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Showing posts from March 7, 2013

The weak link in the chain of suffering

In every moment of life, there's an underlying physical reaction to everything we experience, a subtle opinion that's expressed in the body: What has just occurred is "agreeable" "disagreeable" or "neither." For example, the subway door slides shut in front of us; before we manage a thought about the event, a physical editorial has already arisen in our autonomic nervous system and muscle groups: our breathing becomes shallow, the abdomen clenches, the shoulders constrict and lift, the jaws lock; missing the train is now "disagreeable." (This somatic reaction sequence, referred to as "vedana" by The Buddha, is virtually automatic, and has been confirmed by neurologists as a function of the brain's subregion responsible for survival, the amygdala.) 
These physical commentaries are sculpted by a lifetime of previous reactions to various experiences: we've come to associate missing the subway with other uncomfortable even…