The Mindful Brain
I recently finished reading Daniel Siegel's new book, The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being, and reviewed it for the current issue of Scientific American Mind. It's a fascinating read for people curious about the potential effects of meditation on the structure and function of the mind -- Siegel, a UCLA psychiatrist, has been studying and following research on the topic for years. While I don't think I can reproduce my entire review here, I found an excerpt freely available online (and you can click here to download the whole issue):
"For thousands of years, spiritual traditions around the world have emphasized the importance of living 'mindfully' -- using prayer and meditation techniques to free ourselves from daily distractions, enabling us to look inside ourselves, to become sensitive to what is happening around us and to live compassionately. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that these practices have a positive influence on people's emotional lives and physical health, but science has only recently begun to investigate their effects. The impact of mindfulness on the brain is, for the most part, still a mystery.
Enter Daniel J. Siegel, a psychiatrist and co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. Siegel has both a meticulous understanding of the roles of different parts of the brain and an intimate relationship with mindfulness. He brings these strengths together in The Mindful Brain to come up with insightful proposals, bolstered by preliminary research data, for how mindful awareness might engage parts of the brain in novel ways and lead to permanent neurological changes. His speculations are interesting in and of themselves, and they also may provide neuroscientists with ideas for experiments that could test the effects of mindfulness on the brain."