How did I ever think that hanging out with two neuroscientists who practice Zen Buddhism and two zen philosophers, at one of the best Zen retreat centers in the country, could lead to anything but a challenging as well as reflective time in my personal and professional life.
I loved the lectures that took place last weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the Upaya Foundation and I also loved the quiet contemplative practice that was woven into this silent retreat. Sitting quietly from 7-8 in the morning, eating together in silence, doing work together in silence, watching the snow fall in the silent wilderness surrounding the center, and engaging in lively discussions in the afternoon and evening with reflections from Roshi Joan Halifax.
I went to this retreat to meet and engage in discourse with the neuroscientists, especially Richard Davidson, who is Director for the Laboratory of Affective Neuroscience as well as the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A major focus of his current work is on interactions between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala in the regulation of emotion in both normal subjects and patients with affective and anxiety disorders. He has also studied and published several papers on brain physiology in long-term Buddhist meditators. I never got the questions that I arrived with answered, but I have a host of new and more important questions for the scientists and philosophers.
My burning question, to which there could be myriad answers, is: Does birth HAVE to be considered one of the four passages of life that cause suffering? What if birth could be about connecting and feeling the power of connection to source?
Not only have I seen this in many many water borne children, but I have seen them grow up and live fearlessly, boldly and with great compassion and intention.
More on that later.......