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Appropriate for both professionals (clinical psychologists, counselors, etc.) and the general public, this text joins the growing number books that align ostensibly objective western brain science research with subjective eastern meditation and breathing techniques.
The overall organization of the book is in four parts: Part One contains two chapters that introduce the subjects of mindful awareness and brain basics respectively. Part Two includes two chapters that journal the author experiences during two meditation retreats. Part Three, the largest section, contains seven chapters which cover: subjectivity and science; harnessing attention; dissolving top-down judgment; internal attunement; neural integration; flexible feelings and; reflective thinking. Part Four, "Reflections on the Mindful Brain,' is three chapters: educating the mind, clinical practice & psychotherapy.
Siegel's interest in categorization is throughout the book. For example, he tells us that our awareness includes eight senses. First are the usual five physical senses. Sixth is intuition, rooted in neural net processors around our internal organs. Seventh is "mindsight" (the subject of his next book), which is a meta-cognition, i.e., awareness of awareness. The eighth sense is relational and is experienced when we are 'attuned' with another person. In this case, we are aware of our relation and 'feel felt' by another, and thus part of a larger whole of humanity.
Two points about the author's search for appropriate language categories merit special attention. First, one must learn a new language of acronyms to understand the author. Appendix II "Glossary and Terms' contains many acronyms he has invented, such as COAL (curiosity, openness, acceptance, love); SNAG (stimulate neuronal activity and growth); ISO (internal state of the other); FACES (flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized, and stable). But other terminology must simply be remembered, (such as 'ipseity', which did not make the glossary). Second, though he does not cite it, there already are cognitive maps detailing the aspects of consciousness that he has begun to explore. For example, in his effort understand awareness he asks, "was choicelessness actually an active form of being receptive?" (p81). He might find an answer in the extensive Tibetan consciousness literature, which elaborately scaffolds subtle refinements in and understandings of, states of conscious awareness.
With the purpose of helping people experience life more happily and fully, Siegel provides specific techniques anyone can employ to train their own minds and enhance their openness, compassion and empathy. If you would like to know how to re-wire your brain (and the scientific background on how and why the techniques work) this book, which synthesizes extensive brain science literature and some basic breathing and meditation techniques, will serve you well.
© 2007 Kathleen Kimball
Kathleen Kimball, Ph.D., Artist and Art Historian, Adjunct at Plymouth State University
, www.cp-kik.com www.waterdragoninc.com
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