Monday, July 4, 2011

INCOGNITO by David Eagleman

This book clarifies some of the neurological and biological basis for many habits of mind and reactions that we call self-centeredness and attachment.

The arising emotion-thought of greed, anger and confusion is already familiar to any one who practices, who sits. The neurological insights of Incognito will further clarify this. Hopefully, it will enable you to see more clearly how and where practice efforts are called for.

The fundamental delusion of self is highlighted from a neurological perspective. Seeing this can help your practice be more appropriate and skillful. However, you and I will have to make the connections between the insights of this book and our practice - since this book does not. The book ends with questions and issues that zazen, that body/mind practice, could and would clarify. Eagleman does not write about zazen, about sitting practice, and it is not clear if he knows of it or has experience with Dharma practice. I would encourage him to explore this since zazen practice does address some of the questions and issues with which he ends the book. 

An interesting coincidence is Eagleman's use of the metaphor of "we are not the ones driving the boat." This is very similar to a practice talk by Joko about how we react inappropriately to behavior by others as if they are driving a boat which will "hit" our boat - until we can discover that there is no one in the other boat, at which point we can skillfully and appropriately respond without anger and other dualistic reactions.

(For those interested, there are neuroscientists working with the neurology of meditation states, such as Richard J. Davidson.)

I recommend Incognito if you are interested in this neuroscience perspective.

(c) 2011 Elihu Genmyo Smith