Standing Like a TreeRecently I started to crystalise some, let's say, 'intuitions,' into more conscious thoughts. The bridge between the two was to read quite a few books on Chinese martial arts and the concept of 'Chi' as a kind of life force. Despite a widespread belief in the existance of 'Chi' there is no evidence that such a thing exists. There is, however, some evidence for the health benefits of 'Chi generating exercises'.

To cut a long story short I decided to try it for myself and found classes for Zhan Zhuang. Frankly I was sceptical, as there was no scientific reason for doing so and no means of testing the outcome on my personal sample of one. The only means of judging would be my own senses.

My attendance at these classes naturally caused great hilarity when I told some hard-headed colleages about it. At this point I laid it on thick by explaining that ideally I should stand with my fellow trees in the park and absorb sunlight. Of course I was testing them, sensing their reaction as I built my hypothesis.

What is this hypothesis? Simply stated I suggest that the nature of a scientific education can actually lead to bad thinking, especially if it is pursued to the detriment of non-scientific activities. This is not so much the fault of science as the difficulty humans have in properly applying its methods. The search for a testable hypothesis causes the frustrations that lead to data-mining and failure to falsify hypotheses.

So where do the trees come in? Well, what I've noticed (and I know this is completely untested) since starting Zhan Zhuang is a much greater self-awareness, more energy and a reduction in tension. My chess experience suggests that such effects lead to better thinking, which in turn implies they'd probably lead to better science. The irony here is that many scientists just couldn't bring themselves to do stand like a tree because of the cynicism engendered by their methodology.

Some thoughts:

1) It's better to hire traders who like fresh air.

2) Science has nothing to say on the matter of various ancient practices which 'enhance the senses,' and this is why even really smart guys like Daniel Dennett manage to completely miss the point.

3) If you ever see a tree that tries to stand like a human, get the heck out of there.

Jim Sogi adds:

Studies of the brains of monks who have meditated for 20+ years show structural changes. Practice of breathing, meditation and other techniques manifest in physical changes, changes in alpha brain waves, change in heart and breathe rates. Practice of Kung Fu and other physical martial arts have beneficial health effects, and application to trading as well.

Nigel Davies clarifies:

There are two types of learning involved here. One is learning by 'reason', the other is subconscious 'body learning' of the type involved in Zhan Zhuong. The latter develops things like 'awareness.' My hypothesis is that those who rely on learning by reason alone (and this is the main focus of Daily Spec) are prone to a multitude of errors because they have not developed their 'senses' (or rather other parts of their brain that are not directly associated with reason). I have met such people both on the chessboard and in the trading world, and invariably they talk a good game but are unable to function well within it.

'Descarte's Error' is relevant to this way of thinking, with some brain-damaged individuals discussed therein performing well on 'tests' but failing hopelessly when they were let out onto the street. Substituting 'brain undeveloped' for 'brain damaged' and I suggest that we have a similar effect. Not of course the same level of disaster, but certainly an inability to function at the highest levels of difficult professions.

Marion Dreyfus extends:

The reports of changes recorded in the minds/cerebra of monks are numerous. I wonder if the same can be said of absence of sex? What the monks do is active: They actively calm their minds, and actively bring themselves in concert with their fellow chanters. They breathe synchronously and deeply. They sit in relaxed alignment. These are active conditions.

Is a mere absence of sex in any way equivalent? Not having sex is not a discrete action or series of actions deliberately undertaken. In fact one would argue that a person not enjoying this life-function practice is always on the qui vive to find sex and ameliorate the absence condition. One is always tippy-toeing to locate a prime subject of supply, as it were. But not finding it is not really like co-aligning breathing, balanced postures, deep meditation or efforts at releasing of tensions and earthly concerns. Contrarily, I believe that people who have not had sex for a while still ideate and fantasize and focus on Getting It much of their waking hours, so it is the inverse of monkish contemplation.

Thus I doubt that the two are parallel at all. I therefore doubt that sexlessness alters the brain over time. Except for men. (Who become crazed and completely nuts.) (Or so they would have us distaff siders believe.)


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