zen and the brain toward an understanding of meditation and consciousness mit press

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Zen And The Brain

Author : James H. Austin
ISBN : 0262260352
Genre : Medical
File Size : 75. 31 MB
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A neuroscientist and Zen practitioner interweaves the latest research on the brain with his personal narrative of Zen. Aldous Huxley called humankind's basic trend toward spiritual growth the "perennial philosophy." In the view of James Austin, the trend implies a "perennial psychophysiology"—because awakening, or enlightenment, occurs only when the human brain undergoes substantial changes. What are the peak experiences of enlightenment? How could these states profoundly enhance, and yet simplify, the workings of the brain? Zen and the Brain presents the latest evidence. In this book Zen Buddhism becomes the opening wedge for an extraordinarily wide-ranging exploration of consciousness. In order to understand which brain mechanisms produce Zen states, one needs some understanding of the anatomy, physiology, and chemistry of the brain. Austin, both a neurologist and a Zen practitioner, interweaves the most recent brain research with the personal narrative of his Zen experiences. The science is both inclusive and rigorous; the Zen sections are clear and evocative. Along the way, Austin examines such topics as similar states in other disciplines and religions, sleep and dreams, mental illness, consciousness-altering drugs, and the social consequences of the advanced stage of ongoing enlightenment.

Zen Brain Reflections

Author : James H. Austin
ISBN : 9780262260374
Genre : Medical
File Size : 29. 88 MB
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This sequel to the widely read Zen and the Brain continues James Austin's explorations into the key interrelationships between Zen Buddhism and brain research. In Zen-Brain Reflections, Austin, a clinical neurologist, researcher, and Zen practitioner, examines the evolving psychological processes and brain changes associated with the path of long-range meditative training. Austin draws not only on the latest neuroscience research and new neuroimaging studies but also on Zen literature and his personal experience with alternate states of consciousness.Zen-Brain Reflections takes up where the earlier book left off. It addresses such questions as: how do placebos and acupuncture change the brain? Can neuroimaging studies localize the sites where our notions of self arise? How can the latest brain imaging methods monitor meditators more effectively? How do long years of meditative training plus brief enlightened states produce pivotal transformations in the physiology of the brain? In many chapters testable hypotheses suggest ways to correlate normal brain functions and meditative training with the phenomena of extraordinary states of consciousness.After briefly introducing the topic of Zen and describing recent research into meditation, Austin reviews the latest studies on the amygdala, frontotemporal interactions, and paralimbic extensions of the limbic system. He then explores different states of consciousness, both the early superficial absorptions and the later, major "peak experiences." This discussion begins with the states called kensho and satori and includes a fresh analysis of their several different expressions of "oneness." He points beyond the still more advanced states toward that rare ongoing stage of enlightenment that is manifest as "sage wisdom."Finally, with reference to a delayed "moonlight" phase of kensho, Austin envisions novel links between migraines and metaphors, moonlight and mysticism. The Zen perspective on the self and consciousness is an ancient one. Readers will discover how relevant Zen is to the neurosciences, and how each field can illuminate the other.

Meditating Selflessly

Author : James H. Austin
ISBN : 9780262015875
Genre : Body, Mind & Spirit
File Size : 69. 83 MB
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Based on the Zen philosophy about focusing away from the self, a guide to "neural Zen" meditative practices draws on recent findings in brain research to outline recommendations for various methods of pursuing a balanced, selfless state of heightened awareness.

What Can Neuroscience Learn From Contemplative Practices

Author : Zoran Josipovic
ISBN : 9782889199716
Genre :
File Size : 51. 60 MB
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A recent wave of brain research has advanced our understanding of the neural mechanisms of conscious states, contents and functions. A host of questions remain to be explored, as shown by lively debates between models of higher vs. lower-order aspects of consciousness, as well as global vs. local models. (Baars 2007; Block, 2009; Dennett and Cohen, 2011; Lau and Rosenthal, 2011). Over some twenty-five centuries the contemplative traditions have also developed explicit descriptions and taxonomies of the mind, to interpret experiences that are often reported in contemplative practices (Radhakrishnan & Moore, 1967; Rinbochay & Naper, 1981). These traditional descriptions sometimes converge on current scientific debates, such as the question of conceptual vs. non-conceptual consciousness; reflexivity or “self-knowing” associated with consciousness; the sense of self and consciousness; and aspects of consciousness that are said to continue during sleep. These real or claimed aspects of consciousness have not been fully integrated into scientific models so far. This Research Topic in Consciousness Research aims to provide a forum for theoretical proposals, new empirical findings, integrative literature reviews, and methodological improvements inspired by meditation-based models. We include a broad array of topics, including but not limited to: replicable findings from a variety of systematic mental practices; changes in brain functioning and organization that can be attributed to such practices; their effects on adaptation and neural plasticity; measurable effects on perception, cognition, affect and self-referential processes. We include contributions that address the question of causal attribution. Many published studies are correlational in nature, because of the inherent difficulty of conducting longitudinal experiments based on a major lifestyle decision, such as the decision to commit to a mental practice over a period of years. We also feature clinical and case studies, integrative syntheses and significant opinion articles.

Meditation Neuroscientific Approaches And Philosophical Implications

Author : Stefan Schmidt
ISBN : 9783319016344
Genre : Psychology
File Size : 57. 49 MB
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This volume features a collection of essays on consciousness, which has become one of the hot topics at the crossroads between neuroscience, philosophy, and religious studies. Is consciousness something the brain produces? How can we study it? Is there just one type of consciousness or are there different states that can be discriminated? Are so called “higher states of consciousness” that some people report during meditation pointing towards a new understanding of consciousness? Meditation research is a new discipline that shows new inroads into the study of consciousness. If a meditative practice changes brain structure itself this is direct proof of the causal influence of consciousness onto its substrate. If different states of consciousness can be linked with properties and states of the brain this can be used to study consciousness more directly. If the sense of self is modifiable through meditative techniques and this can be objectively shown through neuro-imaging, this has profound implications for our understanding of who we are. Can consciousness, in deep states of meditative absorption, actually access some aspect of reality which we normally don't? Meditation research can potentially foster us with a new access to the phenomenological method in general. This has even been branded with a new catch-phrase: Contemplative Science. It brings together the most modern neuroscientific approach and the most advanced phenomenological methodology of studying the mind from within, through highly skilled self-observation that has gone through many thousand hours of honing the capacity to look carefully, without distraction. This book addresses these issues by bringing together some of the leading researchers and thinkers in the field. The scope of the volume reaches from first person neuroscience to Indian philosophy, from pedagogic applications to epistemological aspects and from compassion meditation to the study of brain activity.

Selfless Insight

Author : James H. Austin
ISBN : 9780262260367
Genre : Religion
File Size : 71. 34 MB
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When neurology researcher James Austin began Zen training, he found that his medical education was inadequate. During the past three decades, he has been at the cutting edge of both Zen and neuroscience, constantly discovering new examples of how these two large fields each illuminate the other. Now, in Selfless Insight, Austin arrives at a fresh synthesis, one that invokes the latest brain research to explain the basis for meditative states and clarifies what Zen awakening implies for our understanding of consciousness. Austin, author of the widely read Zen and the Brain, reminds us why Zen meditation is not only mindfully attentive but evolves to become increasingly selfless and intuitive. Meditators are gradually learning how to replace over-emotionality with calm, clear objective comprehension. In this new book, Austin discusses how meditation trains our attention, reprogramming it toward subtle forms of awareness that are more openly mindful. He explains how our maladaptive notions of self are rooted in interactive brain functions. And he describes how, after the extraordinary, deep states of kensho-satori strike off the roots of the self, a flash of transforming insight-wisdom leads toward ways of living more harmoniously and selflessly. Selfless Insight is the capstone to Austin's journey both as a creative neuroscientist and as a Zen practitioner. His quest has spanned an era of unprecedented progress in brain research and has helped define the exciting new field of contemplative neuroscience.

Waking Dreaming Being

Author : Evan Thompson
ISBN : 9780231538312
Genre : Religion
File Size : 79. 28 MB
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A renowned philosopher of the mind, also known for his groundbreaking work on Buddhism and cognitive science, Evan Thompson combines the latest neuroscience research on sleep, dreaming, and meditation with Indian and Western philosophy of mind, casting new light on the self and its relation to the brain. Thompson shows how the self is a changing process, not a static thing. When we are awake we identify with our body, but if we let our mind wander or daydream, we project a mentally imagined self into the remembered past or anticipated future. As we fall asleep, the impression of being a bounded self distinct from the world dissolves, but the self reappears in the dream state. If we have a lucid dream, we no longer identify only with the self within the dream. Our sense of self now includes our dreaming self, the "I" as dreamer. Finally, as we meditate—either in the waking state or in a lucid dream—we can observe whatever images or thoughts arise and how we tend to identify with them as "me." We can also experience sheer awareness itself, distinct from the changing contents that make up our image of the self. Contemplative traditions say that we can learn to let go of the self, so that when we die we can witness its dissolution with equanimity. Thompson weaves together neuroscience, philosophy, and personal narrative to depict these transformations, adding uncommon depth to life's profound questions. Contemplative experience comes to illuminate scientific findings, and scientific evidence enriches the vast knowledge acquired by contemplatives.

Diving Seals And Meditating Yogis

Author : Robert Elsner
ISBN : 9780226247045
Genre : Science
File Size : 31. 54 MB
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The comparative physiology of seemingly disparate organisms often serves as a surprising pathway to biological enlightenment. How appropriate, then, that Robert Elsner sheds new light on the remarkable physiology of diving seals through comparison with members of our own species on quests toward enlightenment: meditating yogis. As Elsner reveals, survival in extreme conditions such as those faced by seals is often not about running for cover or coming up for air, but rather about working within the confines of an environment and suppressing normal bodily function. Animals in this withdrawn state display reduced resting metabolic rates and are temporarily less dependent upon customary levels of oxygen. For diving seals—creatures especially well-adapted to prolonged submergence in the ocean’s cold depths—such periods of rest lengthen dive endurance. But while human divers share modest, brief adjustments of suppressed metabolism with diving seals, it is the practiced response achieved during deep meditation that is characterized by metabolic rates well below normal levels, sometimes even approaching those of non-exercising diving seals. And the comparison does not end here: hibernating animals, infants during birth, near-drowning victims, and clams at low tide all also display similarly reduced metabolisms. By investigating these states—and the regulatory functions that help maintain them—across a range of species, Elsner offers suggestive insight into the linked biology of survival and well-being.

Ritual Performance And The Senses

Author : Jon P. Mitchell
ISBN : 9780857854971
Genre : Social Science
File Size : 71. 56 MB
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Ritual has long been a central concept in anthropological theories of religious transmission. Ritual, Performance and the Senses offers a new understanding of how ritual enables religious representations – ideas, beliefs, values – to be shared among participants. Focusing on the body and the experiential nature of ritual, the book brings together insights from three distinct areas of study: cognitive/neuroanthropology, performance studies and the anthropology of the senses. Eight chapters by scholars from each of these sub-disciplines investigate different aspects of embodied religious practice, ranging from philosophical discussions of belief to explorations of the biological processes taking place in the brain itself. Case studies range from miracles and visionary activity in Catholic Malta to meditative practices in theatrical performance and include three pilgrimage sites: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the festival of Ramlila in Ramnagar, India and the mountain shrine of the Lord of the Shiny Snow in Andean Peru. Understanding ritual allows us to understand processes at the very centre of human social life and humanity itself, making this an invaluable text for students and scholars in anthropology, cognitive science, performance studies and religious studies.

Buddhism A Very Short Introduction

Author : Damien Keown
ISBN : 9780191640506
Genre : Religion
File Size : 63. 28 MB
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Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction introduces the reader to the teachings of the Buddha and to the workings of Buddhism in daily life. Damien Keown looks at the distinctive features of Buddhism, examining who the Buddha was and what his teachings were. By considering how Buddhist thought has developed over the centuries, Keown considers how contemporary dilemmas can be faced from a Buddhist perspective. In this new edition Keown provides new perspectives on Buddhist thought, including up-to-date material about the evolution of Buddhism throughout Asia, the material culture of Buddhism and its importance, new teachings on the ethics of war and peace, and changes to ethnicity, class, and gender. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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