This summer, one gorgeous morning, I found myself driving several testosterone boasting teens out to the Edmonton Spartan Race near Rabbit Hill. Never having driven the back roads to Rabbit Hill I was enjoying the early sun shining across expansive fields of gold and green, despite pot holes the size of small elephants. The teens were excited and nervous, I was content to listen to their conversations, happy to get out of the city, to see nature and feel that momentary approach to stillness nature effortlessly delivers.
Rounding the final bend of that dusty dirt road brought us down a hill and promptly to the makeshift race parking lot. A field of sorts, filled with about 1000 cars and streams of scantily clad muscle busting babes of all ages, shapes and sizes…all exuberantly ripped, jacked, pumped and seemingly ready for an ass kicking competition! Hmmmm. Yogi began to contemplate.
Something didn’t feel right… despite a good mood, a beautiful ambience, being with people I loved, having enough time, being fed and feeling comfortable, anticipating something new… something didn’t feel right and I was determined to discover for myself exactly what that was.
The race started about 15 minutes after we arrived. There were heats leaving every hour to stagger competitors. A loud announcer screamed this out to the competitors, some of those being my loved ones, as though they were deaf, dumb and incapable of comprehending basic instructions. That was definitely annoying to me, but I wasn’t pumped, jacked or ripped for competition and also seemed to be the only person capable of hearing within a normal audible range. So I chalked my annoyance up to a personal preference for communication sans screaming.
The race started with a steep uphill run, then moved across country and headed back to an obstacle course, more running up and down hills, more obstacle courses, a rope climb a final leap through some fire and ending after 5 km with two bouncer dudes holding foam bar bells and smacking people a little before the finish line…. just in case they weren’t tired enough. Some of the race could be watched, some not. So I continued to hang out in contemplative mode observing the surroundings and my feelings. Yes, a yogi nerd at heart.
Between hoards of muscle bound babes were strewn a handful of Vendors selling crappy food (nitrogen laden wieners, chips, burgers, energy drinks, bottled water, candy) there wasn’t a piece of anything nutritious, sustainable or organic to be found. I looked; and asked. The Vendors, looked like they had been living off this crap for their entire lives and in listening to their conversations I realized they spoke in one word sentences mostly about being drunk, getting drunk, recovering from drinking, occasioned with the immediacy of another passing babes nice tits or ass. Their expressed existence in that moment made me feel sad. But no one else seemed to notice, or care, so I chalked it up to my own preferences for conversation with a little more substance.
I sauntered over to the race course itself. A really nice landscape with beautiful trees, a rolling set of hills tipped against a soft clouded morning sky. Not much wind and just enough moisture to rest on my skin and nourish the airways deep into my lungs. The country was alive. Nature felt rich, cleansing and fresh but everywhere the race course touched was completely decimated. The grass was ripped to shreds and the soil left nothing but churned mud. The obstacles themselves were made of old bins, dry wood and discarded tires. Trees stripped of leaves, branches broken where people grabbed on for dear life. Gaping mud pits where racers climbed ropes or hosed off. I optimized that nature would grow back… in a year or two there may not even be much trace of the Spartan Race (assuming it moved locations the following year) but something didn’t feel right and I was still determined to discover what that might be beyond my own obvious preferences.
Mid way through the race the announcer (who I will now refer to as the Screamer) felt it was time to pump up the pumped. Racers were getting tired, people needed motivation, if he wasn’t there to do his job, by god why else would the Screamer be alive?!! And so the Screamer screamed!! He screamed into the air, screamed at the participants, screamed at nature, screamed for the sake of screaming!! His screaming could be heard echoing against the hills and up into the heavens. But it wasn’t his screaming that brought home my message it was his words that finally told me exactly what I was searching for. His few simple screamed words said it all… “Mind over Matter Guys; Mind over Matter! Keep going, keep pushing, keep driving, strive, work, sweat, make it burn!….. it’s all Mind over Matter!!!!
Those few simple words couldn’t have been more poignant to the whole scenario of The Spartan Race. From the desecrated grounds to the vacant food and the racers pummeling their bodies the inner story driving it all was exactly that; Mind over Matter.
That simple story, started centuries ago with Descartes and the ego consciousness of the Renaissance, has stayed stuck conscious or unconscious, in the memory minds of most people on our planet. And definitely most people, including the Screamer, at the Spartan Race. The problem is it is grossly outdated. Outdated like the world is still flat out dated! This Mind over Matter story no longer applies physiologically, emotionally or psychologically (we know mind and matter are immediately linked from every cell to neuro-peptide), it no longer applies economically or ecologically because it is not sustainable to a global future and it has never actually applied philosophically because the mind can only be found in matter, where else could it be? Yet this insidious story still plays out in the background of most peoples minds as an unquestionable truth and an inherent justification to desecrate nature in its outer and inner forms. It allows people to stay disconnected from their bodies and their own innate wisdom and from the innate consciousness of nature and the very planet that sustains them. It allows people to devalue or not allow the intrinsic value of organic matter. In other words it narrows life and allows people to stay stuck as less than they actually are, act as less than they actually are and not actively move to something more…that is EXACTLY what didn’t feel right!
This old, antiquated, Mind over Matter story is a grave concern way beyond my own personal preferences.
From my own life experiences and now as a practicing yogi I can honestly say I have learned to understand some of the differences between the consciousness of the mind and the consciousness of the body. While they are expressions of the same thing; they manifest different experiences. Thus they are not conclusively experienced the same, though they can be (Samadi, Samsthathi). Kind of like I have two children, who are both loved, and both children, but their expressions are not the same and I do not experience them the same, though I have.
The consciousness habit of the mind is fast, prone to constant flux and instability, addicted to moving towards or away from, easily spins but is most often linear and rational in its need for comparisons. It tends to throw the baby out with the bath water when information doesn’t jive with what it already knows and would argue and fight that the world is flat even if people saw ships approaching from the horizon. The consciousness of the body is absolute, subtle, authentically valid, expressive through sensation and nuance, structure, movement and feeling, it approaches with integration and deeper cycles of motion, like the seasons. It expresses the qualities discarded from the mind and lives deeper integrations as it cycles, sweeps and responds. It knows the unfiltered, uninterpreted truth of a situation it doesn’t hide or elaborately recreate what is.
As I see it we are at a pivotal point in history. Our planets are aligned in new ways, hence the Age of Aquarius, earths expressions (weather, seismic movements, atmospheric chemistry etc..) are dramatically changing, we are inundated with electromagnetic movement, as many as ten species a day are becoming extinct and taking with them their unique expressions of life, we have billions of people on a finite planet all primarily interested in the same resources (oil, water, air, land) … we are at a point where we can move towards integration of mind and body and as many forms of conscious connection as possible or we can blunder on arguing to the death in defense of separation theories and antiquated unconscious stories (mind over matter, rich over poor, white over black, big over small, loud over quiet, mine not yours, force vs peace & on and on).
When you think of why you are here, born as a human on this planet, is it not to experience more of who you authentically and uniquely are? Beneath the layers of conditioned egoic separation. Is this not at the heart of all people? To discover and live their own authentic selves and experience the freedom, exuberance and bliss that comes from this. The way I see it we can move towards our own authenticity willingly, collaborating with life, integrating as much as we can (through sciences, personal experience, history etc) or we can stay stuck, resisting, defending and fighting in our minds limiting, conditioned stories of separation.
And so I wonder, if Mind over Matter is passe’ what should become our new story, our new understanding of integrated consciousness? Matter over Mind? …certainly the Screamer would have made more sense screaming Matter over Mind, but jumping to the other pole isn’t any improvement. I don’t think it should be anything over anything. The body/mind is a collaborative ecosystem; like nature, it works with itself harmoniously, in good time and with wisdom. The movie Avatar depicts this beautifully. I propose that our new story becomes Mind in Matter and if you spend some time meditating or reflecting on that, notice how your awareness begins to change.
“When the mind is absorbed; it is called Moksa (enlightenment); when Prana (life force) and Manas (mind) have been absorbed; an undefinable joy ensues.”