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Craig's Reflections on Last Friday's Workshop

Craig Hassel wrote this entry

OK, I want to offer a few reflections and insights on the workshop session I experienced last Friday April 17, especially as relating to the scholar bodymind. For me, it is important that I allow myself to be as open as possible to the immediacy of perceiving and experiencing anything that comes up in the moment, suspending my impulses to fall back to a highly cognitive, analytical, rational processing of what is happening. If I allow myself to move to a more expansive, sensual frame of reference, I am able to gain access to perceptual data that tends to be closed off or unavailable if I am situated in a more cognitive, analytical, rational, judgmental frame of reference. This is not easy for me, as of course I am highly trained as a Eurocentric, male, scholar to attend to events in a highly cognitive/critical, analytical, rational, judgmental (CARJ) way. Please understand I am not knocking CARJ at all, as it is quite essential for me as I write at this time. I’m just simply stating the obvious, that there is a time and place for everything.

I have learned that if I come into our workshops with a heavy CARJ disposition, then I must find ways to shift away from this – for me - more habitual frame of reference into a more open, perceiving, intuitive, expansive, sensual (OPINES) frame of reference. (Please forgive the acronyms if possible.) If I am not successful in shifting away from heavy CARJ toward OPINES then this is when I experience greater frustration with “getting in my own way”. Mind you, I am always getting in my own way to some extent, but my perceptual window can be quite narrow indeed if I cannot momentarily put aside the CARJ impulses and disposition.

So, what helps me to shift toward a more OPINES frame of reference? Meditation, the space, the movement, Margie’s facilitation, the group dynamics and informality are all supportive of me in shifting toward a more OPINES mode. I also have to say that my golf avocation is a place where I practice this shift, at least on a momentary basis. If you’ll bear with me for a moment I will illustrate with an example:

I have hit a good drive on the eighth hole, a par 4, but the ball has rolled just through the fairway into some taller grass. I’m 140 yards from the hole, which is cut in the middle of a large circular green, sloped higher in back to lower in front. It is cool out (45), with a 10 mph headwind and a slight drizzle, damp conditions. This is heavy CARJ time, as I decide what club to pull from the bag. The high grass and damp conditions conspire to give me a “flyer” lie, wherein the ball will jump out of the rough as struck, giving me extra distance with little spin on the ball. Will this extra “jump” be offset by the 10 mph headwind, the damp, cool air and soft ground, which all conspire to take distance out of the shot?

Once I make this CARJ decision and select a club, I must now find the right swing, using proprioception as I rehearse a practice swing or two. I must shift toward OPINES as I take a practice swing, my experience telling me what sensations I need based on my CARJ analysis. As I get into my pre-shop routine and prepare to hit the ball, I must purge my mind of CARJ, allowing my skill to “run off” in the moment as I swing. Analystica, self-conscious thought destroys the relaxed, rhythmic flow needed for a good repeatable swing, so for a few seconds on each swing, CARJ is quite counterproductive. In this example, things worked out well, and my shot ended up 5 feet below the hole. But the reverse is also true. If I allow myself too much OPINES during club selection, my decision might be based on the emotional rollercoaster that inevitably evolves during the round. This leads to mental errors of strategy or club selection.

Back to scholarship. I see this kind of frame of reference shifting as very much a part of the exploration work we are doing. As a scholar, I must be mindful and respectful of a fuller spectrum conscious awareness, and not insist on privileging one extreme over the other, but work on expanding this multi-dimensionality. For example, a heavy CARJ reflection on my Friday experience would have me pondering the auto-suggestive dimensions of what I experienced, perhaps discounting my experience as “induced” and not reliable.

This response is quite natural given my training and background, but it can take me nowhere if I let it. I need to learn to take responsibility for further developing my OPINES experiential capacity, so that I can bring a better balance of mental states to my scholarship. Nutrition science comes out of a history quite heavy in material, biophysical, mechanistic, molecular, discounting the experiential and subjective. So does my scholarship, quite naturally. While there is no question that a heavy CARJ perspective certainly is quite useful and has a rightful time and place, I believe as scholars we are unnecessarily constrained and restricted by exclusive attachment to CARJ as our only option. I do not believe I can rush to judgment regarding other possibilities. I become biased as a scholar if I limit my perceptual frames of reference. In this light I will close with a quote from Vine Deloria that illustrates metaphysical cultural distinctions :

“The major difference between American Indian views of the physical world and Western science lies in the premise accepted by Indians and rejected by scientists; the world in which we live is alive. Many scientists believe this idea to be primitive superstition and consequently the scientific explanation rejects any nuance of interpretation which would credit the existence of activities as having partial intelligence or sentience. American Indians look at events to determine the spiritual activity supporting or undergirding them. Science insists, albeit at a great price in understanding, that the observer be as detached as possible from the event he or she is observing. Indians know that human beings must participate in events, not isolate themselves from occurrences in the physical world. Indians thus obtain information from birds, animals, rivers and mountains which is inaccessible to modern science.”