Subjective experience in the new economy

 

The Subjective Experience in the New Economy Working Group is interested in the relevance, for the New Economy, of the ways our ‘inner’ or subjective life grounds and directs our ‘outer’ or objective action and experience.  We understand that the inner and outer interweave each other as we cycle through: subjective experience, its impacts on the outer, which in turn impacts the subjective. The inner and outer directly impact each other though our ability to trace back and feel or change our inner prompts has been atrophied by the accelerating pace of life and increasing use of ICT.  The resulting fragmentation of our ability to focus, reflect and be present to the subjective foundations of our actions has paralleled the rise of neoliberalism and hypermaterality.  There is urgent need for a reversal of external focus with its constant drive for action and a return to more reflective engagement.  This starts, we suggest, with our inner lives, then awareness to its impact on ourselves and others, and finally attention to the impact of our subjectivities in the processes that enable our activities.  This is particularly important for NENA as it works to rectify the negative impacts of Cartesianism that drew the mind out of the body, the spirit out of Nature, and that exiled our subjectivies.

To better understand the subjective it can be helpful to start with a definition, though searching dictionaries shows there are multiple and at times conflicting understandings of subjective experience.  Nonetheless, it is often portrayed in definitions that emphasise one or other end of a continuum bounded by unconscious drives and a field of metacognitive awareness.  Whichever it is – mute primal urges or a ground of clear “internal” wakefulness, the subjective landscape is common to us all, significant (if unrecognised) in everything we do, and the deep wellspring of our being.  In our working group we draw from the “fountainhead” understanding of the subjective.  Leading with this we suggest that acknowledging and engaging subjective experience is pivotal in all of NENA’s endeavours.  For deep change, a central aim of the New Economy, can only happen if we have deep engagement with the subjective fundaments of that change.

Acknowledging the existence and importance of subjective experience in our own lives has led us to consider the value of directly engaging it in NENA.  This starts, we believe by recognising its impact in all that we do, both in the daily lives and activities of NENA members and the lives of all those we aim to positively impact.  At this point we suggest flipping our usual point of focus when working to effect change, moving from product to process, so that our attention is equally focused on the “how” as much as the “what” of our efforts in NENA.  This for example might happen by paying attention to communication in group activities.  In a recent blog post on Enspiral Tales Sam Rye, a social designer from LifeHack, suggests that strong communities are one of the best responses to complex challenges (https://medium.com/enspiral-tales/the-relational-field-7ef5c710bcb4).  However he has found that when working to intervene for positive change, the most important aspect – attending to the quality of relationships between all individuals involved – is frequently ignored.   Focus on the “products” of change dominates, while the “process” grounded in healthy communication is frequently overlooked.  As Peter Block in his Community: The Structure of Belonging says:

I discovered that resolution of conflict comes from people being able to express their own feelings and their own needs in the face of another. Making agreements and setting goals without building upon the feelings of the parties involved is empty, because it does not consider the vulnerabilities of our own humanity — Peter Block

 

Fundamental to refocusing in this way is heightening our awareness of the patterns deeply embedded in our internal landscape.  These are the patterns laid down in early life by family, culture and experience that we are constantly acting through us in our communication with others.  Subjective or inner space contains these patterns and is continually entrained through daily experiences. It is an aspect of us the media, politicians, film makers, advertisers and others frequently attempt to engage or manipulate.  It can also be entrained in the ‘opposite direction’ by reflective and contemplative practices, so that our self-awareness is enhanced.  In other words subjective experience can be both mute and manipulated sometimes described as the “unconscious” and it can be a ground of heightened meta-awareness in which we are attuned to the foundational ground of our modes of being, their impact on us, and all that we engage as we act in the world.

Please contact Patricia the convenor of this group on p.morgan@unsw.edu.au if you would like to join or work with our group.

 

Working Group Members – Subjective Experience in the New Economy

 

Lou Beckerling

I am a retired former finance writer and editor. My last stop was six years in Hong Kong where I was the Banking Editor of the South China Morning Post and reported from Japan, Korea, India, and China. I previously spent three months in South America on a Harvard Fellowship bursary. The congestion and poverty I witnessed during these travels raised for me the moral imperative of making some contribution, no matter how small, to changing the systems that have led to the poverty and yawning wealth gaps in the world. At a practical, grassroots level, I would like to explore the possibility of re-introducing barter economies in small communities.

 

Annelies De Zaeytijd

I work as a psychologist and psychotherapist (trained in psychoanalysis) at home and online, and in a center for mental health care. In the center for mental health care, which is financed by the government, I am a pioneer in looking for ways of online mental health care. I also work as a freelance mindfulness trainer and coach for the Institute for the Training of Attention and Mindfulness (www.itam.be).  In my work I use awareness-based methods to train the attention and mindfulness, compassion and focus on emotions.

I first learned to meditate in a Thai temple during a one-year stay in Thailand, when I was18. Since 17 years I have now been been a student in Vajrayana Buddhism for 17 years (Yeunten Ling: http://www.tibetaans-instituut.org)  In my free time I am exploring how to use the online medium to train pre-conceptual awareness and skills of the mind, like mindfulness, compassion and getting in touch with ones emotions and inner world.

I aim to create an online platform, similar to Wikapedia where contemplative practitioners upload training material for anyone who wants to use it. I want these exercises and the audio material in different languages to be available for free online, similar to a MOOC.

 

Patricia Morgan

In her early work as a performance and video artist Patricia explored the ways that her abstract trance videos could induce relaxation.  This led to postgraduate research into the impacts of environment on health and then a community arts practice.  After six years working in therapeutic communities in New Zealand she moved to Australia to develop and implement health education programs with Save the Children, PNG.  She finished this contract in 2007 and began an interdisciplinary PhD in applied philosophy supported by an APA Fellowship. This PhD, which examines pre-conceptual experience in contemplative education has led to contract research and teaching in contemplative education, transformative learning, contemplative ethics, law, mathematics and art, and mindful leadership.

www.thecontemplativeacademy.com

 

Frances Murrell

We live in a web of seen and unseen relationships. When I yawn on waking do I remember to thank the trillions of tiny phytoplankton in the ocean to thank as they produce half of the world’s oxygen? Turning on the tap to fill the kettle, do I thank the ice nucleating bacteria that forms the raindrops in the clouds that brought the rain to the land that filled the reservoir that is connected by pipes to my kitchen? Did I remember to thank the trees and the plants that nurtured the ice nucleating bacteria on their leaves and that provided the water that lifted them into the air via transpiration? Did I thank the vast network of underground fungi and bacteria and tiny soil creatures that feed the trees and plants, store carbon and hold water and nutrients in the soil? When I eat my breakfast, do I thank the bugs in my gut, whose cells are more numerous than my human cells, that digest my food, create my mood and protect my body? Did I thank the sun for shining and providing light, heat and energy? The night, moon and stars for rest and darkness and finding my path? Did I thank all the people, past and present, for creating the stories, streets, buildings, songs, family and beauty that surrounds me?

Thank you for reading and may it go well for you.

 

David Pointon

I had a corporate consultancy for 20 years and began my career as a teacher. I started meditating 8 years ago and have experienced first-hand the benefits and wider impact on my life. Last year I spent 6 months on a pilgrimage in India and immersed in a range of practices and lineages.

I have been involved in supporting the education start-ups community and founding EduGrowth, and feel there are many gaps in creating holistic approaches to education. I want to contribute to curating and installing new and compelling cultural stories that give us more helpful lenses through which to see our place in this world, and that give rise to life giving systems for our economies and politics.

I’ve just come across the New Economy Network Australia and I see that the inner experience and enculturated narratives that we adopt unconsciously are a critical leverage point to installing new economic models, and so awareness of, and practices to cultivate, our subjective experience therefore seems like an important foundational step.

 

Zack Walsh

Is a PhD candidate in the Process Studies graduate program at Claremont School of Theology. His research is transdisciplinary, exploring process-relational, contemplative, and engaged Buddhist approaches to political economy, sustainability, and China. His most recent writings provide critical and constructive reflection on mindfulness trends, while developing contemplative pedagogies and practices for addressing social and ecological issues. He is a research specialist at Toward Ecological Civilization, the Institute for the Postmodern Development of China, and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany. He has also received lay precepts from Fo Guang Shan, an engaged Buddhist organization based in Taiwan, and attended numerous meditation and monastic retreats in Thailand, China, and Taiwan. For further information and publications, please connect:

https://cst.academia.edu/ZackWalsh

https://www.facebook.com/walsh.zack