Where Is the Mind Located?

Which is it – body in mind or mind in body?

If asked whether the mind is located within the body, most people – most Westerners, at least (I cannot speak for how people from other cultures might experience such things) – would immediately and unhesitatingly say “yes, the mind is located within the body.”  Indeed, it often feels a lot like it is.  I was lying awake last night and it was really apparent in the dark and the silence that my thoughts really did seem to be taking place in the physical space between my ears and behind my eyes.  But this, I know, hasn’t always been the case – other cultures have maintained that thinking happens in other parts of the body (by this they did mean thought, not emotion, which I experience as scattered throughout my body), sometimes even disconnected parts!  The heart was a typical one (and Aristotle thought the brain was an organ for cooling the blood).

There are other times, however, when I have exactly the opposite intuition, when I really do feel like my body is actually inside my mind.  It is a strange feeling and I can’t really describe it because it both is and isn’t a matter of physical/spatial location, but that is what it feels like.  Sometimes I oscillate between these two perceptions, back and forth, without any clear priority given to either.  But when I am ‘body in mind’, my thoughts take on a strange non-locality, are not really anywhere, whereas when I am ‘mind in body’, thoughts definitely occur in my head. So I have two questions for everyone:

  1. Do you experience your mind as being located within your body or do you experience your body as being located within your mind?
  2. Do you also experience your thoughts as being in your skull or do you sometimes have thoughts in your heart or left pinky?
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6 Responses to Where Is the Mind Located?

  1. Orphan says:

    I can relocate my sense of consciousness elsewhere (In the left pinky, so to speak), but it’s more the sense that my mind is co-located, rather than located within, that part of the body. Which sort of describes my general conceptual relationship with my body; it is a source of sensory input co-located with my mind, but neither within nor containing it.

  2. Merleau-Ponty does some really interestign work regarding the relationship between “mind” and body in “Phenomenology of Perception.”

  3. Sabio Lantz says:

    Yeah, a short post with a picture — not just a dry, unending desert of black and white. So I read this one.

    I have felt the mind in several places — as you mention.

    More interesting, for me, is feeling where your body is. I can easily get people to feel their body is much bigger than it is. Some feel this is the energy of their aura. But I think the location of mind and size of body are just both illusions that are flexible.

  4. Sabio Lantz says:

    So we commented — so where did you go? Enjoying the beach, I hope !!

  5. James says:

    Hello All,

    @Orphan: I think I understand what you mean about being able to co-locate in some particular part of the body. I very definitely have the sense (mostly when I try to pay attention, but sometimes it impresses itself upon me) that one or the other is very definitely ‘the container’.

    @jleavittpearl: Thanks for the recommendation! I have to admit to not having read any Merleau-Ponty, but I am definitely going to add it to ‘The List’.

    @Sabio: I have been a very rude blogger, haven’t I? I hope everyone can forgive me!

    I definitely agree that the sense of ‘size’ of the body is completely variable – also its shape. I have sat enough meditation that I have both wondered whether I wasn’t going to burst the walls and ceilings of the room because I was so huge, and also felt like my entire body was curling up into the size of a bean (both of which made me open my eyes, just to check that it wasn’t actually happening)!

  6. Marc says:

    How about this; try closing your eyes and breath, where are your thoughts? are they behind your eyes? or are some external? if so how far? maybe the brain is like the universe filled with empty space, the space is the universe and we are an expression of it, that’s why coincidence happens, expresion
    any thoughts vigilio_98@yahoo.com

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