The Mind and the Brain

Book Reviews and a meditation on Emptiness

Book Reviews: Grammar for the Soul by Lawrence Weinstein While not a typical book that one might associate with spiritual techniques, this book proved rather intriguing because the author examines how punctuation, tenses, clauses, passivity, etc is used in language to communicate and also empower an individual. As someone who consistently is interested in exploring the connection between language and spiritual techniques, I also found this book useful for considering how I could not only improve my writing, but also improve the efficacy of my magical workings when it came to using language.

Each chapter is only a few pages long, but the author manages to include a lot of information as well as samples for how grammar can be used to empower and communicate, as well as create personal change. The author's narrative is friendly and approachable. I didn't feel lost in a sea of grammar rules. If anything, I felt that I could easily navigate grammar's laws and use them to my benefit, both for my writing and my sense of self.

If I have one quibble with this book, it's that the author didn't include exercises for the reader. While the examples he used were illustrative of how to improve one's writing skills as well as how to use writing to effect personal change, the lack of exercises can keep the reader from realizing the book's full potential, unless they are already active writers. That said, I'd give this book a 4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: The Mind and the Brain by Jeffery Schwartz and Sharon Begley

This book was probably the most fascinating book I read about neuroscience and that's saying something since I find all of them fascinating. In this book the author explains neuroplasticity and how it continues to work in the brains of an adult as well as a child. The author also reviews many of the neuroscience experiments and projects done by various people as well as how those projects have confirmed the efficacy of mindful practices in controlling our habits and thoughts.

What I found really fascinating was how the author's work with OCD patients help them overcome that affliction by learning how to rewire the thought patterns. Equally interesting is the focus on how we can deliberately change our brains not only to heal, but also to continue sharpening our skills. For people interested in the intersection of neuroscience and magic, this book is a must read. 5 out 5


A Meditation on Emptiness

Last night, while at the Deacon X fetish event, I again felt myself feeling empty...I think it was a continuing realization that with everything going on there, I had a sense of loneliness, a sense of not feeling satisfied...a realization, again, that this emptiness is not something that can be cured by the presence of anyone person...that it is something that can be ignored or sometimes not felt, but it is still a fundamental part of life. I felt a moment of anger and frustration...part of me wanted to walk out and just keep walking...but instead of doing that I sat down, and start a Taoist breathing meditation, opening myself up to that feeling of emptiness, accepting it. As I breathed I circulated my energy into that feeling of emptiness and felt my emotions swirl into the energy until I felt very calm. And I felt the emptiness reach out and start teaching me something I could do with the circulating energy to not only calm myself, but direct the emptiness I felt. I directed it into my hands, which I would later put to good use at said event ;)

Still what I came away with is that emptiness can be worked with...not just felt but worked with, which will make the oncoming elemental year very interesting indeed.

Neuroplasticity, the Mind, and Will

Among the many books I'm currently reading, The Mind & The Brain by Jeffery Schwartz and Sharon Begley is certainly one of the more intriguing. Neuroplasticity, which is the brain's ability to create new neural connections or adapt current ones to different circumstances is somehting which apparently never stops occurring. The authors also argue that mindful practices can be used to harness and direct neuroplasticity and apparently have used such practices to help patients with OCD, as well as reporting on similar cases with patients who have tourettes and dyslexia. What this suggests to me, is that we have marvelous untapped resource in our brains, and that with the mind and it's capacity to consciously direct change (which I'd consider to be the will) we can harness neuroplasticity and use it. This actually is something I've written about before with the the neurotransmitter entities in Inner Alchemy, but I think it can be taken even further than that and a lot of the books I've been reading on neuroscience seem to agree with the direction that my experiments have been taking me toward.  It's also evidence to me that we need to continue looking at what's happening in other disciplines to see how it effects our own work as well as what we could achieve for ourselves. I think if more people were aware of how much control they could exert over their health, physical and mental, there would be a significant change in how those people dealt with difficult situations. There is so much possibility...It's just a matter of developing the techniques and processes that people can use to help themselves.