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Selfless Insight: Zen and the Meditative Transformations of Consciousness Hardcover – 3 Mar 2009


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; 1 edition (3 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262012596
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262012591
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 992,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"This remarkable book uses neuroscience to reveal the inner workings of the mind through the medium of meditation. Stunning facts derived from neuro research combined with the timeless wisdom of Zen open for the reader mental vistas that are fascinating and vast. Both scientist and nonscientist will be edified and inspired on reading this clear and beautiful book, a book that is a landmark in the rapidly developing field of contemplative neuroscience." --Joan Halifax, PhD, Abbot, Upaya Zen Center "The neural networks in our brains effortlessly perform common miracles of conscious behavior. Moreover these neural circuits can, with appropriate effort, such as Zen practice, transform themselves to attain exceptional levels of heightened awareness. Recent neuroscience studies have substantially elucidated the relevant brain mechanisms, and these are brilliantly synthesized in this latest book by neurologist and Zen practitioner James Austin. Building on his previous works on Zen and the brain, this latest volume provides a comprehensive up-to-date exposition of the brain mechanisms that mediate conscious perception of the world and self, both normal and heightened." --Eberhard E. Fetz, Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Washington "James Austin's wonderful book Selfless Insight provides an up-to-date review and synthesis of the brain physiology which permits humans to meditate and how meditation alters brain functions. Just as Hubel and Wiesel's Nobel Prize winning research revealed how the brain permits us to see and perceive incoming light, James Austin's newest book helps us understand how people who meditate see the light and wisdom within." --Kenneth M. Heilman, James E. Rooks Jr. Distinguished Professor of Neurology, University of Florida College of Medicine "Analytic philosophy of mind sees persons as much less substantial and ego centered than Cartesian rationalism, which posits that my essence is my immutable self, my soul. Neuroscience finds no soul, no central headquarters that is me. And Zen teaches how to flourish in a world where you are nothing rather than something. Austin's Selfless Insight takes us on an insightful tour of a certain postmodern space where we meet the Heraclitean processes that we are." --Owen Flanagan, James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy, Duke University and author of The Really Hard Problem

About the Author

James H. Austin, clinical neurologist, researcher, and Zen practitioner, is Professor Emeritus of Neurology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Clinical Professor of Neurology at the University of Missouri (Columbia) School of Medicine. He is the author of Zen and the Brain, Chase, Chance, and Creativity, and Zen-Brain Reflections, all published by the MIT Press.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M Jenkins on 1 Feb 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fine follow-up work to the equally excellent Zen and the Brain (winner of the 1998 Scientific and Medical Network Book Prize) and Zen-Brain Reflections: Reviewing Recent Developments in Meditation and States of Consciousness.

Speaking of this work Kenneth M. Heilman, James E. Rooks Jr. Distinguished Professor of Neurology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, said:

"James Austin's wonderful book Selfless Insight provides an up-to-date review and synthesis of the brain physiology which permits humans to meditate and how meditation alters brain functions. Just as Hubel and Wiesel's Nobel Prize winning research revealed how the brain permits us to see and perceive incoming light, James Austin's newest book helps us understand how people who meditate see the light and wisdom within."

Joan Halifax, PhD, Abbot of the Upaya Zen Center, has said of this book:

"This remarkable book uses neuroscience to reveal the inner workings of the mind through the medium of meditation. Stunning facts derived from neuro research combined with the timeless wisdom of Zen open for the reader mental vistas that are fascinating and vast. Both scientist and non-scientist will be edified and inspired on reading this clear and beautiful book, a book that is a landmark in the rapidly developing field of contemplative neuroscience."

Austin, a Professor of neurology and an experienced Zen practitioner, has produced another excellent volume. Thank you Professor Austin for all three works.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A handy reference 13 Nov 2009
By Lady Spacetrash - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As both a buddhist and a neuroscientist, I keep Dr. Austin's books on hand for reference as well as pleasure. His most recent offering is a very well-organized compendium of the most salient discoveries in attention, awareness and consciousness. The only factors keeping me from giving this edition five stars instead of four are: I would have liked to have read more about the author's personal practice and experiences. Also, I do use these books as a desk reference - if you are looking for an overview or introduction to brain function, this is probably not what you want.
23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Good review of recent brain research 22 Jun 2009
By Rick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book along with "The Ego Tunnel" to get an understanding of the latest research into the brain location for the self, ego, and consciousness after reading the classic text by Daniel Dennett, "Consciousness Explained." Austin covers the movement of sensory input through the brain and the way the input is interpreted by the interconnected processing 'centers' of the brain. I have enjoyed his views of the research studies and proposed areas for further research. I would have given this book a five-star review except I am not a Zen practitioner so his coverage of Zen practices, meditation and the like, did not hold my interest although I will use some of the meditation techniques mentioned in the book for disconnecting myself from the ADD/fast-paced Internet world that pervades modern society.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Meditation Neuroscience 29 Aug 2010
By Gus Castellanos, MD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lots of infomation. I really enjoy the combination of the 3rd person objective/scientific data with the 1st person/subjective experience. Very good book, as are Dr Austin's others in this series, for anyone wanting a reference on meditation and brain science.
Out of Dense Neurological Language Come Brilliant Insights 23 Nov 2014
By vintnerster - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dr. Austin has, I believe, explained better than anyone the relationship between human cognition in the Zen Buddhist model and specific brain states in the psychoneurological model. Such an explanation must inherently be anything but lucid. While the terminology of Zen is fraught with technical and often allusive Japanese, Chinese and Sanskrit expressions, today's medical terminology is even less accessible in its density and detailed quantification of values. James H. Austin is uniquely qualified to offer this explanation. As an experienced practitioner of traditional Zen in the Rinzai "sudden enlightenment" school, experienced in and familiar with the core Zen experience of "kensho" - enlightened insight - he knows at once where to look and what to look for in his neurological research. However there are no quick or easy answers. Detecting patterns of activity among the human brain's billions of neurons and finding significant correlation with the subjective experiences of meditators is bound to be a slow and complex process, deserving of not just one or two but an ongoing series of books. Dr. Austin is further along this path than anyone has ever gone before and his successes continue, thanks to his rigorous use of scientific method. That doesn't make him easy to read, but fortunately his occasional summations do provide brilliant insights, worth reading for their sake alone.
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