Smaller breakout groups?
After the class, Rebecca and me briefly discussed our thoughts for the breakout groups. We found that we see great value in direct interactions, with the goal of exchanging personal experiences, challenges and topics in the context of awareness and self-debugging. Reflective feedback by thoughtful, perceptive people with similar stations in life could be very helpful in learning about oneself. Perhaps the groups should be even smaller (four people may work well). For instance, we could sub-split the A and B groups further for part of the time.
Relationship between Western science and Eastern tradition
Marko and me talked about the significance of the scientific studies on the efficacy of Qi Gong and Tai Chi. We reflected whether they produce genuine insight, rather than falling short of capturing the effects that are obvious to practitioners.
There is certainly value in using studies like the one described by Peter for influencing public policy, health care and public opinion. But what is there to learn for those interested in the practices themselves? From a cognitive science perspective, it seems clear that a daily practice of directing attention into motion and physiology will improve the coupling between physiological states and the proprioceptive representations that our brain uses to coordinate our movements. A more fluid gait, less anxiety, more ergonomic movement, fewer injuries, reduced cognitive load during movement, and training effects are all to be expected.
This led to the observation that Eastern and Western frameworks seem to have cultural incompatibilities, which are reflected in a Western reception that is sometimes overly naive, or that cuts out significant parts of the concepts to remove “esoteric baggage”, until all that is left is gymnastic exercise.
I wonder if there is a third way, i.e. to capture the domain of the mind with a clean epistemology, without using metaphor instead of explanation, without magical thinking, but at the same time without losing structure, depth and subtlety in the translation. The distinction between “Western reductionism” on one hand, and a conceptual cluster of “non-linearity”, “emergence”, “systemic dependencies” and “spiritual experience” offers powerful cultural allusions that are useful for staking out a community identity, but in my view do not sufficiently capture actual insight or practice.