January 21, 2012

All's well that ends well

We need to listen to our bodies. Everyone knows that. Here's another one; the mind and the body are one.  We  know this to be true, correct? Then again you think you know what that means, but do you? Or is that just some new-age BS to you?
How could they not be one; two elements working together, equal partners residing in one host? We use the mind to tell the body what to do, correct?
In actual fact it is the body which has lasting control, final say.
People can be in a coma for years. The conscious brain all but shut down yet the body functions in a vegetative state, staying alive, regulating certain essential functions.  Even breathing, regulated by the brainstem, is part of the autonomous nervous system. When there is a sudden drop in blood pressure, such as when we go into shock the body even allows the brain to shut down. We can faint, even though it might be in the organisms interest to use our thinking faculties to protect ourselves. In emergency situations occasionally people behave recklessly, instinctively, bypassing higher brain function for the most part. This is in part because the autonomic nervous system predates the higher brain functions.
So higher brain function is an evolutionary development, it is higher and thus better, isn’t it? And yet the vegetative nervous system still controls and limits us. I suppose this means that we still need to evolve physically until we actually gain control over this organism. That would be better, correct?
Or is it that we need to really look at this connection and acknowledge that our organic existence is much more than just our ability to use higher intellectual function? Is it possible that we need to understand our bodies and in doing so  see that our bodies are not merely vessels to be used and when done with discarded, sometimes really, at will?
Perhaps there is a deep integration between body and mind which bears considering? Who would have thought – a body-mind connection? Why is this relevant? Because we don't fully understand those connections and shouldn't draw conclusions just yet. 
A lot depends on our perception of things. What we think we are finds expression in many different forms. We can talk and write and often our actions “speak for themselves”. But our interpretation is quite limited as individuals trying to communicate and thus we seek norms that everyone can relate to.
We are also taught that, with eyesight such a predominant sense, physical appearance is nearly irrelevant; don’t judge who a person is by if they are ugly or disabled because it is merely their external presentation, their body.  And yet in society we love advertising athletic, sexy young people as the perfect state of being. We strive to maintain those images as iconic. And we look to disabled people as “something went wrong”, because they are not well adapted, by nature, to deal with the rigors of physical survival.

But, I was under the impression we had established the mind to be so significant? Problem solving, thinking, the ability to go beyond certain physical limitations. Ahh, but what about human beings who are both physically disabled as well as mentally a bit, shall we say, sub-par?  There is a problem. They don’t fit in very well, since both physically and mentally they often can’t make it on their own. They need support and care, on an intensive level which is draining on others who merely want to “live their lives”, like normal people. No one wants to be limited when they are not the ones who turned out physically and mentally compromised. 
There are important things to do. Build roads, invent penicillin, go to the movies and listen to concerts, race down a track at 300 km/h. Those “compromised” individuals don’t fit into that world do they? So much so, that if you really thought about it, they are so different from regular folk, that they could be their own whole class of person. As a matter of fact you could argue that they are so different, being extremely less able, not able for example even to communicate their most simple wishes and most basic needs, that they really aren’t people at all! In  the sense that you I are people of course, normal.

The only thing  that I find a bit awkward about that approach is my son who is one of those non-people. For some strange reason, realizing that he is not a person doesn’t make me love him any less. I guess I have the more primitive brain systems to thank for that since love has nothing whatsoever to do with higher brain function.
My son can’t communicate and has severe brain damage but that doesn’t mean he can’t love. As  a matter of fact with his higher coordinative brain function so severely impaired, he might actually, since he can smile if he is stroked or talked to and his eyes light up when I hold him when he doesn’t  suffer pain due to his broken down body (that brain again), be more preoccupied with love and loving than you or me. Do you know this to be not true? Anyone who makes the effort to get to know him will certainly end up realizing that his reactions and behavior could be categorized as loving.
But how are those compromised persons, uh sorry, human beings, helping us? Are they to us, socially, say as our endocrine system is to our conscious almighty brain? I don’t know. But when I take care of elderly patients, the sick and the disabled in my work or private life I feel I am learning something. I am gaining knowledge. The ability to care, technically also but as a person, understanding this notion of giving, even past the point of knowing what it is I am getting back (is that a form of faith?)
But still, there are people, certainly intelligent,  who have established (we all know that knowledge is static and can be summed up in lists, and lists, in regards even to people waiting for treatment are subject to change and editing according to priorities, since one group of people can decide their needs are greater than another groups' needs. Or am I confusing this with discrimination?)that my son is not a person and thus naturally should not be afforded much more resources than we, as a society, allocate to those more “feasible” individuals. The only thing is, is that those individuals don’t need those resources as much. Then again those resources were created by healthy people. So it’s a strange relationship. Like how we don’t understand and especially don’t actively feel our endocrine system functioning to take care of us.
To my mind the knowledge gained and the ability to try and connect with those sick, disabled and dying people is extremely helpful in maintaining, if not furthering, our evolutionary place in nature.

My mother passed away earlier this month due to the truly horrible disease of ALS. When she stopped being able to communicate, not  even willingly able to open and close her eyes due to the paralysis and massive number and dosage of pain numbing medications, she became a kind of non-person. I didn’t feel she needed to therefore be left alone to die or treated less or loved less and that as much as was being done to make her as comfortable as possible, there was more to be done which I did not hesitate to attempt. Her mind was still functioning behind that mask of illness and as ‘people’ will increasingly find out, a great deal of conscious activity can be ongoing even in patients decried as living in a vegetative state.
Still it may sound strange to some that as a matter of fact it didn’t bother me one bit when she became a non-person, the last few days of her life inexorably slipping away as I tended to her swollen feet and brushed her teeth, because I felt satisfied in relating to her, as a human being.



  1. What you have written is remarkable. I am caring for my mother in her final days. She stopped eating 19 days ago and has small sips of fluid here and there. She is in and out of consciousness and communicating a little. Through all this has been a very evident showing of love. From words we have shared to the look in her eyes. She is ready to go but her body is holding on and won't shut down. I had no idea this process could be so slow. I feel for her. It's not what she wants. To make the time easier for her we have had her at home and the family have been around her constantly. She knows how much she is loved and she is at peace in herself. I just wish bodies didn't have to be so mechanical and that will power could help you along a bit more. I have learnt a lot since this all started on Jan 1. It has changed my perspective on dying. I can see how it can be a natural and beautiful thing. It has softened my grief.
    Thank you for your post. It helped me

    1. Marcelle...I truly empathize with your experience. It is so similar to my mother's passing years ago. Her body hung around, the spirit departed. I sometimes think you have to assure the dying that it's ok to pass and to tell them that you will be ok...it's as if they linger for our sake because they feel we are not quite ready. After I told my mother it was ok, she passed quickly and peacefully. You are in my thoughts in these days....

  2. M, there isn't much to add to your understanding, certainly. As you said, in the end the yin and the yang separate and there is no longer harmony between them. It is then that we can see more clearly the separateness, the mechanical aspects.Some would say that there is no point to having a drawn out end because of suffering...the body generally does its best to give many years of service and if there is a 'meaning' to consciousness then it exists because of the interaction with the physical.

    What you are going through is truly heart wrenching and draining but again, has changed you forever. Little solace to be found perhaps that our experiences return to the collective unconscious, but the best thing we have to offer, the caring, is a freeing and magnificent effort. You and your family have been in my thoughts.

  3. I am also struggling with these understandings. Yes, we have body and mind and spirit/quantum energy. The energetic self knows though its perceptive heart, that energy infuses the mind which controls as much of body as the body allows. Yes, it is about an abundance of love for our kids, our parents, our friends that sustains and enhances their energetic field which feeds back to us and replenishes us. I still don't know, but I believe; I guess it's a a matter of heart. It's also a matter of the resiliency of the body which is limited unlike the mind and the energetic field in which we participate. After awhile, I'm not sure I think straight...but I try.

    A powerful, insightful post Eric you... you always make me think and reflect. Warmth to Segev his great dad.

  4. walking here with a smile. take care.. have a nice day ~ =)

    http://www.lonelyreload.com (A Growing Teenager Diary) ..

  5. Dear Eric,

    Sorry to hear about your mum. Sending you a huge hug. You are truly a remarkable person xxx