Thursday, May 10, 2007

The 5 Ever-Present Factors of Mind

As an Alexander teacher, I am always dealing with a person's mental conception. This sits at the core of all movements. I think it is misleading to think of AT as "bodywork". If we must use terms like that, then it would be better to call it "mindwork" where the practitioner also touches your body to support the new conception of movement that you are being guided towards.

So I am always interested in finding new information about the mind. However, the 5 ever-present factors of mind is not new information. This was first formulated by a Buddhist philosopher known as Asunga, and it constitutes an aspect of the Buddhist epistimology of how our mind aquires knowledge.

There are 54 mental factors (or is it 51?) and the factors that must be present for any mind to function are:

1. Intention: what are you wanting to do right now?
2. Contact: what is the object you are contacting?
3. Attention: not passing by quickly, but maintaining attention on the object (which can be an idea)
4. Discernment: being able to recognise the object as distinct from "other" objects.
5. Feeling: In the sense of 'knowing' that you are in this process.

They do not necessarily run in this order, as they all exist simultaneously. However, it is easier to apprendend their functionality by considering them in succession. Here's an example of how you might use this model...

At my training school, I successfully apply this model to assist my trainees to develop their faculty of observing the movements of their own students. Intention is where most inexperienced observers first misdirect - a person thinks something like "I really hope I can see what is happening this time." This is a totally misguided intention, almost assuring them that they WILL NOT see anything substantive. Following on from that comes 2. Contact - they are mostly in contact with the idea that "observation is hard/I can't do this/I am not seeing anything now!' therefore 3. Attention - is not consistently maintained towords their object (which is not clear to begin with), but instead they are fluttering all about in a chaotic maelstrom of conflicting intentions, objects and attentions. All of which makes it next to impossible for any meaningful 4. Discernment - no real understanding of the process can arise and hence their 5. Feeling - moves towards a sense of uselessness, powerlessness, helplessness in the face of their perceived inability.

Teaching successfully, in the aspect of observing your student, means deciding clearly upon 1, your intention - to observe the movments of my student, so that 2. the contact is clear - of simply receiving the information of the student's movements and so that my 3. attention - is continuing to watch so that from 4. discernment results in the analysis of the movement (from the thoroughly received information) so that your 5. feeling - results in a sense of knowing about the whole process.

Something like that. Try it out next time you teach.

Jeremy, Kyoto, May 2007.

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