The Divided Brain, Metaphysical Idealism, and Buddhist Mindfulness Practice

Contemporary Buddhism 23 (1-2):67-83 (2022)
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ABSTRACT The exponential expansion of mindfulness-based applications in education, psychology and psychotherapy, workplace training and mind/body well-being in general over the last few decades has been accompanied by wide-ranging claims about the impact of mindfulness on the brain. Arguments in this sphere have been supported by data taken from neuroscience reporting changes in the brain structure and function of participants following mindfulness-based courses and personal meditation practice. The principal aim of this article is to inspect some of these claims and arguments in the light of Iain McGilchrist’s lifelong work on the asymmetric or divided brain. In particular, the idea of the brain as the sole or main generator of phenomenal consciousness will be questioned, along with the notion of left-brain shifting which mindfulness theorists equate with the mediation of negative emotions. The key ideas of McGilchrist on the nature of mind and consciousness are paralleled by similar perspectives offered by new idealist scientists and philosophers such as Bernardo Kastrup, Donald Hoffman and Steve Taylor, and the article concludes with an examination of the implications of these radical ideas for the spiritual traditions that provide the foundations for mindfulness theory and practice.



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