Mind Fields: Awakening

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The skillful side led to more skillful behavior. So he decided to keep his unskillful thoughts in check in the same way that a cowherd keeps his cows in check during the rainy season. As for skillful thoughts, he saw no problem. In that case, they would be like the cows during the dry season. The rice has been harvested. But even then, if you thought skillful thoughts for 24 hours, it would tire the mind. This was when he realized that he should bring his mind to concentration to get it calm and still.

But even getting the mind into concentration requires that you do some questioning.

And here again, you apply appropriate attention. And in the sixteen steps, the questions of discernment concerning the mind have to do with: What is the state of your mind right now? Is it in balance or out of balance? And what do you do to bring it back in line? If the mind is scattered, what can you do to make it more solid?

How to awaken?

The sixteen steps also give you some advice on how to answer those questions. They require first, though, that you understand the process of fabrication in the present moment. Fabrication, sankhara, comes in three types: bodily, verbal, and mental. Technically, this is called directed thought and evaluation: directing your thoughts to an object and evaluating it—asking questions or commenting on it. Perceptions are the labels you apply to things. Feelings are feelings of pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain.

If you want to gladden the mind or steady the mind, to get rid of unskillful qualities and develop skillful ones, you have to work first with mental fabrications: your feelings and perceptions. What images do you hold in mind? It makes the body a more pleasant place to stay. When the body is pleasant, the mind gets into a better mood.

And you can both gladden the mind and steady the mind by making the body feel pleasant through the breath. First you have the perception. And then you work with bodily fabrication, the way you breathe based on that perception, and then the way you breathe gives rise to a feeling of pleasure. You allow that feeling to spread. So at least you have something really sure right here that you can begin with. Well, you experiment. Try different ways of breathing. With passion and humor, she makes a trenchant argument for a hybrid scientific culture that will allow the two approaches to thrive together.

Everywhere, there were hucksters and geniuses, all trying to colonize the new world of the brain. Nevertheless, in her early twenties, she was drawn to the possibilities and insights emerging on the frontiers of brain research. Over the next decade she set out to meet the neuroscientists and psychoanalysts engaged with such questions as, How do we perceive the world, make decisions, or remember our childhoods?

Are we using the brain? Or the mind? To what extent is it both? Schwartz discovered that neuroscience and psychoanalysis are engaged in a conflict almost as old as the disciplines themselves.


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Many neuroscientists, if they think about psychoanalysis at all, view it as outdated, arbitrary, and subjective, while many psychoanalysts decry neuroscience as lacking the true texture of human experience. With passion and humor, Schwartz explores the surprising efforts to find common ground. In the Mind Fields is a riveting view of the convictions, obsessions, and struggles of those who dedicate themselves to the effort to understand the mysteries of inner life.

She lives in New York City…. More about Casey Schwartz. Refreshingly honest. Both a smart exploration of a complicated subject and an excellent read. A thorough review of key neuroscientific findings. If brain researchers plan to conquer the scourge of mental illness, they will have to pay more attention to the mind. These are wonderful qualities in a science writer.

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Schwartz writes with imagination and wit. The journey presented in this sharp narrative makes somewhat lofty topics accessible.


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Schwartz engages the reader with humorous stories of the leading professionals she encounters, providing a thorough, thoughtful account. Weaving together intellectual history, science reporting, bits of memoir, and a deep reservoir of humane sympathy, Schwartz brings readers along with her on a bracing quest. A work of remarkable brio, wisdom, and wit, with gems of insight shimmering on nearly every page.

Casey Schwartz takes us on a charming, personal quest to reconcile hard-to-reconcile views—watching, fascinated, as the brain, maybe the most unfathomable thing in the universe, tries to fathom itself. In this generous, insightful, witty book, Casey Schwartz looks at the steep cost of that dichotomous construct. Her meticulous reporting and lucid reasoning resolve seemingly intractable dialectics with the sheer grace of common sense. Her nimble prose, mordant observations, penetrating comments, and unerring sense for the absurd as well as the poignant, make In the Mind Fields a deeply engaging book about a fascinating new discipline.

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About In the Mind Fields Neuroscience and psychoanalysis are historically opposed responses to the age-old quest to understand ourselves—one focused on the brain and the other on the mind. Also by Casey Schwartz. See all books by Casey Schwartz. Product Details. Inspired by Your Browsing History.

In the Mind Fields

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In the Mind Fields: Exploring the New Science of Neuropsychoanalysis by Casey Schwartz

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