Meditating Selflessly

Practical Neural Zen

This is not the usual kind of self-help book. Indeed, its major premise heeds a Zen master’s advice to be less self-centered. Yes, it is "one more book of words about Zen," as the author concedes, yet this book explains meditative practices from the perspective of a "neural Zen." The latest findings in brain research inform its suggestions. In Meditating Selflessly, James Austin—Zen practitioner, neurologist, and author of three acclaimed books on Zen and neuroscience—guides readers toward that open awareness already awaiting them on the cushion and in the natural world.

Austin offers concrete advice—often in a simplified question-and-answer format—about different ways to meditate. He clarifies both the concentrative and receptive styles of meditation. Drawing widely from the exciting new field of contemplative neuroscience, Austin helps resolve an ancient paradox: why both insight wisdom and selflessness arise simultaneously during enlightened states of consciousness.

Table of Contents

  1. List of Figures
  2. List of Tables
  3. Preface
  4. Acknowledgments
  5. By Way of a Personal Introduction
  6. I. An Introduction to Selfless Meditation
  7. 1. What Is Meditation? What Is Zen?
  8. 2. Attentiveness and the Self
  9. 3. Our Two Lateral Cortical Systems of Attention
  10. 4. Self/Other: Our Two Ways of Perceiving Reality
  11. 5. Can a Psychic Sense of Self Be Cancelled?
  12. 6. Gradually Letting Go of the Self
  13. 7. Two Complementary Categories of Meditation
  14. II. Meditating Selflessly Outdoors
  15. 8. Returning to the Natural World
  16. III. Meditating Selflessly Indoors
  17. 9. Settling Down and In
  18. 10. Looking Up and Out
  19. 11. Meanwhile, What Does "Being Mindful" Include?
  20. 12. How Can Brain Research Help Us Understand Mindful Meditation?
  21. IV. Attending Meditative Retreats
  22. 13. Why Go on a Retreat?
  23. V. Daily Life Practice
  24. 14. Preconditions for Fruitful Practice
  25. 15. Remaining Attentive Throughout the Day; Living Zen Practice
  26. 16. Learning "Good" Habits Through Repetition: The Fruits of Meditative Practices
  27. 17. On the Everyday Practice of Gratitude
  28. 18. Opening Up into Silent, Preconscious Processing
  29. 19. Koan Practice at Deep Levels
  30. 20. A Quickening Evoked by Re-mindful Hearing
  31. 21. A Ripened Fruit of Practice: Cut Wide Open
  32. In Summary: A Sequence of Topics to Help Clarify the Mechanisms of Selfless Insight-Wisdom
  33. Suggested "Do's" and "Don'ts"
  34. A Sampler of Recommended Reading
  35. Appendix A: Some Secondary Effects on the Brain of Stress and Pathological Lesions
  36. References and Notes
  37. Index
  38. Color Insert