• Bruce Johnston

Re-Uniting With Our Bodies

I have been deeply influenced by the work of the Canadian author-actor Philip Shepherd. His books Radical Wholeness and New Self, New World gave me a way back home into my body after unimaginable tragedy and soul-shattering life circumstances. Insofar as it is possible to overcome post-traumatic stress, I have, and Mr. Shepherd's practices, observations, and understandings made that possible. You can 'meet' him at

Mr. Shepherd's basic insight is that we in the West live with a damaging - and false - story of what it means to be human. Its central conceit is that we are a 'skin-encapsulated ego', with intelligence completely localized in our cranium. The cranial brain, or hetabrain, as Shepherd calls it, has a particular kind of intelligence, often associated with masculinity in Western culture. Its intelligence stands apart from the world, allowing us the abstraction and perspective so useful in developing mechanical models, controlling natural processes, and reaching analytic, step-by-step understanding of phenomena. As far as Western culture as a whole is concerned, the hetabrain is us. It is the sole place where consciousness resides, and its intelligence is the highest form, really the only one that counts.

Not every culture believes all this, of course, and as Shepherd points out, it is scientifically, relationally, and experientially false. We actually have brains in our heart and in our gut that relate to life in ways very different from that of the isolated hetabrain, a fact which science has rediscovered and forgotten several times over the past century or so. Intelligence and evolution is distributed throughout the world, most certainly including in our bodies, as quantum mechanical experiments have shown pretty much beyond a reasonable doubt. In fact, nonlocality and interconnectedness - the continuous interaction of all matter with all other matter - are elementary consequences of the fundamental equations of that theory, which most scientists consider the most successful ever devised.

The bad news is that virtually all of us who grew up in the West have internalized this story in some way or another, and it haunts us. From our obsession with money and power to our neurotic tendency to analyze and diagnose everything under the sun, the Tyrant (which is how Shepherd refers to the isolated, body-uninformed hetabrain) casts a long shadow in our culture indeed. Donald Trump's presidency was perhaps its most spectacular eruption in recent years, in my opinion, but Hillary Clinton was just as dominated by her ideas and rigid 'principles' that seemed to have little connection to anything but her own political career. But there is good news, too - coming home to the body, and hence the world, is in fact not that difficult with a little practice and intention. Besides, it feels so good that you'll want to keep doing it. Over time, as you rest and attune more and more in the holy Present, you will come to realize that you and the world are the same, and that mystery and possibility are ever-present.

Philip Shepherd has developed methods for directing people to this awareness, which he describes in detail in his two books listed above. But if you'd like to do exercises for this purpose with someone else, I am fairly well-practiced and available for that - and almost always interested.

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