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The Mindful Brain [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Daniel J. Siegel
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 2008
Weaving new scientific studies with insights from his direct experience, Siegel presents a CD audio course to help listeners understand the profound influence that a focused mind offers for physical, mental, and social well-being. Abridged. 4 CDs.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Siegel, co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Center, blends personal experience with scientific research, attempting to capture the spiritual as well as the physiological phenomenon of "mindfulness"-or, in Siegel's acronym-speak, COAL: the state of simultaneous Curiosity, Openness, Acceptance and Love. Siegel's endeavor is timely and well-intentioned, but his is an elusive subject, and his text is peppered with confusing, semi-technical descriptions of mind-states (like meditation) and processes (like egocentric and allocentric circuitry) that frequently frustrate. Despite this, Siegel does introduce persuasive scientific evidence that meditation and the mindful state not only produce improvement in well-being, but also detectable physical changes in the brain, such as a thickening of the middle prefrontal lobes. He also introduces exotic new vocabulary, such as "ipseity," "the core sense of self beneath the usual personal identity." If the result of Siegel's marriage of medicine and mysticism is something of a muddle, he is to be commended for the effort, and his attitude toward science is unique in a medical doctor (tellingly, Siegal took a sabbatical from med school after being reprimanded for empathizing with his patients, rather than objectifying them, and used the time to pursue drawing and dancing). Though uneven and weighed down with too many acronyms, this is a notable science title that smartly combines the personal, the clinical and the spiritual.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

A useful adjunct to classes taught in cognitive neuroscience, health psychology, positive psychology, and psychotherapy. -- PsycCRITIQUES, Christy Barongan

Appropriate for both professionals (clinical psychologists, counselors, etc.) and the general public -- Metapsychology, Kathleen Kimball

[A]n astounding achievement...[A] pleasure to read. -- LifeForce Yoga News and Research

[A]n exciting glimpse of into an uncharted territory of neuroscience. -- Scientific American Mind, Melinda Wenner --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Aug. 27 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is surprisingly readable for such a scholarly tome, it is well referenced and dense with information and fascinating theories, empowering
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0 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Children's Drawings March 25 2009
Format:Hardcover
Cathy Malchiodi's book is a smooth read. She has a great grasp of her subject and communicates it extremely well.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  41 reviews
214 of 222 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Foundations for a Sea Change in Psychological Health and Personal Development May 28 2007
By Dr. Richard G. Petty - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A favorite book of mine is Ellen Langer's "Mindfulness." Happily still in print though it is nearly twenty years old. With it, Ellen, an eminent academic at Harvard introduced the psychological community to something that lies at the core of many religious, spiritual and contemplative practices.

This marvelous book by the co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Center is a next step. To give you a flavor of the book, let me quote from the Preface,

"Welcome to a journey into the heart of our lives. Being mindfully aware, attending to the richness of our here-and-now experiences, creates scientifically recognized enhancements in out physiology, our mental functions, and our inter-personal relationships. Being fully present in out awareness opens our lives to new possibilities of well-being.

Almost all cultures have practices that help people develop awareness of the moment. Each of the major religions of the world utilizes some method to enable individuals to focus their attention, from meditation to prayer, yoga to t'ai chi."

For Daniel Siegel, being "mindful: means being aware, of being conscientious, with kindness and care." He uses a helpful acronym: COAL, for curiosity, openness, acceptance and love.

As Daniel points out, we are in desperate need of finding a new way of being, not just in ourselves, but in our relationships, schools and in society as a whole. Professionals constantly see the terrible consequences for people who feel social isolation, dislocation and alienation. Yet until the advent of the Positive Psychology movement, academic psychology, psychotherapy and psychiatry had all focused almost exclusively on the sick mind. To this day, most people working in these fields have been taught little if anything about mental health, ad even fewer are engaged in practices that can keep them healthy and resilient. It is no coincidence that people working in psychology and psychiatry have some of the highest burnout rates of any of the major professions.

The burgeoning evidence of the extraordinary plasticity of the human brain also has another side to it: if we are not mindful, if we are in unhealthy relationships, and if we are without any kind of inspiration or moral compass, our brains get wired in ways that they should not. And the earlier in life that it happens, the more difficult it is to unravel later. This is the reason why abuse in childhood can have effects that last decades.

This book is an attempt to redress the balance. The book is divided into four sections, fourteen chapters and three appendices:
PART I MIND, BRAIN, AND AWARENESS
1. A Mindful Awareness
2. Brain Basics
PART II IMMERSION IN DIRECT EXPERIENCE
3. A Week of Silence
4. Suffering and the Streams of Awareness
PART III FACETS OF THE MINDFUL BRAIN
5. Subjectivity and Science
6. Harnessing the Hub: Attention and the Wheel of Awareness
7. Jettisoning Judgments: Dissolving Top-Down Constraints
8. Internal Attunement: Mirror Neurons, Resonance, and Attention to Intention
9. Reflective Coherence: Neural Integration and Middle Prefrontal Function
10. Flexibility of Feeling: Affective Style and an Approach Mindset
11. Reflective Thinking: Imagery and the Cognitive Style of Mindful Learning
PART IV REFLECTIONS ON THE MINDFUL BRAIN
12. Educating the Mind: The Fourth ``R'' and the Wisdom of Reflection
13. Reflection in Clinical Practice: Being Present and Cultivating the Hub
14. The Mindful Brain in Psychotherapy: Promoting Neural Integration

Afterword: Reflections on Reflection
Appendix I Reflection and Mindfulness Resources
Appendix II Glossary and Terms
Appendix III Neural Notes

The book is well referenced and there is a good index.

As you will see from the chapter headings, the book is rooted in neuroscience and reviews the empirical evidence that our minds can not only control our brains, but also grow and develop them. Healthy experiences can help us cultivate our brains, our minds and our sense of well-being. What he has done in this book is to provide a theoretical foundation for the neuropsychology and consequences of mindfulness. As a neuroscientist, I thought that his models made extremely good sense. He writes well, and I do not think that what he has to say would be difficult for anyone with a high school education.

Why is this important? Because it shows that there are ways of maintaining and perhaps restoring mental health without medications or other external interventions. Of course there are times when medicines can be the only option, and literally life saving. But they are not always necessary. This brain-based approach is also very helpful for people who re already engaged in meditation, prayer or other forms of mindfulness training. It can be very helpful to know something about what is going on inside your head, without having to rely on experience alone.

Daniel shows that mindfulness is something that can easily be taught and learned, and that the consequences of using the techniques can be extraordinary, not only for ourselves, but also for our families and friends.

Though not, strictly speaking, a "how to" book on achieving mindfulness, there are ample descriptions of the keys that we need to attain it. He also provides details of some organizations that offer mindfulness training.

Very highly recommended.
89 of 95 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Mindful Brain June 13 2007
By K. Harrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found the content of this book fascinating and important (5 stars) but the writing ponderous and redundant (2 stars), for the most part. It is an ambitious attempt to synthesize and interpret scientific research and the author's personal experience in an emerging field that is fraught with speculation. Perhaps because of this, the author appears to have cobbled together every study potentially relating brain function and mindfulness, weaving back and forth to make every possible connection, rather than following a few salient lines of thinking and explicating them clearly. Difficult as it was to digest some of the material (I am a practiced reader of science but had to read too many sentences too many times), I benefited personally and immediately from several of the concepts presented such as streams of awareness, parenting styles ("secure attachment"), approach mindset and mindful education, and I look forward to further research in this field. I had imagined the brain research to be further along than it is and expected more about research on meditation, so I was a tad disappointed, but this is not the author's fault. In spite of the poor presentation, there was some delightful new learning for me and I am glad to have read this.
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hands down the best book on this topic..... Jan. 8 2008
By Patrick D. Goonan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've always been a fan of this author, he is a scholar, excellent writer and based on his writing a wise individual. What makes this book especially good from my perspective is the balancing of subjective information from the world's wisdom traditions and his own interior experience with their physical correlates i.e. rigorous science without reducing either to the other. This is extremely refreshing and this carefully researched book adopts an attitude of openness, curiosity and wonder.

In addition, THE MINDFUL BRAIN is NOT written soley for academically minded individuals or psychologists. It is very readable by any intelligent layperson and extremely engaging. It is theoritical, but also compellingly practical in the spirit of Parenting From the Inside Out, which I highly recommend as well.

I also The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are is an incredible book. However, this is much less accessible to the average person than this volume and the one in the proceeding paragraph.

More concisely, what Daniel Siegel has done is brought together what we know from the various contemplative traditions, mind-body medicine and neuroscience together in a compelling argument for the value of mindfulness to everyday life, happiness and health. I would think this would be something everyone would be interested in.

While it's a wonderful adaptation to be able to think ahead, plan, etc. This often carries one out of the HERE and NOW moment and keeps us on a treadmill of postponing our fulfillment. This book is about balancing our ability to look forward while remaining anchored in the present... the only place where love, happiness and peace could be found.

I work in this area and have graduate education in biology, biochemistry and psychology. This is my life's passion and I own many books on this topic and present workshops. This is in many ways the book I wish I had written although humbly I must admit Daniel Siegel would be an extremely difficult person to top. Hopefully, however, someday I will be able to add value by complimenting his and other people's good work.
61 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Similar sentiment as another Reviewer June 9 2008
By Phillip Stall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The topic of mindfulness has been around for many millenia, & espoused by many religious & spiritual sects throughout the world, primarily in the East. The topic fascinates me, as I have taken a course in Asian Philosophy and have read many neuroscience books the last couple of years. Despite this, the book was unable to keep my attention, ironically, because of the redundant writing style. While eloquent, Siegel is often rearranging the same statement without adding much knew to it. Perhaps this is great for a more global, holistic view of the subject, but it is difficult to maintain attention (ironically) when you lose your place from feeling like you just read the same thing.

The neuroscientific aspects of resonance circuitry (and mirror neurons) isn't a new idea but Siegel skillfully expounds upon it and how it relates to mindfulness. All in all, despite some glaring flaws in my opinion, the book was worth buying for this alone, but if you're expecting an emphasis more on the brain rather than a subjective perspective on mindfulness, I find the balance of the book to be tilted in the other direction--so it may disappoint you if that's the case.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ok May 23 2010
By kaioatey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a competent overview of the current state of affairs in the intersection of neuroscience, mindfulness studies and certain types of psychotherapy. The book reviews research on neuronal processes that underlie emotional arousal, decision-making and 'self'. Siegel believes that mind has an ability to 'create itself' through brain activity. Hence, an understanding of circuitry underlying brain function should be helpful in clinical, therapeutic and 'personal growth' settings.

The strongest part of the book deals with development of the (child's) brain, attachment circuits & executive function and their relevance to mindfulness practice and therapy. Mindfulness, according to DS, strengthens the executive function of the middle prefrontal cortex and makes it more efficient in controlling downstream limbic, cortical and subcortical regions. This efficiency is synonymous with loosening of neural constrictions through which our views/beliefs ('representational categories') about the world cause 'suffering'. The brain centers involved in awareness. emotional processing and decision making are "plastic" - the connections between neurons are enhanced or weakened by activity. Thus, conscious use of the brain (through intentional living and feeling) will recreate & mold the personality and allow it to live a healthier and more satisfying/rewarding life.

Dan Siegel, a psychotherapist himself, is clearly au courant with contemporary neuroscience research, especially research performed by his friend and mentor Richie Davidson. The attachment to Davidson has its downside because, not being an expert, Siegel is compelled to uncritically sell us other people's ideas and concepts while ignoring much research that happens not to be performed or appreciated by Davidson, Lazar or Iacoboni. Another major weakness is the author's urge to publish before he has crystallized his own (original? independent?) perspective.

Here is my problem with prolific authors on any topic, but especially anything that is related to spirituality or 'mind'. Someone publishes a semi-successful book... and the immediate reflex to semi-fame is to repeat the act. Again and again. So we get the Chopra/Dyer phenomenon - which consists of ad nauseam publications of every half-digested minor insight. It is a form of greed, or better, a form of addiction that I suspect Siegel may be vulnerable to. It takes years, perhaps decades, to gain a true, original insight. Too much work for many - why not collate, catalog, recombine instead?

Thus, this book has to be seen as a compendium rather than an original work on mindfulness, awareness and/or the brain. When Siegel tries to generalize, the attempts often appear forced and unsatisfying. I found his use of acronyms (YODA's SOCK, COAL etc) especially excruciating and the many attempts to simplify (ie, 'the wheel of awareness') distracting. Above all, Siegel is way too intellectual - if his goal is to get at the root of what it means to be mindful. Even when he is meditating himself, the man clearly fishes for experiential angles for his new book ... while mindfully following his breath and distractions from it. Which kind of defeats the purpose.

Despite the caveats, i find this book to be laced with much interesting & exciting information; i value it for its breadth and ambition. at the very least I am pretty sure i'll have to reread it several times to extract and digest what it has to offer. what i like the most about MA is that there is little pretense or subterfuge even in the autobiographical parts; the writer is sincere and the information (as far as an inexpert can tell) real. So there is much to recommend.
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