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Mindful : June 2018
Barry Boyce Editor-in-Chief email@example.com Our must-read story this issue: In our Get Real piece, “Look on the Bright Side...?” therapist Elaine Smookler explores how easily cynicism takes over our minds, despite the fact that optimism and openness are the healthier way to go. On page 62. A thousand years ago, when I was in grade 12, I had a physics teacher, Mr. Weeks, who was legendary for the powerful experiences that took place in his classroom. Until Mr. Weeks’s class, I found science tedious and bor- ing, but he changed everything. His class was focused not on the answers, but on the questions. He injected awe and wonder into our mutual explora- tions of how the world worked. I hope we have all had a teacher like that. When I disputed one of the core tenets of physics, he didn’t respond with the kind of implied put-down I was used to: “How could a high school student know better than the great minds of the ages?” Instead, he started out from the assumption that I may be right, and engaged me in a debate. The second law of thermody- namics did not fall that day, but I did come to a better understanding by being allowed to question it. Science is always a balancing act between explaining and exploring, between curiosity satisfied and curiosity stoked. When the most popular explanation for something becomes well established, it turns into dog ma, until someone comes along to challenge it. Everybody thought they knew how the universe was put together until Galileo came along and said, “I’m not so sure.” He lost his life for that. How we use science matters. Just think of all the attempts to use “scien- tific” arguments to prove one gender or race as superior to another. When that happens, the spirit of inquiry and exploration are long gone. Science just becomes a convenient way to end the conversation. Don’t Be So Sure In the past several decades, neu- roscience—or at least jargon that is loosely based on neuroscience—has been used to explain what’s going on with mindfulness and meditation or why we need it. Sometimes explana- tions come in the form of graphic sto- ries about how we get hijacked by the ancient, “reptilian” part of our brain and need the new, improved parts of the brain to come to the rescue. And these newer parts are associated with mindfulness, which, like a superhero, takes care of the villainous emotional region of the brain that has once again gotten us into trouble. (See our discussion with two neuroscientists about how to talk about the brain and meditation on page 42.) It’s a nice parable, and some grains of truth probably reside there some- where, but the idea of the reptilian brain was dismissed long ago in main- stream neuroscience. It was simply a hypothesis. And the idea that brain regions have one job to do does not accurately reflect how all the parts of the brain work together in a complex web of millions of interactions. In trying to explain how mindful- ness works, let’s not lose our sense of wonder and stray into fixed ideas and dogma. Mr. Weeks would not be pleased. ● VOLUME SIX, NUMBER 2, Mindful (ISSN 2169-5733, USPS 010-500) is published bimonthly for $29.95 per year USA, $39.95 Canada & $49.95 (US) international, by The Foundation for a Mindful Society, 228 Park Ave S #91043, New York, NY 10003-1502 USA. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Mindful, PO Box 469018, Escondido, CA 92046. Canada Post Publication Mail Agreement #42704514. CANADIAN POSTMASTER: Send undeliverable copies to Mindful, 1660 Hollis St, Suite 205, Halifax, NS B3J 1V7 CANADA. Printed in U.S.A . © 2018 Foundation for a Mindful Society. All rights reserved. Science is a balancing act between explaining and exploring, between curiosity satisfied and curiosity stoked. 4 mindful June 2018 PHOTOGRAPHBYMARVINMOORE point of view