Archive for September 20, 2011

Book Review: Buddha’s Brain By Rick Hanson And Richard Mendius

If you are like me, you will be pretty suspicious of anything that sounds a bit cranky. Primal scream therapy, rebirthing and neuro linguistic programming all fall into that camp for me. But what about meditation?

Over the last decade what is interesting has been the way evidence-based therapies have taken meditation on board. It is as if no self-respecting new treatment approach can afford to ignore it. There is good reason for this; the evidence shows meditation is really helpful in conditions as diverse as borderline personality disorder to depression, and anxiety to chronic pain.

What most of these treatment approaches do, of course, is separate meditation from its Buddhist cultural heritage. It is as if by dropping the ‘religion’, it makes meditation more palatable to the Western practitioner/client. Although this is understandable, in a way it’s a shame. Buddhism’s raison d’être is the alleviation of human suffering, and has developed sophisticated psychological models of how to do just that.

What is great about this book is that Hanson and Mendius don’t drop the Buddhist heritage of meditation. Neither do they drop the scientific method. In fact Hanson and Mendius are deeply immersed in brain science, Rick Hanson as a neuropsychologist, and Richard Mendius as a neurologist. They draw on their scientific understanding of the brain to integrate Western science with Buddhist psychology.

This book isn’t a hard read though. The authors skilfully explain the intricate workings of the brain in straightforward language. If you are interested in the relationship between brain science and Buddhism and meditation, but don’t want something too taxing, this is the primer for you.

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