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Boabom and the Brain

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Boabom is an art of integration: it brings mindfulness, movement, and self-defense together in a unified system. This kind of integration is much needed in our era of fragmentation, when time is sliced up into disjoint pieces devoted to “work”, “exercise”, “entertainment” and “relaxation”. Interestingly, the contrast between fragmentation and integration is also reflected in the science of mind and brain. 

Many thinkers assume the mind is just a machine, with each part doing a separate job. But there is growing recognition that the mind is greater than the sum of its parts. Each part is in constant communication with the whole, and reacts to what the other parts are doing. Neuroscience raises the possibility that the brain is more like a musical ensemble than a machine. When musicians are playing together as a band, they are in harmony with each other — they create unity in diversity. This is very different from having each musician play separate solos. Similarly, there is a difference between a brain acting in harmony with itself and with the body, and a brain consisting of selfish soloists.

When we think of the mind as a boss giving orders to the body, we create a division between the two. We might do exercises for the body while using the mind to fret about work. There is nothing wrong with multi-tasking once in a while, but if we always split mind and body, we miss the opportunity for harmony between them. Neuroscientific research shows that attention is crucial for all kinds of learning, including learning movements. So if your mind is distracted by something other than what you are presently doing, you are losing out on the synergizing effects of focused attention.

The Boabom pedagogy creates a path for gradually training the attention. A key aspect of this is the progressive approach: in each class, at least one new idea is introduced. This enables the student to keep benefitting from “beginner’s mind” — a mind that is attentive and curious. Research shows that experiences that are interesting are better able to hold our attention and engage us compared to experiences that are either too predictable or too complex. The gradual unfolding of Boabom ensures that every class is interesting: learning new movements involves challenges that are never insurmountable, and revisiting familiar movements reveals previously hidden subtleties. This resonates with research on how our perceptions become richer as we engage in attentive, mindful actions. 

With these perspectives in mind, we can think of Boabom as a prism or a magnifying glass — by enabling integration of movement and mind, Boabom can alter how we see the world and ourselves.


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