A talk on increasing awareness by Dan Siegel:
First, he’s become a really good friend, kind of kindred spirits for the last number of years. We’ve been teaching together and collaborating. And when I first met Dan, we were talking about the overlaps between Buddhist Psychology and Buddhist forms of mindfulness training, and many of the things that he’d been both learning and writing about as a neuro-scientist.
And to say one small thing, interpersonal neurobiology, which is the field that he’s one of the founders of, is the study of neuroscience, but not just of our own nervous system, but the interaction between human nervous systems in the environment, which is actually the way that it works. It turns out interdependences. One might find to describe in Buddhist Psychology, there’s now increasing and remarkable scientific evidence about the way our nervous system interacts with one another and the environment that affects everything from inter-trainings of meditation, which he’ll talk about, too– education, parenting, medicine, politics and all that kind of stuff.
And, he’s a professor in the Medical School at UCLA, with the two things I want to say particularly about Dan is that when I met him, I had the sense that he wasn’t just a scientist and a physician. That there’s some other thing that he understood. And after we talked for quite a few hours, I kind of asked him, I said, “You know, there’s other way, you know, that you understand something about what we’re talking about.” And he described being working in a clinic in Mexico as a young medical student or whatever, and having an accident where he fell of a horse and was in a certain way, kind of unconscious, but not unconscious conscious, but lost his whole identity and sense of himself for a time while he was at the effect of this terrible accident. And then he began to see how identity, self and all that came back into consciousness, while he was able to be aware of all these whole thing.
You know at one point, I think I said, “You know, people meditate for years to have an experience like that and you had it.” I can’t say for free. It was very painful, but there is some understanding he had about self and selflessness and the construction of who we think we are and the way we actually are in the world in the deeper sense that’s very much in line with the deep teachings of Buddhist meditation training.
And the other thing, to say, is he went back not so long ago- he was invited to give a lecture at Harvard Medical School where he graduated. And he said he went in and he was going to talk about personal neurobiology and looked around and at the back, were the old deans and professors from his era in his day, and he stopped and he couldn’t give that lecture. He had to tell them why he dropped out of medical school. He didn’t went back to finish it. He dropped out, because partway through second year, or third year, whatever it was, he was doing his rotations and some patient that he was very close to him, patient’s family he’s been tending and caring for a number of months had just died and the family was there, and grieving.
Some nurse, or somebody came in and told him, he got out of the room and went to visit and see the patient who just died, and family. And he came back and he got terribly chewed out by the attending ground physician who he was supposed to be listening— “You missed the important things I had to say. And if you want to be a real doctor, and not a social worker, you know, forget those emotions. That person’s dead. You pay attention to the patient in front of you and to what the professors have to tell you,” and several those kind of things happened.
And so, he got to stand up and tell the story to all the deans there. Yes, exactly.
Anyway, we’ve got a lot of great connection through our work and through our history now over sometime, and our interests. And I’m very glad he can be here. He just finished a couple of books on the theme of interpersonal neurobiology mindsight, which is his own version of understanding of inter-mental training and mindful therapist and so forth. And so, with great pleasure, I welcome you— thank you for coming up.
Thank you for that beautiful introduction. And thank you all for coming tonight. Now, in the tradition of the Monday night meeting you begin with the practice, is that right? Is that how you usually do it?
So, what we could do is to continue with that tradition and I’ll introduce you to a practice that I’ve been developing that comes from an experience I had that actually, in Insight Meditation Society, which Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein founded in Massachusetts, which is my first introduction in the field so maybe we would just begin with the practice and then we’ll explore what that practice might entail in terms of the science of it. Is that something that might be good? Okay, so I’m going to assume this is new for everyone who’s even been meditating for a long time, because this is something I just made up. (people laughs)
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