The Felt Sense: Conceptual Mind versus Holistic Knowing
When the conceptual mind loses its moment-to-moment connection to direct bodily experience, it begins to take on a life of its own. Conceptual mind is very good at identifying parts and putting different parts together in new combinations, but it is not good at holding a sense of the whole. Therefore conceptual mind often leads us to places that are out of touch with the whole reality of our lives. It can create alternative realities, both pleasant and unpleasant, that we come to believe in but which are in fact inaccurate or incomplete.
Of course there are times when this ability of the human conceptual mind to think abstractly—that is, abstracted from bodily experiencing—is highly useful to us. We can feel that 2 + 2 = 4 is true and 2 + 2 = 5 is false, but most of us can’t “feel” that 2365 + 3472 = 5837 without going through the logical steps of checking the addition. Modern science and technology and much else depend on such abstract thinking, but in our daily lives far too often our conceptual minds create constructs—ideas built with words—that are disconnected from the lived reality of our lives. When we proceed on the assumption that the reality presented by our conceptual minds is accurate, our relationships to others, to the world, and even to ourselves often become inaccurate. This is a source of great frustration and suffering.
Accessing the body’s more holistic knowing can bring us back into accurate relationship with our life situations. Of course, this often involves acknowledging aspects of our lives that are not as we would like them to be or as we would like others to see us. But knowing ourselves as we really are, and seeing things as they really are, provides the only basis for a wholesome, genuine, and genuinely productive life. “Know thyself,” the ancient Greeks taught. Psychologist Carl Rogers said, “It is a curious paradox that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
Finding the felt sense is a powerful way of knowing yourself deeply, accepting yourself as you truly are in the present moment, and also changing yourself in directions that are genuinely life-enhancing.