LS 813: Engaging the Ground, Distilling the Breath

Spring 2012  | Dr. Heesoon Bai

From a biological perspective, it is eminently plausible that reason has grown out of the sensory and motor systems and that it still uses those systems or structures developed from them. (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999. p. 43)

Becoming earth. Becoming animal. Becoming, in this manner, fully human. (Abram, 2010, p. 3.)


The current Information Age lures us into thinking that perhaps the only vital question today about knowledge is how much information we can access or acquire. But that question comes out of a certain conception of knowledge—disembodied rationalism. This conception has been increasingly challenged by contemporary cognitive scientists and cross-cultural philosophers, not to mention artists and practitioners of animate ways of knowing. This course is an invitation to critically and experientially inquire into the important sources and kinds of knowledge we may have been missing in whole-heartedly adopting the paradigm of disembodied rationalistic knowledge acquisition. In this course, we will explore the idea of human embodiment and corporeal knowledge. What is it to know from and within the body? What is it to attune to each other—human others and other Earth-beings—as corporeal beings? How do we come to see and relate to the world, be in the world, if we were to “[mingle] our ears with the thunder and the thrumming of frogs, and our eyes with the molten sky” (Abram, 2010, p. 1)? What happens when we come to know our body, not just as anatomical units of bones and muscles but more as energetic systems such as in the Far Eastern (e.g., Daoist) worldview? What if we see that all earthly bodies teach, and hence mountains teach us, rivers instruct us, and humans learn through the pores of their skin and by mingling their breaths with the breaths of the Earth? Raimon Panikkar prophetically declared: “No ecological renewal of the world will ever succeed until and unless we consider the Earth as our own Body and the body as our own Self” (1992, p. 244). This course shall take his words seriously.


There are four categories of assignment:

  1. Weekly Reading Reflection Response notes: to be shared in class.
  2. Embodiment journal
  3. Presentations: collaborative work is encouraged.
  4. Major paper: ~3500 words.

There will be further discussions and guidance about the assignments on the first day of class.


Abram, D. (2010). Becoming animal: An earthly cosmology. New York: Vintage Books 978-0-375-71369-9
Griffin, S. (1995). The eros of everyday life. New York: Anchor Books  0-358-57399
Macy, J. (1991). World as lover, world as self. Berkeley, CALF: Parallax Press  0-938077-27-9
Kohn, L. (2005). Health and long life. Magdalena, NM: Three Pines Press. 1-931483-03-5

Additional PDF’d reading materials will be made available to students.