Mindsight, Mindfulness and the Journey from Me to We by Dan Siegel
Response by Christian Early
As I listen to Dan give his understanding of the human being, I am aware of something that strikes me as quite remarkable. My inner voice and self-talk is saying “yes, that’s me” or “I’ve done that.” I’m not alienated from my sense of self by the science but rather I feel as if I’m being reintroduced to myself. I can extend a compassion that comes from understanding what is going on inside without the sense of being released from the responsibility of being person in relationship. This feature of being able to understand but not excuse seems to me to be of crucial importance in situations in which a “NO!” needs to be said.
What Dan has achieved, then, is to hold together neuroscience, attachment theory, and a conception of a healthy mind in such a way that together they deepen lived experience. The brilliance of it is easily missed because it seems simple, for example, to say that the mind is an emergent process, which regulates the flow of energy and information between the interior and exterior environment (it is embodied and relational), and that an integrated mind is a healthy mind, and integration is understood as the linking of differentiated parts.
It may be simple, but notice what you can do with it! Now you have a definition of health as the homeostatic and harmonic river-like flow of integration between chaos and rigidity. You don’t have to tell Mennonites twice that harmony is healthy and good for us. We know that already and we know it in our bones. We also know that it is not good for us when a voice is not heard. I want to stress that this is not primarily cognitive, but bodied and emotional. The connection and the flow of energy come not when you feel understood, but when you feel felt. Here the river of integration becomes a river of healing.
One of the intellectual difficulties with this conference is that it has the term “spirituality” in the title. Spirituality gets used in so many different ways that it is unclear what it means. I want to suggest that we use Dan’s definition of integration as the linking of differentiated parts, but that we expand it such that when we are talking about spirituality we are talking about making contact or linking with that which is bigger. In a remarkable passage at the very end of Revelation, John sees a New Jerusalem descending and an angel shows him the river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God and sparkling like crystal. On either side of the river stands a tree of life, and the leaves of the tree, explains John, are for the healing of the nations. The healing of the nations. The whole of the New Testament ends with one final invitation: Let the thirsty come.