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The survival center

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The survival center
Answer
1/17/14 9:53 AM
I have been meditating about for 3 months and this is an observation I've made during my sittings.

There is a common denominator for the thoughts that arise during my concentration practice. Their main source seems to be that place in my mind which is in charge with survival. Either they are desires or fears, jealousy or craving, satisfaction or disappointment, they all revolve around the entity in my brain which has the purpose of keeping me alive. If I think about past, I think of facts that stimulated or impeded on my survival status. When I envision the future, I see things that could stimulate or decrease my chances of survival. Money, sex, social status, influence, charisma, everything that disturbs my concentration comes from the same point in my mind, the survival center. On the contrary, when my environment (mental and physical) doesn't seem to challenge my overall living position, my meditation is smooth and I can concentrate better.
The diseased, the ill and the dead, all of these three revelations seen by the young Siddhartha outside the royal palace were strong challenges addressing directly to his survival center. Just take any of the defilements described by the teachings and each of it is a factor - positive or negative - in our overall survival status.
I've pondered on the quality of my thoughts during sittings and literally each of them could be labelled as originating or having something to do with my survival reflexes. No neutral thoughts were interfering with my practice, only the kind that had something to do with my life expectancy.
The training in morality may be the taming practice for this instinct. When we are good and all around us are good, our survival status is high, there are no dangers and therefore our concentration and insight practices will have a smooth ground to develop on.
The three characteristics target the exact same instinct. All that happens is temporary (so my survival instinct will know that the danger will pass), it doesn't affect my survival chances (either good or bad) and there is nobody to be harmed by what happens.
The minimalist approach towards the material goods is also a way of lowering the standards of our survival center, of its red-alert threshold. We teach it to claim less. We are conditioned by the modern rush for comfort to increase our bare necessities amount, to pathological highs. The survival center is forced by the social example to include even luxury in its list of mandatory survival conditions. This is why we are taught by the wise not to compare ourselves with others, but follow our own pace: exactly for avoiding to educate our survival center according to these unnatural and excessive standards.

I don't know what should I do with this thing I've learned through meditation, but at least I know which part of my mind I will have to educate. The teaching I must convey to that part of myself would be that I am no more a hunted animal, survival is not my top priority anymore and there are higher goals for me than preserving my life by any means.

tl;dr The monkey in the mind is not my enemy, it's conditioned to secure my survival and it does a good job. But there is too much death and suffering around me, so the monkey is almost always on its toes. It's not crazy, it's just a little bit stupid, it learns very fast how to fear bad things and crave for more good things and learns very slow that there are no more dangers around like there used to be. I don't have to get at stakes with it, but just tame it with calmness and consistency.

RE: The survival center
Answer
1/18/14 5:08 AM as a reply to Iulian Doroftei.
Very interesting observations...

Yesterday I listened to a few buddhist geek podcasts with Rick Hanson.
Your observations tie in somewhat with what was discussed there and the book he wrote Buddha's Brain.

The way experiences and idea's like yours tie in with how the brain operates from a neurological/scientific approach.

With Love
Eelco

RE: The survival center
Answer
1/20/14 6:16 AM as a reply to Iulian Doroftei.
Howdy,
insights are enlightening! after reading your post i would ask you: 'the survival of what?'

it is the ego which has this 'drive to survive' and uses lots of tricks to keep up the illusion of a separate and solidly entity existing through time.

so this invention, habit, mirage, misperception that is our 'self' exists as long as we are taken in by its tricks and our tendency to believe that this blur of activity IS what we are.

that is what drives this 'survival response' and the dissatisfaction associated with it. this needs to be dropped for the bad habit it is.

tom