email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy10 Minute Solution: Butt Lift10 Minute Solution: High Intensity Interval Training101 Ways to Meditate3-In-1 Total Body Fitness with Desi Bartlett30 Minute Ab & Butt Blaster5 Day Fit Yoga5 Mega Miles with Toning Band7 Weeks to 100 Push-Ups8 Keys to Practicing MindfulnessA Journey Into Yin YogaA Philosophy for the Science of Well-BeingA Student's Guide to the History And Philosophy of Yoga A.M. EnergyAgeless Mobility: Pain-Free Wellness For LongevityAlmost MeatlessAlready FreeAlternative Medicine?AltruismAnd BreatheAnywhere, Anytime, Any Body YogaAthlete's Guide to YogaBack in Action: Yoga for a Healthy BackBack To Basics: Fitness with Charlotte OrdBalanced AssetsBedroom Body: Booty Burner, Core & Pelvic Floor WorkoutBeginners Meditation & Mindful StretchingBeginners Yoga DVDBeginning YogaBellyFit ElementsBethenny's Skinnygirl WorkoutBeyond the SelfBody By BethennyBody Mindful YogaBorn to Balance - Balance BasicsBreath-Centered YogaBrightening Our Inner SkiesCalm Body Clear MindCalm Focus JoyCardio for Beginners with Petra KolberChakra MeditationsComplementary and Alternative Therapies ResearchContemplative Psychotherapy EssentialsCore Fusion - Pilates PlusCore Fusion - Pure Abs & ArmsCore Fusion - Thighs & GlutesCore Fusion Body SculptCore Fusion Lean & TonedCore Fusion Power SculptCore Strength PilatesCore Strength Vinyasa Yoga Power Hour with Sadie NardiniCore YogaCultural Healing and Belief SystemsDance Off the Inches: Cardio Hip Hop PartyDeep ListeningDeep Stretch / Yin YogaDetox YogaDr. Andrew Weil's Guide to Eating WellDr. Yoga House CallEasy YogaElement: Barre ConditioningElement: Targeted Toning Pilates for BeginnersElement: Yoga for Stress Relief & FlexibilityElements of Yoga, Earth FoundationsElements of Yoga, Fire DynamicElements of Yoga: Air & WaterEveryday Workout for the Everyday WomanEveryday Yoga for Stress Release Everything VeganExercise for Mood and AnxietyExercise-Based Interventions for Mental IllnessExhale Core Fusion 30 Day SculptFamily YogaFit Family Fun CircuitFit in 5 DVDFlat Abs PilatesFlow YogaFluid Power Vinyasa Flow YogaFood You Can ForageFully PresentGaiam Pilates Slide and Sculpt Kit with DVDGaiam Pilates Total Toning KitGaiam Yoga For Weight Loss KitGet Fit Through GardeningGet Ripped & ChiseledGet RIPPED! 1000 #3Get RIPPED! and Jacked - The Boomer WorkoutGet Stronger Bones: 3 Workouts For OsteoporosisHandbook of MindfulnessHappy Yoga DVDHealing the Heart and Mind with MindfulnessHealing through ExerciseHealing Through Movement: Pilates Head to ToeHealing, Hype, or Harm?Healthy Sexy Beautiful Kundalini YogaHemalayaa: Bollywood BootyHow to Be a StoicHow to Cook Everything VegetarianHow Would Buddha Act?In Defense of FoodInsight Yoga Earth: Balancing Yin EnergyInsight Yoga Heaven: Balancing YangIntegrated YogaInternational Perspectives on Reminiscence, Life Review and Life Story WorkKids Teach Yoga - Flying EagleKidYogi - Yoga for ChildrenKripalu YogaKundalini Yoga : DVDKUNDALINI YOGA for Your Week - MONDAYKUNDALINI YOGA for Your Week - TUESDAY - CoreKundalini Yoga MeditationKundalini Yoga Meditation for Beginners & BeyondKundalini Yoga Meditation for Complex Psychiatric DisordersKundalini Yoga on the BallKundalini Yoga Solar Power All-In-One WorkoutKundalini Yoga to Detox and Destress DVDKundalini Yoga Transformer All-In-One WorkoutKundalini Yoga: Green Energy of the HeartLetting Go!LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues--Level 1LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues: Level 2Living BeautifullyLiving Room Yoga DVDLiving Room Yoga: Twist and BendLunar Flow YogaMake It Fast, Cook It SlowManage Your Depression Through ExerciseMaui PilatesMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for Back PainMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for IBSMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for InsomniaMeditations for BeginnersMindful AmericaMindful ColoringMindfulnessMindfulnessMindfulness for BeginnersMindfulness for CarersMindfulness for TwoMindfulness in Plain EnglishMindfulness-Based Treatment Approaches: Clinician's Guide to Evidence Base and ApplicationsMisadventures of a Garden State YogiNamaste Yoga: Season 3 Part 1Natural FlexibilityNew Good FoodNew VegetarianNew York PilatesNext-Level PilatesNutrition Essentials for Mental HealthPain Free at WorkPeace Is Every BreathPerfect in Ten AbsPerfect in Ten: PilatesPerfect in Ten: StretchPerfect in Ten: YogaPilates AnatomyPilates for BeginnersPositivityPower to the Peaceful YogaPower YogaPower YogaPower YogaPower Yoga: Core PowerPower Yoga: Fat BurnerPower Yoga: Strength and FlexibilityPrenatal FlowPrescriptive StretchingPresence Through Movement: Yin YogaPsychology Moment by MomentPure and Simple YogaPure SculptQi Gong Fire & Water With Matthew CohenQi Gong Flow for BeginnersQi Gong for Low Back PainQi Gong for Upper Back and Neck PainQi Gong for Weight LossQi Workout AM/PMQiGong for Healthy Joints & BonesQiGong IllustratedQuick Blast MethodRadiant Heart Yoga DVDReach - Upbeat Toning & Flexibility for a Dancer's BodyRelax Into Yoga for SeniorsResistance Stretching With Dara TorresRestorative Yoga PracticeRestorative Yoga PracticeSara Ivanhoe's Taste DVDSelfless InsightSleepSoupsSparkSpontaneous HappinessStep By Step Strength TrainingStep by Step Tai ChiStrength & SpiritStress Relief to GoStretchStrong & SculptedStrong Body, Ageless BodySuper Seniors: Box, Balance, & Lift Surf Yoga SoulSybel's Yoga For Sports & FitnessSybel's Yoga For Sports & Fitness Vol 2Tai Chi for Beginners with Grandmaster William C. C. ChenTeen YogaTeenYogi DVDTen Zen Tummy TonersThe 6 Qualities of ConsciousnessThe Accidental VeganThe Art and Science of MindfulnessThe Athlete's Guide to YogaThe Best Things You Can EatThe Bodymind Ballwork MethodThe Booty Barre -Total New BodyThe Complete Book of Raw FoodThe Get Healthy, Go Vegan CookbookThe Harvard Medical School Guide to YogaThe Healing Remedies SourcebookThe Healing Remedies SourcebookThe Kettlebell BoomerThe Light of DiscoveryThe Mandala of BeingThe Meat Lover's Meatless CookbookThe Mindful Way through DepressionThe Nature FixThe Origins of HappinessThe Perfect ExerciseThe Psychology of LifestyleThe Qi Healing KitThe Road to Calm WorkbookThe Science of SleepThe Science of YogaThe Sense of SelfThe Spirit of Buddhist MeditationThe Spirit of Tibetan BuddhismThe Ultimate BALLET YOGAThe Ultra MindsetThe Well-Tuned BrainThe Yin Yoga KitTotal Health the Chinese WayTotal-Body ToningTransform Yourself with Jivamukti YogaTransformative YogaTrudie Styler's Cardio Dance FlowTrudie Styler's Warrior YogaV-Core WorkoutVegan ExpressVegan for LifeVegetarian Visitor 2008VegetarianoViniyoga Therapy for the Low Back, Sacrum and HipsViniyoga Therapy for the Upper Back, Neck and ShouldersViva Vegan!Walk It Off in 30 DaysWalk to the HITS Radio RemixesWatch Me Do YogaWeight Loss Cardio KickWeight Watchers: Ultimate Belly SeriesYin and Yang YogaYin Yoga DVDYogaYogaYoga - Philosophy for EveryoneYoga : Beginners Flow for EveryoneYoga AnatomyYoga as MedicineYoga Bliss HipsYoga BodyYoga Body : Lean & Defined Total Body WorkoutYoga By Teens DVDYoga Emergency DVD: Arms & ShouldersYoga Emergency DVD: BackYoga Emergency DVD: Full Leg StretchYoga Emergency DVD: HipsYoga Emergency DVD: PregnancyYoga Flow DVDYoga for AnxietyYoga for AthletesYoga for Back CareYoga for BeginnersYoga for Energy & Stress ReliefYoga for FitnessYoga for MeditatorsYoga for OsteoporosisYoga for Pain ReliefYoga for Strength & EnergyYoga for Strength & FlexibilityYoga for Your WeekYoga in BedYoga Inside Out: Go DeeperYoga Inside Out: The Healing WayYoga Journal's Yoga for StressYoga Journal: Yoga for Strength and Toning DVDYoga Link: Core IntegrationYoga Link: Hip HelpersYoga Link: Shoulder Shape-UpYoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation and Stress ReliefYoga Quick FixesYoga Skills for Therapists:Yoga TherapyYoga TherapyYoga Therapy for Back PainYoga Therapy Prescriptions - 60 Health Restorative SequencesYoga to the Rescue - Feel Good from Head to ToeYoga to the Rescue for Back PainYoga to the Rescue for Neck & ShouldersYoga to the Rescue for Pain-Free Back, Neck & ShouldersYoga, Karma, and RebirthYoga: Freedom from Back PainYoga: Relief from Neck and Shoulder PainYoga: Spirit of Vinyasa FlowYogabodyYogawomanYou Can Think Yourself ThinYour Body Breakthru - Your Best Body Circuit DVDYour Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings,Your Brain on YogaZen Encounters with Loneliness
Bringing together Zen and neuroscience is no easy task, monumental even, but for about 30 years, Austin has been an essential part of these two fields. It is often demonstrated that thesis and antithesis, when brought together, form a dialogue of synthesis, and this is what he has been able to demonstrate. In a way this is self contemplative neuroscience, as the field of examining human consciousness has itself confronted, neither is an easy task, and is the subject of ongoing debate.
The idea then is that meditative training transforms consciousness. In other words, the impact of this statement is that meditation somehow plastically alters the brain itself, first, by training to narrow focus, like a spotlight which has both a beam of intensity and width, narrowing down to intensity, and then on the other hand, increasing the width to be accepting and letting go, or selflessness. Athletes know this as going narrow and then wide. Zen, Buddhist scholarship, neuroscience, all must be coalesced to provide an evidence base, as Austin has set out to do. So moving from a very narrow but intense focus, to an all encompassing reality, seems to result in a dropping away of learned but egocentric-view information, to leave one with a clear representation of things as they are in themselves, complete.
This is accepted to be a long and drawn out saga with no shortcuts, but Austin points out that the benefits of now mainstreaming mindful meditation are likely to be felt sooner, rather than at an advanced stage of practice, and that the greater insights come later.
This is therefore a top-down process of focus followed by a bottom up acceptance and understanding of reality in a less ego centric and more allocentric engagement with consciousness and perceived reality.
Reality as experienced by consciousness is thus not immutable, but there is an end state of perception that is likely to resonate with the viewer who engages with it and within conscious states in a selfless way.
If the search for selflessness is the search for meaning, meaning is what drops out in certain neurological conditions where consciousness is altered. Loss of visual or verbal meaning is thus an agnosia. Object centered processing is thus allocentric. Other-referenced processing in this way, will allow for extended stability of the sequences in enhanced visual processing, one of the major attributes of what is called the extraordinary state of Kensho ("seeing onself"): in this, some temporal lobe functions that normally help interpret the visual and auditory meaning of events could be recruited to infuse fresh impressions of resonant meaning into the adjacent functions of other-centered processing, now unveiled, in his terms. In a visual agnosia, let's say for an object like a key: the key is seen but not recognized, the meaning is lost, agnosia implying the loss of a prior learned skill, as the history of what a key does is cut off in meaningful terms from what it looks like. The dementia is thus semantic.
This perhaps illustrates what Austin does with the underlying putative mechanisms of Zen and the known or surmised mechanisms behind conscious reality and meaning. In a contemplative state such as Kensho, feedback and temporal template loops provide both an experience of what is out there beyond the blackness of the neuronal space, and the meaning of experience gained by learning across the lifetime. The brain can both zoom in close, and move back out more widely, as a theatre spotlight, might, and in doing so, alters its interaction with the perceived realities.
The issue is the seeking of clarity, so that research can present accelerated maturity in practitioners by using psychological tools such as the MMPI. Brief Kensho or enlightened experiences thus speed up the processes of psychic maturity, aka emotional clarity, as one achieves with age.
Does therefore eliminating the negative help accentuate the positive? Yes, perhaps, but only after a complex set of interactions, as in the Kensho examples above. Here, the rostral anterior cingulate appears to play a part, helping to adjust the balances of subtle emotional experiences and influences, via the relays with the amygdala.
The job therefore is, as he explains it, is for the processes of Kensho to direct impulses downstream from the rostral anterior cingulate gyrus, sufficient enough to extinguish in the amygdala the "emotional flames" of an entire lifetime of primal and acquired fears, namely, the conditioning of the emotional system of perception that occurs in the first 500ms or so (page 179). This is the top-down processing mentioned earlier. In working through this logically, Austin will conclude for instance that this all boils down to two limbic nuclei in the front part of the dorsal thalamus, where the anterior nucleus interacts with the cingulate gyrus, and the medial dorsal nucleus interacts with the prefrontal cortex, a site if I recall, for alcohol related brain changes. Both nuclei can be inhibited by the GABA cap of the reticular nucleus, which, as with alcohol, could mediate the complete erasure of fearful apperceptions during Kensho.
Kensho is thus an attempt to attain a sense of the meaning of 'mind', of how subject and object are one, a concept similar to Satori in Japanese, which means realization or catching on, insight. I don't know if this is pure Buddhism or not, for as I think Dogen wrote, Kensho is the animated activity of non-Buddhists more than the serious seeker of what used to be called enlightenment.
In the sense of EEG, practitioners may switch quickly from Alpha in some areas to Gamma in others, a fascinating thing to watch I am sure on QEEG. Insights strike, like Kensho, suddenly.
It's a fascinating book, chock a block with amazing insights into the depth and width of the author's extensive knowledge of the concrete and the esoteric, well worth wading through, and gaining insights into the really robust and more than intuitive way he presents the mechanisms of the brain as he connects them with the experiences of the Zen practitioner. Given mindfulness is such a burgeoning field in treatment, and so well worthwhile in terms of human senses of efficacy, even the more obscure pronouncements from Austin are easily integrated into the knowledge we have, and so help bridge science and philosophy. It's a brain stretch for most of us, but this builds new neural connections and strengthens others, so do it.
It's one of the better buys you might make this year.
© 2009 Roy Sugarman
Roy Sugarman, PhD, Human Performance Institute, Sydney, Australia