The Right Brain Woodworking group held its first meeting on Sunday, November 8, 2008 at the Homestead Woodworking School in Newmarket, NH. Seventeen people attended.
From the outset it was clear that this was to be an unusual group, unique, as far as we know, in the Western world of woodworking organizations.
The meeting consisted entirely of group discussion, in which everyone contributed. Everyone gave a perspective on what they thought right brain woodworking to be, and offered ideas for future activities.
While it is difficult to summarize this rich and rewarding discussion, here are some of the key points.
The purpose of the group is to help us enrich our woodworking experience, not by tips, tools, and techniques but rather by cultivating a particular state of mind. This state of mind, well known to Eastern philosophers, is culturally underrepresented and undervalued in Western society, largely as a result of historical accident.
Very simply stated, we are eager to learn what happens when we approach our woodworking, not with a mental focus on the finished result, but with an appreciative concentration on each step as meaningful and rewarding in its own right. Pop psychological terms for this state are mindfulness, being in the moment, being in the zone, and being engaged.
The woodworker’s mental focus is thus shifted from anticipating the finished product to the in-the-moment experience of the activities of woodworking. Attendees who have experimented with this say that there work is a great deal more fun and that, paradoxically, the quality of their finished work is far better than they had imagined possible.
Further discussion made clear that this state of mind is also a crucial component of successful creative design.
From all this discussion, the following emerged as a group consensus for how to proceed.
- This is an egalitarian group. There are no experts or teachers. We are in it to help one another.
- Our focus is on the experience of woodworking rather than the result, on subjective aspects rather than objective ones.
- “Right Brain” is to be considered only a metaphor
- We are interested in how to cultivate an “in the moment” approach to woodworking, and in how to create beautiful designs.
As to group activities, we generated a long list of possibilities. This website, to which everyone is invited to contribute, is one of them. In particular we plan to generate a list of recommended readings, and to hold on-line discussions. This will allow interested people in geographically remote areas to particulate.
As to meetings, we agreed to let things psercolate for a while before settling on a schedule. However, when we do meet, it will be on Saturday or Sundays close to the full moon.