The Mind's Own Physician: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the Healing Power of Meditation Hardcover – Nov 24 2011
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""The Mind's Own Physician" brings you straight into the heart of a remarkable interchange between His Holiness the Dalai Lama, renowned contemplative teachers from Buddhist and Christian traditions, and world leaders in neuroscience, psychiatry, stress physiology, and clinical medicine. Jon Kabat-Zinn and Richard Davidson guide the reader through an authentic chronicle of a landmark meeting of extraordinary minds as it unfolds through a series of crystalline presentations and probing dialogues about the nature of mind, meditation, and brain function. These dialogues provide the foundation for discussion on the biological effects of chronic stress, treatment and relapse prevention in depression, and the historical and evolutionary roots of Western medicine's struggle to understand and care for the whole person. The highly accessible and rich treatment of each of these areas is fascinating to read. The constant presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's deeply engaged attention, teaching, and critical ear reverberates throughout. The participants' common commitment to fostering the conditions necessary for human flourishing through intercultural and interdisciplinary inquiry is truly inspiring. In capturing this arc of information and intent, The Mind's Own Physician becomes an essential treatment of one of the most hopeful directions in thought alive today: the human capacity to ease our suffering through introspective insight and our growing scientific investigation into how this may occur." --Clifford Saron, PhD, Associate Research Scientist, University of California, Davis Center for Mind and Brain
About the Author
Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, is internationally known for his work as a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher engaged in bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society. He is professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and author of numerous books, including Full Catastrophe Living , Arriving at Your Own Door , and Coming to Our Senses .
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regarding the benifits of meditation on the mind , particularly regarding the treatment of depression , attended by the leading scientists in that field of study at the time. The results were very positive. While the book is an overwhelming endorsement
encouraging the study of meditation , it is not a mediation manual.
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However, the information presented is fascinating, and done in bite-size chunks that lay readers can mostly understand ('lay' referring both to non-Buddhists and non-scientists.) I say 'mostly' because although I am very familiar with Buddhism, I am most definitely not a neuro-scientist (although I have read a lot of meditation related research), and the more technical brain discussions did get a bit over my head. However, in most cases the question and answer sessions brought things back down to a practical level that I could understand.
The conference sessions, and the book, are divided into 5 themed sections: Meditation-Based Clinical Interventions, Biological Substrates of Meditation, Meditation and Mental Health, Meditation and Physical Health, and Integration and Final Reflections. Each features 1-3 speakers presenting their research, followed by a panel discussion with questions and answers (in some cases including questions from the audience.) The panels are themselves a who's who of Western Buddhism, featuring names that will be familiar to many - Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield, Alan Wallace, Jon Kabat-Zinn and more. For the first time a Christian representative, Father Thomas Keating, was included as well.
That being said, most of the discussion is secular in nature. The principal discussion is how MBSR (mindfulness-based-stress-reduction) and MBCT (mindfulness-based-cognitive-therapy), both based on Buddhist practices but developed in a secular context outside of them, impact the brain, and how they can be utilized to heal and to maximize human potential. The greater emphasis is placed on the former - on clinical applications to both mental and physical health ailments. Research presented addresses the proven and potential impact of MBSR and MBCT for managing the impact of stress, clinical depression, and chronic pain, as well as for changing negative thought and emotional patterns and developing positive ones.
In that sense, this really isn't a 'science of spirituality' kind of book, as it doesn't spend a lot of time looking at spiritual and mystic experience or beliefs per se (for that consider Fingerprints of God: What Science Is Learning About the Brain and Spiritual Experience). And although it is possible to extrapolate from the research presented here to develop practices for yourself, this also isn't a personal spirituality book (for a presentation of some of this info for that purpose, try another book by the Mind Life Institute Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves).
But if you are looking for a current (2005 being current in the science research world) and accessible overview of the science behind meditation and mindfulness, and how these may impact humanity on many levels, this is a great offering.
The dialogue in this book was aimed at finding mediation and mindfulness practices that could be incorporated in medicine. There are very many ways to mediate as HH Dalai Lama states. He didn't have an educational background in medicine, biology so he needed more information about the terms or how things worked, he asked questions. He was asked to and gave a summary of the principle themes in Buddhism. That also helped to make sure that no one was getting lost when he was using terms common in Buddhism.
Since I don't want to give too much away in the findings explored and the commonalities of Buddhist thought and modern neurobiology, I will just mention a little of what was discussed in Session One.
Pain was discussed. HH Dalai Lama explained there are two parts to pain (1) the pain itself and (2) the arrows around it or the feelings around it. We ask ourselves, will this ever end? It is killing me; will it ever get any better? Buddhist meditation can do nothing about the pain but it can change the added pain of thoughts about the pain. And that can help people feel better. That part of the burden can be lifted and the person with pain can feel freer.
A research study on psoriasis was given as an example of using mediation as a healing tool. Both the control group and the experimental group were given UVB or PUBA light treatments. But only the experimental group also listened to meditation tapes. But as illustrated in this book, the graphs showed that the group who listened to the tapes healed faster than those who just received the light treatment.
This book does still have a lot of religious and medical terminology that you need to learn in order to understand the concepts so it is not a book that you can read quickly. I recommend reading about one session and then letting the book sit for a while. That way, you can come up with your own questions and perhaps explore something in more detail that was brought up in a chapter.
I recommend this book to everyone interested in learning about the benefits and limitations of meditation to medical problems.
I received this book from the GoodReads program but that in no way influenced my review.
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