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Friday, January 21, 2011

Mind Body Connections

On Thursday, January 20th, wine women and philosophy kicked off its 2011 members' salon series with a foray into mindfulness and meditative practices, led by guest speaker Patsy Walker (pictured). As those of you familiar with our salon evenings will know, a pedagogy of conversation is central to our approach to doing philosophy together at these bi-monthly get-togethers. This has led us to experiment with a wide range of conversational forms and formats - the interview, the symposium, the informal dialogue, peripatetics (asking questions while walking) and the debate, to name just a handful - and the result of this experimentation has been to give us each an insight into our own learning processes and preferences.

This is the first time that we have had a guest speaker address us (until now, those animating the evening have been members) and we were delighted to welcome Patsy into our salon. After all, the guest speaker was a staple of the 18th and 19th century Parisian Salons upon which we model ourselves : a specialist in a certain domain, generally literary or artistic, brought in by the hosting salonniere to enlighten and enrich her cast of salon regulars. We were also delighted to see so many new faces in the room - one, who had been gifted a membership by her daughter-in-law for Christmas; another three, who were friends of an existing member and an away day participant - all of whom we welcomed with joy. There was delight, too, in seeing the familiar faces who form our own cast of salon regulars...Drink in hand and salon packed to the gills, Rona welcomed one and all to the season's premiere, and we were off.

Providing a philosophical backdrop for the reflections on mindfulness that Patsy would offer and expound upon, Linnet spoke briefly of Cartesian Dualism and the age-old quest to work out the limits of, and connections between, mind and body. Explaining the methodological process used by Descartes to first differentiate mind from body and then, elevate mind over body, Linnet suggested some of the shortcomings of this kind of dualist and hierarchical thinking - particularly for women. A brief discussion of Descartes' famous Cogito - "I think, therefore I am" - provided a fitting segue into Patsy's far more organic approach to the mind/body connection, and her discussion - based on personal experience - of those mysterious powers and mystic realms that Descartes' reductive reasoning failed to take into account. Making a good case for the benefits to be had in embracing a more mindful approach to life and its various challenges, Patsy then put her talk into action: leading us through a couple of meditative exercises, and showing how a simple activity like drinking a cup of tea could provide the perfect space for daily meditative practice.

We want to thank Patsy for providing us with an eye-opening look into the world of mindfulness and its link to the body's various energies, not to mention her encouraging of members to find their own "third eye." We also appreciate the stories that members and guests shared of their own forays into meditation and mindfulness, both in the larger group discussion and in the smaller conversational breakaways that followed.

The next salon evening takes place on Thursday, March 10th at 7:30pm, and has as its theme our personal codes of ethics as they link to symbolism and heraldry. We will be designing our own coats of arms...If you already have a family coat of arms, why not bring it along. We will be Skyping in a member who lives in Scotland, Kim Nicoll, who has done a fair amount of research into Scottish heraldry. This is yet another experiment in conversation - this time, a trans-Atlantic exchange via Skype technology. This technology might well allow us to create face-to-face dialogue across thousands of miles, but it doesn't get rid of the five hour time difference between us and the UK. Please try to arrive five to ten minutes early for this one, as Kim will be joining our salon evening at 12:30am her time and we don't want to keep her waiting too much!