A High Resolution Emotional Radar Screen

Shinzen Young, from “A Meeting with a Pioneering Meditation Teacher,” with Tami Simon, Sounds True’s Insight at the Edge (November 2, 2010):

“Neuroscientists are aware that there is a system in the brain that they call the limbic system; it’s sometimes called the emotional brain. What I’ve attempted to do is create certain focusing exercises that will allow a person to be able to detect when their limbic system activates. So, then, well how do you go about doing this? Well, I can give you a tangible example.

Let’s say you’re listening to music and, as you listen to music, you are monitoring how your body is reacting to the music. Your body may smile if you like the music, but then at some point if there’s something you don’t like about the music, you get some other kind of sensation reaction in your body.

Or, you can listen to people talking, listen to people you agree with—politicians, philosophers, religious leaders—listen to them and then notice the impact on your body. Then, listen to people you disagree with—religious leaders, political leaders, philosophers—who have the opposite of your beliefs, then watch what happens in the body. Pay attention to that.

By monitoring your body’s reactions to sounds, especially human speech sounds or music, and then by monitoring your body’s reaction to external visual impressions, with time you can develop a sensitivity to detect the locations and flavors of sensation that are emotional in nature. It’s a training and it takes a while, but if you’re willing to do it, your whole body becomes like this high resolution emotional radar screen. So, as soon as there’s an impact from the physical world, you’re aware if there’s any emotional juice, however subtle—subtle is significant. If there is, you’re able to detect it and open up to it. If there’s not, you’re also aware of that fact.

So, by doing exercises in that way, eventually you learn to detect the subtle emotional reactions that we’re constantly having in the body that are triggered by other events. And, that’s how you go about doing it.”

Listen to the entire interview…