Neema Moraveji on Perfect Self-Awareness
October 14, 2011
–This review was written by Ryan Viglizzo for my class DIY Health at NYU ITP (Tisch School of the Arts). In this class, students design systems of self-care that help people take stock of themselves by exploring ways to measure, reflect and act upon their health and lifestyle.–
Moraveji asks, “What would it be like to have perfect self awareness?” His talk suggests that having perfect self-awareness means having an optimized mind. He describes an optimized mind as one that is calm, aware, and emotional but not driven by emotions. Moraveji points out that we can achieve this state of mind by changing and self-tracking our breath. Moraveji focused on social influence and staring at a computer screen to test change in breath rate. I would like to relate his talk to exercise.
As a runner, it took me years of doing the sport to start understanding the importance of breath. As we run we get better—run longer distances, feel better, and increase our speed. I realized that when I trained I trained my breath. I controlled my breath; which inadvertently taught me how to manage my body. This poses the question—Can we teach our body to regulate or does our body teach us to regulate?
Moraveji explains that breath connects all of the body’s major and vital nervous systems. If we use our mind self to regulate our breath, our body follows. I would say agree with this notion. When I run I think about relaxation. I think about my breath being steady, calm and rhythmic. As I think about that I fall into my pace with my breath and my body’s nervous system follows. It all starts with my mind.
This process can be described in a first order feedback loop. Goal: become relaxed, efficient and calm during the run. Action: Thinking about and making breath rhythmic, calm and steady. Environmental distractions: increasing pace, other runners, weather, change of terrain, etc. Sensing/monitoring: BMP (breaths per min.) Comparing my states: Am I breathing slower and feeling calmer as I run? If so I achieved my goal. If not I go back to Action (to start loop over).
I see the breath as a function that is controlled by our mental intention. As we calm our breath it triggers the body’s nervous system to sit at a certain resting state. I think Moraveji is trying to make people aware of the fact that if we are conscious of our breath we can improve our self-awareness and in turn be more productive, happy, and clear.
One issue I had was that Moraveji only measures breath solely on breath rate. I feel like there are other parameters of breath that needed to be included in his study. The study also touched on social motivation. I think that the social motivation piece is not a constant in its ability to keep people self-monitoring.