emergence of mind

silhouette of a person standing on a high point with a view of city below and sunrise / sunset in the distance


The ways we talk about the mind and the body are often like the ways we talk about humankind and nature.

We tend to position humans as being separate or different from the natural world. We act as if ‘man-made’ and ‘natural’ are direct opposites, as if humans aren’t animals. We are highly evolved animals, but we are animals nonetheless. Just because many of us live lives alienated from nature does not change our fundamental relationship with it. We are of nature. Human nature is nature. It’s just that we need more complex ways of thinking about nature.

It is the same with the mind. It is not just a part of or in the body. It, too, is the body. We need more complex ways of thinking about the mind.

It is essential that we go beyond trying to understand the mind-body ‘connection’ (or how to ‘reconnect’ with nature), and also seek to understand how the emergence of life in nature might inform our understanding of the emergence of the mind in the body.







To be human is to be complex.

Yet our existence is often defined by duality.

Space and Time. Dark and Light. Old and New. Birth and Death. Man and Woman. Good and Bad. Wrong and Right. Yes and No. This or That…

We are not, however, inherently defined by an all or nothing way of being.

We are not defined by either-or. We can be both+and. Or neither. Or more of one and less of the other. Or something altogether different, or redefined.

The essential pattern of duality is simple, and simplicity can be powerful. But to address the challenges humankind has created for itself, we need to physically, emotionally, and mentally actualize complexity. We need to live into patterns of being that can allow for paradox, engage conflict, hold chaos. All within the grace of a Greater Order Design.

It is, perhaps, ironic then that the choice is a simple one:

Either we de-evolve into a more simplistic level of awareness extending from yes or no, right or wrong, us or them ways of being,

Or we re-evolve into a more complex level of awareness rooted in multi-perspective, dynamically adaptive, human family (complete with crazy uncles) ways of being.

Here and now, there is no place and no time for maybe, neutral, middle ground ways of being. To choose nothing is to commit to our current trajectory.

Of course, the choice to embrace greater complexity can feel threatening. There is the potential for us to lose ourselves in the bigger picture. From a superordinate perspective, our individual joys and pains, hopes and fears, histories and futures, are relatively insignificant. It is as if we must be willing to sacrifice our sense of self (who we are, what we do, how we live, why we love) for the sake of others who might be more than willing to literally sacrifice us for their own purposes.

At least that is how it may seem from an either-or perspective.

To choose to actively participate in a greater complexity of being requires that we must be both whole and part of a greater whole — that we must be the whole of our fullest, individual selves and part of a more inclusive, collective identity. That we must exist with the conflict of simple dualities while also finding ways to redefine and live beyond them.

However, it is not enough to only seek complexity in something greater than ourselves. We must also seek complexity within the deeper parts of ourselves. In that seeking, we may come to understand the human sense of self as an emergent phenomena and realize how the unique biological, social, and psychological patterns of our lives give rise to the universe of stories that exists within each of us. We may come to recognize our own complexity and, in doing so, come to recognize the complexity of each other.

That is, we may learn to truly reckon with what it means to be human.




embodied: music, emotion & memory in the body

double exposure of woman's silhouette and musical notation against background sunset/sunrise


There is a kind of music within the body. This music is the emotional soundtrack of our lives. Each scene of our physical experience in the world is accompanied by the cacophony of our internal experiences within the body. The themes that emerge from this cacophony become embodied memories – literally memories in the body – which are experienced as emotion.

These embodied memories are an expression of our awareness of the internal feelings of the body. This awareness represents multiple dimensions of time. It is a dynamic synthesis of what the body has learned and is learning through the biological evolution of our species, the cultural histories of our communities, and our personal experiences as individuals.

As an externalized form of expression, the music we create can both represent and call forth these embodied memories within us. In this way, music is a form of communication older, deeper, and wiser than language. It represents the elemental forces that make language possible. Communication itself is a kind of evolution from sound to music to language. This evolution is evident in the very nature of words.

In their essence, spoken words are sounds created by the body, vibrations in the air, forms of sensory information. As we internalize these sounds, they become part of our embodied memories, of our emotional soundtracks. Language provides a kind of strategic mapping among words and other embodied memories; with this mapping, words can be used to tactically represent information in highly coordinated ways. Nonetheless, before they are representations in the mind, words are experiences in the body. Before they have linguistic definitions, words have physical qualities. Before they are language, words are music.

Just as language and speech are powerful tools for cultivating higher levels of thought, music and song are powerful tools for cultivating deeper levels of feeling. Through music, we are carried by the emotional resonance of sound deeper into the awareness that lives as biological, cultural, and personal memory in the body. It is perhaps through this awareness that we are also able to communicate beyond the mind, understand beyond words, and sometimes even connect beyond the individual sense of self.





Wild Prayers

There will be times when I am dying and I won’t have the words to tell you why. It is a river that flows, that knows its way home, without thought or reason or language. It is the water in the river going back to the ocean, back to the vast, deep, dark womb of the world.

We are all always dying.

What I tell you now, I tell you because I love you. Even as you struggle against the current, fight against the tide, go against the flow… as you do the work of this life… love is pulling you back to its endless heart. Perhaps this is also a dream of heaven – the understanding that we came out of the darkness and that ours is to go back home to that darkness. Except that when we are afraid of the dark and the unknowable, we insist that our way home lead to a place full of light and enlightenment.

It does not.

There is no saving grace.

It is all grace.

But we can travel home together, you and I. We will speak of the beauty and the wonder of the places the river carries us to, through, and beyond. We will dance in the music swirling all around us. We will laugh and sing and say what needs to be said even if it cannot be said with words. We will hold each other’s hand.

And when it is time, when our lives flow back to the source of life, the ocean will carry the sound of love into eternity.


I’m Ready | Tracy Chapman

I want to wake up and know where I’m going
Say I’m ready
Say I’m ready
I want to go where the rivers are overflowing and
I’ll be ready
I’ll be ready
I’m ready to let the rivers wash over me
I’m ready to let the rivers wash over me
If the waters can redeem me
I’m ready
I’m ready
I’m ready to let the rivers wash over me
I’m ready to let the rivers wash over me
I want to wake up
I want to know where I’m going
I want to go where the rivers are over-flowing
I’m ready to let the rivers wash over me
I’m ready
I’m ready