Thursday, 2 November 2017

Who's in Charge? Are you Sure?

     Whether we see basic drives as the will to survive personally & as a family line; survival of the fittest within the human species; or survival as a species among other species; it boils down to surviving personally by whatever means, mating, raising & defending our offspring so that they too can do the same. 
     The sense of "me & mine against the world" dominates. Fear, anxiety, possessiveness, aggression, sex, competitiveness, time-poverty, goal-orientation, etc are inherent. We not only share all these with sea lions, wolves, & other animals, but are driven by these primitive reflexes far more than we tend to realize. This is literally natural, adaptive - a residual evolutionary set of survival skills. The problem however is that most, if not all of these are inappropriate in today's world, and thus cause us a great deal more harm than good.
     Mindfulness training (MBSR) & practice helps us to clearly see our own mind in action, free ourselves from acting out these primitive reflexes, and thus allow us to make much wiser behavior choices:
     Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a secular derivation of Buddhist Mindfulness- or Insight-Meditation. To gain a clearer, more in-depth, direct understanding of how & why MBSR, and to a large extent all the other Mindfulness-based Interventions (MBIs) work, one needs to become a serious, consistent practitioner of meditation. 
     Furthermore, serious secular meditation practitioners, clinicians & teachers (even famously anti-religious ones like Sam Harris) tend to eventually study the Buddhist roots and regularly sit silent Buddhist meditation retreats. This new book is a very clear, enjoyable, contemporary investigation of Buddhist Mindfulness- or Insight-Meditation
     Robert Wright. "Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment." Simon & Schuster, 2017.
    "Wright leads readers on a journey through psychology, philosophy, and a great many silent retreats to show how & why meditation can serve as the foundation for a spiritual life in a secular age. At once excitingly ambitious & wittily accessible, this is the first book to combine evolutionary psychology with cutting-edge neuroscience to defend the radical claims at the heart of Buddhist philosophy. With bracing honesty and fierce wisdom, it will persuade you not just that Buddhism is true—which is to say, a way out of our delusion—but that it can ultimately save us from ourselves, as individuals and as a species."
     NOTE: two or more truth claims, from different psycho-social-spiritual perspectives, can be equally valid. Serious meditation practitioners, whether secular or religious, as well as monks & mystics of any of the world's wisdom traditions tend to transcend apparent paradoxes that others might (mis)perceive as irreconcilable black-and-white dichotomies.

Katie Hoffman      "Over My Head"

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