In an attempt to stretch out of my comfort zone, I’ve been taking an Anatomy course. While I’ve known for many years the effect that our thoughts and our powerful mind can have over the body system, I realized that it has been over two decades since I have formally taken a biology class. This opportunity has given me food for thought in various ways – in better understanding official labels (and those we place on ourselves), how it all links together (and how that can support learning), and a special humbled awe of how amazing our psycho (mind) and our soma (body) is (and how toxic psychosomatic illness can be).
There’s More than Meets the Eye (I know it works, just not how)
For several decades I’ve been walking, talking and breathing successfully all on my own. I’ve also run a half marathon, worked out with weights and aimed to ‘keep fit’. But I didn’t really know the details of my own body. Now I have a more intimate knowledge of it – I can identify all the bones I’ve broken, all the joints I’ve dislocated and all the muscles I’ve pulled in the past. And it’s been good for me to learn more about how the body functions, even down to the base levels of atoms and molecules, and including electrical and chemical engagements that are going on contently within. At the same time as we’re learning about each of the eleven systems that run through the body, I’m struck with an awe about the alchemy that occurs to make us… us. So similar are we biologically, yet so different (and similar) are we on other levels. Fortunately, and unfortunately, the way the mind works has not been ‘cut open’ in the same way. There are many wonderful books on how the brain/mind functions, yet often there takes a level of ‘believe to see’ in understanding or directing our powerful subconscious. Yet every day I witness people touching the untouchable in the way they think, their perceptions and beliefs, their imagination and dreams.
One Can Always Help the Other
And I’ve seen the mind support the body. In an extreme example, a friend of mind told me about a story in a book about a woman who was diagnosed with an ‘incurable’ disease. Her doctor basically told her to get her things in order in preparation for her imminent death. She disagreed, took control of her body and mind and was living to tell the tale decades later. Unfortunately, in the same story, several years later that same doctor was given a similar prognosis and ended his own life – cutting short the potential for healing, recovery and future. Even while I’ve seen ‘miraculous’ physical changes and transformations in the body through mental and emotional control, there are some simple ‘scientific’ ways to look at the mind-body connection. Stress on the body causes a multitude of issues – both good and bad. Stress on bones can strengthen them, yet it can also boost inflammation and lower immune functioning. Our ability to cope with stress and our own personal or professional life can start major shifts within the body system. From personal and client experience, there is an amazing amount of additional control we have over our own physical health. By the same token, our mental health is often positively affected by physical effort. I went on a run with a friend through a park (ok, connecting with nature is another one of my mood-boosting activities) and felt a world better for it. Our bodies are meant to be used and the chemical plusses we benefit from when we do so are extensively documented.
‘Arts’ Student in Science Land
Now back to my class. I’ve been working with mind-body for years, from a mind perspective. My history of education is laden with courses in business and ‘arts’, rarely (if ever) with science. I truly believed (and I have several friends who confirm this difference) that there were arts students and science students. And if you look at the approaches and study habits of both, you’d agree. However, I know that many people in both fields look at taking a course in the other discipline as a traumatic or daunting experience likened to jumping a canyon without a rope. I felt that way too. Even as I was signing up for the course, I was questioning my ability to do all the ‘sciency’ things I needed to do. I scheduled the drop dates on my calendar, I prepared my excuses for failure. I even talked to friends who turned up their noses at it or said they would never take a class like that. Then I gave myself a pep talk and started. I ended up doing very well in my first test and love my class. How many time, consciously or unconsciously, have we labeled ourselves in a way that seemingly excluded us learning, doing or being something else? It took me a quarter of a century to get up the nerve to take this class – what else have I avoided or eliminated from my list of things to do without even being aware of it?
Taking the Pressure Off – just visiting
One of the ways that I eased into my class was to frame it somewhat differently. I pretended that I was just visiting – as though I was travelling to another land and was interested in the culture, language and people of this foreign place. Yet just as international travel can be approached in either a curious or fearful way, I chose the former in my approach to anatomy and physiology. Instead of the class being ‘heavy’, I looked at it with wonder (and it is pretty cool stuff!) Instead of being bogged down by the number of items I had to memorise, how cool is it to be able to know every bone in the skull that surrounds your precious brain? Because, early on, I made it explicit to myself that my performance in this course didn’t define me as a person, it gave me the freedom to get positively involved in it. It seems that sometimes we get a little too involved in the things we do, and fear that our failures may affect who we are. What independence would we feel if we approached all our daily ‘requirements’ as though they were options that we had chosen to discover more about ourselves, others, business, or the world? Instead of curiosity killing the cat, I think that curiosity actually revives the catalyst (us).
Connected Systems, Easier Learning
Before we got our first test results back, there were several people in my study group who chuckled at the way I studied. While some people were learning by rote, or through mnemonic hints, I was telling stories, talking in accents, reminded of historic events or favourite movies and more in an attempt to store and recall all the information being thrown at us. Fortunately from my work I know that the mind works in stories and pictures, so I was using these powers to link and associate the items needed for the test (and for general learning as well). And even while I may have had to do some ‘funny’ movements in the test to remind me of the ditty which reminded me about some atomic principal or some cell junction, it worked for a near perfect score. Now everyone wants to study with me. Remember, all of the information that we hear, read, are witness to, is stored in our massively powerful subconscious. We just need to find recall systems that work for us. Before that, however, we need to override the destructive belief that as we get older, we are less capable to remember things. While our thinking patterns may change from our experiences, I know that I am as able to test in this subject as my classmates half my age. With all the things you’ve learned or experienced in your life, it makes it easy to network new knowledge to existing information. Psychologists and learning professionals have created systems that tend to work for many people, yet don’t be afraid to make up your own way of learning creatively. You’ll surprise yourself. And when we connect to areas that give us joy, confidence or competence, then we can engage our new learning in a better and more relevant way.
And just if you were wondering, the ankle bone IS connected to the leg bone.