Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
Forgive the pun! This new thread is to take up the question that theurj raised here, about innovative ways to use our forum exchanges more deliberately as a means of transformative practice (to the extent that this medium allows):
theurj: So it seems that for Mark some type of socially engaged transformative practice of the unprecedented is needed for spirituality. This might include, besides meditative communities, things like
"collective and ritual dynamics [...] that incorporate a dose of spiritual aspiration or idealism into the mix. There are also many different kinds of potent esoteric ritual spaces in the broad sense of that term, which can have reality-generating impact. In short, the very fabric of reality is experienced as transformed or reconfigured in such spaces, so that a lot of this is about investigating, in my mentor Jeff Kripal's words, altered states of history, and altered states of consciousness and culture...."
Can we even have such shared enactions in a 'discussion forum?' Or would that require real-time meat-space local practice communities? If the latter, we'd still be engaging with said local practice groups, often and usually of different varieties (cultural, religious etc.), so would there be enough commonality to share and relate such spiritual 'experiences' here? Per Balder's work, they would not be enacting the 'same' spiritual experiences, though there might be some homeomorphic equivalencies.
Given that, how then do we engage in a forum like this to move an IPS agenda forward? It seems the translative is the only avenue open. Or are there some innovative ways we can indeed engage transformative 'practice' together? Also Mark affirmed that some kinds of translation can indeed support and engender transformation, so how so? Can that be achieved in this forum?
Perhaps part of the problem is that we are conditioned not to notice the unprecedented in our moment to moment experience? Hence the need for something drastic to shatter that conditioning? I think that's part of many so-called transformative trainings, to remove the obstructive conditioning to this natural and inherent ordinary sacredness or sacred ordinariness. And sometimes just noticing how the latter is so is effective in creating that opening.
Yes, I agree: a good part of spiritual training involves, not looking for exceptional, supernatural experiences, but thawing those habits which dull us to the freshness and sacredness or preciousness of the 'ordinary.' And something like a practice of neither agreeing nor disagreeing with (or accepting or rejecting) whatever confronts us is one such practice, which serves to undermine the automatic slotting of communications or experiences into "the known." And yet, I would also add that a position which wishes to dismiss or discount any possibility of those extraordinary experiences (recounted throughout human spiritual history) that do radically challenge our norms and preferred metaphysical beliefs, our patterns of constructing self and world, in favor of reinforcing a view that "everything is just ordinary," may very likely be an approach in service to its own Precious master signifier: how I've got the world sorted right now is just about how it really is. No big surprises to be expected. So, I say, 'yes' both to thawing the 'known' in ordinary experience, without a need to fetishize or 'chase' the supernatural, and to leaving room (as an attitudinal stance) for the radically unprecedented, the extraordinary, to irrupt -- and to be courted, with caution, on occasion.
I don't think I indicated that "everything is just ordinary" is the answer; just cautioning against a common tendency to look beyond it to something special as defining the unprecedented. As to the irruptive, we've discussed that before, e.g. in Cameron's work. Given its basis in Derrida it would be hard to make a case that I'm against such a notion.
"In order to be an event, an event must therefore disrupt the continuum of activity and, importantly,
appear as phenomenologically impossible. That is, an event that abides by the repetition of daily life would not be marked as an event. [...] Derrida goes so far as to say [...]: 'An event must be exceptional, an exception to the rule. Once there are rules, norms, and hence criteria to evaluate this or that [...] there is no event'" (152).
Or Caputo from this post:
“Events, unlike names, are uncontainable and unconditional, open-ended….an irruption, an excess, an overflow…which tears open closed circles…. It’s more like the whisper of a voice just out of earshot, or an indistinct blur on the horizon at twilight. It is more like a ghost, the specter of possibility…a thin thing…of a call rather than a causality, of a provocation rather than of a presence or a determine entity."
Or Colonel Kurtz on his liberating irruption.
After that last post I felt that I just did it to show how down I am with this irruption thing. And there was a time that I was. But I don't feel that way anymore. Not that it's wrong, just that I don't really care about that sort of thing these days. I did three posts here and following justifying different sorts of spirituality more along the secular-political lines. That's what has juice for me these days.
I was listening to Thom Hartmann's radio show this morning and he was talking about bilateral integration. He noted that Mesmer was on to something with his technique, but that the interpretation was wrong about it being some sort of metaphysical force from the moon that did the healing. Then Braid renamed it hypnosis and Freud took it up as therapy. It has since been demystified through empirical research that shows it works by alternating focus from one side of the body to the other, thereby stimulating brain hemispheric integration. Hence early Mermerism and hypnosis had one watch either the therapists hand or a watch as it moved from side to side.
Also part of the technique was to bring into focus a traumatic event causing symptoms while doing the bilateral movements, which allowed for the event to be acknowledged and integrated. Some of the modern applications of this therapy are NLP and Eye Motion Desensitization and Reintegration (EMDR). Hartmann did a book on this called Walking Your Blues Away, free Google preview here, where the simple of act of walking combined with eliciting traumatic memory can serve the same purpose.
Which of course led me to other such bilateral therapies or arts I've been involved in over the years. As but one example in bodywork therapy, which I did professionally for several years, one technique I continue to use on my own physical rehab is Trager. This technique is a gentle rocking or shaking of the body from side to side, or top to bottom, thereby creating neurological relaxation and release using the bilateral principle. In my personal yoga sessions I use this by getting into a particular posture that focuses on one area and then rock my body from side to side or top to bottom (and/or a combination). This is particularly effective in those areas where I suffered bodily trauma and have broken bones that healed badly. The latter used to cause a lot of frequent, chronic and sometimes severe pain. But since I've been doing this for over 30 years now the exercises using this bilateral technique has drastically reduced the trauma and pain to manageable levels, often not having any pain for long periods of time. I've also reduced the need for outside physical therapies to only infrequent visits.
Another expression of this as art is in dance, which I've been doing for the past 16 years. Obviously one is doing bilateral movements by alternating feet in the movement, as well as alternating emphasis on each side of the rest of the body when performed with a partner during lead/follow. In this case those the focus is not on trauma but on fun and aesthetics. We are well aware of how those endeavors are quite therapeutic in themselves, and part of dance involves bilateral brain integration as well. Which of course feeds back into general well being and psycho-emotional-structural health.
In terms of this thread, perhaps there are ways to elicit alternating from the rational left brain to the emotional right brain during dialogue to effect such integration? Perhaps this can be induced by alternating typical logical language with mytho-poetic language?
Now that I think/feel about it, that is exactly what Lakoff's framing is about. It recognizes that language is itself embodied and to reach people one needs to use rhetoric that elicits emotions, values and morals. It's not about just using abstract reason, but combining it with the foregoing in any given communication. This stimulates and integrates both brain hemispheres simultaneously and makes for not only more effective communication but a transformation during a given dialogue. It might not so much elicit the unprecedented, unless by that we mean reaching heretofore unprecedented mutual understanding, if not agreement or consensus.
Another resource for this topic is this link on Tom Murray's page to his collaborative work on social deliberative skills in online contexts.