It’s now fairly widely accepted that the ‘body’ and the ‘mind’ are so tightly interwoven that it makes good sense to talk about the bodymind. But every bodymind exists somewhere and places can have a profound impact on how we think and what we think about.

The impact of place on our cognition is more than trivial: It’s obvious that I’ll have different thoughts and experiences if I’m at a race track or in a wood. In fact, any place will have a profound and subtle influence on aspects of your thinking. But it goes far deeper: The philosopher Merleau-Ponty argued that our conventional notions of ‘self’ and ‘world’ are illusionary, because in knowing the world we become part of it (Merleau-Ponty, 1962).

Similar conclusions are now widespread: In his survey of the field Peterson notes that for a “significant number of researchers … to understand the mind/brain in isolation from biological and environmental contexts is to understand nothing” (Peterson, 2003). This new way of understanding how we think is called embodied situated cognition (ESC).

What does this mean in practice? How does ESC impact on our learning, living & loving? What if there really isn’t any separation between what I call ‘self’ and ‘other’? Are there thoughts you can only have in certain places?

This blog explores embodied situated cognition from the perspectives of phenomenology, anthropology, sociology, religious studies, cognitive science, ecopsychology and more.

You can learn more about ESC and other aspects of human embodiment on the Embodiment Resources website. The Bodymind Place blog is written by Dr Adrian Harris.

Except where other credit is given, I took all the photographs. More examples of my photographic work are available on my website.

2 Responses to About

  1. David says:

    Dear Fellow Traveller
    I am enjoying browsing your blog (discovered after searching your name, found through an article titled “sacred ecology” – bravo) . I share many of your ideas and appreciate your gentle and loving approach.
    But surely someone so aware and sensitive cannot really believe that this bag of bones + software is who you really are?

  2. Administrator says:

    Hi David,
    Good to hear from you. There’s much to to say in response to your question – I’m tempted to write blog post in reply – but I’ll be brief for now. I don’t think that I’m a “bag of bones + software” for several quite fundamental reasons. First, the idea that the brain is like a computer with mind as software is a ridiculous as it is widespread. This modern metaphor is simply the latest in a long line of inadequate attempts to model the body-mind place system. To say that the brain is like a computer is like saying the Sun is like a light bulb! Second, the body isn’t contained by the skin bag; it’s way more than a ‘bag of bones’. Finally, what does it mean to say ‘I’ am ‘really’ anything? I’m increasingly taken with the Buddhist conclusion that there is no essential ‘I’. Perhaps what we think of as ‘I’ is an illusion created by the process of being.

    However, I feel I’ve missed the underlying point in your question. You hint that there’s something extra, spirit or such like. I’m firmly against dualism – the idea that there’s an incorporeal spirit somehow animating the physical body. It may be that ‘body’ and ‘spirit’ are both expressions of something more fundamental. Again Eastern philosophy, with the idea of non-duality, is helpful. I’d add that all my thoughts and beliefs are in process: Nietzsche advised that we hold our beliefs lightly and take care that they do not take hold of us!

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