We meet the author as a child, perusing an interest in magic, and picking up the narrative as he meets a mindfulness teacher in a magic shop in his then home town. At that young age he didn’t know what he was learning as mindfulness, just magic.
We then follow the story of his time at school, university and medical school, and later in to his working life, as the skills of mindfulness, visualisation and compassion supported his study, work and life.
If this all sounds saccharine sweet, its not – along the way he gets lost many times, and a theme is that he keeps having to come back to these skills to bring his life back on track.
Given the author is a Neurosurgeon there is a smattering of neuroscience in here, how these connected disciplines – mindfulness, visualisation and compassion – effect the brain. But this is no Neuroscience manual; its very much a true life account.
Toward the end of the book we are introduced to what the author describes as “the alphabet of the heart”:
and these are themes that really run through the whole work.
What was called the compass of the heart is really a form of communication that exists between the brain and the heart through the vagus nerve. What research has shown is that the heart sends far more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart—and while both the cognitive and emotional systems in the body are intelligent, there are far more neural connections that go from the heart to the brain than the other way around. Both our thoughts and our feelings can be powerful, but a strong emotion can silence a thought, while we can rarely think ourselves out of a strong emotion.
I loved this book – its quirky and practical, and provides a dose of real life inspiration. If you are looking for a Neuroscience book, this isn’t it; likewise if you are looking for the reminiscences of a Neurosurgeon, this isn’t it. What the book does provide is some practical foundations of mind work, in real life contexts, by a real person with weaknesses, strengths, aspirations and a will power, and I would really recommend the book to anyone with an interest in these fields.
I enjoyed the book, and I think others would as well.
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