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Mindful : June 2018
f ABOUT THE AUTHOR Barry Boyce is Editor-in-Chief of Mindful and Mindful.org. He is also author of The Mindfulness Revolution, an anthology of applied mindfulness instructions from leading teachers and experts. FOR SOME TIME AT MINDFUL, we’ve been concerned that discus- sions of the brain—particularly in the context of mindfulness and meditation—have become sim- plified to the point of distorting the truth. They often present the brain as a set of building blocks or Lincoln Logs, each with its own function. The goal of meditation in this model is to strengthen certain parts and suppress others. When we asked neuroscientists doing actual research about these notions, the answer ranged from “that’s very, very simplistic” to “ that’s nonsense.” We are in the middle of an epidemic spread of BS about the brain. Some- thing new comes up just about every week that grossly oversimplifies both what science currently knows about the brain and how the brain might actually work. Trainers and coaches and keynote speakers frequently make extravagant claims about “brain change,” “growing the brain,” or “adding gray matter.” Forbes recently published “6 Brain-Based Leader- ship Game-Changers for 2018,” by an author who writes about “leveraging neuroscience to create remarkable leadership.” The first diagram illus- trates the reptilian brain, the mam- malian brain, and the supposed new- est part of the brain, the neocortex, where “meaning is made.” A quick internet search will let you know that this hypothesis, known as the Triune Brain, “is no longer espoused by the majority of comparative neuroscien- tists in the post-2000 era.” It’s been debunked for almost two decades. A newsstand publication called Mindfulness Made Simple contains a two-page spread on “How Mindful- ness Physically Changes Your Brain” that points to mindfulness causing growth in the presumed good parts of the brain and shrinkage in the bad parts. It takes some preliminary research out of all context and states it pretty much as fact. Any honest neuroscientist will tell you that we simply do not know this much about how the brain is affected by mindful- ness, since we don’t even have a single definition of what mindfulness means. And what we feel we know today will be eclipsed by findings after our life- time. Humbleness is the watchword when it comes to assertions about how the brain and the mind work. A book from a major publisher sells itself as “Mind-Hacker’s Guide to Shifting into Brain 3.0.” It promises 44 mindful June 2018