भक्ति in the Time of MOOC and Yoga in the Open

This past week was the soft start to YogaMOOC. I jumped into the twitter stream, signed up for the edx side, and signed up to be a research subject. I’m also taking #OpenEdMOOC and it was week 3 this past week and I did not do a blog post.

I’m combining some thoughts about both of these into this one post. They are thoughts about behaviour, research, resilience, metaness, and more. I’m hopeful that I can weave them together in a way that makes sense. If not I’m hopeful that you will not judge me too harshly dear reader.

Persistence and resilience: Bhakti in the time of MOOC

As we work through week 0 of YogaMOOC I’ve been dabbling into some of the blog posts (admittedly I have ignored the discussion boards on edX – I feel that this speaks badly of my character somehow but there it is) most are little tester posts just to get something out there; a sentence or two just to say “hey I’m here”. This is valuable as many are starting blogs (or tags or categories) specifically for this mooc. However, others are digging in a little deeper and reflecting on past yoga and meditation experiences. I’d like to do that too but I’ll save that for the next section. 

I digress

What really stood out to me as I perused these posts were the occasional ones that reflected on a past yoga or meditation practice that had been abandoned (or diminished) with an interest in rekindling this practice through YogaMOOC. These did not seem to be the majority of the posts but I suppose this featured prominently for me because I know this story well. I have had yoga and meditation practices in the past but they have all fallen off.

This made me think of MOOCs and especially OpenEdMOOC especially considering that I did not post a week 3 blog entry and honestly my week 2 was just a response to someone else not a response to the content or instructors. Persistence in MOOCs was a thing of interest to researchers once – I think it still is. It is one of those that I’ve been flirting with for some time but have yet to really fall into – much like my own yoga and meditation practice.

Okay here I go again with the digressing – forgive me…

I make it no secret that in my youth I was a hippy. Along with certain types of music and dress with such a lifestyle comes certain practices…. Yoga and meditation falls right in. I love yoga and meditation because of the mind/body connection – it is a liminal space.

This in-between of what makes us human. Yoga is often thought of as just physical postures, and while these are beneficial, as we go deeper we are asked to align the mind as we do them.

Meditation is thought of as just sitting and staring at one’s breath but the body ever persists (with aches and pains and cramps) in this state and we are asked to pull the mind back to a fixed point.

It naturally falls into the religious and philosophical with questions such as ‘what are we’ and ‘what happens to the mind after the body is no longer viable’. And with me being all forehead chakra, such questions appeal to me.

I’ve been to India. I’ve done the silent treatment. I’ve followed the master. I’ve climbed the mountain (okay okay … maybe it was just a foothill but that’s what I’ve got). Finally, I’ve just let myself be – and I’ve seen the echo that creates.

What’s next?

Enough digressing…

Persistence

Resilience

Yoga

MOOCs

भक्ति Bhakti is the Sanskrit word for devotion or adoration which makes me think of persistence and resilience. I’ll admit that I could be conflating things here but the path is too enticing for me not to follow it. I can’t put my finger on it quite yet but it is right there…

is it persistance out of blind practice

or out of …

(fine I’ll say it)… love?

Does it matter?

Perhaps these are two paths to the same end?

Which is easier to measure?

Researching the Intimate: Yoga in the Open

I decided to also be a research subject for YogaMOOC but I have to admit it was difficult for me. I love LINKLab MOOCs and I’ve been a research subject for them before. I’m not sure what was different this time. I filled the stuff out but it just felt more … idk… closer to home this time.

The questions were increasingly intimate. I should have paid better attention but as often happens with me (and I suspect many of us) I just kept filling in answers. As I remember it and have gone back to pick a bit…

The regular demographic stuff and with a particular nod to yoga:

How much do you make a year. How much experience with yoga do you have.

But it was the stuff after that …

The stuff about deliberately noticing sensations on the body when doing mundane tasks. The stuff about being self critical. The part about watching my feelings. The parts about meta… cognition, experience, emotion, … idk… life… that was hard for me – in that it felt really close to home.

I come from a tradition (that admittedly in which my bhakti is low) where we live in silence for ten days or so at a time in quiet reflection. We think about these things but we don’t discuss them in the open. In fact, the only dialog is in private consultation with a teacher.

Of course this research is not sharing the results with everyone but I’m not even sure myself what the research questions are? Did I miss that part? Will I get to reflect on how my data fit into the larger project?

I don’t know – I suppose it is a small thing but I can’t help wonder. I don’t mind sharing but I feel like I’m missing some kind of reciprocation… I still filled the stuff out… but it just feels strange to me…

I’m looking forward to YogaMOOC and OpenEdMOOC and few other MOOCs that I’m playing with at this time.

These are just some thoughts – let’s see what comes next.

Till next time,
शरद (aka Monsoon) 

Image Credit: Yoga Baby – photographer: me
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