Saturday, 16 June 2012

meditations on first philosophy

Our mind isn’t a brain in a jar; it is connected to a body, which moves around in an environment.
We know this.  But do we do anything about it?
In 'Meditations on First Philosophy', Rene Descartes declared the forever separation of the mind and the body - the physical and the mental, and the fact that one cannot influence the other; a philosophy that became known as Cartesian Dualism. 
Fortunately, we have moved on. We know better, and there is nary a scientist alive that eschews a dualistic viewpoint. A stressed mind manifests physically in fatigue and disease. A fit, rested, and healthy body has tremendous positive effect on a better functioning mind. 
Everyone talks about holistic training programs; about training the entirety of the athlete - mind, body, and soul. Rarely, though, do we see it in practice. In sport, we are all Cartesian Dualists - we coach and train like this every day. We run on the track to get faster.  We go to the weight room to get stronger. We stretch to become more flexible.  Some of the more 'holistic' programs may encourage or even prescribe yoga and meditation.  We send our athletes to the sport psychologist for 'brain training'; to nutritionists to find out what, when, and how to eat.  All in the assumption that the sum of all these parts will combine to form the optimal athletic machine. 
Our programs are built this way. Our support systems are set up this way, and our athletes live and train this way. 
So, if we assume that the mind and body are both of the physical world, why are our methodologies seemingly built on dualistic principles?  Are we missing a key ingredient in the structuring of our programs?  Is the ‘mind-body problem’ well-enough understood?  Do we know the nature of the mind, and how it relates to the body?  Does it matter?
In sport, can we do a better job of designing a truly holistic methodology?  If so, how could this process work?


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