Introduction

  • Introduction

    Posted by Matt Dorsey on September 10, 2022 at 12:02 am

    Hi, everyone. I didn’t see much activity here, so I figured I’d post something to test the waters. My name is Dr. Matt Dorsey and I’m a natural medicine practitioner (Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, psychology & physiology geek) in Austin, TX.

    I just discovered Iain’s materials last weekend and I’ve already watched easily over 15 hours of his videos and am reading through his first book.

    I did my undergrad in psychology and have always been deeply interested in the intersections of psychology, philosophy, and biology. I’ve been blown away by the number of times that McGilchrist has said something that I’ve thought but never heard anyone else articulate properly…so I think it can be said that I deeply resonate with this material.

    Anyway, just wanted to stoke the flames a bit to see if anyone else feels like chatting. Feel free to holler and introduce yourself if you like!

    Matt Dorsey replied 1 month, 2 weeks ago 4 Members · 11 Replies
  • 11 Replies
  • Don Salmon

    Member
    September 10, 2022 at 2:37 pm

    Hi Matt:

    Glad you started a conversation. This website, as I understand it, just got started within the last week or so.

    Let’s see, I’ll introduce myself a bit. 1970s and 80s, professional pianist/composer, worked mostly with dancers. Since the 1990s, clinical psychologist, particularly interested in the integration of science and spirituality, with a focus on the work of Sri Aurobindo (one of the founders/leaders of the Indian independence movement in the early 1900s, prior to Gandhi’s arrival on the scene).

    I find that Iain’s work dovetails perfectly with the integrative approach taking by Sri Aurobindo and by numerous others in the contemplative Christian, Sufi, Tibetan Buddhist and similar communities looking to integrate science, spirituality, social action, etc.

    I also started a group (you’ll see the “BE” logo in the group list) aimed at practice – getting an experiential sense of what the various modes of attention (there’s more than 2, actually!) are.

    Hope others join in.

  • Don Salmon

    Member
    September 10, 2022 at 2:44 pm

    Hey again, Matt, just thought of a question.

    I assume your work involves an understanding of yin and yang energy. If you feel like it, could you say something about how this relates to Iain’s writings?

    From my familiarity with Indian philosophy, there is actually one interpretation of the Sanskrit terms “manas” (usually translated as “mind”) and “buddhi” (usually translated as intellect) which track quite closely with LH and RH. Sanskrit words can have multi-leveled meanings, so there’s no one interpretation that is “the” correct one.

    But one way of understanding ‘manas” relates to recent neuroscientific research suggesting we cannot actually focus on more than one thing at a time. The manas, in the most ancient texts, has a kind of point-to-point kind of attention and divides the world into pieces. The buddhi (at least, the “awakened” buddhi, which is related to the term “Buddha”) sees the world both as “process” and as “whole.”

    To be very concrete, if you’re doing breath meditation, and you strain to focus on the movement of the abdomen, with a rather conceptual image/though of “the abdomen” moving, you’re employ the manas, in this sense. And then if you try to add the focal point of the tip of the nose, you’re likely to be alternating very rapidly, shifting your attention from the abdomen to the nose.

    On the other hand, if you “zoom out,” and take in BOTH the abdomen and nose in a field-like manner, you’ll be employing the buddhi. And if there is a sense of immersion – so rather than “me” observing an object it is a field observing itself, you’re employing a still-deeper functioning, a more integrated one, of the buddhi.

    I’m guessing there are some equivalents to this in Chinese philosophy and medicine, but I”m not familiar with either. I know in the Chan (the Chinese precursor to Zen, strongly influenced by Taoism), effortless, “wholistic” playful attention was always emphasized, recognizing the “field” of non dual awareness within which we are always immersed, which is not in any way separate from the forms that are perceived or the perceiver of forms.

    • Matt Dorsey

      Member
      October 15, 2022 at 4:30 pm

      Hey, Don. Apologies that it took me so long to respond. Within days after I signed up, I was suddenly unable to log back in, and the problem was only rectified today.

      Yes, Yin and Yang relate perfectly to Iain’s work. I just finished ‘the Master and His Emissary’ about a week ago, and did a small workshop on it at an event last weekend. Here’s some of what I presented:

      _________________

      I call Chinese medicine ‘Medical Taoism’ because it’s based on Taoist thinking, and thus is primarily concerned with the interplay of Yin and Yang, and largely sees disease as stagnation and health as flow. It sees the body-mind as a deeply interrelated network in which an organ or body part can never be understood without respect to the context of the whole body.

      The idea of two opposites mutually antagonizing one another, yet also paradoxically supporting and giving rise to each other, is at the heart of the Taoist tradition and its veneration of Yin and Yang. And of course, they contain each other, as seen in the Taiji, commonly called the ‘Yin Yang’.

      The tension of opposites, like the tension on the string of a guitar, makes music, which incidentally the right hemisphere particularly appreciates.

      And in fact, the character in Chinese for ‘medicine’ is actually just the character for music with a couple little symbols above it that mean ‘shaman’. Some say that the role of the Chinese medicine doctor is to ‘create music in the human heart’ and the heart in our medical tradition is the organ most closely associated with the mind.

      The string of a musical instrument such as a guitar requires just the right amount of tension.

      Too much tension, and the pitch is too high, or way too much tension and the string breaks. Not enough tension and the pitch is too low, or far too little tension, and it just sits limp against the neck, totally unpluckable.

      Either way, when the tension of opposites is out of balance, there’s no music. There’s no health. We’re lost in the wilderness of extremes.

      And that’s precisely where I think many humans live on this planet: lost in the wilderness of extremes, because this appreciation of the dynamic interplay of opposing forces has lead us into confusion, hubris, and overly simplistic conceptualization of the universe.

      Yin and Yang can be seen everywhere:

      Masculine & Feminine

      Hot & Cold

      Proton & Electron

      Particle & Wave

      Sun & Moon

      Birth & Death

      To study physiology even from the Western medical perspective is to study the relationship between opponent processes in the body:

      Sympathetic & parasympathetic nervous systems

      – The all-important sleep-wake cycle, where one being out of balance can profoundly affect the other

      – Flexor muscles & extensor muscles

      – Stimulating and exciting neurotransmitters like Dopamine and Glutamate & calming and inhibitory ones like Serotonin and GABA

      – Absorption of nutrients by the small intestine & the excretion of toxins by the large intestine

      – Testosterone & Estrogen

      – Pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in the immune system

      – And the Immune-Reproductive axis (<b style=”background-color: var(–bb-content-background-color); font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; color: var(–bb-body-text-color);”>the Immune system, which defends and destroys, and the <b style=”background-color: var(–bb-content-background-color); font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; color: var(–bb-body-text-color);”>reproductive system, which loves and creates)

      Philosophers and theologians have, since time immemorial, attempted to reconcile these opposite qualities of the soul using various approaches, some extremely wise, poetic, and insightful, and others in a way that flaunts a pathological obsession with logico-linguistic precision, either / or thinking, and decontextualized, abstract conceptualization.

      The elegance with which people have dealt with these universally opposed ways of seeing reality is proportionate to the degree to which these thinkers were able to reach, a la Hegelian dialectical, BOTH / AND type thinking—a beautiful synthesis, rather than simply taking one mode of being to be the ultimate truth and then attempting to completely nullify or invalidate the other, such as with body-mind or body-soul issues.

      The paradigm of scientific materialism is as blind, stupid, and dysfunctional as the fundamentalist religions that they so love to denigrate.

      And in fact, the left hemisphere, with its steadfast dedication to maintaining its paradigm, its map, its belief system, despite new information that might contradict its axioms, is the hemisphere that is dominant when we fall prey to any sort of fundamentalist-type thinking.

      It’s not science VS religion. It’s hubris borne out of the desperate need to know everything, versus the humble reverence for the vast complexity of the universe.

      It’s closed-minded, arrogant, delusional, and fundamentalist thinking VS open-minded, modest, realistic, and TRULY scientific thinking.

      A lesser scientist or a lesser religious believer fights against the mysteries of the universe in an attempt to conquer them and gain control, out of the unconscious need to subdue the anxiety of not knowing how everything works.

      A great scientist or a great religious believer, rather than trying to conquer them, takes in the living mysteries of the universe, imbibes them in an act of reverence for the incredible and awe-inspiring complexity of the vast unknown.

      If you live in the mystery, if you truly let it into you, then it will change you…for the better. Paradoxically, you will learn more, NOT LESS, about reality by assuming this posture of openness.”

      _________________

      As you can see, the workshop I gave was heavily based on Iain’s work, but I also had plenty of opportunities to share my own thoughts that naturally dovetail with his material.

      Yin and Yang, I believe, are pseudo-opposites, but then again, viewed from a non-dual perspective, so are all opposites. Taoism suggests that, despite the fact that they are opposites, and that they do in fact antagonize one another, they also support and mutually give rise to one another.

      Beyond the Taiji, closer to the ultimate ground of being, lies the Wuji, which is non-dual, undifferentiated, and of course, thoroughly ineffable.

      Hope that wasn’t too long of a response, and that I could at least in part answer your question about Iain’s work and Taoism.

  • Don Salmon

    Member
    September 10, 2022 at 2:45 pm

    I just thought I should add, if anyone here is familiar with Indian philosophy, they may passionately disagree with the way I defined manas and buddhi. And they’d be right!:>))

    • Matt Dorsey

      Member
      October 15, 2022 at 4:43 pm

      I was not familiar with manas and buddhi, but that seems to overlay quite nicely with the different ways the hemispheres perceive reality, based on how you phrased everything.

      In my experience, with any kind of practice like breathwork or internal QiGong (as we would call it in our tradition) practices that require that you put your attention in a particular part of the body, I often see that many people will struggle in a way that suggests that they are overly left hemisphere dominant.

      It seems likely to me that directly sensing the body ‘from the inside’ would be a wholly RH activity, as it contains the body image and is far more in touch with the body on an experiential level.

      If I were talking to a particularly LH dominant patient, and trying to get him or her to ‘feel your hand from the inside’, this may not compute, whereas for someone who perhaps has more interhemispheric balance, this idea will be immediately groked and I won’t have to further explain.

      • Mary Attwood

        Member
        October 15, 2022 at 6:09 pm

        Welcome Matt and you seem to have a very comprehensive understanding of the mind and body in a much broader and deeper context than the typical mechanisation of the body and mind in modern medicine. Welcome to the forum. I think people are still getting used to using the forum as it is now a new platform but I am sure more and more we will see other thinkers reaching out to communicate in this way too.

        • Matt Dorsey

          Member
          October 16, 2022 at 10:00 pm

          Hi Mary,

          Thanks so much for the warm welcome! Yes, I’ve always tended toward approaching mind and body from a wide variety of perspectives, and consider myself ‘medically bilingual’, meaning that I do my best to study and appreciate more traditionally ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ approaches.

          I’m very much looking forward to engaging with more likeminded folks on here! I’m going to start up a few new discussion groups soon that I think might serve the community, so be on the lookout for that. I’m particularly interested in psychopharmacology, and think that there’s plenty of fertile discussion that could be had on that front.

  • Zak Safra

    Member
    September 10, 2022 at 4:52 pm

    Hi there Matt

    It’s great to discover a thinker as profound as Iain. Highly recommend getting his most recent books but since you seem to be into the videos I’ll just say I also find them very useful. There are great podcasts online to check out too.

    Best

    Zak

    • Matt Dorsey

      Member
      October 15, 2022 at 4:32 pm

      Hey, Zak. Yes, I just finished ‘the Master and His Emissary’ a little over a week ago, and started TMWT yesterday. I’ve been watching the videos as I read the book. The last month has been basically a total immersion in his material.

      Glad I don’t need to buy any new books for a while now that I have this 1100 page behemoth! 🙂

      • Don Salmon

        Member
        October 15, 2022 at 4:45 pm

        Hi Matt:

        Thanks for your fascinating reply. looking forward to more of your writing (and if you have any videos please send us the URLs)

        • Matt Dorsey

          Member
          October 16, 2022 at 10:01 pm

          Thanks, Don! Appreciate that very much, and glad you enjoyed my response. If I think of any pertinent videos, I’ll post them, absolutely.