Running Into Being

Physical activity is the cure for intellectual stagnation.

I’ve been trying to get in the habit of running regularly. It started as a way to break the monotony of my days off; oftentimes I would find myself just sitting around deteriorating on days when I didn’t have to work. I tried reading, but I would always fall asleep. I tried writing music, but I was living in a house where such a thing was an imposition on my housemates. Running became something to do out of the house that would at least occupy my time for an hour or so.

You notice things more when you run, especially if you run a route that you’re accustomed to driving. When you’re behind the wheel of an automobile, there are too many fast-paced and long-distance things to keep in mind. You don’t think about what’s immediately around you, you think about what’s down the road, and only pay a fleeting glance to what’s behind you. The pace is much slower on a run, and you can get a real appreciation for what things look like up close, what they smell like, and their contiguous relationship to other things.

It’s a very pensive experience.

The run I’m about to describe was particularly meditative and moving. I had been running regularly for a couple of weeks, using Nike+ in conjunction with my iPhone to track my pace and distance. When I was playing soccer, I easily had a six-minute mile, but lately (since taking up smoking and a more lethargic lifestyle) I’ve had to set my goals closer to the nine-minute mile mark. So at around 8:30 in the evening I put my headphones in, set the clock to twenty minutes (that should give me about two miles) and set off on my run.

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Dear Facebook Friends, We Have to Stop Seeing Each Other Like This

Insula and Somatosensory Cortex

Look, we all love facebook, but it’s hurting both us and our relationships. At its best, it unites us despite the separation of time and space, allowing us to discover and maintain friendships from long ago or far away. It offers a powerful platform for organizing grass-roots political movements and coordinated disaster-response efforts. However, all of this comes at a cost. How would you feel if you knew that facebook use inflicts measurable, physical pain on nearly every one of its 2.27 billion users?

Pain in the Brain

Let’s start with defining pain. Research has shown that pain consists primarily two components—the sensory and the affective—and those components reside in identifiable parts of the brain. The somatosensory cortices allow us to know where we are injured while the posterior insula tells us how bad it is. The physical experience of pain is what we call the “sensory component.” The “affective component”—provided by the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and the anterior insula—gives us the feeling that the pain is unpleasant. (more…)

Dukkha

Princess Dooka

Life is dissatisfying because everything is temporary, and we try to hold on to things. Mindfulness is the condition of being free from attachment or desire. Mindful practice leads one to that condition, or at least creates a condition where mindfulness can happen. However, the last obstacle to achieving true mindfulness is the desire to attain true mindfulness and the expectation that true mindfulness will not be temporary.