Mind-Body Practices and Spiritualities

Summer 2024
SDS 6938 Special Topics for Graduate Level
MHS 3930 Special Topics for Undergraduate Level

Instructor: Sabine GrunwaldPh.D. Integral and Transpersonal Psychology, Director of the UF Mindfulness Program. Professor, IFAS, UF. Email: sabgru@ufl.edu.
Meeting time:Mondays; periods 3-5 (9:35 am to 12:35 pm) and/or special arrangements.
Location: UF Norman Hall, classroom 1707A Norman Hall.
Student cap: 20 maximum.
Office hours: By appointment (sabgru@ufl.edu).

The course is part of the UF Certificate in Spirituality and Health.

Course Overview

In this course we will explore contrasting mind-body constructs and practices from Western psychological, modern spiritual, and Buddhist perspectives. We will immerse ourselves in the study of select mind-body practices, explore their theoretical underpinnings and traditional roots as well as benefits for wellbeing, health, and human flourishing. Such learning approach discovers the ‘Why’, ‘What’, and ‘How’ that undergirds mind-body practices and transpersonal and transbody states of consciousness and embodiment brought forth by them. We will explore mind-body interactions, psycho-spiritual experiences, and potential liberative personal transformation paths and goals. To embody the lived experience of a particular moment through mindfulness and body awareness means to viscerally feel sensory, motor, emotional, and imaginal experiences rather than to funnel arousal into mental concepts, ideas, and categories (“chatter mind, ruminating mind”). We will immerse in a variety of mind-body practices and spiritualities and discuss experiences.

Course Objectives

From Western psychological, modern spiritual, and Buddhist perspectives:

  1. Understand the purpose of prominent mind-body constructs and practices.
  2. Discover the view and traditional roots of diverse mind-body constructs.
  3. Unpack mind-body interactions, psycho-spiritual experiences, and potential liberative transformation paths and goals.
  4. Explore the effects of mind-body practices on health, well-being, and human flourishing.
  5. Discuss how mind-body practices support and nurture one’s own personal development and how to integrate these practices into counseling, psychotherapy, trainings, and the academy.

Mind-Body Practices and SpiritualitiesCourse Description

Mind-body practices, such as yoga, breath mediation, body scan, whole body breathing, tai chi, qi gong, and energy healing, have received increased interest, due to their benefits to support health, well-being, and naturalness (in contrast to psychopharmacology and risk of addictions). In psychotherapy and counseling the benefits of mind-body practices, such as somatic experiencing, have been recognized in context of trauma work, emotion regulation, whole person psychology, and embodiment. The latter is the felt sense of being localized within one’s physical body and references the lived immediate experience of one’s own body. Western psychology has focused on mind-body from a secular health perspective and prevalent Western philosophies have emphasized neurophysicalism, the medical model, and mind-body dualism. The neurobiological body model emphasizes empirical measurements of bodily processes and sensations through and within our human bodies. Other spiritual and philosophical mind-body views go beyond the skin of the body boundary touching on soul, spirit, divine, consciousness, and subtle energies. Spiritualities and ancient wisdom traditions address such transpersonal (beyond ordinary ego consciousness and mind) and transbody (beyond physical body boundaries) possibilities.

Ancient Buddhist traditions have embraced mindfulness meditation, mind-body practices, embodied ways of being, and well-being as well as liberative paths freeing oneself from suffering and pain. These mind-body practices are increasingly integrated into Western psychology, therapies, and trainings, although too often ignore the original purpose and beliefs of these practices. In this course we will explore mind-body practices rooted in Buddhist traditions to better understand the meaning of those mind-body constructs and practices. We will touch on a plurality of mind-body constructs and spiritualities, such as multiple versions of nonduality, mind-body hybridization, cosmic body/ies, expanded body conceptions (e.g., collective bodies), subjective body constructs (“being body” as phenomenological experience in meditative states; “letting be”), subtle energy bodies, emptiness (i.e., paradoxical conception claiming that ‘body’ (form) is the same as ‘no body’ (formless), emptiness of emptiness, and more. Some of these spiritual ontologies and epistemologies have been integrated, or even been adopted, in Western approaches such as participatory spirituality, body consciousness theories, dharma inspired modern spiritualities, and somatic psychology. We will critically discuss issues of misappropriation and secularization of ancient mind-body practices and spiritualities into contemporary Western culture, counseling and psychotherapy, for example, mindfulness-based stress reduction, secularized mindfulness, McMindfulness and McBody.