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  • Writer's pictureLama Jigme Gyatso

Socialization, Meditation, and the Spiritual Path - 1apr23

Oh how proponents of establishment-oriented spirituality sing the benefits of rugged individualism. But is that what the Buddha taught? In the Sam-yut-ta Ni-ka-ya we read, “…Ít is the WHOLE of this holy life, this friendship, companionship, and association…”. And neuroscience agrees, reminding us that the anterior cingulate gyrus of most EVERY mammalian species is wired for empathy, cooperation, and friendship.

However neuroscience and anthropology warn us that the experience of peril tears us violently out of the limbic system and down into the basal ganglia, home of the amygdala: the seat of fear. Which, with coercion, are the bread and butter of establishment world view no less practice. No wonder they promote isolationism. What is the antidote?

The fifth of the Buddha’s seven enlightenment factors is tranquility. Fortunately it is as easy to access as exhalation. For that is the key that opens our PARA-sympathetic nervous system, the door to meditation. Freeing from our brain’s dungeon it ascends, returning our blood mass to the anterior cingulate gyrus, the hub of our mirror neurons: our throne of empathy. But what has that to do with mindfulness?

An ancient neurological relic is the sympathetic nervous system which facilitates our perception: vulnerable, passive, visceral, and spontaneous. Ensconced within our thoracic spinal cord, it is accessed with our every inhalation. What mindfulness notices, meditation releases, freeing us from the tyranny of fear and making of us the good neighbor for which our species has evolved. _/\_

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