Tag Archives | despair

The Wisdom in the Dark Emotions

eclipseMiriam Greenspan, writing in the January 2003 issue of the Shambala Sun:

I was brought to the practice of mindfulness more than two decades ago by the death of my first child. Aaron died two months after he was born, never having left the hospital. Shortly after that, a friend introduced me to a teacher from whom I learned the basics of Vipassana meditation: how to breathe mindfully and meditate with “choiceless” awareness. I remember attending a dharma talk in a room full of fifty meditators. The teacher spoke about the Four Noble Truths. Life is inherently unsatisfactory, he said. The ego’s restless desires are no sooner fulfilled than they find new objects. Craving and aversion breed suffering. One of his examples was waiting in line for a movie and then not getting in.

I asked: “But what if you’re not suffering because of some trivial attachment? What if it’s about something significant, like death?

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Existential Despair? Take Two of These and Call Me in the Morning

Please don't give Tylenol to your existentially-challenged cat.

Please don’t give Tylenol to your existentially-challenged cat.

Interesting research from the University of British Columbia: Apparently Tylenol can also ease aches and pains of the existential kind. Look for new Sartre strength in the “Ennui” aisle of your local drug store:

New research this week found that Tylenol altered the way subjects passed moral judgements. Psychologists used that as a proxy measure for personal distress, a relationship that has been previously demonstrated. Daniel Randles and colleagues at the University of British Columbia write in the journal Psychological Science, “The meaning-maintenance model posits that any violation of expectations leads to an affective experience that motivates compensatory affirmation. We explore whether the neural mechanism that responds to meaning threats can be inhibited by acetaminophen.” Totally. More plainly, “Physical pain and social rejection share a neural process and subjective component that are experienced as distress.” That neural process has been traced to the same part of the brain.

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