I’ve read some fantastic books during my research, with plenty more in stacked up and in the post that I’m looking forward to. My own meditation practise has been immeasurably improved by reading more about what is actually happening the my brain, and I have come across much inspiring information and ideas for my RCA project. In particular my reading helped me to identify ‘flow state’ which was quite transformative as being able to recognise it I was much better able to learn to foster and return to that state during my sessions. Whilst these books are relatively fresh I’d like to write down some of the most useful, to me, ones.
Siddhartha’s Brain by James Kingsland
Potentially my favourite book of 2017, a lot of my friends and family received it for Christmas this year. Kingsland using a clever device to fit three books into one here, he uses neuroscience to theorise about the change that would have come about in Siddhartha’s brain as he undertook his journey from Indian Prince, living a life of luxury and indulgence, to becoming the Buddha, and sculpting the path of Buddhism for future generations. So you get the history of Buddhism Meditation, the main source from which Mindfulness Meditation originates, up to date neuro-scientific research into the effect meditation has on the brain and practical advice and illumination on how to effectively meditate. It was in this book that I first came across the fascinating research and ideas of Judson Brewer who I hope to work with on my final RCA product.
The Shallows by Nicholas Carr
I covered this book in an earlier post. I think it’s interesting that this was published back in 2010, the problems it highlights about the effect the ‘technologies of distraction’ are having on us are certainly more pertinent now then then. Reading this book makes you want to spend less time on your rapidly shifting, interactive sites and more time reading and enjoying long pieces of linear writing. I learnt much about the plastic nature of our brains and how the increasingly ubiquitous consumption of multi media across phones, computers etc. is shaping our malleable grey matter. I know some find writing and reading about this kind of subject depressing, but I think we are capable of controlling and constructing our relationship with technology. Whether its a sword or a smartphone a tool can be used both wisely and dangerously… could Mindfulness offer a key to gaining control of our minds and our tech-centric society?
“We become, neurologically, what we think”
Why Buddhism is True by Richard Wright
I often think that Mindfulness Meditation has become very, very focused on just the personal mental heath benefits, the fact that it can make your students or soldiers more ‘productive’, perhaps at times to the detriment of the other, significant, benefits it can offer to society on a wider scale. This is a much needed look at how we can use cutting edge science to support, or explain in language that will appeal to the more scientifically minded, the importance of the other aspects that in Buddhism are intrinsically linked to Mindfulness, things like war becoming less likely if more people had a less urgent sense of ‘self’ and more of an ability to perceive, clearly, the interconnected, or “interdependent arising”, nature of reality. More of this line of thought to follow for sure…
“Mindfulness meditation itself, practised diligently, tends to expand your understanding of other organisms”
The Science of Enlightenment by Shinzen Young
I also enjoyed this one, it contains a brilliant incident where the writer eats a brownie high and has a revelation. I admire his writing style and ability to discuss what, for me, is an incredible tricky subject of mindfulness; the huge, inexplicable with words, concept of ‘Enlightenment”, which I have no intention of trying to paraphrase here.
“Perhaps science could even discover things about enlightenment that would make enlightenment attainable by large masses of human beings.”
Mind Change by Susan Greenfield
An interesting read, with lots of references of interesting studies to look further into. I was particularly fascinated by the suggestion that we are training ourselves to be more like the computers we are creating, except of course that we never could successfully do that, so its actually worse, we are training ourselves to be bad versions of the computers are creating. I would need to do some more research to decide whether I agree with that one, but its a interesting, and of course scary, idea.
“…the more we interact with and adapt to its algorithmic mode of functioning determined by digital culture; so our brains will function more like suboptimal computers”