Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What your body can tell you

The Buddha's first foundation of mindfulness is the body. Know when you're breathing in; know when you're breathing out. Know when you're sitting or standing or walking or resting. Locating awareness in the body is a way of connecting with the present moment and letting go of thoughts.

A new study indicates that those sensations also can give us clues about our mood. A team of Finnish researchers worked with 700 people in three countries to map where emotions are expressed in the body. They found remarkable similarities among people about where emotions manifest in their bodies.

Neuroscientist Antonio Dimasio, who was not involved in this study, told NPR he's "delighted" by the findings. He's been suggesting for years that each emotion activates a distinct set of body parts, and the mind's recognition of those patterns helps us consciously identify that emotion.
"People look at emotions as something in relation to other people," Damasio, who is a professor at the University of Southern California, says. "But emotions also have to do with how we deal with the environment — threats and opportunities."

The next foundations have to do with how we assign meaning or act on what we find in our bodies -- mindfulness of feeling tones (like it/hate it/don't see it) and thoughts. The body, though, is the first sensor.

The sensation maps were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. You can even take the experiment here and color your own sensation maps. And remember those maps the next time you notice yourself clenching your jaw,

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