Mind Body Split...Revisited

The problem is bigger than the fact that English language speakers cannot just stop splitting mind and body because these concepts are split in our language and that is how we think.  Awkwardly saying, "Mind-body," all the time does not seem to effect any real change in the way people perceive.

Martial artists sometimes exacerbate the problem by researching so called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for answers.  These investigations often end in disappointment because TCM is a modern invention which attempted to incorporate Western notions of anatomy and physiology into a traditional therapy.  It is problematic in the original Chinese.  

Martial artists often want answers to questions like, what are the Meridians of Acupuncture and how were they discovered?  Realizing that TCM doesn't answer those questions they may seek out older Chinese medical texts, or perhaps texts on daoyin.  However, these are often framed by Chinese thinkers in the 20th Century who were themselves trying to adopt the mind-body split.  And once we are into ancient translations, sadly, sometimes the best we can hope for is concluding that we don't know what the original text meant.  Seriously.  

A lot of Chinese medicine is passed down in lineages from teacher to student.  In these relationships, texts are used to transmit idiosyncratic explanations, ideas which simply can not be gleaned from the ancient texts themselves.  (For more on this particular subject see Elisabeth Hsu's excellent comparison of different transmission methods, The Transmission of Chinese Medicine (Cambridge Studies in Medical Anthropology) .)

No! The problem is even bigger than that!  Traditional Chinese cosmology does in fact split what we are into different aspects or components!  But the split between body and mind is a profoundly different split than the one traditional Chinese cosmology uses!

The concept of jing, qi, and shen is a conceptual split, an artificial categorization embedded in language.  To understand this type of thinking everything must be split into these three categories. Discussions of qi alone, will not escape the West's mind-body split.  The same is true for terms that martial artists love like yi (intention which is liquid-like, visualized, and felt), or jin (force generated from within the body which is not based directly on momentum or strength).  Those definitions I just wrote in parentheses are tangible, but they limit comprehension, they impede student development in the long run.

There is no way around this problem other than perhaps working in pure-animal mode, outside of language altogether!  And someone always seems to get bitten when we try that.

I have been suggesting the expression, active-spatial mind, as a translation of shen; and, the physical body without animation, as a translation of jing.  However, if we want to use these and get around the mind-body split we have to understand that neither jing nor shen exist without qi as an intermediary between the two.  Qi is how jing and shen communicate with each other.