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‘No mind’: A Zen Buddhist perspective on embodied consciousness

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This article explores the idea of a deeply embodied consciousness during movement, which has become one of the most intensely discussed topics in terms of the phenomenology and spirituality of dance and somatic practices. The strive towards an embodied state of consciousness has been historically present in the context of Zen Buddhist philosophy, wherein true embodiment is considered an enlightened state of being, wherein one’s consciousness transcends the barriers of mind versus body, self versus other and human versus non-human; it is thought that, in this state, we experience a visceral enlightenment towards our inherent connection to (or interrelation with) the spiritual and physical world around us, and that this state is a form of ‘purified’ – or even optimal – being. Phenomenological aspects underpinning this paradigm will be unpacked through representative cases of eastern movement practices whose founding philosophies align with Zen Buddhist thought. Among these movement practices will be Nihon-buyo (Japanese traditional dance), eastern martial arts and Butoh, which all utilize movement as a meditative process towards a state of selfworld transcendence. At the end of the article, the phenomenon of deeply embodied consciousness will be reframed and explained through the lens of neurophenomenology, with the aim of bringing forth the validity and relevance of this phenomenon in the newly emerging scientific research of consciousness and attention.
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Keywords: Zen Buddhism; cognition; embodied consciousness; enlightenment; neurophenomenology; self; somatic practice

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Chichester

Publication date: July 1, 2018

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  • Research into spirituality receives comparatively little attention in western dance practices but Dance, Movement & Spiritualities provides a platform for those practitioners and researchers who are actively and creatively working with spirituality at the centre of their practice/research. Contributions are invited from across disciplines.
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