Sounds True

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…


An Integrated System

Author and UCLA psychology professor Dan Siegel in conversation with Tami Simon on the topic “What Makes the Mind Healthy,” Sounds True: Insights at the Edge (October 6, 2009):

It turns out that when a complex system moves across time, it has something called a self-organizing process that tends to move it toward what is called maximizing complexity...If you imagine a choir where you have everybody sing the note the exact same way, it has this kind of dullness and rigidity to it. There is no differentiation. They are totally linked, the singers, but not differentiated. Then you have them close their ears, where they belt out a song as loudly as they can but they’d hear each other sing. The song is random. They pick whatever they feel like. There is total differentiation and zero linkage. It is cacophony. It is chaos. Then you have them open their ears, get together, and say to them, sing whatever you want. And amazingly, they will pick a song that they sing in harmony, where there will be intervals that each of the individual singers is expressing his or her identity, yet they are linking together in this familiar common song. And everyone has their inner singer and listener alike. And there is a feeling of incredible vitality, of fluidity and flexibility...

So in terms of integration, this differentiation of parts that then become linked, the linkage of specialized parts of a system, that is what allows you to move in a harmonious path. In complexity terms, you maximize complexity, but we can drop that term because it doesn’t make intuitive sense and just use the word harmony. So when a complex system is linking differentiated parts, it becomes harmonious and adaptive. So the interpersonal neurobiology view of health is basically integration. It is that simple. And it is that profound.

Because when you have learned to monitor energy and information flow, you can then take the pulse of where your life has rigidity in it, like when you have repeated habits that you feel imprisoned by or thoughts that keep on going over and over in your head, that is an example of rigidity. Or you keep on getting romantic partners that are bad for you because they hate you. But you want to be with someone who hates you, that is an example of a rigid pattern.

Or on the other extreme chaos, where you interact with people and suddenly you burst into this emotional chaotic storm that floods you and you don’t have any kind of balance in your life. And you are saying things to loved ones that you don’t want to say. Or you are beating up in yourself in these, what I call “low-road outbursts.” You know, all those chaotic ways our life creates suffering for us. Those are all examples of impaired integration. And we could go through in detail what that looks like, and in my book Mindsight I do. But it is basically any opportunity you can see to feel rigidity in your life. It is an opportunity to look deeply at what is not differentiated in your relationships, what is not differentiated in your nervous system.


[Thanks Kit !]