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. Having emphasized that top-down and bottom-up forms of attention are complementary, he then explains how long-term meditators can become increasingly selfless when they cultivate both styles of attention in a balanced manner. This, Austin explains, is because our networks of attention are normally engaged in an inverse, reciprocal, seesaw relationship with the different regions that represent our autobiographical self. 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.
About the Author
James H. Austin, a clinical neurologist, researcher, and Zen practitioner for more than three decades, is Professor Emeritus of Neurology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Courtesy Professor of Neurology at the University of Florida College of Medicine. He is the author of Zen and the Brain, Chase, Chance, and Creativity, Zen-Brain Reflections, Selfless Insight, and Meditating Selflessly, all published by the MIT Press.
"This extraordinary book on meditation is a perfect jewel, shedding light for the reader on the intricate and profound craft of the practice of meditation and the neuroscience of meditation. It is a book like no other in the field and is due to become a classic. It is exceptionally useful, beautifully written, rich with anecdotes, and full of surprises."
Roshi Joan Halifax, Founding Abbot, Upaya Zen Center
"We are often presented with stimuli but remain unaware. Zen, which means meditation, allows humans to become mindful-attentively aware of reality. In his newest book, Meditating Selflessly: Practical Neural Zen, Dr. James Austin, one of the world's outstanding neurologists, explains how the brain mediates these meditation activities and how these activities alter the brain. Using language that can be understood by all, Austin teaches the fortunate readers of this book about the biological basis of the important changes brought about by this ancient but still current process of enlightenment."
Kenneth M. Heilman, M.D., James E. Rooks Jr. Distinguished Professor, Department of Neurology, University of Florida College of Medicine
"Here James Austin brings the fruit of his many decades engaging Buddhist meditation as a living practice, while at the same time examining what happens in the brain during meditation. This book is inviting and challenging at the same time and will prove valuable for both the novice and the long-time meditator. I highly recommend it."
James Ishmael Ford, author of Zen Master Who: A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen; lead editor of The Book of Mu: Essential Writings on Zen's Most Important Koan