As Goenkaji says, whatever arises in the mind arises simultaneously on the body as a sensation. There is no separation between thoughts, emotions and body sensations. However we are conditioned in western society to experience the mind and body as separate. We go to a psychologist for our minds and a doctor for our body. People in the west often live from their heads and can be dissociated from their body. This can have far reaching implications for health, it’s easier for disease to get a foothold if we do not inhabit our body.
It’s interesting as an acupuncturist to witness how the mind becomes our physiology. Our mind actually becomes our body and we can know our Sankaras or reaction patterns by looking at the physical symptoms we have or even by how the body appears. Every moment our mind is producing a certain biochemistry which produces our physiology and over time it becomes our physical structure. It’s not enough for me to put acupuncture needles in to make the symptoms go away if through a behavior pattern the symptoms are constantly being reinforced. It’s a very disempowering place for a patient to be when they think that whatever is happening is random and out of their control and they are looking for an expert outside of them to fix them. It’s much more empowering when they can see their own mind/body relationship and see how they maybe contributing. The beauty of vipassana is that it helps us change our underlying behavior patterns to affect real lasting change.
There are 5 general constitutional types.
The water constitutional type has the theme of reacting to life through the lens of fear. Fear can show up in different ways such frozenness, anxiety, intensity, urgency, over ambition, never-ending go-go-go, extreme risk taking, orthodoxy, or isolation. Fear is a contraction or excess of the life force rooted in aversion. The habit of fear erodes on the kidneys and the adrenals as the nervous system is always on and in vigilance mode, it hastens the aging process, can lead to burnout and exhaustion, it can cause hyper or hypo thyroidism, hinders the body from resting and rejuvenating, it can lead to teeth or bone issues, also lower back pain and knee pain.
The wood constitutional type has a theme of reacting to life through the lens of anger. Anger rises quickly and can cause tension and constraint in the body. It can show up as being judgmental, being at loggerheads with obstacles and not finding creative ways around them, brash action, anger can tend to see things in terms of black and white/ good and bad. Pathological anger can cause headaches, skin rashes, hypertension, irritable bowel, ulcers, heart attacks, strokes and pain anywhere in the body. An inflamed mind can also lead to an inflamed body.
The fire constitution has a theme of reacting to life through the lens of joy. Joy becomes pathological when there’s excess like too much excitement and manic behavior which can lead to heart issues such as palpitations, tachycardia and heart attacks. It can also lead to insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, agitation and being out of sorts.
The earth constitution type sees life through the lens of over thinking, worry and pensiveness. Worry can show up as having lots of thoughts about things but never taking effective action on them, analysis paralysis, over thinking can show up as intellectualization or constantly grazing on ideas which don’t bear fruit or thinking which over complicates situations. This can have a real effect on our digestive system leading to things like nausea, fatigue, weight gain, bloating, difficult digestion, phlegm and mucous issues, diarrhea or constipation, also too headaches.
The metal constitution see’s life through the lens of sadness and grief. Grief can show up as heaviness, tiredness, apathy and depression. Grief over time weakens the lungs and can impair immunity, can lead to asthma, bronchitis, coughing, mucous issues in the lungs and sinuses and allergies.
These are just some examples in brief about how certain habits of mind can show up physically and how the mind and body is in constant interaction. Our body is constantly communicating with us and we have a lot of things to alert us when things are getting out of balance. When things are off in the body we can reflect and ask ourselves what is going on in our minds. Goenkaji calls these our private secretaries.
At the same time it is the nature of the body to break down and deteriorate and we might have conditions that we just inherited karmically. We are lucky though to have the Dhamma to work with suffering that arises whether from recent or long-standing conditions.