File Size: 1459 KB
Print Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Avery (September 5, 2017)
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Davidson made headlines in the past with the results of his research of the brains of Tibetan monks, which revealed unequivocally that a lot of yoga had significantly altered their brains (for the better). Goleman is the best seling author of Emotional Brains.
Altered Traits is a collaborative overview of a history of research on yoga and an analysis of what claims in the mainstream press are genuine as opposed to those that are overreaching or simply wrong. (The modified traits of the subject are those that endure long term, instead of those that are transient, taking place during meditation sessions and disappearing shortly thereafter. ) The book is written completely in 3 rd person, which is sometimes a little unusual, when it's plainly discussing about the experience of one author versus the other.
I have to admit i found the first several chapters tedious--the autobiographical stuff of their trips to India and personal research of meditation was okay, but there was a lot of detail about early research studies--what worked and what didn't--that received old for me. A different reader might eat it up, however. The book really got interesting when it embarked on Davidson's studies of Tibetan monks, and that is when I didn't want to set it down.
This is not in any way a how-to guide about meditation. (There are plenty of those, as well as CDs and videos and apps, so that's not its goal. ) What it is is a scientific analysis, albeit designed for a basic audience, about which promises about meditation are genuine, which need more, more enhanced, research and which may be destroyed altogether. I've already suggested the book to a buddy who recently started out meditating at the suggestion of his doctor, but as a science teacher has been skeptical about their benefits. He, I would say, would be the ideal audience for Altered Traits., I agree with the others who complained about the initial few chapters. I actually started skipping through the book to verify that there was something useful. There is some useful stuff, however, We are dissatisfied in this book. I really liked Richard Davidson's earlier book, so I was excited about this one. However, I do not think it is well written, and the research points are not explained well in some cases. And there is too much bias towards Buddhism and Tibetan monks. Yes, fine, after tens of thousands of several hours of meditation, they are a lesser amount of reactive than the rest of us when viewing disturbing pictures. And supposedly after a different really hard stress test as well (although I'm not really sure the information proven their point). But let's have one of these long-time meditators be in charge of a toddler day after day after day. And then let's see how non-reactive they are. (Wink).
I do think this guide does a service in pointing out that much of the research done on yoga has major flaws, and there has to be better studies done. They also point out that there are many different kinds of meditations that have completely different outcomes, and that they need to be studied separately. This is very important and helpful. But I am dismayed at the bias towards a state that certain types of yoga help you achieve. The bias is that this is the best express to be in and the desirable goal for everyone. I disagree. The state that they explain is not what I am aiming for. And despite my public name (Ananda means 'bliss' in Sanskrit), I don't feel that regular bliss or joy is the best goal. After all my years of meditation, I find that a calm peacefulness is best for myself, and a much better indication of emotional regulation than a state of bliss or joy. The authors of this book appear to feel that the Gamma trend state/trait that their long-time meditators have is the supreme goal. If so, I would admit we are going to have to use neurofeedback to get there, because meditation will take too long. Don't get me wrong. I encourage certain types of yoga and meditate regularly personally, but it takes more than meditation, for most of us, to truly achieve the results that we are searching for in a more practical time frame. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is looking promising for having a positive effect on brain constructions, too. And I suggest looking into Attachment Theory and working towards secure attachment, which is where emotional regulation comes from, in my opinion. Generally, it is hard to calm an overreactive amygdala through yoga alone, although I do believe it is a necessary and helpful part of the process.
I lately read " Brain Rules" by Jon Medina, and I was looking for the research explanations and notations in this guide to be on the degree of Medina's book. This specific book falls really brief in this area. Also, I suggest " The Happiness Trap" by Russ Harris for a different method to learning to be less reactive. It is just like MBSR, but I like it better and it was life-changing for me.
Overall, I feel glad that they are stating that attaining nice 'states' of mind during meditation is good, nevertheless the ultimate goal is to possess this state become a trait, so that we are less reactive overall (again, this is named 'emotional regulation' in attachment theory). I also like that they point out the flaws in much of the research on yoga so far, and that future research needs to be of higher quality (and they specifically express the criteria for high quality research). And most importantly they state that different types of yoga need to be analyzed separately. But the disenchantment that I stated earlier are the reason for the lower rating that I gave the book., This specific is an outstanding guide by two prominent experts that are longtime meditators themselves, and also have worked together since student days. In this book, the authors set out to answer probing questions about mediation and its effects on the brain and behavior. They take us to their own early studies of yoga in Asia (fascinating! ) and tell lots of stories using their own long experience. As a longtime meditator myself, I so appreciated reading about the various studies they examined about meditation, whether learned in an 8 week program like the MIndfulness Centered Stress Reduction Program; a 3 year intensive retreat; or higher many decades, totaling thousands of hours. Different styles of yoga are covered, as well as their varying outcomes on emotional regulation, focus memory, and such. The mind itself is also mentioned. I also very much appreciated the discussion of what makes a fair and unbiased study, which helps me to better understand the media's coverage of similar studies about health related subjects.
It is a fairly densely written book, jam-packed with useful and exciting information. Each chapter finishes with a summary (" In a Nutshell" ) that will be helpful for future quick guide. There is so much great stuff in this guide that I just can't praise it enough. Most highly recommended to the people seeking serenity, understanding, and order in their lives, as well as a deeper understanding of being human and potential.
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