ISBN: 9780262255004 | 372 pp. | March 2019


Selfless Insight

Zen and the Meditative Transformations of Consciousness

When neurology researcher James Austin began Zen training, he found that his medical education was inadequate. During the past three decades, he has been at the cutting edge of both Zen and neuroscience, constantly discovering new examples of how these two large fields each illuminate the other. Now, in Selfless Insight, Austin arrives at a fresh synthesis, one that invokes the latest brain research to explain the basis for meditative states and clarifies what Zen awakening implies for our understanding of consciousness. Austin, author of the widely read Zen and the Brain, reminds us why Zen meditation is not only mindfully attentive but evolves to become increasingly selfless and intuitive. Meditators are gradually learning how to replace over-emotionality with calm, clear objective comprehension. In this new book, Austin discusses how meditation trains our attention, reprogramming it toward subtle forms of awareness that are more openly mindful. He explains how our maladaptive notions of self are rooted in interactive brain functions. And he describes how, after the extraordinary, deep states of kensho-satori strike off the roots of the self, a flash of transforming insight-wisdom leads toward ways of living more harmoniously and selflessly. Selfless Insight is the capstone to Austin’s journey both as a creative neuroscientist and as a Zen practitioner. His quest has spanned an era of unprecedented progress in brain research and has helped define the exciting new field of contemplative neuroscience.

Table of Contents

  1. Chapters Containing Testable Hypotheses
  2. List of Figures
  3. List of Tables
  4. Preface
  5. Acknowledgments
  6. By Way of Introduction
  7. I. On the Varieties of Attention
  8. 1. Training Attention
  9. 2. Meditating Mindfully at the Dawn of a New Millennium
  10. 3. Meditation
  11. 4. Neurologizing about Attention
  12. 5. On Remaining Attentive while We Meditate
  13. 6. Perceiving Clearly
  14. 7. Network Systems Serving Different Forms of Attention
  15. 8. The Implications of Training More Efficient Attentional Processing
  16. 9. Studying Meditators' Brains
  17. 10. Inward Turned Attention
  18. 11. First Mondo
  19. II. On the Origins of Self
  20. 12. You Are the "Person of the Year"
  21. 13. On the Nature and the Origins of the Self
  22. 14. Selective Deficits of Egocentric or Allocentric Processing in Neurological Patients
  23. 15. The Brain's Active Metabolism during Resting Conditions
  24. 16. Internal "Mirrors" Facing Outward
  25. 17. Subcortical Contributions to Self/Other Distinctions
  26. 18. Second Mondo
  27. III. Toward Selflessness
  28. 19. Seeing Selflessly in a New Dimension
  29. 20. On the Long Path toward Selflessness
  30. 21. Neuroimaging during Tasks That Shift the Brain from Self-Referential into Other-Referential Forms of Attention
  31. 22. Slow Fluctuations, Revealing How Networks Shift Spontaneously
  32. 23. The Balance of Opposing Functions
  33. 24. Third Mondo
  34. IV. On the Nature of Insight
  35. 25. Intuitions about Insight
  36. 26. A Lotus Puzzle
  37. 27. Our Normal Quest for Meaning
  38. 28. Studies of Meaningful Coherence in Visual Images
  39. 29. Dynamic Aspects of Truth
  40. 30. Value Systems for Truth, Beauty, and Reality
  41. 31. The Temporal Lobe: Harmonies of Perception and Interpretation
  42. 32. The Temporal Lobe: Word Thoughts Interfere with No-Thought Processing
  43. 33. The Pregnant Meditative Pause
  44. 34. Recent, Ongoing Neuroimaging Studies of Ordinary Forms of Insight
  45. 35. Alternative Ways to Study Ordinary Insight Using Neuroimaging Techniques
  46. 36. Does Eliminating the Negative Help to Accentuate the Positive?
  47. 37. Balancing One's Assets and Liabilities
  48. 38. Fourth Mondo
  49. V. On the Path toward Insight-Wisdom
  50. 39. The Broken Water Bucket
  51. 40. The Construction and Dissolution of Time
  52. 41. Aspects of Wisdom
  53. 42. Cutting into the Layers of Self
  54. 43. Striking at the Roots of Overconditioned Attitudes
  55. 44. Neuroimaging Our Representations of Shoulds and Oughts
  56. 45. Distinctions between Intuitive Mind Reading, Simple Empathy, and Compassion
  57. 46. Empathy, Forgivability, and the Responses of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex
  58. 47. Rigorous Retreats, and the Supporting Influence of a Friendly Hand
  59. 48. Show Me
  60. 49. Fifth Mondo
  61. VI. Toward Emotional Maturity
  62. 50. On Learning about the Emotions
  63. 51. Modulating the Emotions
  64. 52. How Could the Long-Term Meditative Path Modulate the Emotions?
  65. 53. Newer Views of Extinction
  66. 54. Anatomical Asymmetries
  67. 55. The Cognitive and Emotional Origins of Maturity
  68. 56. Brain Peptides Help Decode Subtle Facial Emotions
  69. 57. Did You Really "Have a Good Day?"
  70. 58. Sixth Mondo
  71. VII. Updating Selected Research
  72. 59. Selected Topics of Current Interest
  73. In Closing
  74. Glossary
  75. References and Notes
  76. Source Notes
  77. Index
  78. Color Plates