A head-spinning guide to supercharged meditation.
If life is like a box of chocolates, to quote the philosopher Forrest Gump, then, to quote Siegel (Clinical Psychiatry/UCLA; Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human, 2016, etc.), “consciousness is like a container of water”—undrinkable if a tablespoon of salt is put into an espresso cup but just fine if the container is a bathtub. And why is it like a container of water? That’s never quite explained, except to say that cultivating the mind to maximize awareness makes our experience of things different. That heightened experience can be a deeply positive thing, for, as the author points out, neural integration makes problem solving easier, and “open awareness” boosts the immune system. Siegel delivers a “Wheel of Awareness” to visualize the process, with attention as the spoke, knowing or awareness as the hub, and “knowns” on the rim. But those knowns can be awareness-inhibiting prejudices as well as hard-won knowledge of how the world works. Siegel favors a murky, circular style: “When we open awareness to sensation, such as that of the breath, we become a conduit directing the flow of something into our awareness.” Well, yes, that’s how breath works, but Siegel means something different—“enabling the sensation of the breath at the nostrils to flow into consciousness.” Further along, the author complicates the picture: “And so both focal attention involving consciousness and nonfocal attention without consciousness involve an evaluative process that places meaning and significance on energy patterns and their informational value as they arise moment by moment.” Can there be meaning without consciousness? That’s a question for Heidegger, but suffice it to say that it’s a clear if empty statement relative to the main, which is laden with jargon, neologisms (“plane-dominant sweep”; “SOCK: sensation, observation, conceptualization, and knowing”), and lots of New Age cheerleading.
If Charles Reich is your bag, then this may be your book. If you want your neuroscience qua science, then head over to where Damasio and Dennett are shelved.