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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 traumatized by the brain damage the mother sustained in a car accident. Working on such cases led Siegel to start the field of interpersonal neurobiology, which focuses attention on how our brains are shaped by our human interactions (think of child-rearing). In a 1999 book, Siegel laid out the principles of this emerging field. In Mindsight, he explores its central concept—the ability to be aware of our mental processes but not controlled by them. Part 1, “Mindsight Illuminated,” a little under a third of the book, discusses the working of the brain, with Siegel’s theoretical views woven in (such as the triangle of mind, body, and relationships that determines our well-being). Although he suggests this section may be skimmed or skipped, I found it one of the most lucid treatments of the workings of the brain I’ve read. In part 2, “Mindsight in Action,” Siegel uses personal stories to illustrate ways we lose “mindsight”—through various styles of attachment, for example. More important, though, he celebrates not just the power of the brain, an organ, but the power of the mind—a wondrous process—to see itself and to see through itself. … Delving into education, Deborah Schoeberlein, draws on her experiences during twenty years of teaching grades five through twelve in her Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone Who Teaches Anything (Wisdom Publications).
We are likely to hear much more in coming years about contemplative education, social and emotional learning, mindful teaching, and other innovative ways of improving the classroom environment and the quality of life of students and teachers. So many future choices are shaped by our early experiences in school, and teachers know only too well that the classroom can be a dumping ground for negativity that has been suppressed at home. Education is an area that has been crying out for mindfulness. Schoeberlein’s book makes a helpful contribution to a growing body of literature and curricula on how to bring secular contemplative practices, including cultivating kindness, into school systems. It’s replete with techniques to help teachers ground themselves amid the chaos and tension of the classroom, and related techniques that teachers can use to guide students—helping them enjoy being at school, learn better, and get along well with others. …
We wrap up with Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness (Wisdom Publications) by Arnie Kozak. Psychotherapists and psychiatrists I know who also meditate have warned me to be wary when therapy and mindfulness are mixed. It can work, they say, but it often deteriorates into treating the mind as a foreign object and trying to push away thoughts—a hopeless enterprise. Kozak, who practices “mindfulness-based psychotherapy,” doesn’t appear to do that. He sends out the right kind of signals in his funny but profound little book. For one thing, Kozak is clearly a person who does not take himself too seriously, and it feels like he’d be fun to be around. I recognize from Rapt that metaphors are part of the way we guide our focus. They are lenses that can provoke insight (like contemplating a “still forest pool,” as the book suggests) or delusion (such as Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars or the domino theory). Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants is a great book to keep around your desk, on your nightstand, or near other places you sit for slightly extended periods. Each of the 108 metaphors is described in about a minute’s worth of reading (or re-reading) and can clear away some of those cobwebs that clutter up your mind.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Judith Simmer-Brown, Karen Maezen
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