By Nick Jankel

Professional Keynote Speaker, Transformational Leadership Theorist & Practitioner, Exec & TV Coach, Author, Co-Creator of Bio-Transformation®

The first tenet of BTT is that human beings are not fractured with a body and a mind that are separate, with one somehow generating or influencing the other. This dualistic view tends to lead people to privilege the intellect, and relegate the body to a lump of flesh that needs feeding and watering every few hours but is otherwise a prison for our mental genius. Taken to its extreme, dualism led to smart people wanting to be Masters of the Universe even as they are addicted, traumatized, mean, and avaricious in their emotional bodies (from Hitler to Gordon Gecko). It can also lead to religious leaders harming their bodies as the site of their corporal weakness; and athletes and elite soldier focusing on body-building over wisdom and intelligence.

We believe that our body, that senses and emotes and in doing so guides us forward, is just as amazing as our mind. In fact, the last two decades of human biology research have conclusively proven that we cannot think without our body. Eminent neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has shown that patients with damage to the emotion-processing areas of brain cannot make simple ‘rational’ judgments. Even though we tend to think that reason is the supreme attribute of humankind, our conscious, rational minds are actually quite limited and utterly prone to making mistakes.

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There are over a hundred scientifically-verified ‘cognitive biases’ that distort our understanding of reality to worrying degrees: they have us see things we want to see; that proves us right; or that discounts facts in order to feel safe. We can counter these biases, which have leaders fail all the time, with the wisdom of our bodies. We can ground our capacious and clever egos in the concrete somatic reality of our lived experience of having feelings in our guts and sensations in our chest.

Thoughts in our mind are intimately related to feelings in our body, even if we are not conscious of co-called ‘interoceptive’ sensations. In fact, we go further than this and state that what appears to be psychological phenomena in our mind are the same entity or process as physiological phenomenon in our bodies. We just happen to have seen them through different cognitive lenses for a few millennia. Therefore, there is no mind separate from the body through which it thinks and feels. There is just one entity, that has mental and somatic aspects, that we call the “bodymind.” We use the term bodymind for the single combined entity that we all walk, sit, work, think, feel, love, cry, and decide in and through. Gazing internally into our own subjective experience, we see it as mind or consciousness. When we gaze externally at our arm, or looking at fMRI scans of our bodymind, we see it as matter or the body. The key is that this entity or series of processes is just one thing: a unified field of being and becoming, called the bodymind.

“Bodymind” can be an awkward term but it serves to remind us constantly that every physiological state has a psychological component; and every psychological state has a physiological component. Physiology and psychology are two aspects of one complete and whole system. There are two aspects to one thing. Distress in mind can generate dis-ease within the body. Diseases in the body often manifest as distress in the mind. Likewise, positive interventions to either what we think of as ‘mind’ or ‘body’ can bring us into to health and harmony. We are aware of some of these connections. Many we are not.

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The more we choose to become more aware of them, as I urge you to do, the more mastery we have over this one bodymind: which is all you have to play with as a leader. All your potential for innovation, change, and transformation comes from having a resilient, creative, and powerful bodymind. Destabilization in either aspect of it, in ‘mind’ or ‘body,’ will disintegrate and diminish our leadership capabilities. Positive nourishing of either realm can bring us into leadership power. We have to take care of both aspects at all times. This is self-care for leaders that want to be truly transformational — and stay that way.

This idea of a united bodymind challenges the default view in the West: that the mind and body are separate. From this artificial split comes two opposing beliefs that have defined modernity. One group believes that as we know nerves in the physical body are real, then the mind must just be an illusion that appears when brain cells are firing. Hardcore reductionist thinkers believe this. Some influential philosophers, like Daniel C. Dennett, appear to go so far as to claim that even their own conscious experiences (through which they have ideas and write the books that popularize them) are an illusion!

The problem with this belief is that it doesn’t account for creative, innovative, or transformational thoughts; and removes all free will from the space. Free will is pretty important if we want to be leaders who freely choose a new path, and help others choose freely to change, too. Creativity and novel thoughts are also pretty important if we want do anything other than what we have done in the past. Reductionists state that our ideas and decisions are predetermined by the movements of molecules. Therefore, there can actually be no leadership at all; given that leadership exists when we exert our free will to shape an alternative path and forge a visionary future.

The other group, called idealists, believes that as thoughts and ideas are definitely real, then the body must be an illusion or “prison of the soul” (as Plato wrote). As everything we know — data, statistics, theories — is filtered through subjective experience, we cannot ever be sure that what we measure through our senses in scientific experiments is absolutely true. Proponents of this view, like Bishop George Berkeley, believe that not matter, but consciousness — in the form of human will, or universal spirit — is the ultimate foundation of all reality.

Many modern-day spiritual teachers teach that consciousness is more important than matter. This view sees the material world as a compelling experience that is ultimately an illusion. The illusion leads us to suffer, since we crave some material things and are averse to others. Such schools of philosophy teach people to reject the material world and renounce all worldly goods. The logical end point to this is to become a monk or spiritual mendicant, taking the path of the ascetic. This is in some ways life-denying. As leaders, we might neglect or ignore our body: becoming ill, wizened, and exhausted; and making a lot of mistakes as our body is vital to clear, insightful, and well-informed decision-making.

The philosopher Descartes helped create this enduring mind-body problem in Western thinking. The problem stems from the artificial separation he created between matter (neurons in the brain) and consciousness (our thoughts and feelings). This duality made some really important questions all but impossible to answer: How and why does “mind stuff” arise from “material stuff”? How do matter and mind interact? And, if consciousness is not the same as matter, then what the hell is consciousness?

So far, Western logic, based on assuming that matter is real and consciousness is just an illusion — or predominately Eastern thinking that consciousness is real and matter is an illusion — has failed to answer these questions in any coherent way. Descartes tried to solve it by stating that matter and consciousness interact in the pineal gland in the brain, to him the seat of the soul! However, this may not be as wild as it seems. World-famous physicist and philosopher Sir Roger Penrose and the iconoclastic medic Stuart Hameroff (who hosts a scientific conference, The Science of Consciousness, at which I have presented) have suggested that the dual aspects of our reality might be “entangled” in the microtubules in the brain.

Their hypothesis sees consciousness not being ‘caused’ by neurons firing in mechanical ways, but elemental to the nature of quantum processes within neurons. Consciousness is not produced by nerve activity, but is related to it, intrinsically linked to it, and co-arises with it. Consciousness, in this view, is no longer an illusion, but intrinsic to all matter. Fascinating research studies into quantum processes happening within photosynthesis and animal smell have shown that quantum decoherence, once thought to only happen in very cold and clinical laboratory conditions, can happen in the warm and wet biology of human beings.

Whatever the science says, in practice in BTT we refuse to allow Cartesian mind-body dualism to underestimate the power of our consciousness. We need to be clear that our consciousness and physical changes in our body are one thing. Then we can optimize this one thing, our bodymind, to deliver concrete changes in matter. In BTT, we do not allow Western philosophical habit to split our inherent wholeness apart. We dissolve the mind-body problem away because we see mind and body as two aspects of the same unified bodymind.

We do not need to privilege or prefer either aspect. With a unified bodymind, we see all problems in human systems as both physiological and psychological. Pills, immunizations, surgery, and other interventions in our biology will quickly change the material aspect of our bodymind. And shifts in our consciousness — from interventions in our thoughts and feelings from meditation, introspection, or connection — will change how we physically feel.

We see mind and matter, consciousness and embodiment, as two sides of the same coin; a truly remarkable bodymind that is the most sophisticated organizing system in the universe as far as we know. BTT sees that materialist lens of indestructible matter and the idealist lens of pure consciousness are looking at the same thing, one thing, the bodymind, in different ways. Matter is immanent shape and form. Consciousness is transcendent awareness. As it states in the Buddhist Heart Sutra, emptiness is form and form is emptiness. Because they are two aspects of the same thing, all remains one.

We know that this unified bodymind has the capacity, once we understand how it works, to be fluid, flexible, and free; and creative, generative, and transformational. By experiencing ourselves a s a unified, non-reducible bodymind — and conceiving of others that we lead in the same way — we aim to live fully embodied lives as leaders, consciously choosing, with free will, to create awesome regenerative solutions to tough transformational challenges. Only by unifying our experience into one bodymind can we ensure — by free choice and through mastery of both aspects of our one being — that we live fully, love wholeheartedly, and lead transformationally.



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