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人物访谈(中英) | Thomas Bruhn:遇见道德经,在中國文化中認出自己

Thomas Bruhn WorkFace柏林 2022-10-20

嘉宾:Dr. Thomas Bruhn








Dr.Thomas Bruhn

Dr. Thomas Bruhn is a physicist who has been working transdisciplinarily at the IASS Potsdam since 2012. His key interest is to facilitate the transformation of human relationality in the earth system in the light of challenges around sustainability. 

Since 2016 he is leading the research group AMA (A Mindset for the Anthropocene) on the question how the cultivation of mental qualities like mindfulness and compassion can play a relevant role in socio-ecological transformations. He has also been engaged in research on collective learning and co-creation in the context of political decision-making since 2017. 

Thomas enjoys bringing together people and stakeholders from diverse backgrounds in reflexive processes and dialogues that allow for the emergence of more integrated perspectives and action pathways. He is also a trained facilitator of group processes in the tradition of the "art of hosting" and a member of the German association to the Club of Rome.

托马斯·布鲁恩博士(Dr. Thomas Bruhn)是一位物理学家。他于2012年加入了位于波兹坦的可持续发展高等研究院(institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, IASS),并在此开展跨学科研究,其核心关切是:如何辅助地球系统中人类关联方式的转化,以应对实现可持续发展所面临的共同挑战。

自2016年以来,布鲁恩博士带领”人类世的智识模式(A Mindset for the Anthropocene, AMA)”项目小组,探索诸如正念觉知与慈悲等精神品质的培养,以及其在社会与生态改革中所发挥的作用。

同时,自2017年始,他也致力于政治决策中集体学习(collective learning)与共同创造(co-creation)的研究。布鲁恩博士乐于邀请来自不同背景的参与者共同开展反思与对话,以此促发更为整合的视角与行动策略的形成。他还曾受训于“引导艺术(art of hosting)”这一传统,成为了一名团体进程的引导师。在此之外,他也是罗马俱乐部德国协会的成员。



Y:您是如何對『內在轉化』產生興趣的呢?又是何時開始探索這一話題的呢?What has brought you to the topic of inner transformation?Since when you got interested in this topic?

T: I am wondering myself whether I could trace it back to any initial moment. Honestly it has always been an interest of mine as long as I can remember.





There has been a time in my life when I did research on my own path.

I was reading my own diary from the age of 10 or 11. And the impression I got was that most of the questions I am sitting with right now have already been on my mind back then, just in different depth. It’s the same longing to look inside and understand: who I am and why am I the way I am. Just the approach has changed over time. 






It started with music. My wonderful piano teacher, who was like a father to me, saw music as a way to express our inner state of harmony. In my early age, I was fascinated by the life stories of famous composers, and how their music was a process bringing their inner being into sound. For me it goes rather the other way around. The sound which resonates with me tells me something about my inner nature. That is my initial pathway. 




When I finished school, I had in mind to study psychology. But I was very disillusioned after a few courses at the university. I felt that the human being in western psychology was really treated as a machine. So I kept it as a private interest. I was inspired by Eric Fromm when I was young. Anyways I studied physics. But in parallel I was writing fiction novels. They became my platform to explore the psychological questions that I was sitting with. Only in recent years, through my work on sustainability, I rediscovered this side of myself and began to explore the resonance between the outer manifestations of the world and our inner state of mind.

在高中畢業时,我曾考虑修習心理學。然而当年參與的幾堂大學心理學課程却令我大失所望。我感到西方心理學實在是把「人」當作机器來對待。因此,我最終選擇了物理學,而将心理學視作一个私人興趣。在我年轻的時候,埃里希·弗洛姆(Erich Fromm 1900-1980)的作品曾给予我非常大的啟發。在物理學業進展的同時,我寫作了三部奇幻小說。小說成为了青少年時期的我深入心靈探索的媒介。而近几年,在可持续發展領域的工作中,我重新發現了自我的這一面向,並開始探索外在顯相与内在心理狀態之间的關係。

埃里希·弗洛姆(德语:Erich Fromm,1900年3月23日-1980年3月18日),美籍德国犹太人。人本主义哲学家和精神分析心理学家。毕生致力修改弗洛伊德的精神分析学说,以切合西方人在两次世界大战后的精神处境。他企图调和弗洛伊德的精神分析学跟人本主义的学说,其思想可以说是新弗洛依德主义与新马克思主义的交汇。弗洛姆是法兰克福学派的成员,后来从德国移居美国后仍然保持与学派的联系。弗洛姆被尊为“精神分析社会学”的奠基者之一。WiKi




At school, I had a very influential teacher on religion, who has brought me in touch with Buddhist meditation practices. He was a Christian priest, yet very open-minded and very interested in Buddhism and also Taoism. When I was a kid, I had asthma so that breathing was difficult for me. So this teacher also introduced some breathing practices from the East Asian traditions to me. 





The third tread that came to me quite early was hiking. Just walking in nature. We have a lot of beautiful forests here in Germany. Whenever I feel the need to reconnect and explore my inner being, I go out in nature and just listen to what comes to me.





Another thing that has certainly influenced my path to inner transformation is the observation of my family. I am the youngest child of my family. My siblings are seven and nine years older. And my parents are from the generation from the end or immediately after the Second World War in Germany (1935/1944). As a youngest child, I always found myself in the observer position, where I have witnessed a lot of the patterns in my family and how I processed them. I spent a lot of time just contemplating and reflecting on them, and trying to make meanings for myself. Somehow these patterns that I observed in my family have stayed with me throughout my whole life. I have been making meaning of myself as an observer, while at the same time also internalising these patterns that I was born into. I also recognise the same patterns in the world around me. It strikes me and nourishes my curiosity.對家庭的觀察也對我於內在轉化的探索產生了重要影響。我是家中最小的孩子。我的兩位兄弟姐妹,一位比我年長七歲、另一位則年長八歲。而我的父母(父親出生於1944年、母親出生於1945年)隸屬於第二次世界大戰後出生的第一代。作為家中的老小,我常發現自己在這個家中扮演著觀察者的角色。我目睹了家庭中的「模式」,以及它們如何表現在自己身上。我花了很多時間沉思與省察這些「模式」,並試圖為自己找到某些理解它們的方法。我在家中觀察到的這些模式,以某種形式伴隨了我(到目前為止的)整個人生。我持續地將自己的意義定位在觀察者的角色上,而與此同時,我也在不斷內化這些我投生其中的「模式」。後來,我也在身邊的世界中覺察到了相同的模式。這一發現既為我帶來了衝擊,也滋長了我的好奇心。




Would you mind sharing with us your experience with Chinese culture?

T: That is indeed a vivid thread for my personal development at the moment. 這實在是我目前生命成長中一個鮮活的新篇章。




Actually it starts with my current boss at my institute, my director Mark Lawrence. He is a black belt in Aikido. I have been working with him for eight years now. And after two or three years, he shared with me that his understanding of leadership is very much influenced by the Dao De Jing (道德經). In several of our conversations, he pointed me to the book. One and half years ago, Mark gave the Dao De Jing to me as a present. It was a very nice illustrated version. As I started reading in it, I was stunned. I just felt that something of my inner self is being put into words in such a beauty that I could never have expressed myself. Something in my soul just felt like: Ah! What a relief! It is there! It is articulated! 
事實上,它源於我目前就職機構(IASS)的一位院長,馬克·勞倫斯(Mark Lawrence)。他是合氣道黑帶。我同他已共事了八年。記不清是第二年還是第三年,他同我分享了自己對於領導力的理解,在極大程度上受到了《道德經》的影響。在我們的許多談話中,他都向我推薦了這本書。而在一年半之前,他將《道德經》作為禮物贈予了我。那是一個有著精美插圖的版本。當我開始閱讀它時,我完全被驚呆了。我感到某些自我的內在面向正以一種不可思議的優美形式化作言語、落在紙上。而我永遠無法如此地表達自己。我的靈魂在慨歎:天啊!這是多麼令人寬慰!它就在這裡了!它已經被表達出來了!





I have been struggling with much of the traditional wisdom of my own culture, which puts so much emphases on distinction, and clarity, in the way that separates. In my own way of communicating, I communicate very differently depending on whom I am talking to, and I use very different words to describe the same thing, depending on how I sense and resonate with the people I am speaking with. This often means that I am not taking a clear position, but find myself in some in-between space. Many people in my own culture context took it as very strange and asked: who are you and how can we grasp you?





Sometimes I also wonder for myself: How could I grasp myself? Do I even have to grasp myself? Or can’t I just BE in this fluid form? That is something I perceived very deeply in resonance what I’ve read in the Dao De Jing—the appreciation for the diversity of manifestations, as the expression of one and the same origin. And the origin itself could never be put into any catagory. The Dao that can be spoken is not the Dao. It’s approaching something that I could only sense and embody a little bit but am never really able to articulate. However, the way how the Dao De Jing tried to articulate, has found a way that the western philosophy has never found. It stays at this ambiguous figurative flowing level. Even making the attempt to put it into words is a miracle to me. Just seeing it articulated in words, in a way at the same time denies the truth, the absoluteness of words—that is a beautiful dance. 







Roughly one year ago, I had a beautiful experience coming to China for the first time. Fang Man was guiding me and we did a training course with students at Ji Lin (吉林) University. With openness, I made incredible experience about the way how people relate on a non-verbal level in China. Of course I have no clue how representative this is for the majority of Chinese. What I experienced was an incredible sensitivity for communication, or relatedness that takes place below what is being said, and below what is being expressed. Just the attentiveness how the presence of people in a room is something that is process consciously. It felt like I am flowing into a bath of water, or something liquid that is communicated between people.





I have tried sharing this experience with people in the West, but I had the sense that many people here do not have the sensitivity for these processes that I feel are taking place when a group of Chinese is in a room with each other and communicating.

Let me just say something on the surface. My experience growing up here in Germany is that there is a lot of competition about having the right to speak. Everyone is so worried that he or she may not get enough space to speak. So everybody is competing for time and space. Everyone is worried, that he or she may not get heard. As a consequence, nobody is really listening. Because most of the mind is focusing on finding a spot to squeeze in, and what he or she has to say him/herself. The attention is just with a different focus: on the self and on what this self wants to express. 
In a way, I was suffering from this atmosphere of competition for attention that I witness here. I feel that meaning is lost. There’s no space to process what is said by others. And I felt there’s a lacking sense of sensitivity whether what is being said actually fits into the field that one speaks into. However, in the groups of Chinese I was introduced to, there’s always consciousness for what is going on in the field as a whole. Personally I care most about the harmony of the whole. It’s not crucial whether this person has said it or that person has said it, or whether everyone has said what he or she believes to be important. But it is equally important that the field as a whole cultivates harmony and flow with each other. 


I felt some nature of my own being and my own soul when I experience this way of relating. For a long time, I have been trying to make sense of what is my own nature of being. Something of my inner being is rather like water. Yet I felt before maybe that’s wrong or a mistake, for it does not resonate with the expectations of the society that I grew up in. But this water nature went into resonance very much when I was in China. And Man has shared with me a sentence: “上善若水.”  (The highest quality of man is to be like water). Somehow in that moment, I recognised how much wisdom lies in that sentence, and how this sentence has shaped the cultural identity of Chinese over long times. That touched me a lot. I don’t think we have that equivalently in the West, that the reflections of the nature of one’s own inner being have been continuously conveyed as traditional knowledge to all children…. I am still in the beginning of the process, discovering that facet of my own inner being. This one week in China has impacted me on a very subconscious level. 





The word “inner transformation” kind of indicates that there’s something to be transformed. Yet what I’ve sensed in your previous sharing is really about self-discovery, as the abundance already lies within ourselves. And through resonating with others, we rediscover this abundance, this completeness, this richness within ourselves. Am I understanding you correctly?

T: Yes, the term of “transformation” could be a bit misleading, depending who are we talking to. 



There’s a nice saying that I often like to quote: 我特別喜歡引用以下這句話:
“There’s no teacher who can teach us anything new. He can only help us to remember what we always knew.” “沒有老師能夠教給我們任何新東西。她/他只能幫助我們憶起某些我們一直都知道的事。”
To me, this quote points to the fact that this transformation is a rediscovery of what lies within our nature, or maybe is nature in itself. I was very touched by what Man has shared with me the Chinese term 自然, which means “self as it is.” And we as “self”-s are embodiments and expressions of this inner nature of being. The transformation is not changing towards something new, but it is the manifestation of some intrinsic potential that is just built in me, and into each and every being. 
對我而言,它正是指出了所謂的「轉化」只是一場對於我們自然本性的重新發現,而這自然本性或許就是自然本身了。方曼同我分享的「自然」一詞令我十分感動。她將中文的自然解讀為「如其所是的自我」(self as it is)。而我們則組成了「自我(們)」(self-s),也是對於這一內在存在本質複數的具身化表達形式。「轉化」並不意味著轉變成任何新的東西,而是某些在我之中以及一切生命形式中的本具潛質之開顯
And at the same time, it’s a life-long process or maybe beyond our lives to explore this inner nature and to practice to live in resonance with it. Frankly, I am afraid that in many ways, many of my life patterns and practices are not really in resonance as what I perceive as “自然”. 
But because I am nature, so of course I have the sensitivity somehow to get in touch with it. As human being we are always nature. It is strange that western philosophy has created a lot distance between nature and culture, human being and the non-human world. I adore Ralph Waldo Emerson. He’s a writer from the U.S.. One of his key books is just called Nature, In this book, he describes how the conscious mind becomes aware of itself just from the observation of the nature around it….
不過,因為我就是自然,當然,我會有種去觸碰它的直覺。作為人類,我們一直都是自然。很奇怪西方哲學為何要在自然與文化、人類與非人類之間創造出巨大的鴻溝。我很欣賞美國作家拉尔夫·沃尔多·爱默生(Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882),他最有名的著作就叫做《論自然》。在這本書中,他描述了意識如何通過對自然的觀察而覺察到它自己……

In the Chinese culture, I get the sense that this non-rational, affective, figurative  way making meaning of the world has been a more dominant thread. While here in the western history, the more dialectic, Aristotelian philosophy has shaped the thinking, the structures that the society has built upon, and the whole scientific system, that has had a dominant influence. My own mind, as a child of the western culture, has been shaped more dominantly by the rational approaches. Yet at the same time, my inner being and soul have been more shaped by art and intuitive relation to the world. I get the sense that something in me is just embodying something, that recognises itself in the Chinese culture, that makes me feel as if I am deeply familiar with your culture although I’m new to it.

雅典学院 (The School of Athens)

意大利文艺复兴艺术家拉斐尔因受任装饰梵蒂冈使徒宫,而在1509年至1510年间创作的一幅湿壁画,位于拉斐尔房间的签字厅, 目前是梵蒂冈博物馆的一部分。此作被广泛认定为拉斐尔的代表作之一,象征著文艺复兴全盛期的精神。WiKi



Y: 我對於你所提出的諧振/共鳴(RESONANCE)這一實踐十分感興趣。看上去每一位進入對話的生命主體都攜帶著『自我』的訊息碎片,而通過『諧振』,我們不僅重新發現了內在圓滿自我的面向,也得以將這些碎片重新收集起來、黏合在一起,融入且圓滿了一個集體性的『大我』(Self)。這樣理解『諧振/共鳴』正確嗎?

I am very much curious about your method, the practice of resonance. Is that a way for us to departure from the tiny and separated self, and to merge into a larger Self? For everything we are in dialogue with is part of our missing “self” that would make us complete….




T: That’s the big question I’m sitting with. More recently I have the sense that maybe I’m just perceiving the collective experience that I’m part of. That includes the non-human world, to different degree, depending on how I cultivate my sensitivity. For a long time I had no understanding and also no concept for it and felt a bit lost in that process. I wondered, where are all these sensations coming from? Is that my self? 

Just more recently I felt: no, it’s what you called the capital S “Self.” My self is just a subjective experience on a collective journey. And that opens up a big box. Because that brings up the question: what am I part of? What is the collective story that I am taking part in? That’s a cultural question. It’s not only a personal, but also family, national as well as global story. 
I realised that I am embodying, or perceiving subjectively a lot of sensations and experiences that are not connected to my personal life story. They are part of a suffering I perceive around me, in my family, but also of a collective story of my whole civilisational context here, as the Second World War, or the East-West division in Germany… Allowing myself to realise that I am part of this bigger Self also means acknowledging the collective pain, trauma, suffering that is connected to my life story, yet not to take it on my own shoulders. Cultivating that openness is indeed a challenge.
I wonder that the reason why many people here refuse this idea of a collective Self is perhaps because it’s too painful to expose themselves to the collective experience. I feel individualism is a way to protect oneself from the experience of the field. Coming back to the topic of “inner transformation”, the inner dimension of being is largely avoided in the cultural context that I grow up, probably because it comes with uncomfortable experience. After WWII a whole generation was not able to cope with emotional inner life where there was too much guilt, anxiety, and shame. It would be curious to explore how did that collective experience prevent the cultivation of a collective Self.
My observation was that the political field concerning sustainibility mostly externalises the challenges that we are facing, trying to fix the outer world without touching the inner, maybe also because the inner is loaded with so much difficulty. And all we are doing with the project of AMA (“A Mindset for Anthropocene”), with its focus on inner transformation, is to create a space, that opens the door to the relevance of this inner dimension as part of the outer transformation. Just because otherwise it will be ignored.

我的另一個觀察是,目前可持續發展的政治領域「外化」了我們所面對的挑戰。他們試圖修復外在的世界而迴避內在。因為內在承載了太多痛苦的經驗。而我們AMA(“人類世的智識模式” A Mindset for Anthropocene)小組所致力於實現的就是「內在轉化」,即創造一個空間,使內在向度之於外在轉變的相關性得以呈現。不然它就會完全被忽略掉了。

AMA Compass点击图片,参看AMA项目简介

To keep it short, realising that we are belonging to a bigger Self here in the West might expose people to lots of disharmony. While for Chinese, it is so important and precious to cultivate a field as a bigger Self as an experience of harmony… At the moment I am actually a little bit worried. To which extend, this inner cultural wisdom of China and other Asian countries might be at risk, because of the influence of the West. For the influences that come from us are built on very different philosophical understanding, they might embody the dissociation of the inner and the outer, in ways that totally do not match your reality and might create splitting dynamics that might challenge the harmony that you have been experiencing for long time.


[十问访谈 · 人物画报]

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