Give Attention and Care to Mind, Body, Relationships and Environment

Give Attention and Care to Mind, Body, Relationships and Environment



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Give Attention and Care to Mind, Body, Relationships and Environment

I imagine and hope that the slogan on this mug strikes you as straightforward and sensible. Well, of course, giving our attention and care to our mind, body, relationships and environment is a good thing that we would do well to remember every day. Still, I would like to unpack this a bit and offer some more details about what it could mean for you.

You might have noticed that the design I use for this mug is very similar to the logo for Attention Bazaar. This is not a coincidence. While the name of the store emphasizes attention, the question of what we focus our attention on and what we do with it needs to be considered. For me, these four areas or dimensions turn out to be the best orienting framework for finding my way in the wilderness of experience. I believe that the 4 dimensions of mind, body, relationships and environment give us an excellent map of the main regions of our awareness.

This actually comes from something called “Integral Theory”, which was developed by an American writer named Ken Wilber. I first became aware of him in the early 80’s and have been studying and using his ideas since then, both in my personal life and my work as a psychotherapist. Wilber calls these 4 areas “quadrants” and presents them visually, much as I have in the design for this mug. His terms for them go like this: 1) Interior/Individual 2) Exterior/Individual 3) Interior/Collective 4) Exterior/Collective. Over the years, in trying to share these ideas with others, I have found that the more ordinary language of mind, body, relationships and environment is more straightforward. It also happens to be what those more complicated terms actually mean.


So, we can direct our attention to each of these 4 areas:

1) Mind, or our “inside”. What thoughts and feelings are we having at any particular moment? What interpretations are we giving to make meaning out of events or the intentions and motivations of others? What are we believing about the world and our place in it? What is our mood? Do we feel clear or foggy in our thinking? What emotions are we having? Glad, sad, mad, afraid, ashamed, proud? We can simply notice what is happening in our subjective experience.

2) Body, or the “outside”, objective part of ourselves. Do we have a feeling of physical wellbeing, or do we feel compromised somehow in our body? What are we doing with our posture? Are we aware of any sensations of pain, tension or discomfort? What are we putting into our body, i.e., food, drink, drugs, medicine, alcohol, etc.? How well are we sleeping? Are we getting any exercise? Basically, we can notice what our body feels like and what we actually do with and to it.

3) Relationships, or what is happening intersubjectively between ourselves and others. Where are we on the spectrum between harmony and discord with important people in our lives? How do we experience similarities and differences between ourselves and others? Are our relationships satisfying and reciprocal, marked by respect, appreciation and affection- or not? How do we communicate our emotions and needs? Can we set boundaries when we need to? Do we feel victimized by others?

4) Environment, or the world of things all around us. The main environments that we can pay attention to are our home, our workplace and where we go for leisure and recreation. Is our home and neighborhood a place where we feel safe and comfortable? Is our home well-provisioned, organized, clean? Or not? What is it like to be home and what do we do to create and maintain our personal space? All of these things can also be noticed about our work environment. And where do we like to go on weekends or holidays? Are natural settings something we are drawn to, or do we prefer the excitement of a big city?

There are literally an infinite number of things we can pay attention to in each of these four areas. I have only begun to scratch the surface. The kind of attention that I mean here has the quality of mindfulness. In other words, first just notice without judgement. What is actually going on with your mind, body, relationships and environment? Just notice and be with it, as I suggested in my blog about savoring the moment.

The next part has to do with care. Care is about the way we respond to whatever it is we have given our attention to. If we really remained absolutely non-judgmental about whatever arises in our awareness, there would be no reference points for deciding what to do. In order to move at all, we have to judge things based on a set of priorities. We even have to use our judgement to decide what is worth paying attention to in the first place. Otherwise, without judgment we are paralyzed. I want to suggest that our priorities arise from our needs. To care for ourselves, or others, means to respond in a way that fulfills needs. Simple as that. Knowing and understanding the full range of our needs turns out to be a challenge, but basic needs are pretty clear to most of us. I invite you to spend some time reflecting on your own needs in terms of your mind, body, relationships and environment. If you could do at least one thing each day to take care of your needs in each area, that would be good, right?

The other thing to be aware of is that these 4 areas are not really separate. They interact with and impact each other. For instance, if we don’t take care of ourselves physically, it will have an impact on our mind and likely our relationships. If we don’t take care of our relationship needs this can impact our minds and body too. It could impact our environment as well. Has anyone ever had to move out after a breakup? So, just as neglect of any one area can affect the others negatively, care of each of these dimensions has a very positive synergistic effect on the other 3 and so our lives.

I have merely skimmed the surface in my description of the 4 quadrants. There is an enormous iceberg below this, so much more that can be said. My intention has been to merely acknowledge these 4 fundamental dimensions of our experience. This gives us a map or set of orienting reference points that are useful in directing our attention and care. If you agree that this makes sense, you may want to look further into the four quadrants of mind, body, relationships and environment. There is a wealth of information available on the internet if you simply Google “Integral Quadrants”. Here are just 2 links that I think give a good introduction and go a bit further than I have in this blog.

Again, my intention for this and other blogs, and for my products with slogans, is to provide little reminders that will support your own path of self-care and development. Wishing you success!




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