Love and Meditation - 18dec22
Love can tear out your still-beating heart and eat it before your dimming eyes. Unsurprisingly so many of us have wondered whether the bliss and peace of meditation could be a substitute for the treachery of the interpersonal. What could the overlapping Venn diagram of evolution and neuroscience say on the subject?
Every healthy mammal is born with an anterior cingulate gyrus, the hub of our network of mirror neurons, the seat of empathy. The same survival pressures that drove reptiles to evolve a dopamine-oriented mechanism that rewarded for reproduction, and everything that supports it (such as drinking, eating, sheltering, and sleeping) also drove mammals to develop an oxytocin-oriented reward system that drives us to cooperate with the members of our pack, or herd, or tribe; inducing such behaviors with the experience of peace and fulfillment.
Perhaps that is why, in the Sam-yut-ta Ni-ka-ya we read of the Buddha delivering the “Noble Friendship Discourse” where Ananda proposes: “HALF of this holy life, Lord, is good and noble friends, companionship with the good, association with the good.” to which the Buddha responded “Do NOT say that, A-nan-da. It is the WHOLE of this holy life, this friendship, companionship, and association with the good.”
Yes, we could explore how meditation is less of a panacea and more of an adjunct to both medicine and psychology; but that would be glossing over the ugly and uncomfortable possibility that the key phrase in the quote was “…association with the good…”. Do you have a good relationship with a good person? If not a few visits to a marriage counselor could be in order. For harkening to our post meditative impulses could help us to be as intuitive as Qui Gon Jinn.
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