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Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves Paperback – November 20, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
The Dalai Lama, Buddhist monks and some of the world's leading neuroscientists all gather once a year at a conference on the latest discoveries in neuroplasticity: the study of how the human brain can change itself. (This is the second book the subject due out in March, along with Norman Doidge's The Brain That Changes Itself). This remarkable conference serves as the center of Wall Street Journal science columnist Begley's account of neuroplasticity. Until recently, the reigning theory was that neurons in the brain didn't regenerate. Begley walks readers through the seminal experiments showing that in fact new neurons are created in the brain every day, even in people in their 70s. With frequent tangents into Buddhist philosophy, Begley surveys current knowledge of neuroplasticity. Most interesting is a series of experiments with Buddhist adepts who have spent over 10,000 hours meditating. What these experiments show is tantalizing: it might be possible to train the brain to be better at feeling certain emotions, such as compassion. No less interesting are the hurdles the scientists face in recruiting participants; yogis replied that if these scientists wanted to understand meditation, they should meditate. Despite the title, the book holds no neuroplasticity tips, but it is a fascinating exploration of the ways the mind can change the brain. (Mar. 13)Corrections: The author of The Lie Detectors: The History of an American Obsession (Reviews, Dec. 18, 2006) is Ken Alder. The title of Heather Ewing's biography of James Smithson is The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution and the Foundation of the Smithsonian (Reviews, Jan. 1).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“Excellent . . . elegant and lucid prose . . . an open mind here will be rewarded.”—Discover
“A strong dose of hope along with a strong does of science and Buddhist thought.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune
“There are two great things about this book. One is that it shows us how nothing about our brains is set in stone. The other is that it is written by Sharon Begley, one of the best science writers around. Begley is superb at framing the latest facts within the larger context of the field. She also gives us the back stories that reveal how human the process of science research is. This is a terrific book.”—Robert Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers
“Reading this book is like opening doors in the mind. Sharon Begley brings the reader right to the intersection of scientific and meditative understanding, a place of exciting potential for personal and global transformation. And she does it so skillfully as to seem effortless.”—Sharon Salzberg, author of Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience
“It is very seldom that a science in its infancy is so skillfully unpacked that it reads like a detective novel. The fact that this science includes collaborative efforts of neuroscientists, psychologists, contemplatives, philosophers, and the full engagement of the genius of the Dalai Lama is not only fascinating, but uplifting and inspiring. This book lets you know that how you pay attention to your experience can change your entire way of being.”—Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Coming to Our Senses
“I have meditated for forty years, and have long felt that the potential of mind training to improve our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being has barely been tapped. Thanks to Sharon Begley’s fascinating book, though, that is about to change. As human beings, we really do have inner powers that can make a world of difference, particularly if our goal is not merely to advance our own agendas, but to cultivate compassion for the benefit of all living beings.”—John Robbins, author of Healthy at 100 and Diet For a New America
“This is a truly illuminating and eminently readable book on the revolutionary new insights in mind sciences. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in understanding human potential.”—Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart
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These scientists shared recent (at the time) breakthroughs in neurology that will pique the interests of readers as they did for the Dalai Lama and his assembled Buddhist adepts and practitioners.
Remarkably, the linkages between fundamental Buddhist principles and thinking correlate significantly with the laboratory findings of these neuroscientists a decade ago. Their combined thinking and practices could do more for the brain health of millions if more people knew about their findings and linkages.
While some of the science is a bit dated by now, this is a fascinating insight into the seedlings generating today’s neuroscience breakthroughs.
Sharon Begley uses a journalistic style to explain hard-edged neuroscience principles and findings in easy-to-understand language that even this liberal arts major could comprehend. She also has a keen penchant for using wildly illustrative similes that bring some humor to this fairly dry topic (my favorite: “making it as quiet as in a butcher shop on an island of vegetarians”).
Every baby boomer facing increased “senior moments” and every high-strung executive or leader should be reading this book.
The Mind and Life Dialogues, now known as the Mind and Life Institute founded in 1991, is a collaboration of scientists, psychologists, and his holiness, the Dalai Lama.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, expressed an interest in modern science and entrepreneur R. Adam Engle and neuroscientist Francisco Varela took notice and initiated the first dialogue in 1984.
There have been a total of 14 dialogues since, with the last one meeting in 2010. These dialogues are a way to bridge the gap between science, religion, and philosophy.
This book focuses on the scientific evidence that proves the science behind the neuroplasticity of our brains. This is a relatively new study that only started in the 1970's. Neuroplasticity is our brain's ability to change or shift over time.
The studies in this book are nothing short of remarkable. We've often heard about how a person, who lacks the ability to see or hear, often times has a more acute ability with their other senses. Studies here prove that the brain actually repurposes areas of the brain that would otherwise be used for sight or hearing. Our brains actually continue grow, produce more neurons, and are far more adaptive than what many have previously thought.
The book is chock-full of scientific evidence that proves we have amazing abilities to reprogram ourselves and overcome challenges we faced in our younger years. It delves into the "nature versus nurture" debate and solidified my belief that we are able to go far beyond the original genes we inherited.
I absolutely love the study of the brain and our mind. We have so much to learn about how our brains operate. The study of neuroplasticity is in its infancy and the positive implications for our society as a whole, with further knowledge on this topic, is nothing short of extraordinary.
Amazon reviewers give this one 4.1 stars with 150 reviewers and Goodreads says 3.96 stars after 1,495 ratings and 142 reviews. Great book! I highly recommend it!
I thought the book did a credible job of covering these areas, albeit in a non exciting way (at least for me).
I think the title is misleading. "Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain" implies the delivery of a actionable personal strategy , or at least the promise of action. Instead, the book delivers a fairly dry synopsis of the current state of science and the relative nature of that science to the Dalai Lama's conception of the interface of science and the ancient Buddhist system relying on insight derived through meditative practice. Those are two distinctly different foci for the potential reader who may be looking for different things based solely on the title.
One implies the book will deliver a personalized strategy. The other implies a review of the science and the amazing potential for all of us.
The book fails to deliver on the first, and is a reasonable guide to the second.
So to my evaluation of the book:
* Be sure you read the description carefully of the contents before you use the "1-click" button. Be sure this is what you want.
* If you want the science, this is a good overview.
* If you want something actually actionable immediately, research Amazon's listing and buy something written by John Kabat-Zinn or Thich Nhat Hanh and just begin with their simple suggestions. If you need something cognitive-based which will give you immediate techniques for transforming your thoughts into more useful directions, then buy "The Feeling Good Handbook" by David Burns.
The study of meditation and cognitive science by reading books about them means nothing in and of itself except for the pleasant diversion of satisfying intellectual curiosity. Unfortunately there is no free lunch in this life. Only direct action by practicing the techniques daily can deliver the actual reality of delivery the potential for neuroplasticity to make a difference in your own life. You actually do have to "Train Your Mind" to "Change Your Brain". Why not just take the step of actually doing it to conduct your own personal experiment rather that just reading the experiments of others?
So marketers: be mindful of the implied promise of your catchy titles. Be precise about what a book actually is about. Deception is not a fair technique to the potential reader who has access to the dreaded "1 click" button.
So to my ratings:
*delivers on the science and the promise
*doesn't deliver any action plan
* people who are interested in the science of this field
* those who for some reason need validation that meditation is useful
Not good for:
* someone searching for the actual transformative practices which can be implemented now. That requires more books or training.
So be sure the cost of the book meets your needs and expectations.
Most recent customer reviews
Might be fine for someone else