TSC 2010 Pre-Conference Workshop


Session 1, Monday Morning, April 12 (9:00am -1:00pm)    TCC - COCONINO

Half Day, $75


From Dualism to Mindfulness:  Biofeedback and Consciousness


Keya Maitra, Connie Schrader

Workshop Description

           This workshop introduces an alternative to a dualistic conception of mind and body asserting that a mind/body continuum is a more accurate conception.  The Buddhist notion of Mindfulness embraces this theme of consciousness as an embodied experience. It thus proposes an alternative model to the dominant perspective in Cognitive Science which takes consciousness as located in and solely produced by the brain.   Like Buddhist Mindfulness practice, Biofeedback offers ways of establishing the Mind/body connection.  When an organism becomes aware of its experiencing it becomes conscious.   This is also the basis of the Buddhist notion of mindfulness.  In this interactive workshop we will use biofeedback technology and mindfulness techniques to demonstrate the connections between physiology, cognition and behavior.

              Biofeedback is the use of a monitoring device to reveal to the subject the state of activation of a variety of physiological measures.  These physiological functions—heart rate, respiratory rate, muscle tension, temperature and sweat gland activation—are under the body’s autonomic control but, with attention, can be consciously controlled.  The autonomic systems vigilantly work to maintain the body in a homeostatic state cooling, ventilating, stabilizing and adapting continuously to input from its experiential realm.   Because physiology impacts cognition and behavior, it is possible, by changing physiology to change cognition and behavior.  The value in biofeedback is in revealing to the subject the ways that experiences impact the organism’s physiology.  In other words, the organism is often not conscious of its own state.  Often this lack of self-consciousness results in the compromised health, but even then there is no mechanism for self-awareness.   The value of biofeedback is to offer that awareness to a subject enabling her to move this awareness of experience to a conscious level and then make choices about how to encounter her experience.    

              In addition to demonstrating techniques mediated by the biofeedback equipment, this workshop will also include the introduction of mindfulness techniques one may practice without any special equipment.  Simple exercises, for example, Hand-warming, Progressive Relaxation, Autogenic Training and Visualization work will be offered to demonstrate the connections between various physiological shifts and the resultant shifts in attention and awareness.  These examples will allow us to make connections to objects and stages of Mindfulness as discussed by Soma Thera in his classic text, The Way of Mindfulness.  There are at least two benefits from this workshop. First, this interactive workshop allows us to realize how our contemporary Western thinking about Mind/body is continuous with and thus can be informed by Buddhist practices like mindfulness. Second, this workshop shows useful applications of philosophical theorizing about the relation between the mind and the body.


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Keya Maitra is an Associate Professor of philosophy at UNC, Asheville. Her fresh translations of the Hindu text Bhagavad-Gita is in press with the Longman. Her research interests include Indian Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, and Comparative Philosophy of Mind. She has just completed an article called, “Mindfulness, Anatman, and the Possibility of a Feminist Self-consciousness” forthcoming in Liberating Traditions: Essays in Feminist Comparative Philosophy. She is also working on a manuscript that compares and contrasts the topic of self-awareness from classical Indian and contemporary Western perspectives.

Connie Schrader, MA in Dance, is the Director of the Dance Program at UNCA. She also directs the university's Biofeedback Lab.  The lab exists as a training and research facility and Schrader regularly mentors undergraduate research projects involving Bio- and Neurofeedback.  Several of her courses focus on the exploration of Mind-Body consciousness including her new course, A Sense of Movement.  Her first book, A Sense of Dance (2005) is in its second edition.