To study the way we read is to study the way the mind works: the way it evaluates a statement for truth, the way it behaves in relation to another mind (i.e., the writer’s) across space and time. What we’re going to be doing here, essentially, is watching ourselves read (trying to reconstruct how we felt as we were, just now, reading). Why would we want to do this? Well, the part of the mind that reads a story is also the part that reads the world; it can deceive us, but it can also be trained to accuracy; it can fall into disuse and make us more susceptible to lazy, violent, materialistic forces, but it can also be urged back to life, transforming us into more active, curious, alert readers of reality.
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The Mind’s Own Physician: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the Healing Power of Meditation
When he told Lisa about the night of the execution, Jarvis said he finally understood the power of meditation. There wasn’t much in his life he could control, but he recalled Melody once saying, “Jarvis, you can control your mind.” He hadn’t fully understood what that meant, but now he did. He could control his mind. He understood what Rinpoche had given him: a lifeline. He held on, and it got him through the ache and fear caused by Harris’s death. But even meditation itself produced wildly varying results. Sometimes he arose from the lotus position feeling a kind of serenity he’d never known. Other times he emerged feeling fragile and tender. Still other times he became lost in dark caves and emerged feeling depleted, feverish, and scared.
The mind, then, is that which holds the network together, often acting below our consciousness, linking and coordinating the major systems and their organs and cells in an intelligently orchestrated symphony of life. Thus, we might refer to the whole system as a psychosomatic information network, linking psyche, which comprises all that is of an ostensibly nonmaterial nature, such as mind, emotion, and soul, to soma, which is the material world of molecules, cells, and organs. Mind and body, psyche and soma.
“The mind is so powerful that we can set off the [stress] response just by imagining ourselves in a threatening situation,” writes Rockefeller University neuroscientist Bruce McEwen in his book The End of Stress as We Know It. In other words, we can think ourselves into a frenzy.