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Meditating Selflessly: Practical Neural Zen Hardcover – October 7, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review

This extraordinary book on meditation is a perfect jewel, shedding light for the reader on the intricate and profound craft of the practice of meditation and the neuroscience of meditation. It is a book like no other in the field and is due to become a classic. It is exceptionally useful, beautifully written, rich with anecdotes, and full of surprises.

(Roshi Joan Halifax, Founding Abbot, Upaya Zen Center)

We are often presented with stimuli but remain unaware. Zen, which means meditation, allows humans to become mindful-attentively aware of reality. In his newest book, Meditating Selflessly: Practical Neural Zen, Dr. James Austin, one of the world's outstanding neurologists, explains how the brain mediates these meditation activities and how these activities alter the brain. Using language that can be understood by all, Austin teaches the fortunate readers of this book about the biological basis of the important changes brought about by this ancient but still current process of enlightenment.

(Kenneth M. Heilman, M.D., James E. Rooks Jr. Distinguished Professor, Department of Neurology, University of Florida College of Medicine)

Here James Austin brings the fruit of his many decades engaging Buddhist meditation as a living practice, while at the same time examining what happens in the brain during meditation. This book is inviting and challenging at the same time and will prove valuable for both the novice and the long time meditator. I highly recommend it.

(James Ishmael Ford, author of Zen Master Who: A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen; lead editor of The Book of Mu: Essential Writings on Zen's Most Important Koan)

About the Author

James H. Austin, a clinical neurologist, researcher, and Zen practitioner for more than three decades, is Professor Emeritus of Neurology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Visiting Professor of Neurology at the University of Florida College of Medicine. He is the author of Zen and the Brain, Chase, Chance, and Creativity: The Lucky Art of Novelty, Zen-Brain Reflections, and Selfless Insight, all published by the MIT Press.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (October 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262015870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262015875
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,309,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. J. Cocks on February 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a book which puts in scientific terms what all too often is only discussed in mystical or spiritual terms.

It brings the science to what mystics and sages have been saying all along, that open focussed awareness has the ability to put paid to our ego based sense of self, with its endless churning and self involvement, which ultimately given it's incessant nature, becomes extremely tiring and distressing. This book shows the empirical evidence for what has been found to work subjectively.

It illustrates in terms of modern neurological studies what Ken Wilbur expounded so profoundly in the last chapter of his first book, ie 'Always Already' at the end of 'The Spectrum of Consciousness', where he quotes Hubert Benoit and J Krishnamurti to illustrate his own understanding. This being, that what causes the cessation of self is the expectant attention of alert open awareness to the world of form (both internal and external). Reading these two books in conjunction, would, if you're at the point of being open to using it, leave you in no doubt about the way to proceed to start to get free.

Whilst this author is a research neurologist, he's also been a practitioner of Zen for 37 years, and so is also able to come at this from what has been taught all along in Zen meditation.
The book though discusses solid repeatable research, and is not a case of a person proving what they set out to find.

This is a great book for anyone with an understanding there's more than just the day to day materialism of our current societies, but who, for one reason or another, finds the trappings and justifications of the 'spiritual' world unpalatable.

This book is one of my very best discoveries on the path to freedom.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Pryor123 on November 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a very good book. The author talks about his experiences during many years of Zen training, and he describes what happens to the mind and the brain as a result of meditation. I learned quite a bit about the neurology of the brain as it relates to meditation and meditation experiences. There is a lot of emphasis on understanding the difference between concentrative meditation and receptive meditation. Concentration in meditation is a "top-down" process directed by the prefrontal cortex, and receptive meditation is a "bottom-up" process directed by pathways in the lower part of the brain which provide us with an alternate way of knowing, a sense of "self-less" awareness and an increased awareness of sensory experience, the kind of "direct experience" we had as children which we reclaim through meditation. I recommend the book for its content and for its presentation of parts of meditative experience that are not usually talked about. A good book for someone familiar with Zen or mindfulness training and with enough knowledge of neurophysiology to follow the technical parts of the discussion.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M Al-Shaer on April 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dr Austin has embarked on a journey to utilize neuroscience to explain:
1. What happens during meditation
2. Why meditation works
3. How to optimize meditation technique and removing the ritual while keeping correct technique

He has partially succeeded but much work remains. I doubt that the scientific content of this would be understandable to non-physicians or non-neuroscientist. But the technical advice is simple, logical and valuable.

I think we are nearing the a major breakthrough in neuronal meditation as technology both Physiologic and imaging is advancing at a rapid pace.
Dr Austin is brilliant but not very organized in displaying his thoughts but that doesn't stop me from giving him 5 stars as the content is original, insightful and unique.
His books Aldo lack that vague non-sense content and hallucinations many books on the subject of yoga and zen contain
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I finally received the paperback edition Friday and read the book over the weekend. I never read any of the authors earlier books. It was pretty easy to read. I have some background in Psychology so that provided familiarity when the author wrote about different parts of the brain. Mr. Austin states in the book he oversimplified many of the research findings so the reader could follow along. Some of the advice about meditation I can find in other books, like practice meditating everyday, and other practical advice. The first half of the book was interesting. It tied in current research about brain processes regarding attention with meditative practices. The chapter on Being Mindful was enjoyable to read. The second half of the book struck me as being more sage like advice in some chapters (but it's hard to avoid that in a book on Zen). What he wrote about Koans was something I haven't heard before.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
James Austin writes with unchallenged authority. I must declare an interest: James Austin and I sat together when the days were hot and the days were cold as cold. Nearly forty years have passed since then.
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