By Casey McCarthy, M.A., L.P.C.C.
and Quinn Mims
Greetings fellow wanderers and welcome back to our 9 part series for Yggdrasil Fest. Yesterday we compared Odin’s struggle to that of a seed struggling to become a tree. Just like a seed, Odin is unable to process the immensity of his experiences until he can grow beyond his preconceived idea of “self.” In many ways, we’re often limited by our preconceived notions of self- especially where the self begins and ends.
Beyond the self to our greater Self
We often considers mind and body as separate things. Postcolonial culture dictates that the prowess of the mind supersedes our bodily processes, but this ignores the complexity of our experiences. We’re taught to favor thought, reason, and categorical thinking over sensation, intuition and emotion. We have divorced ourselves from our bodies in favor of “soul” and removed that soul from the physical stimuli of the world. Odin does the opposite of this and interfaces with the World tree as an extension of self.
Information Processing in our bodies
Just like a tree, our nervous system moves nutrients and information throughout our body. The nerves and synapses that connect to our bodily experience as it interfaces with the earth are our roots. Our spine and brain stem operate as the trunk; encased in a protective layer and communicating signals all the time. The brain connects to the spinal column and the various nerve clusters that root into the body. Consider your brain as branches: growing, pruning, shifting according to stimulus. The cognitive brain can only process what the body experiences.
Odin’s transcendental process suggests that true wisdom can’t be intellectualized, but rather it requires experience. Knowledge is one thing, but wisdom requires embodiment of principle. It can’t be categorized, predicted, measured. By engaging directly in an ecstatic experience with his hardship and struggle Odin took the opportunity to process his experiences with his whole self, including his body. From a neuroscience perspective we are starting to catch up with this way of being. In this culture we heavily favor the intellect. Logic, reason, verifiability. What we’re discovering is that our bodies contain these experiences as well as our minds. We receive input and stimulus from our bodies, which then moves into our frontal cortex, not the other way around.
Mind-Body connection as a conduit for greater experience
Yesterday we established a practice for enduring hardship. Today, we’re going to move use a similar method to grow into a wider and more complex experience, and like the Allfather, learn to embrace the Self beyond ourselves. Let’s consider Odin’s predicament. Odin is on a quest for wisdom. He has experienced all there is to experience, but still true wisdom eluded him. Something transpired within Odin that led him to approach the World Tree as an interface for the self- “Of myself to myself” is how Odin conceptualizes his sacrificial experience.
For this nine day exercise, expand your thinking to include the full spectrum of your bodily experience. Instead of thought informing action, let’s explore how our actions inform thoughts. Over the next three sections we will dive into this deeper starting from the body and moving into mind, eventually realizing they are not mutually exclusive.
While performing normal daily tasks and going about your day, take notice of what thoughts and feelings arise in accordance with your physical action and immediate environment.
When you take up a task, what actions influence your state of mind and what thoughts arise in correlation with those actions?
How does your immediate environment inform your state of mind? Notice the different environments you move in and out of through the day- What kinds of thoughts arise in these different environments?
The purpose of this exercise is to expand our concept of self to account for the full complexity of our experiences.