Balancing our body and mind

We can learn how to balance our body and mind
through the principles of the Five Bodies

Decades ago, I learned about the five bodies based on Vivek Chudamani, an ancient Sanskrit text. The text felt both practical and profound and I still see it as crucial and applicable to my life.

The five bodies are:

  1. Physical body
  2. Energy body
  3. Mental / emotional body
  4. Intellect / the ability to rationalize
  5. Ego

I find that knowing about the five bodies helps to balance our lives, and to live with greater awareness. Let’s explore this further: All bodies influence each other. To live a balanced life, we need to care for our physical body by eating a healthy diet and exercising appropriately. However, often we aren’t aware of our other 4 bodies, since they are subtle, less obvious. I remember thinking when I was young that I was a physical body, and I also sensed that I had a soul, but this wasn’t a clear, nor complete perception for me. The five-body principle is a traditional approach that adds practicality and subtlety to our understanding of who and what we are.

Per example, we may find ourselves saying that we don’t have much energy or that we have too much energy, or we may feel lethargic or agitated. This refers to our energy body. If you pay attention, you can feel it. It has important messages for us and not listening to those messages can lead to illnesses or exhaustion.

Our mental body refers to our personality. I remember my mother – who had 10 of us! – saying that we all were born with a different personality, or mind-set, and that we were undeniably different from one another. She was a no-nonsense woman and was known to be clever and speak candidly. This mental body has great potential and within it, patterns can be shifted, and traumas healed. If not, issues will remain with us, in a more or less conscious form and influence all other bodies.

Our intellect body is our ability to rationalize, discern, understand. It can also help us shift our mental patterns. Developing the intellect is helpful, and at its highest point it is imbedded in compassion and wisdom.

The ego is so subtle that we often don’t see it. It is core to our identity and makes us feel separate from everyone and everything. We automatically protect this individuality, through this sense of “I” and it is essential to our survival. Yet it can also become an obstacle and create a sense of “me” versus “others”, a limiting dualistic way to see life, and this can generate, amongst other things, interrelationship issues.

However, we can expand this limited self-view and open to an understanding of the collectivity of humanity and all life, and how we influence each other’s.   We can expand from egocentric, to feeling into our connection with others, called the ethnocentric perspective, to world centric. And as Ken Wilber, one of our great contemporary philosopher, mentions frequently, our highest perspective will be to transcend, to have evolved to a more inclusive perspective, and ultimately include all perspective. From this level of wisdom, we are free from a sense of superiority, or the judgements that may come along the way.

BALANCING OUR PHYSICAL BODY:

We can learn to balance our physical body by noticing the messages coming from our energy body. In my experience, there are various modalities that can be helpful, such as meditation and/or certain relaxation techniques. However, if our mental body is in distress, it will affect both the energy and physical body. The intellect, however, has the ability to understand the power of thought, the effect of good or bad company. That is why to ponder, reflect or explore philosophy is so important. Yet only the intellect can turn towards the ego to grasp it and its core limitations. In a recent meditation group meeting we talked about humility. True humility is free, simple, and some participants called described it as being “egoless”. Of course, the ego doesn’t disappear, but the dualistic part of the ego, the one functioning from an egocentric perspective, can expand into empathy, etc.

Knowing the ego field has another advantage. It enables us to realize that there is something behind or beyond it. It is our free spirit. It has numerous Sanskrit names, but for our purpose here, we can call it Spirit or True Self. The deepest part of us, at our core, is so deep that it is not considered a body. It can look objectively at the five Russian dolls or the five body. Life challenges will be more difficult to handle, without the stability of our inner core Self. It is our only true stability, ground of lasting freedom and satisfaction. So, this understanding the five bodies and our deepest self beyond, helps us to stay balanced, aligned and grounded. It makes for a fulfilling life.

- Lynne Cardinal