Saturday, August 12, 2006

Mind Science

This is a great talk! Set an hour aside for a brief history of science and its near-complete, willful ignorance of mental phenomena.

B Alan Wallace started the Santa Barbara Institute, which at first glance might seem like a fuzzy, new wave endeavor (it must be a coincidence that USA Network's new Psyche TV comedy detective show is also set in SB). However, Alan is a Physics PhD who wants to get started on applying the scientific method to the study of the non-physical stuff that happens and lives in our brains.

What is consciousness? What is thought? Sure, memories are chemical RNA encodings, but how do we perceive them? How do you measure these things? How do you tell if things are even happening if all you have is the first-person account of the one experiencing them?

Well, here's a start. Richard Davidson at U of Wisconsin did fMRI's of meditating Buddhist monks and saw some remarkable things. Interestingly, the effects were directly correlated with the amount of training - tens of thousands of hours - of the individuals in the study.

So, what's going on with these monks? They're working to achieve Enlightenment, but there's a measurable physical effect. Alan wants to study this further, by colocating these professionally trained folk with scientific observation. Maybe he can come up with the F=ma of mental phenomena .. wouldn't that be great!

For my part, I want to take a shortcut to enlightenment (little 'e'). There are so many styles of meditation, and it's so hard to concentrate without concentrating on concentration, etc. "Be aware of your breathing", "as each thought rises, note it and let it go".. there are dozens of little instructions like this buzzing around in my head when my mind should be otherwise working its way to another level of consciousness.

This all reminds me of Peter O'Toole's character in The Ruling Class, who decides he is Jesus Christ because he discovered while praying that he was talking to himself.

Wouldn't it be great to have bio-feedback during meditation? Forget all the rules, forget being frustrated that "it isn't working for me", just get straight to recognizing the feeling of changing your consciousness and learn how to deepen the experience. Sign me up!


Blogger Brad said...

I really like your article "Mind Science" - Chappel.

1:19 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home