Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness have become mainstream methods for developing a disciplined mind and body. But what causes us to become undisciplined? Why is it that people are ruled by their emotions and continue to repeat mistakes they made in the past? Anette Bloch Jespersen’s work examines such questions neurologically and philosophically.
Jespersen writes that the brain contains a “mirror neuron” that allows us to imitate others’ behavior. This enables babies to copy cues in their world, supporting cognitive development. The mirror neuron fires even when we are only observing someone else. Thus, the brain doesn’t know the difference between observing others’ activity and doing something ourselves.
“Super mirror neurons,” however, inhibit the mirror neurons, allowing us to differentiate the self from the other. In this way, we are deeply connected with other people, while also maintaining a separate identity.
The conflict between our need for connection, while remaining differentiated, creates cognitive and emotional dissonance that, paradoxically, causes us to compare ourselves to others in order to establish our own identity. Through introspection and keeping our awareness in the present, Jespersen writes, we can overcome the conflicting needs for connectedness and differentiation.
Many of the author’s ideas recall Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, George Gurdfjieff’s Fourth Way, and Buddhism’s emphasis on mindfulness and the elimination of attachment/aversion to achieve inner peace. But Jespersen’s approach is eminently practical and down-to-earth. She limits jargon, and lends a light touch through anecdotes and personal stories. Her approach is descriptive rather than prescriptive, never lecturing readers, but describing her own experience and how she interprets it.
The book contains some unnecessary repetition and grammar and spelling mistakes (e.g. “morays” for “mores”). Perhaps the biggest drawback, though, is the somewhat suggestive title (did the author intend that?).
With proper packaging and editing, Jespersen’s book could appeal to a Tolle-sized audience. Readers of self-help and spiritually oriented work will enjoy the depth of her thought and down-to-earth presentation.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.