The Emotional Life of Your Brain

 Dr. Davidson’s latest book offers a new model for understanding our emotions – their origins, their power and their malleability.  He has discovered that personality is composed of six basic emotional “styles,” including resilience, self-awareness, and attention. Our emotional fingerprint results from where on the continuum of each style we fall. He explains the brain circuits that underlie each style in order to give us a new model of the emotional brain, one that will even go so far as to affect the way we treat conditions like autism and depression. And, finally, he provides strategies we can use to change our own brains and emotions-if that is what we want to do.

Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. "A mind-opening journey guided by one of the world’s great pioneers in the study of emotion. Richard Davidson addresses the questions about how we become who we are with a scientific rigor and impassioned curiosity that enable us to understand others and ourselves, as well as to directly influence how we approach life with a sense of resilience and vitality. He also crucially reveals the science-proven steps we can take to improve the function and even the structure of our brain. Soak in the wisdom of these pages and enjoy!" -author of "Mindsight"

Robert M. Sapolsky, Ph.D. "This superb book is many things – a crystal clear tour of the neuroscience of emotion; a primer about how the scientific process works; a personal story by a really likeable guy; and the promise of a better world. This is a wonderful book." -author of "Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers" and "Monkeyluv"

Jack Kornfield, Ph.D. “The best book I know on how to use the exciting discoveries of neuroscience to change your life. A fabulous read – a scientific adventure story like Sherlock Holmes meeting Watson and Crick with the Dalai Lama as their advisor.” -author of "The Wise Heart"

Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. “The Emotional Life of Your Brain is an eye-opener, replete with breakthrough research that will change the way you see yourself and everyone you know. Richard Davidson and Sharon Begley make a star team: cutting edge findings formulated in a delightful, can’t-put-it-down read. I loved this book. ” -author of "Emotional Intelligence"

Deepak Chopra, M.D. “Richard Davidson and Sharon Begley have created a pioneering look at the brain chemistry of our emotions. By looking at Davidson’s scientific proof that meditation and other cognitive practices actually change the brain, the authors enable all of us to genuinely modify our most difficult emotional habits and create new and more fruitful ones. Look forward to cultivating keener attention, having more attunement to others, and being more connected to your own intuition. It’s all possible—and this book shows you how ” -author of "How to Know God"

Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D. "Whether he is measuring neural activity in the laboratory or climbing the Himalayas to meet the Dalai Lama, Davidson is an inveterate explorer who has spent a lifetime probing the deep mystery of human feeling. Don't miss this smart and lively book by the world's foremost expert on emotion and the brain." -author of "Stumbling on Happiness"

Dacher Keltner, Ph.D. "In this spine-tingling journey through the hills of the Himalayas and the circuitry of your brain, visionary neuroscientist Richard Davidson uncovers deep and practical insights into humanity’s oldest questions. Who are we as individuals? What are the origins of our minds? How do we find peace and cultivate greater kindness for all? Weaving together the latest neuroscience of brain plasticity and emotion and the timeless wisdom of Buddhist thought, "The Emotional Life of your Brain” will lead you to answers to these questions, and leave you inspired by science and the promise of change for the better." -author of "Born to Be Good"

Jerome Groopman, M.D. "Richard Davidson, a visionary neuropsychologist, joins with Sharon Begley, one of the most astute science writers, to illuminate the dimensions of our emotional make up and offer cogent and compelling ways for us to grow into more effective and fulfilled selves." -co-author of "Your Medical Mind"

Antonio Damasio, M.D., Ph.D. "Richard Davidson's distinguished scientific career has been dedicated to making sense of human emotion and deepening its significance. Now, with the help of writer Sharon Begley, he turns a trove of accumulated facts into wisdom accessible to lay readers and directly applicable to their lives". -author of "Self Comes to Mind" and "The Feeling of What Happens"

Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D. "What a gift from the world's leading neuroscientist who works on what makes life worth living. This is a must read for everyone who is interested in positive psychology." -author of "Learned Optimism" and "Flourish"

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The Mind’s Own Physician

In Washington, DC, the Dalai Lama met with Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Full Catastrophe Living, Richard Davidson, and other leading meditation researchers to explore the intersection between ancient meditation techniques and modern neuroscience. The result is a fascinating and revealing conversation about the potential of the human mind to heal itself through mindfulness meditation, transcribed and presented to the public for the first time in The Mind’s Own Physician.


The editors would like to thank the following:

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for his enduring inspiration and commitment to mutual engagement and inquiry between the contemplative traditions and science, and to rigorous research to expand our understanding of the nature of mind and its potential to adequately address the full scope and dimensionality of human suffering.

Adam Engle for his incomparable leadership of the Mind and Life Institute over the past twenty-five years and, in particular, during the last ten years, when its mission expanded in so many complex and important ways.

Thupten Jinpa for his remarkable translating skills, his transparent presence, and his boundless commitment to His Holiness.

Judy Martin for her organizational wizardry. Dave Womack for helping secure the photographs for this volume. The entire staff of the Mind and Life Institute for their profound commitment to the mission of Mind and Life and the huge dedication they bring to all aspects of their work, often behind the scenes. To former Mind and Life staff members Nancy A. Mayer, Dave Mayer, Cathy Chen-Ortega, and Sidney Prince for the enormous effort, skill, and goodwill they put into organizing the 2005 meeting.

Zara Houshmand for the pleasure of working with her and the benefit of her finely honed intellect and incisive editorial skills, fully tuned to the Mind and Life culture and ethos. Jasmine Star for her excellent, essential, comprehensive, and unrelenting editorial work on the manuscript to bring it into its final form.

The staff of New Harbinger Publications who nurtured the development of this book at every stage with a high degree of professionalism and a seamlessly integrated team so that every base was covered when it needed to be: Catharine Meyers, Jess Beebe, Michele Waters, Adia Colar, Amy Shoup, Heather Garnos, Janice Fitch, Melissa Valentine, and Matt McKay.

We extend our gratitude to all the speakers and panelists for their important contributions to the dialogue, and to all the participants who attended the 2005 meeting. As we noted, the audience constituted a gigantic force at this gathering. Through their presence and their own work, their contributions to the ongoing confluence of these two epistemological streams are keeping the field vital and endlessly creative.

And finally, we wish to express our deep gratitude to all the people who agreed to be subjects in the various studies that were presented. All of us, and indeed the world, are potential beneficiaries of your engagement in this work. We also acknowledge our deep debt to the animals used in some lines of research.

Michael R. Irwin, MD "The Mind’s Own Physician is a journey of understanding, in which an integrative dialogue unfolds between the spiritual leaders of contemplative meditation and scientists at the forefront of mind-body medicine. This transformative conversation provides valuable insight into how meditative practices can balance the mind with effects on the body, as well as, potential benefits for human health. This blending of contemplative traditions with Western science opens a mindful awareness that has the empowering capacity to fully engage people in their health, and more broadly, in the well-being of our societies." -Cousins Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles

Amishi P. Jha, PhD "The Mind’s Own Physician offers us a precious portal into the seminal conversations that gave birth to the nascent field of contemplative neuroscience. The issues digested, debated, and ignited in its pages will serve as a road map and inspiration for my students and their students over the coming decades." -Contemplative neuroscientist, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Miami

Mark Williams, PhD "If you want to see how to build bridges between the deepest wisdom of the heart and the highest standards of contemporary neuroscience, look no further. This series of meetings between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Western scientists and meditation teachers will prove to be epoch-changing, and this book shows why. Here, you will find interior and exterior empiricism in exquisite dialogue. Drink it all in. The brilliance of the participants shines through on every page." -Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Oxford, Director, Oxford Mindfulness Centre

Anne Harrington, PhD "Can meditation improve your health? This question is just the starting point for a series of innovative exchanges across different ways of knowing among first-ranked clinicians, scientists, Buddhist teachers, and the Dalai Lama. Thoughtful, rigorous, and surprising by turns, this dialogue reminds all of us who care about the effects of the mind on health just how much more thinking remains to be done." -Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University, author of The Cure Within

John D. Dunne "Our thoughts can seem too real, giving our imaginings about tomorrow the power to create chronic stress and unhealthy changes in our bodies. Our sense of self can seem too fixed, creating a cage where our habitual worries can run in depressing circles. In the moment that we recognize our thoughts as thoughts and our habits as habits, new and liberating possibilities emerge for the way we live our lives. Contemplative traditions such as Buddhism have long seen the transformative power of that simple moment of recognition, and more recently, clinicians in various domains have discovered the potential that this contemplative insight offers for the treatment of chronic stress, depression, and other especially modern maladies. Yet the potential of interventions based on contemplative approaches has only begun to emerge. The full realization of that potential requires a careful, critical, and honest dialogue among contemplatives and scientists so as to allow research and clinical practices to develop effectively. This remarkable book provides a fresh and clear record of such a dialogue. Informative and highly accessible, The Mind’s Own Physician is a groundbreaking moment in the development of contemplative science." -Associate Professor of Religion, Emory University

Jeanne Tsai "A must-read for anyone interested in understanding how Buddhist contemplative traditions and Western scientific traditions can work together to uncover the complexities of the human mind. Mind and Life has done it again: engaged a group of distinguished contemplative scholars, clinicians, and scientists in a lively, productive, and inspiring dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama that furthers our understanding of meditation and its potential to heal." -Associate Professor of Psychology, Stanford University, Director, Stanford Culture and Emotion Laboratory

Tania Singer, PhD "This book marks a milestone in the emerging field of contemplative sciences. With this book, you can relive a seminal 2005 Mind and Life conference that brought together world-famous neuroscientists, clinicians, and contemplative scholars in a dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This groundbreaking work explores the development of scientifically based tools and programs aimed at creating more balanced and healthy lives. How does stress evolve? What does it do to our minds and bodies? How can we use ancient mindfulness and meditative practices in our everyday, modern lives and also in clinical settings to reduce stress and cultivate healthier minds? This book is a must for everyone who is interested in making this world a more human place." -Director, Department of Social Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany

Stuart J. Eisendrath, MD "Jon Kabat-Zinn and Richard Davidson bring together an internationally acclaimed cast of neuroscientists and scholars for a stimulating dialogue with the Dalai Lama. They weave a rich tapestry of information on how meditation can be useful for a wide variety of conditions, ranging from depression and stress to anxiety and psoriasis. In easy-to-understand, conversational style, the experts lay out how the mind’s powerful healing effects can be harnessed in ways that are becoming increasingly illuminated by scientific discoveries." -Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, Director of the UCSF Depression Center

David E. Meyer, PhD "It is most befitting that this wonderful book, composed from Mind and Life dialogues with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, would appear after the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 tragedy. Accompanied by greatly increasing psychophysiological stress, anxiety, and depression, the post-9/11 decade has yielded an auspicious upsurge of rigorous scientific and clinical research on mindfulness meditation and other systematic methods of mental training that may help transcend the pain and suffering caused by such deleterious afflictions. The Mind’s Own Physician highlights these exciting advances through a series of insightful discussions between His Holiness and a diverse group of stellar contemplative scholars, scientists, and physicians who are leaders in the field of integrative mind-body-brain medicine. Everyone who wishes to cultivate a sound body and sane, healthy mind in these turbulent times will welcome the publication of these inspiring conversations." -Clyde H. Coombs, and J. E. Keith Smith, Professor of Mathematical Psychology and Cognitive Science, University of Michigan

Sara Lazar, PhD "A fascinating book exploring two contrasting views of the human mind. The scholarly discussions between His Holiness and leading scientists provide deep insights into how ancient Buddhist teachings and modern science can inform each other, and potentially transform Western clinical practices." -Associate in Psychology, Psychiatric Neuroscience Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Instructor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

Clifford Saron, PhD "The Mind’s Own Physician brings you straight into the heart of a remarkable interchange between His Holiness the Dalai Lama, renowned contemplative teachers from Buddhist and Christian traditions, and world leaders in neuroscience, psychiatry, stress physiology, and clinical medicine. Jon Kabat-Zinn and Richard Davidson guide the reader through an authentic chronicle of a landmark meeting of extraordinary minds as it unfolds through a series of crystalline presentations and probing dialogues about the nature of mind, meditation, and brain function. These dialogues provide the foundation for discussion on the biological effects of chronic stress, treatment and relapse prevention in depression, and the historical and evolutionary roots of Western medicine’s struggle to understand and care for the whole person. The highly accessible and rich treatment of each of these areas is fascinating to read. The constant presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s deeply engaged attention, teaching, and critical ear reverberates throughout. The participants’ common commitment to fostering the conditions necessary for human flourishing through intercultural and interdisciplinary inquiry is truly inspiring. In capturing this arc of information and intent, The Mind’s Own Physician becomes an essential treatment of one of the most hopeful directions in thought alive today: the human capacity to ease our suffering through introspective insight and our growing scientific investigation into how this may occur." -Associate Research Scientist, University of California, Davis Center for Mind and Brain

Britta Hölzel, PhD "It is extremely exciting to read what emerges from the dialogues between the leading experts in the scientific investigation of contemplative practice who present their excellent scientific work and the profound wisdom of contemplative teachers. This is a wonderful book that takes us right into the heart of these inspiring and engaging conversations by exploring profound and essential questions about how we can enhance human potential by cultivating positive human qualities." -Research Fellow, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Bender Institute of Neuroimaging, Giessen University, Germany

Michael J. Baime, MD "The Mind’s Own Physician is a remarkable accomplishment. It tells the compelling story of how the scientific study of meditation has created a new way of understanding the relationship between body and mind and between science and spirituality. Edited by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Richard Davidson, two individuals who have almost single-handedly brought mindfulness into Western culture, it documents a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and a gathering of researchers, scholars, and clinicians who are blazing new pathways in the science of meditation. The discussion highlights how the neuroscience of meditation is enriching our understanding of human potential. This is a deeply hopeful book. It details how many of the qualities most urgently needed in our world today can be intentionally cultivated in practical, concrete ways that make a real difference. Compassion, wisdom, insight, and emotional balance are not lucky accidents; they are biological capabilities that can be strengthened. The Mind’s Own Physician is essential reading for anyone who wants to learn about the ancient tradition of meditation, the promise that it holds for our time, and the essential goodness of the human spirit." -Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Founder and Director, Penn Program for Mindfulness

Lawrence W. Barsalou, PhD "Besides engaging easily with the contemplative, clinical, and scientific contributions to this volume, the reader experiences the remarkable interaction of contributors from diverse traditions. Common assumptions become apparent, constructs in one discipline spark insights in another, broad inter-disciplinary understandings subsume disciplinary understandings. Over the course of the exchange, it becomes apparent that a new culture is emerging with the potential to fundamentally reshape how we understand ourselves and interact with one another." -Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology, Emory University

Daniel Goleman, PhD "The Mind’s Own Physician lets us eavesdrop on a fascinating conversation at the frontier of science and spirituality, medicine and meditation. Anyone who cares about well-being and health will find both news and wisdom here." -author of "The Brain and Emotional Intelligence"

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