The world in my brain and my brain in the world

Maggie led a workshop today about attention and the brain.  She described the way we create new neural pathways by actively bringing attention to something new. This is a big part of feldenkrais – but also very reminiscent of John Dewey’s idea of the “work” of art.  An aesthetic experience draws our attention to the nature of our experience of the world in a fresh way, and allows us to make new connections, grow, learn and develop – to “expand”.

Maggie got us to draw a representation of our brains, and then to map onto them how our brain works, what it does, what it doesn’t do… A big task.  While we did this she reminded us, gently, to pay attention to how we were doing it.  As with all of our work here, the point of the task was not the map we were creating (though these were all lovely) but the process of making it, and what that tells us about ourselves and our habits. We were drawing a picture of our brain to help us identify our brain’s preferences, and its limitations.

I drew a mass of neural pathways and connections, then i began to identify things my brain can’t do (maths, map reading, drawing – general spatial and practical tasks), then i  drew the things my brain can do; write, explain, argue…then i wanted to draw love and relationships, family, friendships, general social interaction, then the animals i have relationships with (ruben cropped up in there), i drew listening and art, and money, then my relationship to the buildings i live and work in, the trees and rivers, the birds, sport… on and on it went.  Finally we stopped for a tea break.  I realised that i had begun to draw the whole world.  Then i looked at my picture.  Had I drawn the way the world exists in my brain, or had i drawn the way my brain exists in the world?  This picture reminds me of the wonderful reversibility of these two statements and ways of seeing our relationship to the world.
Look at the difference between my way of drawing my brain and Catherine’s.  She drew the way her brain feels.  I tried to analyse, categorise, and represent everything in it.  Guess who’s having more fun.

my brain

my brain

catherine's brain

catherine's brain

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