meet. At this point the mind-body connection can be cultivated to the ability of moving and manipulating the body with a mere thought. Put your mind to a muscle and get it to relax or contract. Coordinate and strengthen that and learn to move in that way, and you can easily master anything you want to. All you need is practice.

There are many techniques for moving, cultivating and using chi.  The next step would be to practice increasing your awareness to the core of your body, feel your muscles then try to feel your bones.  Breathing and relaxation are extremely important with regards to feeling and moving chi/prana. Tension blocks the feeling of chi and sometimes blocks chi all together. The breath moves and circulates chi like a pump.

Now that you know the power of the mind or more like a piece of it. Really, the stronger the mind, the stronger the chi. The mind, humans, have great potential for power. I don’t have to go into great detail about how the mind or state of one’s mind can affect their body and their life. You just have to know that it all starts with you and your mind. If you focus on positive thoughts positive things with happen. And take it from me, fear and anxiety only make those fear a reality. It is no easy task, especially in the face of great adversity. But this is where a strength of spirit is cultivated.

If a person has trouble focusing on other things or the emotions are too strong, there are ways to combat this. Strengthening the body, strengthens the mind. Meditation, especially concentrated meditation. Focusing on a single thought, image or mantra is great. Focusing on relaxation, releasing tension and building body awareness that becomes chi awareness, I think is awesome. On the emotional side, doing things that make you happy will help. I find that a mantra helps, especially when negative thoughts arise, use the mantra as something positive and transformative to focus. It works, I swear by it.

The human mind has incredible potential and is still not as understood as we might think it should be in this modern age. But now with this little bit of information, it can be explored and cultivated directly.

Stillness

 

Stillness is a hugely import concept in practicing yoga, meditation and relaxation.  By stilling the mind we can still the body and vice versus.  When practicing any of these it may be hard for someone to reach still at first.  Also it may be hard for someone to reach stillness if they haven’t experienced it.  Truly it is not that hard to reach, holding it is a bit tougher.  Stillness is that point at which you feel relaxed, comfortable and have no craving to do or move.  You are just in the moment.  You don’t even have to be completely relaxed to feel stillness.

Once you can reach a point of stillness in your meditation you can sit for longer and focus without distraction.  When practicing relaxation you can easily work towards deeper states of relaxation and relieving tension.  In yoga it will help you to find that comfortability in your poses.  Practicing stillness will also help with anxiety and the need to feed or do.  You will find that you need other things less to help you relax, like drugs, alcohol or cigarettes.

To get to a place of stillness is easy.  When sitting or lying down take 3 full deep breaths and on each exhale let go and relax into it, letting the breath fall out and holding the exhale without using any muscles.  Then breathe naturally and with each exhale try to relax a little more and holding the exhale for a few seconds.  You should feel a sinking feeling, as if you are melting.  You will feel a sense of comfort and won’t want to move.  This is stillness!

Being still is tough, sitting or lying down especially for long periods it may be a bit exhausting at first.  It is tougher when standing as well.   Just try to hold on to that even when you start to move.  This will help you understand the stillness in movement that is talked about in Tai Chi.  There is also another type of stillness in movement associated with Tai Chi or movement in general.  Imagine, your body is still except for one arm moving.  Or the opposite, the arm is still and the body moves. That is stillness in movement.

Once you can find the stillness hold it as long as you can.  If you find yourself restless, practice your breathing and come to stillness.  This is a practice that can open you up to a whole new level of relaxed while living.  Your body may be relaxed but you aren’t truly relaxed or comfortable until you find the stillness.  As a bartender or sushi chef I find this is extremely helpful.  When it gets busy and I have to move a super speeds and multitask at a quantum level I find that when I can find that stillness and relax into the movements I don’t mess up, tense up or fumble with objects which can impede my ability to perform admirably.  Just remember to breathe, stay relaxed, find the stillness and hold that form/posture if you can.

Breakthroughs

Breakthroughs come in many forms, because healing also comes in many forms.  When you have a break through you will know; you will feel a difference in your body and your life.  I have had breakthroughs where I finally am able to let go of something holding me back and suddenly I lose weight or my body is looser.  And that was from a mental or emotional breakthrough.

As you can see, mental and emotional breakthroughs can manifest physically.  This is because the mind is linked to the body and the body is an expression of the mind.  We hold a lot of what is in our mind in our bodies.

We can also have breakthroughs from physical practice that affect us on all those levels.  A physical breakthrough is when you finally get that muscle to give and let go and you can stretch it.  You may find that the work you have been doing is really starting to show in the alignment of your body.  Progress is very exciting!  Sometimes you come to a place and you are using massage or yoga and you release tension and you feel it release and you might experience pent up emotions or trauma.  This is great, just be open, experience and don’t hold on to those feelings, let them go.  Then you will feel a great relief and might even come to a great epiphany about yourself and healing.

Using a mantra to overcome anxiety was a big breakthrough for me.  Even though I understand a lot about healing and yoga, it is in my nature to worry, be emotional and moody.  But there comes a time when you have had enough and can see how these negative emotions and thoughts are ruining your progress in life.  This is the time I and possibly you make a stand, I used a mantra to focus on something positive and create positive action and it worked.  I have had anxiety since but not on the level that I was experiencing.  What I learned from that was that I need to stay positive no matter what and if something bad happens then it might be for the better.  But in the meantime my fear and anxiety was manifesting my fears and it had to stop.

So just remember breakthroughs come in many forms and have great effects.  Just keep practicing and moving forward to bettering yourself and doing what it takes to create happiness for yourself.  It’s all about how bad you want it.