Sunday, 19 January 2014

Day 10: I found my dream club...

This morning, I did some reading and also admired the architecture around the Quad:

In the afternoon, I went to the Student Activities fair, where all the student clubs were advertising their clubs and getting sign-ups. There were SO MANY CLUBS. They took up 3 floors of Houston Hall.

Just a snapshot of the action.
I was so pleased to discover the Philomathean Society, which I am definitely keen to join. It's basically the dream club for students who are actually intellectually engaged, love learning, believe that learning should take place outside the classroom, and enjoy talking about things that actually matter.

It's also pretty exclusive (elitist?), with a strict admissions process (but anyone can attend most of their events). You have to complete three steps:

  1. A 4-6 minute oral presentation on a topic of my choice.
  2. An informal, one-hour round-table-style interview with members of the Society.
  3. Submit a work of creative/critical value. No constraints on form, it just needs to fit through the door.

Here's their brochure:

I think I'll present on mindfulness or positive education, but I'm still deciding on what to submit. I've narrowed it down to:
  1. My blog post, Reflections on Meditation Boot Camp
  2. A sociology essay reconceptualising the idea of "Adulthood"
  3. A sociology essay discussing structural challenges for young people's mental health
  4. My Sunset Haiku from first-year psychology
So I have a question for anyone who's reading this - which one of these do you think is most interesting/creative/critical?

What went well? 
  1. Discovering the Philo society and getting really excited about the prospect of joining.
  2. A bunch of exchange students randomly congregated at the activities fair so we just chilled together for ages.
  3. Still appreciating the total silence of the Fisher Fine Arts Library.

What did I learn? 
  • Man, I am so out of shape for yoga. I just went to my first class in two months (it was a free trial class at the gym) and it was surprisingly intense.
  • Probably not much from my speed-reading efforts (using fingers to pace, moving eyes down page as fast as possible) of my Intro Buddhism textbook. The instructor's assigned 125 pages of reading just for next week, and I sped-read about 100 pages in two hours, but I think my comprehension would be about 20% if I'm generous. But hey, since I'm doing the research option, that's all the time I can afford to spend on the reading, since I need to spend extra time on research.
  • From a mindfulness reading, This is your brain on mindfulness (Baime 2011): There are two distinct neural networks that contribute to our experience of a self; one that contributes to a descriptive narrative, consisting of thoughts about what is happening and what we are; the other underlying a more direct experience of sensation and emotion in the present moment. These two areas are linked, such that activity in the "present-moment" awareness region activates the storytelling region, which explains why beginner meditators constantly and reflexively shift to thinking just as they've experienced a fleeting moment of mindfulness. This shift is literally built into the nervous system. The good news is, mindfulness practice enhances the ability to disconnect these two regions to reduce the likelihood that a mindful experience will automatically be followed by a self-centred monologue. Even the habitual patterns that are deeply built into the body can be changed with practice. The changes that happen at a neural level with mindfulness practice are significant and fantastic.
  • Thoughts after speed-reading sections of my Intro Buddhism textbook: I've realised that it's probably a mistake to want to say, "Buddhists do X", or "Don't Buddhists do Y....?", or "Buddhists believe Z". I now realise that there is so much internal diversity within different Buddhist schools, and they all vary so much in what they believe and what they practice.

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