For the millions of Americans who want spirituality without religion, Sam Harris' new book is a guide to meditation as a rational spiritual practice informed by neuroscience and psychology.
From multiple New York Times best-selling author, neuroscientist, and "new atheist" Sam Harris, Waking Up is for the 30 percent of Americans who follow no religion, but who suspect that Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, and the other saints and sages of history could not have all been epileptics, schizophrenics, or frauds. Throughout the book, Harris argues that there are important truths to be found in the experiences of such contemplatives - and, therefore, that there is more to understanding reality than science and secular culture generally allow.
Waking Up is part seeker's memoir and part exploration of the scientific underpinnings of spirituality. No other book marries contemplative wisdom and modern science in this way, and no author other than Sam Harris - a scientist, philosopher, and famous skeptic - could write it.
©2014 Sam Harris. All rights reserved. (P)2014 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
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"An Excellent and Inspiring Listen"
I have been a big admirer of Sam Harris's books for some time now. Many of his previous efforts have hinted at the kind of exposition found in Waking Up, and I have eagerly awaited the release of this book as a consequence. I wasn't disappointed. To the contrary, and I can only say this about a handful of books I've read in the past few years, it has truly inspired me. Waking Up gives sober, practical, and yet highly compelling accounts of how we can approach the issues of consciousness and spirituality without the burdens of organized religion and all the toxic baggage it entails. Harris gives a scientific as well as journalistic/experiential account of how the "ego," the subject, the "I" that pervades Western consciousness is an illusion that is a basic source of unnecessary mental anguish in our modern lives. He then walks us through his own journey through several meditating traditions and their transformative effect on his life. Each section of the book is captivating, and truly inspires you to set out on your own journey.
As a secular guy who is deeply troubled by religion, this is precisely the kinds of book I have been looking for. Highly recommended.
Sam Harris is an excellent writer and speaker. His prose is always elegant and concise. His narration is the same -- no nonsense, subdued, yet confident. It is a very engaging listen.
"Transformative and Diverse"
Among the very top
Sam Harris starts, in Chapter 2, explaining experiments in neuroscience articulately. The experiments and the conclusions that can be derived from them changed my view of the brain and destroyed many of my preconceived notions. His subsequent explanations of the self and how to manipulate our sense of the self are truly transforming. But best of all, he never encourages the reader to believe anything "new age" and only brings up physics in order to debunk myths.
The humor in the book is better experienced when listening. The downside is, I felt an overwhelming sense of embarrassment when I was caught laughing in public for, seemingly, no reason.
Neuroscience and Eastern tradition as a window into Consciousness.
You will have to listen to a few portions twice. Sam is succinct and does not often repeat himself. Especially in the early chapters. Pausing the video to wikipedia Neuroscience words can help. Mostly, though, the jargon is sparse.
This book has changed my life. It showed me my own neurotic thoughts are not unique to me but just a function of the brain. The guided meditations are the only ones I have ever found helpful. Read this Book!
"I don't completely agree. BUT THAT SAID..."
BOTH spiritual folks AND skeptics need to read this book.The skeptics need to acknowledge the elephant in the room that there is a real phenomenon of expanded consciousness that needs to be studied from a scientific perspective before being dismissed out of hand. And the spiritual folks who don't understand the potential science of "spiritual" consciousness and who think science is an enemy of a spiritual expansion of consciousness... those folks ALSO need this gentle slap to the back of the head. Because spirituality is actually closer to science than it is religion.The reason I love this book is that... as a formerly religious guy who left religion for the contemplative approach to spirituality, I was able to meditate myself into an experience of a complete endogenous 5MeO DMT flush in my brain that catalyzed the dramatic consciousness shift we typically call "spiritual enlightenment". It changed my life. So I'm a completely spiritual guy who is coming into scientific understanding of spirituality from the spiritual side. Sam is simply coming from the other direction, but into the same arena where science meets "spirituality", and they actually coexist happily.While I'm not sure if I agree with Sam that free will is entirely an illusion, I really respect Sam for his open mindedness as a scientist to start to acknowledge something that science has ignored for years out of fear of how to deal with it; subjective experience and subjective data. Subjective experience as seen through a malleable mind is what creates our entire human existence. Therefore the sciences of explaining humanity and our universe should start reflecting this truth, and Sam addresses that elephant in the room eloquently and honestly. Simply put, we DON'T have all the answers to the expanded conscious existence that seems to be beyond the regular operation of brain that we call "spiritual" and that has spawned every major religion on the planet. And it IS rather ridiculous when the religious or new age woo-woo folks start making leaps into trying to link to the quantum sciences to explain their crazy theories about God or consciousness and the phenomenon of consciousness expansion beyond the regular operation of the Default Mode Network in the brain. But there IS something beyond the DMN. We CAN change our brain rhythms and form and function of the brain (and thus consciousness) through our conscious will. That is empirical fact as it has been presented via peer reviewed published studies on plasticity. So we simply need to admit we're at a place where we can neither prove nor disprove how consciousness and shifts in consciousness work, and move to understand the phenomenon with careful and skeptical study on the matter.Yay for Sam! Great book!
I really enjoyed Sam's no-nonsense perspective.
His honesty and open mindedness in discussing what lies beyond waking consciousness from a scientific perspective.
The film tag line for this book should be; "...written by an intellectual bad-ass."
I'm not sure who needs this book more; the religiously atheist folks who deny any potential for non-local consciousness out of hand before even considering the data... or the religiously woo-woo spiritual folks who have no clue that science is focusing in on the things we call "spiritual" and is actually suggesting there is a scientific basis for some of the phenomena we call "spiritual" (but with caveats attached which can help us understand our "spiritual" existence better).
"Some parts were tough going"
Normally I race through Sam’s books, but this one had some sections with hardcore neuroscience and very subtle philosophy about the self that I really struggled through. The last few chapters were so excellent — his demolition of near-death experiences and his discussion of the role of drugs in reaching states of bliss were especially good — that I’m going to have to read this again sooner rather than later. And parts were so mind-blowing that I can’t stop thinking about them: Like how people who have the two halves of their brains separated will answers questions differently depending upon which side is asked the questions. The hard part for me to get: There is no self, only consciousness. And the book’s bottom line: Spiritually transcendent states are not unusual among humans; they are natural and can be cultivated with simple, straight-forward steps without recourse to religion (which comes with the baggage of superstition) or drugs (which can cause bad trips or physical problems). Grade: A-
Narration: I always prefer when Sam reads his own books. He's not the greatest narrator but he understands his own words best and conveys them well.
Both are great.
Dr. Harris talks about what happens to a person's sense of "self" when the corpus callosum has been cut. This part of the book blew my mind. The book was full of these moments for me.
I have listened/read most if not all of his books. I like the way he writes and reads in the case of audio books. I like them all and I like them for different reasons.
From beginning to end, I found myself stopping to review different sections of the book just to make sure I understood it's implications, or to review specific sections repeatedly so I can remember and talk about them later. I know it's a good book when I'm motivated to do this kind of thing.
"Really enjoying his notes on life"
Great stuff, enjoyable smart ways of delivering many ideas. His experiences are appreciated his sharing them. Thanks and I look forward to many more books by a brilliant man.
"A lot of insights, great performance"
I always like audio performance of Sam Harris, his voice is calm and confident.
As for the book itself I'm totally admire his insights, thoughts and analysis.
I must admit though that some of his ideas may sound quite revolutionary for unprepared ears. Anybody would take much more from the book if he listens to it with open mind and heart.
I would totally recommend the book to anybody who is looking for spiritual growth, free from bias, misconception or heresy.
"A Thicket of Views?"
The author reads a little too quickly, especially during the subtler passages on neuroscience and consciousness. These are nuanced ideas; the mind needs a moment to digest between long clauses, and especially sentences. I tried slowing the speed, but the tone was awkward.
The subjects addressed of the book were fascinating: comparisons of east and west religions, meditation techniques, psychedelics vs mindfulness practices, the implications of split brain research, the limitations of both science and faith traditions. And the author is clearly dedicated to the practice of understanding consciousness. He has clearly practiced hard, thought deeply, and read widely. That is much to applaud.
Personally, I don't disagree with anything that the author says. I do wonder, however, how the author reconciles his argumentative tone, and his apparent preoccupation with labeling some ideas and traditions as "false, stupid and dangerous," with the principles of acknowledging the limitations of one's own knowledge, and of nonattachment to beliefs and opinions.
At times I was reminded of the Buddha's saying: "One who is free does not hold views or opinions. ... But those who grasp after views and opinions only wander about the world annoying people." In this sense, I can imagine people being annoyed by this author.
"A superb narration of a great book"
Sam is an excellent speaker, and the audio version comes across more like one of his great talks, not a robotically narrated text.
This is not just yet another book on meditation---it's not only on meditation, and it's not a self-help book---at least in any traditional sense. Unlike most of the former, it's strictly rational and does not give any concessions to any sort of religious accommodation, and unlike the latter it does not give a "30-Day Program to Become Happy" or anything of this sort---although it does discuss practical points. You can look at it as an invitation to look inside our minds, and to use this rational introspection cut through the illusions which are, at the end of the day, the source of our unhappiness.
If you are new to the whole meditation thing, I can recommend to first read "10% Happier" by Dan Harris (no relation to Sam). It's a very different, lighter/entertaining book (the audio version is fantastic), but it should serve as an excellent introduction to "Waking Up".
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