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Lions Roar : November 2017
claims about our illusions, namely that we fail to see the truths of not-self and emptiness. Buddhism, of course, is not primarily a philosophy or de- scription of reality. It is a prag- matic path whose goal is to lessen suffering and increase happiness. Where does Buddhist practice fit into this? I see Buddhist practice as, in some sense, a rebellion against natural selection. That’s not to say we reject all the leg- acies of natural selection. Natural selection gave us the capacity for love and compassion. But I think it’s useful to think of Bud- dhist practice as saying to natural selection that we do not have to accept your agenda—we can rearrange the priorities. Evolutionary psychology has given us a pretty good diagnosis of the problem. It has illuminated what is unfortunate about human nature. But it doesn’t offer any sort of prescription. It doesn’t tell us what to do about it. Buddhism does offer a prescription. It offers a regime of practice grounded in philosophy that addresses the problems evolutionary psychology reveals. My own experience is in mindfulness meditation in the Vipassana, or Insight, tradition. I have found it well-suited to responding to the challenge that evolution presents us with. Mindfulness meditation lets you get a different vantage point on the various parts of the mind that evolution has left you with. It gives you the opportunity to change your relationship to them. I saw how this works one morning when I was on my first retreat. I had had too much coffee and I had this very tense feeling in my jaw that overcaffeination can bring. It was a feel- ing of stress and discomfort. I was meditating, and rather than running away from this feeling I started observing it, without fearing or indulging it. That gave me a certain critical distance from it, and suddenly I wasn’t suffering anymore. I had distance from it and it wasn’t a problem anymore. For me, meditation has been a kind of magical tool. I saw in BUDDHAPHOTO:©LIEWLUCK/DREAMSTIME.DARWINPHOTO:PAULDSTEWART/SCIENCEPHOTOLIBRARY LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2017 41