Several years ago I had what I believed to be a profound insight; the body is always in the now. I wasn’t alone in reaching this conclusion and I later read other people saying the same thing. The mind is like a channel hopping teenager, flicking from one idea to the next a thousand times a day. But the body, I thought, remains in the moment, always present, resting in the now.
I’d been caught in the illusion that deceives most of the Western world, a myth that I’ve spent most of my life trying to unravel; the fantasy that mind and body are fundamentally separate. If the mind can be following some story about the past or future while the body remains in the now, they must be quite different. But if there’s actually one system – the bodymind – then it’s impossible for the ‘body’ to be in one state and the ‘mind’ in quite another.
Is there any value at all in my original idea? Given that several spiritual teachers I respect had the same thought, I doubt it’s completely wrong. So what led me to conclude that the body is always in the now? The idea emerged from my meditation practice which often uses embodied experience as a focus of attention: I watch my breath or pay attention to physical sensations. At such times my awareness typically becomes more present, more in the moment rather than following a narrative about past or future. It might seem that by allowing my ‘mind’ to be more in tune with my ‘body’, I become more in ‘the now’.
But if that’s an illusion, what’s actually going on? If we focus on the actual process (awareness of embodied experience) rather than an illusion (‘the body’), it makes more sense. To the extent that I am aware of my embodied experience, the bodymind is ‘in the now’. That doesn’t sound as good as ‘the body is always in the now’, but it is much more accurate!
In an important sense there’s no such thing as the body. The concepts ‘mind’ and ‘body’ are cultural fictions. We may well choose to keep using those words because the alternative would be too linguistically unwieldy, but be aware that language distorts the phenomenological reality.