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Lions Roar : March 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN MArcH 2010 75 The backbone of the book is a section on discerning seven types of hunger (eye, nose, mouth, stomach, cellular, mind, and heart) and how to satisfy each. There are also simple guidelines for mind- ful eating (including how to tame the “inner critic”) and cultivat- ing gratitude—the key to feeling sated. My favorite mindfulness book from the past year, Mindful Eating shows us dieting as a way of not-fighting and lets us know how rewarding it can be to pay mindful attention to food and drink. Her spoken instructions are included in a 75-minute CD that accompanies the book. In Mindful Economics: How the U.S. Economy Works, Why it Matters, and How it Could be Different (Seven Stories Press), Joel Magnuson doesn’t instruct us in how to practice mindful- ness and do a better job with our household budget. This is a big-picture book. Magnuson’s three core values of a mindful economy are environmental sustainability, social justice, and stability. Since meditation is not discussed, is this simply pro- gressive economics with the label “mindful” tagged on to give it cachet? That’s a popular trick these days, but my reading of the book tells me that’s not the case here. It’s an ambitious book that paints the picture of our macroeconomic world—stocks and bonds, monetary and trade policies, and so on. It’s a shadow ver- sion of the big textbook Economics by Paul Samuelson that the MBAs read. But when he gets down to the nub, Magnuson places at the center of his view of how to live “economically” the abil- ity to see clearly, to let discursive chatter go, and to see interde- pendent connections. It’s not the last word on how mindfulness and money interact, but Mindful Economics makes a worthwhile contribution to a dialogue we need to be having. The earliest studies in neuroscience emerged from trying to figure out what was going on in people with damaged brains, so it’s no surprise that psychiatrist Daniel J. Siegel’s Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation (Bantam Books) opens with a story of a young family Siegel was treating that was trauma- tized by the brain damage the mother sustained in a car accident. Working on such cases led Siegel to start the field of interperson- al neurobiology, which focuses attention on how our brains are shaped by our human interactions (think of child-rearing). In a AfTEr PEruSINg MY quICklY ExPANDINg collection of books relating to mindfulness, I have selected several to share with you. We’ll start off with Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life (Penguin Press) by Winifred gallagher, an accomplished behavioral science writer whose books have a breezy style rich with detail and literary allusions. A few years ago she was diagnosed with a form of cancer that threatened her life. quot- ing Samuel Johnson on how the prospect of hanging focuses the mind, gallagher talks about how learning to focus—to let go of distraction and choose what to attend to—was vital in helping her navigate months of chemotherapy, surgery, and daily radia- tion treatments. Her realization that “your life is the sum of what you focus on” became the inspiration for this book. Rapt—which takes its title from a slightly hoary word describing intense ab- sorption—begins with a survey of what psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience have said and are saying now about attention. Taking us on an imaginary walk through New York’s Central Park and the nearby frick Museum, she explores the differences between bottom-up attending—responding to immediate stim- uli that literally “grab our attention” (a skill that clearly helps us to survive)—and top-down attending, or organizing the world in finely honed frameworks that tell us what to see (essential to avoid swimming in chaos). The latter part of the book explores the work of richie Davidson on the power of meditators to alter brain function and richard Nisbett’s studies of cultural differ- ences in perception. (A Chinese graduate student told Nisbett, “You and I think about the world completely differently. You think it’s a line, and I think it’s a circle.”) The book concludes with a visit to a Jon kabat-Zinn program at Omega Institute, a sit-down with Dugu Choegyal rinpoche (the monk who ap- peared on the cover of National Geographic with wires coming out of his head), and a discussion of “savoring”—learning to en- joy. As a layperson’s tour of the benefits of focusing the mind, Rapt is a rich and timely offering. Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food (Shambhala Publications) by Jan Chozen Bays is all about savoring, and it provides both detailed insight and instruction. Chozen Bays, an accomplished pediatri- cian and meditation teacher, should be recruited by the slow food movement. She helps us see how “the once straightforward rela- tionship between hunger, eating, and satisfaction of our child- hood becomes tangled up in all sorts of thoughts and emotions.” Books to Keep in Mind By Barry Boyce The Mindful Society