“My soul is old; my body is young; my mind drifts in between.”
In Christian circles, the Holy Trinity refers to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As a child growing up in the Christian church, I admit I had a hard time getting my head around that one, and even today, I don’t find it easy to explain. Nowadays, the Holy Trinity is a bit different for me. I prefer to think of it in terms of body-mind-spirit which together, refers to our totality as human beings. So what exactly are the body, mind and spirit?
In ordinary human terms, the body is the physical structure we haul out of bed in the morning. It requires care, and we use it to do things. Sometimes it doesn’t work so well, necessitating medical intervention. If you want to get technical, the body is composed primarily of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorous along with some other trace elements.
However, if you take a closer look at the body, you will realize what a miracle it is. Consider this: An egg cell the size of a pinpoint is fertilized by a sperm cell. From the union of these two cells, all sorts of cells develop…muscle cells, nerve cells, bone cells, blood cells…all resulting in a human body. That human body will grow from infancy to childhood to adulthood, and in adult form, it will be comprised of some seventy-five trillion cells, each made up of atoms numbering around 1027 power.
Consider that the nerve cells make up a million miles of nerves that run through the body. Around 200 billion neurons transmit information in the central and peripheral nervous systems, and it is these neurons and their neurotransmitter chemicals which allow us to receive various sensations.
Through the mystery of consciousness, human beings perceive these sensations, experience emotions, make value judgements, think, plan, store and retrieve memories, and enact motor behaviours. Without our thinking about it, the heart beats, blood pumps, hair grows, food digests, wastes are eliminated, organs are managed, muscles and bones are renewed. To add to all this, Deepak Chopra has been quoted as saying that our bodies are 99.999% empty space, meaning that on a physical level, they are not so solid after all but more like “light beings.” All this said, I’m learning more and more not to underestimate the body’s wisdom.
Now let’s take a look at the mind. Merriam-Webster defines it in three ways:
A) the element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons;
B) the conscious mental events and capabilities in an organism; and
C) the organized conscious and unconscious adaptive mental activity of an organism.
The mind perceives, scans for data, judges, reacts emotionally, houses memories, anticipates, abstracts, processes, dreams and plans.
There are many extraordinary things about the mind that we take for granted. For example, neuroscientists are still unable to satisfactorily account for the subjective experiences of seeing colour, hearing music, and feeling emotional states like love. These things cannot be explained merely in terms of the brain’s neuronal processes. The physiological states correlate with the subjective experiences but they don’t adequately account for them. How does the idea “I’m going to move my right foot” translate into actual physical movement? As of yet, there is no satisfactory way of explaining how such mental events translate into physiological terms. Although the workings of neurons may correlate with mental events, neuroscientists admit that it is unlikely that brain matter itself is responsible.
What about the amazing concept of memory? The concept of short- and long-term memory storage and retrieval, despite recent findings in brain research, still doesn’t answer the question of what is responsible for cementing something in memory. We need only look at the effect that mental visualizations and intentions have on biochemical processes in the human body, the effect of mind over matter, to be even more amazed. In fact, it is this very thing that has led to the upsurge in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) or “mind-body” medicine. I think you can see that we still don’t know much about how our brains produce consciousness, and all evidence suggests that we still aren’t close to figuring it out.
Let’s move on to spirit which is often defined as the animating or vital principle which gives life to physical organisms. For many, spirit is often thought of as a supernatural essence. Many believe this is where we tap into past-life memories and access information from paranormal sources, for example ESP which takes the form of remote viewing, telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, retro-cognition or discernment of subtle-plane personalities. There is also very interesting literature which explains how, at the level of spirit, significant healing is possible.
Spirit also represents all that which is beyond mind, space-time, structure and energy. It is referred to in various traditions using terms such as the God-Self, Absolute Awareness, Tao, I Am, Divine Truth, Source of all Being, Absolute Essence and so forth. No matter how we name it, spirit is the absolute, infinite and eternal. Many feel that spirit is responsible for the multiple phenomena that we experience and the dream that is the universe, the One Self manifesting as all selves. If this is the case, it’s an absolute wonder how spirit has created a world of such endless variety, from subatomic matter, to elements, to physical bodies, to conscious minds and souls.
Listening to the minister from my teenage years try to explain the concept to a group of confirmation candidates, I realized the Holy Trinity is not easily defined. Neither is body-mind-spirit. The best I can come up with is that it is a wondrous reality vaster than we can possibly imagine, the sum of who and what we are which is a perfectly choreographed cosmic dance and an absolute miracle worthy of reverence.
Today’s takeaway: Love your body. Love your mind. Love your spirit. Namaste.