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The Neuroscience and

Practice of Meditation

Andrew S. Bonci
Private Practice
Life-Long Learner 1 of 140
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Title Slide Photo Credit:
Brain imaging differences evident at 6 months in infants who develop autism | UNC Health Talk. (2012, February 17). Retrieved July
14, 2019, from UNC Health Talk website:
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I have no conflicts of interest.
I have no interests in proselytizing you to any
particular worldview.
Meditation is not a recreational pursuit like jet
skiing or snowboarding. Likewise, meditation is
more than the experience of phosphenes. It
presents a challenge to your sense of self and
worldview. Please proceed with caution.
Please enjoy yourself and your time with your
colleagues as we take this journey. 3 of 140
Lecture Objectives
Theory of Mindfulness Meditation
Contemplative Neuroscience
Focused Attention versus Open Monitoring
Meditation in the Science-Based Literature
Default Mode, Salience, Executive Networks in
the Context of Meditative Practice
Underpinnings of the Practice of Mindfulness
Pitfalls to Practice
Contextualization: Postmodernism 4 of 140
Why is it that we might need
meditation in our lives?

An Intellectual Entente. (2009, September 10). Retrieved October 21, 2019, from Harvard Magazine website:
watson-edward-o-wilson-intellectual-entente 5 of 140
Etymology of “Meditation”
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary
the term “meditation” derives from the Proto-Indo-
European root “med-” which means to "take
appropriate measures."
Retrieved July 9, 2019, from
meditation | Origin and meaning of meditation by Online Etymology Dictionary. (n.d.).

– According to the Monk Anâlayo's (2003) analysis

found in Satipatthana: The Direct Path to
Realization, the Buddhist word for meditation most
commonly used in the Pali language is “sati” which
means “clearly knowing” and is often translated as
“mindfulness.” Analayo. (2003). Satpatthana: Direct Path to Realization. Cambridge: Windhorse Publications. 6 of 140
A systematic inquiry into the folly
of the human mind and social structures.

Living in the awareness of this folly.

Clipart Credit: 7 of 140
You Will Witness
The Roots of Exploitation
bribery crime exploitation extortion
fraud graft malfeasance nepotism
crookedness demoralization
jobbery misrepresentation payoff
payola racket shadiness shuffle
skimming squeeze unscrupulousness
venality breach of trust bribing
fiddling fraudulency on the take
shady deal 8 of 140
Meditation Keys to Remember
– The purpose of meditation is to gain insight.
– To gain insight, you must put distance and delay
between you and your thoughts, feelings, and
– To gain distance and delay, you must dis-identify
with your thoughts, feelings, and emotions on some
– This requires access to both your natural
bicamerality and cultivated executive function. 9 of 140
The Ecstatic Experience
Yo u ar

Your Mind

You Need
to be Here

Your Your
Feelings Emotions 10 of 140
Beginner's Mind

In the zen classic Zen Mind,

Beginner's Mind Shunryu Suzuki
(1970) deliciously states ...

– “In the beginner’s mind there are

many possibilities, but in the
expert’s there are few.” 11 of 140
Caveat Meditator
Meditation is not all sunshine, rainbows, and baby
farts, as such powerful spiritual practices are
easily weaponized outside of an “ethical”
– “Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Nazi
SS and master architect of the
Holocaust, was a fan of yoga and
meditation — he even planned retreats
for elite SS members at a medieval
castle.” Purser, R. (2019). McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist
Spirituality. London: Repeater Books. (See pp. 225-226) 12 of 140
Start By Doubting Everything
The iconoclastic philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti
(1895-1986) taught that we are victims of cultural
conditioning. This conditioning entrenches us in
the violence and tyranny of a socially constructed
Krishnamurti, J. (2007). As One Is: To Free the Mind from All Conditioning (e-book). Chino Valley, AZ: Hohm Press.

“So meditation is to understand the futility

of all systems. Doubt everything. Be
skeptical about your sacred books, about
your gurus, about your politics, about
yourself. Doubt and skepticism cleanses
the brain and gives clarity.”
Krishnamurti, Jiddu. Krishnamurti: The Essential Collection (p. 13-15). Kindle Edition. 13 of 140
Tripe 14 of 140
Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness
In Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom
of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain,
and Illness Jon Kabat-Zinn (1990) defines
mindfulness as paying attention in a particular
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. (Revised). New York:

– “I define mindfulness operationally as the

awareness that arises by paying attention on
purpose, in the present moment, and non-
judgmentally.” 15 of 140
Langer's Mindfulness
In The Power of Mindful Learning social
psychologist Ellen Langer (1997, p. 23) writes that
mindfulness revolves around the following
psychological states. Langer, E. (1997). The Power of Mindful Learning. Cambridge, Mass: Da Capo Press.

– Openness to novelty
– Alertness to distinction
– Sensitivity to different contexts
– Implicit awareness of multiple perspectives
– Orientation in the present 16 of 140
Siegel's Mindfulness
Daniel Siegel (2007) sets the stage for a clear
understanding of mindfulness in The Mindful
Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the
Cultivation of Well-Being. Siegel, D. (2007). The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in
the Cultivation of Well-Being (1 edition). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

– “Mindfulness in its most general sense is about

waking up from a life on automatic, and being
sensitive to novelty in our everyday experiences.” (p.5)

– “The essential proposal is that this ancient and

useful form of awareness harnesses the social
circuitry of the brain to enable us to develop an
attuned relationship within our own minds.” (p. 3) 17 of 140 18 of 140
Mindfulness Misconceptions
In Mindfulness in Plain English, Bhante
Gunaratana (2011) dispels a number of
misconceptions that serve as traditional barriers to
understanding mindfulness.
Anniverary). New York: Simon & Schuster Digital Sales Inc.
Gunaratana, B. H. (2011). Mindfulness in Plain English (20th

– Meditation is just a relaxation technique

– Meditation is about going into a trance
– Meditation is running away from reality
– Meditation is about lofty thoughts
– A couple of weeks of meditation and all my
problems will go away. 19 of 140
My Experience with (Soto) Zen

Sensei Gaku Homma

taught Aikido as
“dynamic zen meditation”
Nippon Kan
1365 Osage Street

Denver, CO 80204

(My dojo time: 1982-1986) 20 of 140
One Day in 1984
While meditating before practice, I
experienced the sensation of “falling Sen
backwards as if into a well.” sor
Met y-Moto
a ph
– This was a metacognitive state where or r
one becomes an active witness of
“oneself” and one's thoughts in a fully
objective manner.

My simple definition of mindfulness is

clearly seeing through life's illusions for
direct engagement in the world. 21 of 140
Witness Consciousness:
Frontoparietal Control
Network (FPCN)/
Executive Control Network
(ECN) 22 of 140
Photo Credit:
Focused Attention Meditation
In focused attention meditation (FAM), meditators
focus their attention on a target object, such as
the physical sensations caused by breathing or by
performing a body scan. Fujino, M., Ueda, Y., Mizuhara, H., Saiki, J., & Nomura, M. (2018). Open
monitoring meditation reduces the involvement of brain regions related to memory function. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 9968.

– Having a target object enables meditators to keep

their attention away from distractors and to
disengage their attention from these distractors
more easily.
– CAVEAT: FAM may contribute to Inattentional
Blindness. Simons, D. J., & Chabris, C. F. (1999). Gorillas in our midst: Sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events.
Perception, 28, 1059–1074. 23 of 140
Open Monitoring Meditation
In Open Monitoring Meditation (OMM), meditators
keep a non-reactive and non-judgmental
awareness of anything that occurs in their
experience of the present moment. Fujino, M., Ueda, Y., Mizuhara, H., Saiki, J., &
Nomura, M. (2018). Open monitoring meditation reduces the involvement of brain regions related to memory function. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 9968.

– While maintaining this awareness, the contents of

experience such as bodily sensations, feelings, and
thoughts are not distractors but simply contents for
– CAVEAT: OMM may contribute to
depersonalization, dissociative tendencies. Michal, M., Beutel, M. E.,
Jordan, J., Zimmermann, M., Wolters, S., & Heidenreich, T. (2007). Depersonalization, mindfulness, and childhood trauma. The Journal of
Nervous and Mental Disease, 195(8), 693–696. 24 of 140
Vago, D. R., & Zeidan, F. (2016). The brain on silent: Mind wandering, mindful awareness, and states of mental tranquility. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences,
1373(1), 96–113. 25 of 140
Neuroscience of Meditation
Cognitive Neuroscience
– Michael Gazzaniga, PhD and Antonio Damasio, MD

– Patricia Churchland, PhD, George Lakoff, PhD, and Mark Johnson, PhD

– Andrew Newberg, MD and Michael Gazzaniga, PhD

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction® (MBSR®)

– Jon Kabat Zinn, PhD

Contemplative Neuroscience
– Richard Davidson, PhD and Daniel Goleman, PhD 26 of 140
Meditation Meets Neuroscience
In 2000, the Dalai Lama challenged
Richard “Richie” Davidson, PhD to
refocus the formidable power of his
neuroscience lab The Center for
Healthy Minds ( at
the University of Wisconsin,
Madison to investigate the
mechanisms and benefits of
meditation. Goleman, D., & Davidson, R. J. (2018). Altered Traits: ScienceReveals How
Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body (Reprint edition). Avery. 27 of 140
Matthieu Ricard, PhD in Molecular Genetics
Much of the research on mindfulness is derived from seasoned meditators
who have a long history of meditation as part of their religious practice.
This necessarily means that religious-philosophical thinking must be
acknowledged to some degree in the contextualization of our study of
mindfulness. Your patience is appreciated. 28 of 140
We are Philosophical Heirs
In his book On the Road with Saint Augustine,
Calvin College philosophy professor James K. A.
Smith (2019, p. 20) muses on the contemporaneous
nature of Augustinian thought on life in the
postmodern world.
Hearts. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press.
Smith, J. K. A. (2019). On the Road with Saint Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless

– “We are philosophical heirs even if we don’t realize

it. We have inhaled invisible philosophies in the
cultural air we breathe. Our everyday quests for
authenticity and identity are grooves in the heart
laid down by the ripple effects of an existentialism
we’ve perhaps never heard of.” 29 of 140
Bumper Sticker Postmodernism
Jean-Francois Lyotard* (Stories)
– Incredulity towards Metanarratives
Jacques Derrida* (Language)
– There is nothing outside the Text
Michel Foucault* (Power)
– Power is Knowledge
Gilles Deleuze** (Desire)
– Politics precedes Being
*Smith, J. K. A. (2006). Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism: The Church and Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

**Bell, D. (2012). Economy of Desire: Christianity And Capitalism In A Postmodern World. Baker Academic. 30 of 140
Cartesian Confusion
Descartes’s (1641) Meditations on First
Philosophy is a narration of his personal
intellectual journey into the Res Cogitans. Our
ontological beliefs and self-identity have been
forged in this Cartesian furnace. Cahoone, L. (2010). The Rationalism and Dualism of
Descartes. In Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida (pp. 10–12). Chantilly, VA: The Great Courses.

– Substance Dualism (res extensa/res cogitans)

– The biggest injustice is the conflation of mind with
– Inaugurated the sub-field Philosophy of Mind 31 of 140
Western/Eastern Dualism

West Body Mind Soul

Existentialism Essentialism

East Body Mind Soul


Grim, P. (2017). Mind-Body Philosophy. Video Presentation presented at the The Great
Courses. Retrieved from
philosophy.html 32 of 140
Liberated by Locke
The English enlightenment philosopher John
Locke (1632-1704) writing of identity in his Essay
Concerning Human Understanding argues that
all ideas come from sensation and reflection.
– “Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say,
white paper, void of all characters, without any
ideas:—How comes it to be furnished? [...] To this I
answer, in one word, from experience.”
– Tabula Rasa … there are no innate ideas.
– I am the sum of my experiences and memories. 33 of 140
Humbled by Hume
David Hume (1711-1776) published, at the age of 26,
his Treatise on Human Nature sought “the
application of experimental philosophy to moral
subjects.” Hume, D. (2014). A Treatise of Human Nature (ePub). Toronto: Harper Torch Classics.

– “I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that

they are nothing but a bundle or collection of
different perceptions, which succeed each other
with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a
perpetual flux and movement.”
– Bundle Theory: We are a Pastiche. 34 of 140
In the mid-seventies, academic philosopher
Patricia Smith Churchland (1986) became
disillusioned with the “anti-scientific” bias of
mainstream philosophical inquiry into the nature of
the mind.
Bradford Book.
Churchland, P. S. (1989). Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain (Reprint edition). Cambridge, Mass.: A

– She sought to marry “philosophy of mind” with the

exploding field of cognitive neuroscience.
– In 1986, she published Neurophilosophy: Toward
a Unified Science of the Mind/Brain. 35 of 140
Neurophilosophical Assumptions
In Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied
Mind & its Challenge to Western Thought,
George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1999) radically
restructure the philosophical assumptions of what
it means to be a human being in terms of
cognitive neuroscience.
Challenge to Western Thought. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind & its

1.Embodiment of the Mind

2.Cognitive Unconscious
3.Thought is Metaphorical
4.Morality is about Human Well-Being 36 of 140
Philosophy in the Flesh
1.Embodiment of the Mind
– Mindfulness is sensorimotor.
2.Cognitive Unconscious
– Mindfulness exposes the unconscious voice.
3.Thought is Metaphorical
– Mindfulness uses metaphoric language.
4.Morality is about Human Well-Being
– Mindfulness engenders moral well-being. 37 of 140
Damasio's Embodied Mind
In The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feelings,
and the Making of Cultures, neurologist and
neuroscientist Antonio Damasio (2018) argues that
the mind is an engendered “space” where
neurologically constructed maps of the body,
feelings, thoughts, memories, and other sensoria
are integrated and experienced.
Feeling, and the Making of Cultures (Reprint edition). Vintage.
Damasio, A. (2019). The Strange Order of Things: Life,

– “The mind is made of images from the

representation of objects and events.”
– “Images are the universal token of mind.” 38 of 140
Engendered Narrative Space
In The Psychology of Narrative Thought,
psychologist Lee Roy Beach (2010) describes the
complex assembly that constitutes narrative
Beach, L. R. (2010). The Psychology of Narrative Thought: How the Stories We Tell Ourselves Shape Our Lives. United States: Xlibris

– “It is a rich mixture of memories, of visual, auditory,

and other cognitive images, all laced together by
emotions to form a mixture that far surpasses mere
words and visual images to capture context and
meaning.” (p. 22) 39 of 140
The Mindful Brain/Community
Doll, et. al. (2015) extend the metaphor of the
embodied mind to include a series of interacting
brain networks. Doll, A., Hölzel, B. K., Boucard, C. C., Wohlschläger, A. M., & Sorg, C. (2015). Mindfulness is associated
with intrinsic functional connectivity between default mode and salience networks. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9.

– “In the context of mindfulness and functional

connectivity there are three central neurocognitive
networks of interest: the default mode network
(DMN), salience network (SN) and the central
executive network (CEN).” 40 of 140
Embodied Themes
In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell (1988, p. 49)
and journalist Bill Moyers discuss what the myths
of premoderns and Romantics had to say about
the origins of thoughts, musings, and
imaginations. Campbell, J., & Moyers, B. (1988). The Power of Myth. New York: Anchor Books.

– “The imagination is grounded in the energy of the

organs of the body, and these are the same in all
human beings. Since imagination comes out of one
biological ground, it is bound to produce certain
themes.” 41 of 140
Philosophy in the Flesh
1.Embodiment of the Mind
– Mindfulness is sensorimotor.
2.Cognitive Unconscious
– Mindfulness exposes the unconscious voice.
3.Thought is Metaphorical
– Mindfulness uses metaphoric language.
4.Morality is about Human Well-Being
– Mindfulness engenders moral well-being. 42 of 140
Cognitive/Adaptive Unconscious
In Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the
Adaptive Unconscious, American social
psychologist Timothy D. Wilson (2002) describes the
adaptive unconscious.
Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Wilson, T. D. (2002). Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious.

– “Evolutionary adaptative nonconscious thinking

conveys the ability to size up our environments,
disambiguate them, interpret them, and initiate
behavior quickly and nonconsciously [thus
conferring] a survival advantage.” 43 of 140
Thinking Fast and Slow
In his book Thinking Fast and Slow psychologist
and Nobel laureate in economics Daniel
Kahneman (2013, p. 20) describes two systems of
thinking that he ties to heuristic methods, biased
thinking, and error detection.
York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Kahneman, D. (2013). Thinking, Fast and Slow (1st edition). New

– “System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with

little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.”
– “System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental
activities that demand it, including complex
computations and error detection.” 44 of 140
A Glimpse of the Unconscious
Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor (2008) describes
her stroke (1996) experience in My Stroke of
Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey.
Bolte-Taylor, J. (2008). My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Group.

– “My left hemisphere had been trained to perceive

myself as a solid, separate from others. Now,
released from that restrictive circuitry, my right
hemisphere relished in its attachment to the eternal
flow. I was no longer isolated and alone. My soul
was as big as the universe and frolicked with glee in
a boundless sea.”
– This is the result of a disinhibited right hemisphere. 45 of 140
Hemispheric Dominance
Rhawn Joseph (1992) concludes in The Right Brain
and the Unconscious: Discovering the
Stranger Within that the unconscious mind
resides in the “mute” right hemisphere.
and the Unconscious: Discovering the Stranger Within. New York, NY: Plenum Press.
Joseph, R. (1992). The Right Brain

– In Iain McGilchrist's (2019, p. 17) tome The Master

and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the
Making of the Western World we learn that the
corpus callosum contains an estimated 300–800
million fibers a large number of which actually
inhibit their contralateral counterparts. McGilchrist, I. (2019). The Master and
His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (2nd, New Expanded edition ed.). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 46 of 140
Corpus Callosum in Meditation
Luders et. al. (2012) in Bridging the Hemispheres
in Meditation found that long-term meditators
(upwards of 45 years) have enhanced fiber connectivity
within the anterior callosal tip occupied by the
forceps minor. Luders, E., Phillips, O. R., Clark, K., Kurth, F., Toga, A. W., & Narr, K. L. (2012). Bridging the Hemispheres in
Meditation: Thicker callosal regions and enhanced fractional anisotropy (FA) in long-term practitioners. Neuroimage, 61(1), 181–187.

– “Thicker callosal regions in meditators indicate

greater connectivity, possibly reflecting increased
hemispheric integration during cerebral processes
involving prefrontal regions.” 47 of 140
Diffusion MRI of the
Corpus Callosum

Diffusion MRI allows the

mapping of the diffusion
process of molecules, mainly
water, in biological tissues, in
vivo and non-invasively.

A special kind of D-MRI,

diffusion tensor imaging
(DTI), has been used
extensively to map white
matter tractography in the
Diffusion MRI. (2019). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from

Fitsiori, A., Nguyen, D., Karentzos, A., Delavelle, J., & Vargas, M. I. (2011). The corpus callosum: White matter or terra incognita. The British Journal of Radiology, 84(997), 5–
18. 48 of 140
In the Happiness Hypothesis, moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt (2006) likens
right brain consciousness to an elephant and that of the left brain to the mahout.
Haidt, J. (2006). The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. New York: Basic Books.

Midha, M. (2009). Mahout Bathing an Elephant, 49 of 140

India. Retrieved November 24, 2019, from National Geographic Photo of the Day website:
Philosophy in the Flesh
1.Embodiment of the Mind
– Mindfulness is sensorimotor.
2.Cognitive Unconscious
– Mindfulness exposes the unconscious voice.

3.Thought is Metaphorical
– Mindfulness uses metaphoric language.
4.Morality is about Human Well-Being
– Mindfulness engenders moral well-being. 50 of 140
Meta + Pherein
In the article Dementia As a Cultural Metaphor,
British gerontologist Hannah Zeilig (2014) defines
the saliency of metaphor in daily life.
Metaphor. The Gerontologist, 54(2), 258–267.
Zeilig, H. (2014). Dementia As a Cultural

– “A metaphor works by making an implicit

comparison between two unlike things; thus, what is
unfamiliar is described by something that is
– “Metaphors are not only essential to communication
but are also innately connected to the ways in
which we see and process the world.” 51 of 140
Kiki or Bouba?
In 1929 German-American psychologist
Wolfgang Köhler showed two figures to Spanish
speaking natives of the Canary Islands and asked
them which of two names applied to each of them.
Bouba/kiki effect. (2019). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from 52 of 140
Synesthetic Metaphors
Writing in I is an Other: The Secret Life of
Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See
the World,
World James Geary (2011) writes:
Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World (Reprint edition). New York: Harper Perennial.
Geary, J. (2011). I Is an Other: The Secret

Many of the metaphors we use every day are

synesthetic, describing one sensory experience
with vocabulary that belongs to another modality.
– “Silence is sweet; facial expressions are sour.
Sexually attractive people are hot; sexually
unattractive people leave us cold.”
– Along with pattern recognition, synesthesia may be
the neurological building block of metaphor. 53 of 140
Self as Metaphor
From Philosophy in the Flesh Lakoff and
Johnson (1999) make the syntactical and linguistic
argument that there are two general reference
points to a “person.” Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind & its Challenge
to Western Thought. New York, NY: Basic Books.

– The Subject is that part of the person that is

experiencing consciousness and is the locus of
reason, essence, will, and judgment.
– The Self/Selves are everything else not picked out
by the Subject such as the body, social roles, past
states, and actions in the world. 54 of 140 55 of 140
Photo Credit:
I-Me Sensory-Motor Metaphors
l f! I am ou
my s e t of m y
es i d e mind!
as b
I was turned upside down.
I am


tm I was taken aback
ys e

by the notion.

lf t o

e d! . elf!
li f t k
y s
up n m

a s p o
Iw ri



I can wrap my g et



mind around it. c a n

I 56 of 140
Neural Correlates of Metaphors
Schmidt and Seger (2009) demonstrate in Neural
Correlates of Metaphor Processing: The Roles
of Figurativeness, Familiarity and Difficulty
that comprehension of metaphor requires the
recruitment of brain processes located in the
prefrontal cortices (“I”) and the insula (“Me”). Schmidt, G. L., & Seger, C. A.
(2009). Neural Correlates of Metaphor Processing: The Roles of Figurativeness, Familiarity and Difficulty. Brain and Cognition, 71(3), 375–386.

– This confirms the contentions of Lakoff and

Johnson (1999) that metaphors especially of the
abstract inner world of the “self” are constructed
from sensory-motor mechanisms. 57 of 140
The Constructed Self
In The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain
Creates Identity the British developmental
psychologist Bruce Hood (2013) details the manner
in which the brain constructs a central figure or
protagonist in our inner narration.
Brain Creates Identity (Reprint edition). Oxford England; New York: Oxford University Press.
Hood, B. (2013). The Self Illusion: How the Social

– Based on current understanding across academic

disciplines, he suggests that our brains are
constructing simulations or stories to make sense of
our experiences while our memories mark the
passage of time. 58 of 140
Monophrenic (Modern) Narrative
In Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society
in the Late Modern Age, sociologist Anthony
Giddens (1991) describes the existential challenges
presented to identity formation in the transition
from modernity to postmodernity.
and Society in the Late Modern Age. Stanford University Press.
Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and Self Identity: Self

– “The existential question of self-identity is bound up

with the fragile nature of the biography that the
individual 'supplies' about herself.” (p. 54)
– “A person's identity is not to be found in behavior,
but in the capacity to keep a particular narrative
going.” (p. 54) 59 of 140
Multiphrenic (Postmodern) Narrative
In The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in
Contemporary Life, the psychologist Kenneth
Gergen (1991) investigates the fragmenting impact
of postmodern culture on a person's coherent
sense of identity. Gergen, K. (1991). The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life. New York: Basic Books.

– “In an important sense, as social saturation

proceeds we become pastiches, imitative
assemblages of each other.” (p. 71)
– “All the selves lie latent, and under the right
conditions may spring to life.” (p. 71) 60 of 140
My name is
legion ... 61 of 140
Photo Credit:
Where is the Self Located?
In 2001 the neuroradiologist Marcus Raichle's
pioneering studies in fMRI of the brain identified a
resting state/task negative brain network whose
main function was identified in self-referential
processes. Raichle, M. E. (2015). The Brain’s Default Mode Network. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 38(1), 433–447.

– This self-referential network became known as the

default mode network as it occupies itself with
daydreaming, mind wandering, stimulus-
independent thoughts and is our brain's default
state. 62 of 140
DMN Anatomy

Neurology. 2012 Dec 4;79(23):2226-32. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31827689d6. 63 of 140
DMN Functional Hubs
Posterior Cingulate Cortex (PCC) & Precuneus:
– Related to the self and others, remembering the past,
imagining the future. Andrews-Hanna, J. R., Smallwood, J., & Spreng, R. N. (2014). The default network and
self-generated thought: Component processes, dynamic control, and clinical relevance. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1316(1),

Angular Gyrus/TemporoParietal Junction:

– Connects perception, attention, spatial cognition, and
episodic memories.
Medial Prefrontal Cortex (mPFC) & Anterior
Cigulate Cortex (ACC):
– Decision making about self processing, considering
others, autobiographical memories, emotional
regulation, goalsetting, and reward. 64 of 140
Diffusion Tensor
Image of the DMN

Horn, A., Ostwald, D., Reisert, M., & Blankenburg,

F. (2014). The structural–functional connectome
and the default mode network of the human brain.
NeuroImage, 102, 142–151. 65 of 140
DMN through the LifeCycle
Writing in the Journal of Psychiatry and
Neuroscience Judith Daniels (2011) notes the
developmental course of the default mode. Daniels, J. (2011).
Default mode alterations in posttraumatic stress disorder related to early-life trauma: A developmental perspective. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, 36(1),

– Infants demonstrate a lack of anterior–posterior

integration due to less well-developed white matter
– By 1 year of age anterior–posterior integration
begins to emerge.
– By 9 years of age, the default mode network
anterior–posterior integration appears comparable
to adult integration levels. 66 of 140
Function of the DMN
Cognitive Scientist from the University of Colorado
at Boulder Jessica Andrews-Hanna (2012) describes
the role of the DMN in internal mentation. Andrews-Hanna, J. R.
(2012). The Brain’s Default Network and Its Adaptive Role in Internal Mentation. The Neuroscientist, 18(3), 251–270.

Neurological basis for the self:

– Autobiographical information and self-reference,
Thinking about others:
– Theory of mind, empathy, basic moral reasoning,
interpersonal evaluations
Remembering the past and Imagining the future:
– Episodic memory and story comprehension 67 of 140
Mirror Neurons
Molnar-Szakacs and Uddin (2013) discuss how the
privileged access we have to our own physical
and mental states allows us to gain insight into
others’ physical and mental states (mental state
attribution or theory of mind) through the
processes of embodiment and mentalizing. Molnar-Szakacs, I., &
Uddin, L. Q. (2013). Self-Processing and the Default Mode Network: Interactions with the Mirror Neuron System. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7.

– These cognitive processes are supported at the

neural level by two large-scale, interacting
networks, the mirror neuron system (MNS) and the
DMN, respectively. 68 of 140
Neural Basis of Empathy
In his book Mirroring People: The New Science
of How We Connect with Others neurologist and
neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni (2009) makes the
argument that it is through the mirror neuron
system and its extensive neural connections that
we have the ability to simulate the feelings and
presumptive thoughts of others.
Empathy and How We Connect with Others (First edition). New York: Picador.
Iacoboni, M. (2009). Mirroring People: The Science of 69 of 140
Mindfulness and Empathy
Lamothe et. al. (2016) conducted a meta-analysis
examining the impact of MBSR® on empathy in
health care providers across 39 separate studies.
Lamothe, M., Rondeau, É., Malboeuf-Hurtubise, C., Duval, M., & Sultan, S. (2016). Outcomes of MBSR or MBSR-based interventions in health care providers: A
systematic review with a focus on empathy and emotional competencies. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 24, 19–28.

– Their analysis demonstrated that MBSR® improved

cognitive empathy (not emotional empathy) over three key
emotional competencies: identification of one's own
emotions, identification of other's emotions, and
emotional acceptance of self and others. 70 of 140
Mind Wandering
In The Craving Mind, psychiatrist/neuroscientist
Judson Brewer (2017) describes the role of the
default mode network and the wandering mind.
J. (2017). The Craving Mind. New Haven: Yale University Press.

– “Recent work has shown that when people are

asked to do nothing (in an fMRI scanner while their
brain activity is being measured), they default to
mind wandering, and much of those wandering
thoughts take the form of an ongoing narrative
about oneself, “the story of me,” we could say: my
future, my past, my successes, my failures, and so
forth.” 71 of 140
Zhu, et. al. (2017) examined the correlation between
the default mode network and rumination in young
medication-naïve patients with major depressive
disorder (MDD). Zhu, X., Zhu, Q., Shen, H., Liao, W., & Yuan, F. (2017). Rumination and Default Mode Network Subsystems
Connectivity in First-episode, Drug-Naive Young Patients with Major Depressive Disorder. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 43105.

They found that:

– The MDD patients showed increased intra-DMN
network connectivity and decreased inter-system
connectivity. 72 of 140
Automaticity of Thought
Krishnan et. al. (2018) discuss the source of the
automaticity that drives the resting state activities
of the default mode network. Krishnan, G. P., González, O. C., & Bazhenov, M. (2018). Origin of
slow spontaneous resting-state neuronal fluctuations in brain networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(26), 6858–6863.

– Using computational modeling, it was shown that

spontaneous resting-state fluctuations arise from
dynamic ion concentrations and are influenced by
the Na+/K+ pump, glial K+ buffering, and
glutaminergic and GABAergic synaptic currents.
– Intrinsic, task negative thought may be as
spontaneous as breathing. 73 of 140
Whistling Teakettle
In the Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond
Yourself, Michael Singer (2013) gives a
metaphorical explanation for our mind wandering
and ruminations.
edition). Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Singer, M. A. (2013). The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself (Gift Edition w/ Ribbon Marker

– “The mental voice talks for the same reason

that a teakettle whistles. That is, there’s a
buildup of energy inside that needs to be

Photo Credit: ID 151360123 © Chernetskaya | 74 of 140

FAM and the DMN
In fMRI studies, focused attention meditation
(FAM), Fujino et. al. (2018) have demonstrated a
reduction in the connectivity between the anterior
medial prefrontal cortex (amPFC) and posterior
cingulate cortex (PCC)/precuneus, which are core
hubs of the DMN. Fujino, M., Ueda, Y., Mizuhara, H., Saiki, J., & Nomura, M. (2018). Open monitoring meditation reduces
the involvement of brain regions related to memory function. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 9968.

– “Activity in the anterior insula and dorsal anterior

cingulate cortex (ACC) increases at moments when
meditators realize their mind is wandering during
FAM.” 75 of 140
OMM and the DMN
Fujino et. al. (2018) have shown that open
monitoring meditation (OMM) reduces activity in
the hippocampus and the retrosplenial cortex
“memory gateway” which are DMN components
associated with self-reference in the past and
future. Fujino, M., Ueda, Y., Mizuhara, H., Saiki, J., & Nomura, M. (2018). Open monitoring meditation reduces the involvement of brain regions
related to memory function. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 9968. AND Kaboodvand, N., Bäckman, L., Nyberg, L., &
Salami, A. (2018). The retrosplenial cortex: A memory gateway between the cortical default mode network and the medial temporal lobe. Human Brain Mapping,
39(5), 2020–2034.

– “Meditators who practice OMM develop a more

acute, but less emotionally reactive awareness of
their experiences, including the autobiographical
sense of identity that projects back into the past and
forward into the future.” 76 of 140
DMN & Retrosplenial Cortex

Episodic Memory &

Emotion (Amygdala)

Neurology. 2012 Dec 4;79(23):2226-32. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31827689d6. 77 of 140
Emptiness or Murder
In the Prajñaparamita Heart Sutra
Avalokiteśvara Buddha finds that all things are
empty of a separate sense of self.
Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra. Berkeley, Calif: Parallax Press.
Hanh, T. N. (1988). The Heart of Understanding:

In Philippians the Christ chooses emptiness.

“Have this mind (phroneo) in you … but emptied
(kenosis) himself …” (Php 2:5-7 ASV)
In July 2011, Anders Behring Breivik used a form
of Zen meditation to numb the full spectrum of his
emotions and kill 77 people in Norway. Staff, B. the C. W. (n.d.). Norway’s
Breivik gives chilling account of gun massacre. Retrieved November 9, 2019, from CNN website:
trial/index.html 78 of 140
Etymologically the term “salience” derives from (L)
“salire” meaning to leap or spring forward.
Concise Dictionary of English Eytmology (1st ed.). London: Wordsworth Reference.
Skeat, W. (2007).

The nervous system dynamically selects specific

stimuli for additional processing from a constant
stream of incoming sensory inputs.
Mapping (pp. 597–611).
Menon, V. (2015). Salience Network. In Brain

– Bottom-Up Salience of perceptual information

– Top-Down Salience of conceptual information 79 of 140
Salience Network
Stamford neuroscientist Vinod Menon (2015)
describes the Salience Network as follows.
Salience Network. In Brain Mapping (pp. 597–611).
Menon, V. (2015).

– The SN is an intrinsically connected large-scale

network anchored in the insula and anterior
cingulate cortex (ACC) and may include portions of
the somatosensory cortex.
– The SN also includes three key subcortical
structures: the amygdala, the ventral
striatum/nucleus accumbens, and the substantia
nigra/ventral tegmental area.
– The SN is concerned with alerting and orienting
attentional resources. 80 of 140
Salience is mediated through
dopaminergic and reward

Arias-Carrión, O., Stamelou, M., Murillo-Rodríguez, E., Menéndez-González, M., & Pöppel, E. (2010). Dopaminergic reward system: A short integrative review.
International Archives of Medicine, 3, 24. 81 of 140
Nekovarova, T., Fajnerova, I., Horacek, J., & Spaniel, F. (2014). Bridging disparate symptoms of schizophrenia: A
triple network dysfunction theory. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8. 82 of 140
Meditation & Network Toggling
Lippelt et. al. (2014) examined the toggling
mechanism during mind wandering. Lippelt, D. P., Hommel, B., & Colzato, L. S.
(2014). Focused attention, open monitoring and loving kindness meditation: Effects on attention, conflict monitoring, and creativity – A review. Frontiers in
Psychology, 5.

– The moment of awareness of mind-wandering was

associated with increased activity in the ACC.
– As the mind starts to wander during meditation, the
ACC detects this “error” and feeds it back to
executive control networks so that attention can be
refocused. 83 of 140
Mindfulness and Salience
Froeliger, et. al. (2012) demonstrated that functional
connectivity of both the meditation and resting
states are increased in the salience network of
mindfulness practitioners. Froeliger, B., Garland, E. L., Kozink, R. V., Modlin, L. A., Chen, N.-K.,
McClernon, F. J., … Sobin, P. (2012). Meditation-State Functional Connectivity (msFC): Strengthening of the Dorsal Attention Network and Beyond [Research

– “Such changes in functional connectivity may be

reflective of increased trait mindfulness, cortical and
subcortical remodeling via neuroplasticity, and
fundamental changes to the sense of self over time
resulting from repeated mindfulness practice.” 84 of 140
Embodied Angst
In The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and
Ethics sociologist Arthur Frank (2013) discusses
how the body gives language to the socially
muzzled need for expression.
Ethics, Second Edition (Second edition). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Frank, A. W. (2013). The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and

– “The body is not mute, but it is inarticulate; it does

not use speech, yet begets it. The speech that the
body begets includes illness stories; the problem of
hearing these stories is to hear the body speaking
in them.” (Frank, 2013, p. 27) 85 of 140
Fidgeting and Salience
Carriere, et. al. (2013) report that involuntary mind
wandering and decreased attentional states are
directly correlated with fidgeting. Carriere, J. S. A., Seli, P., & Smilek, D. (2013).
Wandering in both mind and body: Individual differences in mind wandering and inattention predict fidgeting. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology/Revue
Canadienne de Psychologie Expérimentale, 67(1), 19–31.

– “[I]t seems an individual who has a mind that tends

to spontaneously wander away from the task at
hand likely has a body that tends to wander as
– This directly relates to tells and body language that
reveal unconscious states. Navarro, J. (2008). What Every Body is Saying. New York:
HarperCollins Publishing. 86 of 140
Salience in Mindfulness Practice
Change in HR,
Breathing Pattern,
Body Tension,
Posture, Fidgeting*

Insula/ Prefrontal
ACC Cortex

* Seli, P., Carriere, J. S. A., Thomson, D. R., Cheyne, J. A., Martens, K. A. E., & Smilek, D. (2014). Restless mind, restless body. Journal of Experimental Psychology:
Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(3), 660–668. 87 of 140
What to Do When Wandering
In Practical Zen, JD Skinner (2017, p. 32) describes
the quintessential and time-honored technique to
redirect the wandering mind.
Philadelphia: Singing Dragon.
Skinner, J. D. (2017). Practical Zen: Meditation and Beyond. London ;

– “As you sit in meditation, the center of your

attention is the breath, but now, rather than cutting
off thoughts, feelings and perceptions, you simply
allow them to arise and pass. Whenever you
become distracted and lose your breath focus, you
gently come back.”
– The short answer is to re-engage in executive
control. 88 of 140
Executive/Attention Network
Heinonen et. al. (2016) identify the prominent
components of the executive/attention networks.
Heinonen, J., Numminen, J., Hlushchuk, Y., Antell, H., Taatila, V., & Suomala, J. (2016). Default Mode and Executive Networks Areas: Association with the Serial
Order in Divergent Thinking. PLOS ONE, 11(9), e0162234.

– Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (dlPFC)

– Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC)
Brown et. al. (2019) also include the following when
considering the executive/attention networks. Brown, C. A.,
Schmitt, F. A., Smith, C. D., & Gold, B. T. (2019). Distinct patterns of default mode and executive control network circuitry contribute to present and future
executive function in older adults. NeuroImage, 195, 320–332.

– Lateral Parietal Cortices (LPC) including the TPJ

– Middle Temporal Gyri (MTG) 89 of 140
Role of the CEN
In Mindfulness Meditation Training and
Executive Control Network Resting State
Functional Connectivity, Taren et. al. (2017)
identify the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC)
as the key region in the central executive network
which is broadly implicated in the regulation of
attention, decision making, working memory, and
cognitive control, and the control of emotional
behavior. Taren, A. A., Gianaros, P. J., Greco, C. M., Lindsay, E. K., Fairgrieve, A., Brown, K. W., … Creswell, J. D. (2017). Mindfulness
Meditation Training and Executive Control Network Resting State Functional Connectivity: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Psychosomatic Medicine, 79(6), 674–
683. 90 of 140
Mindfulness and the CEN
Additionally, Taren et. al. (2017) review the growing
body of literature that shows the dlPFC is active
during meditative states during FAM and OMM
practices. Taren, A. A., Gianaros, P. J., Greco, C. M., Lindsay, E. K., Fairgrieve, A., Brown, K. W., … Creswell, J. D. (2017). Mindfulness
Meditation Training and Executive Control Network Resting State Functional Connectivity: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Psychosomatic Medicine, 79(6), 674–

– “This suggests a dlPFC-specific pathway by which

mindfulness may encourage executive control.” 91 of 140
Mindfulness and Metacognition
In Meta-Cognition in Mindfulness: A
Conceptual Analysis, Dilwar Hussain (2015) details
metacognition as “the awareness of the flowing
qualia” while relating it to mindfulness.
Mindfulness: A Conceptual Analysis. Psychological Thought, 8(2), 132–141.
Hussain, D. (2015). Meta-Cognition in

– “[I]n the state of meta-cognitive awareness

'thoughts are seen as passing events (existential) in
the mind rather than as inherent aspects (essential)
of self or as necessarily valid reflections of reality.'”
– “Mindfulness facilitates cognitive restructuring.” 92 of 140
Where is Metacognition Located?
In “The Neural System of Metacognition
Accompanying Decision-Making in the
Prefrontal Cortex” Qiu, et. al. (2018) using fMRI
technology located metacognition squarely in the
lateral frontopolar cortex (lFPC) in conjunction
with the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Qiu, L., Su, J., Ni, Y., Bai, Y.,
Zhang, X., Li, X., & Wan, X. (2018). The neural system of metacognition accompanying decision-making in the prefrontal cortex. PLOS Biology, 16(4), e2004037.

– Interestingly, metacognition appears to concern

itself with decision-making and coping with
– Metacognition allows us to view our thoughts
objectively through distance and delay. 93 of 140
Dumontheil, I. (2014). Development of abstract thinking during childhood and adolescence:
The role of rostrolateral prefrontal cortex. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 10, 57–76. 94 of 140
Distance and Delay Part 1
In The Master and His Emissary: The Divided
Brain and the Making of the Western World,
Iain McGilchrist (2019, p. 257) describes how the
mature prefrontal lobes underwrite our ability “to
stand back from our world, and from ourselves.”
McGilchrist, I. The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, 2nd, New Expanded edition ed.; Yale University Press: New
Haven, CT, 2019.

– “This standing back enables us to see so much

more of whatever is – it unfolds, makes explicit, our
understanding; but once this has happened it
expands the capacity of the right hemisphere to
reintegrate this understanding implicitly.” (p. 260) 95 of 140
The McGilchrist Cycle
Frontal Poles:
Distance, Delay, Objectivity

Left Hemisphere: Right Hemisphere:

Literal, Partial, Re-Presented Implicit, Tacit, Holistic
(System 2 Thinking) (System 1 Thinking)

The distance, delay, and objectivity of the frontal poles should not be
mistaken for the psychological coping mechanism of dissociation.

McGilchrist, I. The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, 2nd, New Expanded edition ed.; Yale University Press: New
Haven, CT, 2019. 96 of 140
The Compassionate Brain
Chierchia and Singer (2017) make a comparative
assessment of the neurological substrates of both
empathy and compassion. Chierchia, G., & Singer, T. (2017). Chapter 20:The Neuroscience of
Compassion and Empathy and Their Link to Prosocial Motivation and Behavior. In J.-C. Dreher & L. Tremblay (Eds.), Decision Neuroscience (pp. 247–257).

– Empathy engages a network of brain areas

centered around the insula and anterior cingulate
– Compassionate states are associated with activity
in the medial orbitofrontal cortex and limbic
structures vis-à-vis the ventral striatum bringing
feelings of warmth, concern, and positive affect. 97 of 140
Mindfulness and Compassion
Emerging evidence suggests that meditation
engenders prosocial behaviors meant to benefit
others. Lim et. al. (2015) used a mobile app to teach
mindfulness which was tested in a lab against
control. Lim, D., Condon, P., & DeSteno, D. (2015). Mindfulness and Compassion: An Examination of Mechanism and Scalability. PLOS ONE,
10(2), e0118221.

– They found that mindfully trained subjects were

more likely to offer their seat to an “injured”
confederate than were the controls suggesting that
compassion is enhanced by mindfulness training.
● or
was used for training. 98 of 140
Philosophy in the Flesh
1.Embodiment of the Mind
– Mindfulness is sensorimotor.
2.Cognitive Unconscious
– Mindfulness exposes the unconscious voice.
3.Thought is Metaphorical
– Mindfulness uses metaphoric language.
4.Morality is about Human Well-Being
– Mindfulness engenders moral well-being. 99 of 140
An Embodied Morality
Lakoff and Johnson (1999) have studied and found
that metaphors pertaining to moral concepts are
grounded in the nature of our bodies and social
interactions, and they are anything but arbitrary
and unconstrained.
Western Thought. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind & its Challenge to

– Morality typically concerns the promotion of the

well-being of others and the avoidance or
prevention of harm to others.
● e.g. upright, unbalanced, unhinged
– This is supported by folk theory and studies of the
morality of infants and toddlers (See Bloom, 2011). 100 of 140

Neuroethics: Just Babies
Yale developmental psychologist Paul Bloom (2013)
discusses the innate sense of justice and moral
code of infants (as young as 3 month old) in his book Just
Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil.
The Origins of Good and Evil. New York: Random House LLC.
Bloom, P. (2013). Just Babies:

– “What I am proposing is that certain moral

foundations are not acquired through learning.
They do not come from the mother’s knee, or from
school or church; they are instead the products of
biological evolution.” (Bloom, 2011, p. 8) 101 of 140

Embodied Morality is Maturational
According to McAdams (1993) moral development is
tied to maturational stages across the life cycle.
McAdams, D. (1993). The Stories We Live by: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self. New York: The Guilford Press.

– “Early on, children see moral, legal, interpersonal,

political, and religious issues from a very concrete
and self-centered point of view – what is good is
good for me alone; a friend is a person who is nice
to me; political leaders are either all good or all
bad.” (p. 89) Caudal Thinking
– “In middle stages, children and adolescents adopt a
more complex social perspective as they come to
realize that individual needs and viewpoints must
be balanced against those of groups and society as
a whole.” (p. 89) Rostral Thinking 102 of 140
Mindfulness and Morality
Shapiro, Jazaieri & Goldin (2012) looked at the
effects of mindfulness training on moral reasoning.
The foundation of moral reasoning rests on
awareness. Mindfulness helps one cultivate this
awareness. Shapiro, S. L., Jazaieri, H., & Goldin, P. R. (2012). Mindfulness-based stress reduction effects on moral reasoning and
decision making. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7(6), 504–515.

– “Mindfulness training resulted in improvements in

moral reasoning and ethical decision making,
mindful attention, emotion, and well-being.” 103 of 140 104 of 140
Benefits of Mindfulness
In The Healing Power of Mindfulness: A New
Way of Being author and mindfulness teacher
Jon Kabat-Zinn (2018) makes a sweeping look at the
health benefits derived from practicing MBSR®.
Zinn, J. (2018). The Healing Power of Mindfulness: A New Way of Being. Hachette Books.

– Of particular interest is the scaled nature of his

– Benefits range from genetic to cellular to tissue to
organ to organ system to emotional and
psychological levels.
– He leaves no stone unturned and dispels doubts
before the reader can formulate any. 105 of 140 106 of 140
Stress Hijacks the PFC
Yale University neurobiologist Amy Arnsten (2010)
discusses the stress signaling pathways that
impair prefrontal cortex structure and function in
an article of the same name. Arnsten, A. F. T. (2009). Stress signalling pathways that impair
prefrontal cortex structure and function. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 10(6), 410–422.

– During stress, orchestration of the brain’s response

patterns switches from slow, thoughtful PFC
regulation to the reflexive and rapid emotional
responses of the amygdala and related subcortical
structures. (System 1 Thinking of Kahneman)
– The amygdala also biases us towards habitual
motor responding rather than flexible, spatial
navigation. 107 of 140
Executive Control Curve
Executive Failure

Executive PFC
Activity Bridge


I consider MW and RUM as

Executive Control remnants of bicameraltiy.
Stress (sse Jaynes, 1976) 108 of 140

The Cost of Mindlessness
According to Daniel Siegel (2007) if our attention is
on something other than what we are doing for
most of our lives we can come to feel empty and
Siegel, D. (2007). The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being (1 edition). New York: W. W. Norton &

– This places us at risk of mindlessly reacting to

situations without reflecting on various options of
– The result can often be knee-jerk reactions that in
turn initiate similar mindless reflexes in others.
– A cascade of reinforcing mindlessness can create a
world of thoughtless interactions, cruelty, and
destruction. 109 of 140
In his book McMindfulness: How
Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist
Spirituality management professor
Ronald Purser (2019) explains
– “We are told that if we practice mindfulness,
and get our individual lives in order, we can
be happy and secure. It is therefore implied
that stable employment, home ownership,
social mobility, career success and equality
will naturally follow.” Purser (2019, p.44)
Purser, R. (2019). McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality. London: Repeater Books. 110 of 140

The Neoliberal Joke Is On You
“As a tool of self-discipline, mindfulness is the
latest capitalist spirituality, unifying a quest for
productivity and corporate profits with individual
peace and self-fulfillment.” (Purser 2019, p. 133)
McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality. London: Repeater Books.
Purser, R. (2019).

– “By directing attention inward, courses such as

Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” deflect wandering
minds from questions of power or political economy;
external conditions are simply accepted as they
– This makes mindfulness a tool of oppression and
not liberation. 111 of 140


Photo Credit: ID 49920361 © Nostone | 112 of 140

Witness the Chaos
In her book The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You
Grow Older, psychotherapist and hospice worker
Kathleen Dowling Singh (2014) tells us that
awakening to our inner chaos is an important step
toward clarity and grace in aging.
Awaken as You Grow Older. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.
Dowling Singh, K. (2014). The Grace in Aging:

– “Chaos is what we discover when we begin to look

under the hood.” (p. 50)
– “Chaos is the mind of the self, of selfing, of
unconscious habit patterns run wild.” (p. 49) 113 of 140

Watching the Breath
Originally published in 1970, Zen Mind,
Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki is a
transcribed series of talks that detail the practice
of zen meditation or zazen. The practice hinges
on the breath. Suzuki, S., Smith, H., Baker, R., & Chadwick, D. (2011). Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen
Meditation and Practice (9/19/11 edition; T. Dixon, Ed.). Boston: Shambhala.

– “When we practice zazen our mind always follows

our breathing.”
– “If you think, 'I breathe,' the 'I' is extra.”
– “So when we practice zazen, all that exists is the
movement of the breathing, but we are aware of
this movement.” 114 of 140
Zen: Sit Quietly, Do Nothing
In The Way of Zen by Alan Watts (1957) the
practice of zen meditation is outlined in its most
austere form for the Western mind. The key to
successful practice is to see through the illusion of
the self/ego. Watts, A. (1957). The Way of Zen. New York: Pantheon Books.

– “To make an end of the illusion, the mind must stop

trying to act upon itself, upon its stream of
experiences, from the standpoint of the idea of itself
which we call the ego.”
– Zen poem: Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring
comes, and the grass grows by itself. 115 of 140

I'd Rather Hurt Myself
In a 2014 study published in Science titled Just
Think: The Challenges of the Disengaged
Mind, the authors reviewed 11 studies and found
that subjects
– “typically did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in
a room by themselves with nothing to do but think,
that they enjoyed doing mundane external activities
much more, and that many preferred to administer
electric shocks to themselves instead of being left
alone with their thoughts.” Wilson, T. D., Reinhard, D. A., Westgate, E. C., Gilbert, D. T., Ellerbeck,
N., Hahn, C., … Shaked, A. (2014). Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind. Science, 345(6192), 75–77. 116 of 140

Engage in Experiential Focus
Farb et. al. (2007) argue that experiential focus (EF)
calls for the inhibition of cognitive elaboration on
mental events in favor of broadly attending to
more temporally proximal sensory objects such as
canvassing thoughts, feelings and physical
sensations without selecting any one sensory
object. Farb, N. A. S., Segal, Z. V., Mayberg, H., Bean, J., McKeon, D., Fatima, Z., & Anderson, A. K. (2007). Attending to the present: Mindfulness
meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-reference. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2(4), 313–322.

– EF avoids rumination by disengaging attentional

processes of self-referential elaboration.
– YES! but how can this be done? 117 of 140

Distance and Delay Part II
Blakeslee and Blakeslee (2007) detail the brain's
ability to map the body's peripersonal space in
The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body
Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost)
Everything Better which may create distance
and delay while meditating. Blakeslee, S., & Blakeslee, M. (2007). The Body Has a Mind of Its Own:
How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks.

– “Your self does not end where your flesh ends, but
suffuses and blends with the world, including other
– “Your peripersonal space is like an amoeba, it
expands and contracts to suit your goals and
makes you master of your world.” 118 of 140
Body Transfer Illusion
Body transfer illusion. (2019). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from

Rubber Hand Illusion (Metaphor)

“Projection of Ownership”

Kállai, J., Hegedüs, G., Feldmann, Á., Rózsa, S., Darnai, G., Herold, R., … Szolcsányi, T. (2015). Temperament and psychopathological syndromes specific susceptibility for
rubber hand illusion. Psychiatry Research, 229(1), 410–419. 119 of 140

“Narrative” Transfer Illusion
Put your thoughts at arm's length 120 of 140

Bicamerality Revisited
In his paradigm shifting book, The Origins of
Consciousness and the Breakdown of the
Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes (1976) posits from
an extensive analysis of writings that the mind of
ancient man was bicameral until about 1500 BCE.
Jaynes, J. (1976). The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1st edition). Toronto: Houghton Mifflin Company.

– “[T]he speech of the gods was directly organized in

what corresponds to Wernicke’s area on the right
hemisphere and ‘spoken’ or ‘heard’ over the
anterior commissures to or by the auditory areas of
the left temporal lobe.” (p.105)
– This right hemisphere derived “speech” was
interpreted as originating from outside oneself. 121 of 140
Bicameral Breakdown
According to Jaynes (1976), sometime after 1500
BCE the bicameral mind “broke down” resulting in
functional, interhemispheric “fusion.”
– The left brain asserted hemispheric dominance
through conscious use of speech and
– Much of this inner voice takes the form of mind
wandering and rumination which is often
– This excludes any sense of thought insertion or
alien control as seen in schizophrenia. Walsh, E., Oakley, D. A., Halligan, P.
W., Mehta, M. A., & Deeley, Q. (2015). The functional anatomy and connectivity of thought insertion and alien control of movement. Cortex, 64,
380–393. 122 of 140

Bicameral Mind/Original Mind
Perhaps projection of one's inner
narrative into the peripersonal space
while under the direction of the
prefrontal cortex allows for a
catharsis from the tyranny of mind
wandering and rumination. 123 of 140

Sensed Presence Phenomena
Mirror Neurons
Left-TPJ Activation
Mental State Attribution
interhemispheric intrusions

Psychological Projection
Misattribution of Inner
Speech (Hallucination)

Idol Worship
Third Man Factor
Guardian Angels
Ghosts 124 of 140
Photo Credit: ID 101065964 © Lmarc1 |
Right Hemispheric Intrusion (?)
In 1992 Michael Persinger demonstrated that a
“sensed presence” could be fostered through
meditation (70% TM). Persinger, M. A. (1992). Enhanced incidence of “the sensed presence” in people who have learned to
meditate: Support for the right hemispheric intrusion hypothesis. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 75(3 Pt 2), 1308–1310.

– “The experience of a sensed presence is

associated with the transient intrusion of the right
hemispheric equivalent of the left hemispheric
sense of self.” 125 of 140

Voluntary OBE
Smith and Messier (2014) report on a single fMRI
capture of a 24 year old woman who could
voluntarily induce OBE experiences. Smith, A. M., & Messier, C. (2014).
Voluntary Out-of-Body Experience: An fMRI Study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8.

– “Activations were mainly left-sided and involved the

left supplementary motor area and the temporal
parietal junction that has been associated with
out-of-body experiences.” 126 of 140

The Last Time You Went Swimming

Let this guy

deal with your
thoughts, feels,
and emotions.

Give this guy

a break! 127 of 140

You're leaking. 128 of 140

You've Been Warned
In How to Read a Book: The Art of Getting a
Liberal Education, the philosopher Mortimer J.
Adler (1940) warns us that we have become
mentally overstimulated and are awash in a rising
sea of information. He laments that we can now
listen to the radio while driving our cars! (Adler, 1940, p.
4) Adler, M. J. (1940). How to Read a Book: The Art of Getting a Liberal Education. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

– There is a sense in which we moderns are

inundated with facts to the detriment of
understanding. 129 of 140

Antidote: Desaturate the Self
Writing in The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of
Identity in Contemporary Life, Kenneth Gergen
(1991) puts his finger on the postmodern pathology
that plagues us. Gergen, K. (1991). The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life. New York: Basic Books.

– “Increasingly we emerge as the possessors of

many voices. Each self maintains a multiplicity of
others, singing different melodies, different verses,
and with different rhythms. Nor do these voices
necessarily harmonize.” (p. 83)
– We must desaturate the saturated self. 130 of 140

Often I describe my own practice like that of a “big
cat in the tall grass.” Like a top predator, keep
your senses fixed on the target.
– Watch/Listen to the narrative with curiosity at a
distance. (Distance  Peripersonal Space)
– Allow the narrative to unfold without hindrance.
– Note the automatic and recurring nature of the
inner narrative.
– Transcend/Transfer/Disengage from the narrative
structures of yourself and society. 131 of 140

Photo Credit: ID 132572737 © Ondřej Prosický | 132 of 140
The Meditative Attitude
In a series of talks transcribed in the book
Choiceless Awareness: Meditation Without
Practice, J. Krishnamurti (2007) said that choiceless
awareness is freedom from condemnation,
justification, and identification (p. 22).
Meditation Without Practice (eBook). Ojai, California: Krishnamurti Foundation.
Krishnamurti, J. (2007). Choiceless Awareness:

– When you are vitally interested in fully

understanding something, you give your mind and
heart, withholding nothing. But unfortunately you
are conditioned, educated, disciplined through
religious and social environment to condemn or to
identify, and not to understand. 133 of 140

In the book The Eye of the I from Which
Nothing is Hidden, psychiatrist David R. Hawkins
(2001) encourages the reader to seek the source of
their 'true identity' through a process of surrender
and non-attachment of positionalities.
from which Nothing is Hidden. Sedona, AZ: Veritas Publishing.
Hawkins, D. R. (2001). The Eye of the I

– Positionalities are clever, narrative, defense

mechanisms deployed to protect and preserve the
– “As positionality ceases, one becomes aware that it
was the source of all prior miseries, fears, and
unhappiness and that every positionality is
inherently in error.” 134 of 140
What to Do If
If you have difficulty maintaining yourself in Open
Monitoring Meditation (OMM),
– switch to Focused Attention Meditation (FAM)
techniques until your mind has calmed down
– then switch back to OMM.
Some tips for a wandering mind
– Focus on the breath, repeat a mantram, move your
eyes under closed lids, allow a narrow shaft of light
into your eyes, experiment with your peripersonal
space (i.e., rubber hand illusion) 135 of 140

A Call to Moral Well-Being

I think anybody who has observed, even if only a

little, what is going on in the world, can also,
without a great deal of intellectual study, observe
and find out in himself those things which,
projected outwardly, are the causes
of this extraordinary brutality,
callousness, indifference, and
violence. The major cause of violence | J. Krishnamurti. (n.d.). Retrieved July 31, 2019, from

The “teleos” of mindfulness is

morality and compassion. 136 of 140
You cannot have for yourself
what you would otherwise deny to another. 137 of 140

Compassion Meditation
In The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness,
and Peace psychologist and meditation teacher
Jack Kornfield reveals the basic meditation for
cultivating compassion.
edition). New York: Bantam.
Kornfield, J. (2002). The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace (1st Edition

– “May I be held in compassion. May I be free from

pain and sorrow. May I be at peace.”
– “May you be held in compassion. May you be free
from pain and sorrow. May you be at peace.”
– Can be done for those you love and those with
whom you are at odds. 138 of 140

Eventually you will see that the real cause of
problems is not life itself. It’s the commotion the
mind makes about life that really causes
problems. (Singer, 2013, p. 10)

Singer, M. A. (2013). The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself (Gift Edition w/ Ribbon Marker edition). Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications. 139 of 140

Thank You
MCPA District II
Dr. Russell Matthias
Dr. Robert Riley
Dr. Ragan Fairchild-Bonci
Mark Jankelow, BA, MSN 140 of 140

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