Sustainability - What About Wholeness?
The root of whole and health is hal from the Germainic and Old English derivations. The root of the word holon is holos from Greek derivation. All three of these words share a definition of integration. Integration means an act or the process of integrating b) the state of becoming integrated c) desegregation AND the organization of organic, psychological or social traits and tendencies of a personality into a harmonious whole.[i]
I repeatedly find it interesting when people talk about wholeness and omit any mention of the body. There is spiritual wholeness; emotional wholeness (a lot of what Palmer is interested in,) wholeness of the “self” and so forth and the physical relationship of our organic material to any of these areas are left out of the discussion. Yet, developing a body-centered awareness and ability to sustain systemic movement that is conscious yet grounded is indispensable from integrating the psyche, emotions and spirit with the self. The self doesn’t exist desegregated from the body even if a person’s perceives the mind and body as separate. The body is not a vessel that transports the self from place to place; the body is the mind, spirit and all emotions.
Conscious and purposeful movement is the primary way the human initiates the integration process of the perceptual – motor systems in the body. The infant, guided not by a web of projections (he/she has not yet learned how to make assumptions) is guided purely by intrinsic motivation to experience – all reality is a sensory reality. The desire to discover propels us to creep and then crawl. The ability to move our torso off of the planet, to shift our center of gravity and energy centers away from the earth is a profound moment in our development and then gives us the capacity to move in ever more integrated ways using speeds, directions and desire. Desire builds strength and flexibility in the body, crawling prepares our spine for standing and the hips for walking and strengthens the shoulders, neck and head. This process of integration is necessary for standing, standing (as a baby does is a squat) shifts our energy centers for first time to a vertical alignment, we are facing the world with our hearts out for the first time – a sense of profound expansion and freedom. And then we learn how to walk. At every level, we are learning how to integrate more of the body – we gain greater sensory detail at every stage and more capacity to sustain divergent movements. From walking, we learn how to dance – the ultimate stage in a process of integration whereby all parts can operate in unison and thus a new deep sense of wholeness.
Systemic movement is the basis for health in the body – health as defined by a process of integration. The lymphatic system, or immune system, requires muscular flexion in order to move lymph throughout the body. Think of contraction and expansion that works essentially as a pumping system. All cells need regular nutrients (via the blood) and regular health maintenance (lymph passing through transported by blood) and detriment removed (also via blood). Connective tissue or myofascia, which integrates the entire body, needs constant fluid or it becomes stiff and non-malleable. Systemic movement naturally moves lymph and blood through the entire body, by pumping all the muscles and reaching all cells. Lack of systemic movement will create desegregation and thereby dis-ease. What aids systemic movement, is an individuals consciousness to not only move systemically, but systematically (so all parts are moved in all manners possible) in relationship to structural integration. Awareness of postural alignment as a compass point provides the individual on a daily basis all the information he/she needs to maintain optimum health in the body and consequently optimum health in the self.
Talking about self and wholeness without talking about how to maintain health and integration in the body will produce only marginal results. The individual must drive their path for wholeness with the body. For example, if a person doesn’t counteract the ongoing force of gravity with an upward thrust, kyphosis of the thoracic spine can occur as the weight of the head falling forward overtime deforms the spine. As the head hangs down, hearing is impaired because the head cannot swivel properly in the C1 and C2 vertebrae so the ears do not catch sound efficaciously. The ability to communicate is adversely affected as information through vision is reduced in scope cause by eyes gazing downward. The upshot is, people with unhealthy and unintegrated bodies think less effectively, operate with less ability to adapt to change[ii] and incur more disease of all varieties more frequently as the lymphatic system is arrested. These types of conditions affect in totality our ability to actively listen, to be centered, to speak to a center, to trust, to feel joy, to experience willingness or the inherent magic of a spirit/soul imbued physical self.
[i] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1969.
[ii] The definition of fitness – the ability to adapt to a given circumstance, end or design is extremely relevant in the context of the design and circumstance we live in. The universe is self-aware and consciously evolving through a series of holons – nested systems – that are in a constant state of flux. The only universal constant is change and this affects integration. Our bodies have to be constantly adapting to change – the body in all of its realms: physical, emotional, spiritual, mental.