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Ancient Practices to Improve Mental Wellness, Virtual Event Recap

On March 13, 2021, The Beijing Center held an online webinar discussing a prevalent global issue at the moment – mental health. During a time where a plethora of knowledge is being offered about how to nurture your mental wellness while faced with the ongoing pandemic, three academics came together to provide some unconventional ancient practices that can help increase the connectivity of heart, body, and mind. Read more below or watch the full event recording here.

The event began with a brief introduction by The Beijing Center’s Project Manager, Veronika Kotova, who commented on the reality we collectively face and introduced each speaker and their three approaches to mental wellness – Daoism, spiritual discernment, mindfulness, and Taichi techniques. 

Loyola Marymount University Philosophy Professor Dr. Robin Wang’s discourse centered around the period of heightened uncertainty we are facing. More specifically, she entertained the juxtaposition of two ideas that Daoism has explored for 2,000 years: things that can’t be avoided and following the desires of your heart. While unavoidable, the pandemic has confined us to a physical space that has become our only setting for all daily life activities. Professor Wang suggests that we can turn to a Daoist approach to better understand and cope with the pandemic and its mental repercussions during this confinement. By using a Daoist philosophy, you can embrace a mindset that will revive your spirit (qi flow) and allow you to focus on the present. The Daoist approach lies in becoming more aware of the uncontrollable, building your spirit, and nourishing yourself from within – all achieved through learning how to connect to your body and the cosmos. 

Fr. Johnny Go, SJ, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Education from Ateneo de Manila University, continued the conversation by drawing upon St. Ignatius’s spiritual exercises through a psychological lens. He presented an overarching idea about reaching spiritual discernment through decision-making based on personal meaning – a search for life’s purpose. In his layered analysis, Fr. Go refers to Christian Spirituality by outlining the three components – thoughts, feelings, and will. In doing so, he established the idea that sound spirituality is grounded in sound psychology and can therefore also be beneficial to non-believers of God. However, in defining spiritual discernment, Fr. Go indicates a critical point – decision-making with unclear options. This idea applies to our current global environment because it further promotes the principle that today’s world is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. What does this mean when making decisions? That our solutions are not clear. This indicates that we have to engage in discernment (weighting our options) by being mindful and managing our ‘interior movements.’ Ultimately, this requires a new level of self-awareness and self-acceptance as part of the spiritual discernment journey. 

 

After Professor Wang and Fr. Go’s enlightening presentations of ideologies, Professor Howard Hao took the screen to demonstrate an active approach to achieving mental wellness. As a Taichi master, Professor Hao gave the audience the chance to follow along with his demonstrations of the techniques on camera. After a brief verbal introduction of the mental and physical benefits of practicing Taichi, Professor Hao gave a background of Taichi techniques and theory before explaining each technique’s desired effect while showing the movements. The five techniques outlined are 陳 chén, 揚 yáng,武 wu,孙 sūn,and 吴 wú, each named after their creator. Professor Hao explained the techniques’ theory based on the Book of Changes and how common, well-known concepts from this book, such as yin-yang, Confucianism, and Daoism, have facilitated the expansion and cultural understanding of Taichi and Chinese culture. As he demonstrated each technique and its constructive moves, Professor Hao described the mental, internal, and external effort needed to perfect each move and achieve the desired effect – mental clarity synched with physical movement. 

Following each speaker’s presentation, the event concluded with a brief Q&A session, where the audience asked clarifying questions on how to use each practice presented to cope with the ever-changing global environment. 


East Meets West Talks

The Beijing Center’s event series, covering a variety of intercultural topics that promote an exchange of ideas between East and West. These events bring together sharp minds and fresh thinkers who offer insights on current global affairs and challenges, cross-cultural engagement, and ideas that help us make sense of the world we live in.