Reply To: Inhibitory neurons at play between L+R prefrontal cortex

  • Don Salmon

    April 28, 2023 at 3:53 pm

    Hi Whit:

    I guess I have to fall back again on my preference for experience over neuroscience.

    I think the examination of brain functions is interesting, and perhaps in our modern world necessary, but there’s two crucial points.

    1. Rick Hansen, who may have started the modern craze for neuroscience and mindfulness, wrote in the intro for Buddha’s Brain, “You don’t have to know ANYTHING about neuroscience to practice mindfulness. He kind of tentatively added that it won’t necessarily help you practice mindfulness to know anything about the brain. I’ve personally used neuroscience references a LOT in teaching mindfulness, not because it helps practice, but because it gives people more faith that it works.

    2. At present, we have no technology, no means, to even have a clue what a person is thinking or feeling except by asking them. That’s how all neuroscience research is done. we don’t even know for sure if a person under anesthesia is conscious.

    So in regard to what is happening in the brain, it’s interesting but as far as I can see from 4+ decades of practice, it not only not helps but can get in the way.

    Mindfulness in PRACTICE is SO much more complicated than the inhibitory processes you describe.

    To give one example I’ve had to deal with a lot, take the default mode. For over 10 years, the reporting on this emphasizes that in the default mode (when we’re not focused on any particular task) our mind tends to focus on the negative – a result of our evolutionary history and the need to be on the lookout for physical danger.

    But recently people have been protesting – no, mind wandering is wonderful and the basis of much creativity.

    So then people say, “Well, mindfulness may be good for some things, but mind wandering is good also.”

    ARGHHH!1 This is such a profound misunderstanding of mindfulness AND creativity.

    I prefer Les Fehmi’s language. Rather than ever talking about “mindfulness’ (which, by the way, in the way it’s almost universally taught nowadays, doesn’t exist in Buddhist texts!!) he speaks of open focus

    In open focus attention, you can choose to engage in any number of different ways of attending. And these ways are combined in so many different ways, it’s a virtual impossibility that ANY brain description could capture the subtlety of it.

    Since nobody has determined whether the brain produces consciousness or simply receives and transmits it, if it turns out what we call the “brain” is nothing more than an image in a universal consciousness, obviously, our experience is going to be infinitely richer than anything that occurs in this one particular localized image referred to as “brain” or “body.”