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.
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“Siegel has both a meticulous understanding of the roles of different parts of the brain and an intimate relationship with mindfulness. . . . [I]nsightful proposals, bolstered by preliminary research data, for how mindful awareness might engage parts of the brain in novel ways and lead to permanent neurological changes. His speculations are interesting in and of themselves, and they also may provide neuroscientists with ideas for experiments that could test the effects of mindfulness on the brain. . . . [A]n exciting glimpse of into an uncharted territory of neuroscience.” — Scientific American Mind
“[E]xtremely informative and helpful, providing deep insights into the process of mindful awareness….timely and useful.” — Journal of Clinical Psychiatry --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.