Where is the mind?

In these summer days, I took some time to gather some views on the supposed “place” of the mind.

It is a collection of some texts, quotes and anecdotes that can facilitate the theoretical understanding of the work transmitted within my dance workshops.


CHAPTER 1: Extended Mind

From the book of the biologist and writer Rupert Sheldrake, “The sense of being stared at”, 2003, New York.

“We have been brought up to believe that our minds are inside our heads, that mental activity is nothing but brain activity. Instead, I suggest that our minds extend far beyond our brains; they stretch out through fields that link us to our environment and to each other.  […] Mental fields are rooted in brains, just as magnetic fields around magnets are rooted in the magnets themselves, or just as the fields of transmission around mobile phones are rooted in the phones and their internal electrical activities. As magnetic fields extend around magnets, and electromagnetic fields around mobile phones, so mental fields extend around brains.  […]

Where is the mind?

Images outside our heads

Look around you now. Are the images of what you see inside your brain? Or are they outside you – just where they seem to be?

According to the conventional theory, there is a one-way process: light moves in, but nothing is projected out. The inward movement of light is familiar enough. As you look at this page, reflected light moves from the page through the electromagnetic field into your eyes. The lenses of your eyes focus the light to form upside-down images on your retinas. This light falling on your retinal rod and cone cells causes electrical changes within them, which trigger off patterned changes in the nerves of the retina. Nerve impulses move up your optic nerves and into the brain, where they give rise to complex patterns of electrical and chemical activity.

So far, so good. All these processes can be, and have been, studied in great detail by neurophysiologists and other experts on vision and brain activity. But then something very mysterious happens. You consciously experience what you are seeing, the page in front of you. You also become conscious of the printed words and their meanings. […].

Where is the mind?

When you see this page, you do not experience your image of it as being inside your brain, where it is supposed to be. Instead, you experience its image as being located about two feet in front of you. The image is outside your body. For all its physiological sophistication, the standard theory has no explanation for your immediate and direct experience. All your experience is supposed to be inside your brain, not where it seems to be.

The basic idea I am proposing is so simple that it is hard to grasp. Your image of this page is just where it seems to be, in front of your eyes, not behind your eyes. It is not inside your brain, but outside your brain. Thus, vision involves both an inward movement of light, and an outward projection of images. Through mental fields, our minds reach out to touch what we are looking at. If we look at a mountain ten miles away, our minds stretch out ten miles. If we gaze at distant stars, our minds reach out into the heavens, over literally astronomical distances.”

CHAPTER 2: A Sufi story

From the STORY OF the Young Man and the Sufi Sage

Once upon a time, a young man approached a wise Sufi sage and asked to be freed from his mind’s turmoil in order to attain inner peace. The sage responded that he could assist, but only if the young man brought his mind as an offering.

Determined, the young man embarked on a journey to find his mind. He traveled across mountains, rivers, and deserts, searching everywhere, but he couldn’t locate his mind. Years passed in his relentless quest. Eventually, exhausted and perplexed, he returned to the sage and admitted his failure to find his mind, despite all his efforts.

With a smile, the sage told him that this was the very point.

“I freed you from your mind” – the Sufi said.


The Story of the Young Man and the Sufi Sage


CHAPTER 3: Walking

Thomas Traherne, English poet (1623-1674), 

To walk is by a thought to go;

To move in spirit to and fro;

To mind the good we see;

To taste the sweet;

Observing all the things we meet

How choice and rich they be …


Long before the Romantics espoused such a view, the seventeenth-century poet Thomas Traherne – whose work only became widely available, or known about, in the early twentieth century – was praising the power of a good long walk to stimulate the mind.



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