Armchair Retreat: becoming mindful of our bodies

In our Western industrialised culture, the mind is highly valued, because the mind – rather than the body – is what serves it best. Endless tech innovation drives the economy, and science can win wars. As a result, our public education system values only academic subjects, valuing the brain while ignoring the body.  

Sir Ken Robinson, in the most-watched TED talk ever, quips that university professors merely “…look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads – it’s a way of getting their heads to meetings”.

At the same time, there’s another side to Western culture, and that’s the cult of the perfect body, perfect looks, and the desire to look forever young. Like all cults it ignores or tries to suppress awkward realities – such as the reality of complex human feelings, sickness or death.

But these two obsessions, developed separately, scarcely consider that mind and body may actually be intricate, co-dependent parts of the same person. The result is that we have minds that are out of contact with our bodies, and vice-versa.

We are not alone in this, as many cultures have elevated the mind over the body and, of course, the spiritual over the material. But not all: the ancient Hebrew culture has a very robust appreciation of a created, physical/spiritual universe that is interconnected and was created “good” — including the bodies! It’s our view that this tradition is spectacularly (and for some scandalously) developed by the claim that God “became flesh”, as Jesus, as described in the Gospel of John.

The implication of all this is that we cannot, and must not, separate our bodies from our minds, or our spirits, or we will lose a grip on what it means to be truly human.      

Mindfulness – despite its name(!) – is a way to help explore and address what has been torn apart. Doctors will acknowledge that the most medicine can do is to allow the inherent regenerative properties of the body to work unimpeded. And as we look mindfully to become aware of ourselves, we can be confident that we have the inherent love and power of the creating and saving God to help heal the break of body and mind – and spirit.

Armchair Retreat illustration

If you’d like to know more about our Armchair Retreats, and explore a mindful approach to being who God made us to be, do get in contact. Currently we’re making this happen online with the Zoom app, every Wednesday at 20:00.