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. In this new book, Austindiscusses 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.
"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
"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
"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
"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