In this episode, philosopher, author, and meditator, Evan Thompson speaks with host Michael Taft. Topics include: the meaning of awakening; lucid dreaming and noticing the construction of the waking state; the 3-fold structure of Awareness, Contents of Awareness, and then Identification with Contents; The cosmopolitanism of Buddhism, and the myth of Buddhist exceptionalism; consciousness hacking and psychedelics; and much more.
Evan Thompson, PhD, works on the nature of the mind, the self, and human experience. His work combines cognitive science, philosophy of mind, phenomenology, and cross-cultural philosophy, especially in Asian traditions. His most recent book, Waking, Dreaming, Being, examines the self and consciousness in neuroscience, meditation, and philosophy.
1:50 – Evan’s personal practice and retreat in Nelson, British Columbia.
4:55 – Central metaphor of awakening from sleep-wake cycle. Fractal nature of awakening.
8:50 – Phenomenal sense of insight into waking up, false awakening.
11:40 – Is waking up a recurring process as in the ordinary sleep-wake cycle?
15:10 – Awakening as metaphorical concept and not a state. Ethics, values tied to awakening.
17:15 – Embodied nature of consciousness and awakening.
19:55 – Extended consciousness involving brain, body and environment vs panpsychism.
23:35 – Meditation is not first person science, more similar to dance and martial arts.
28:25 – Basic structure of Waking, Dreaming, Being based on Upanishads.
29:05 – Unpacking the Upanishadic structure in the context of meditation.
33:45 – Lucid dreaming for cultivating awareness rather than dream control.
37:45 – Connection between framing of dream and waking states.
38:50 – Consciousness versus contents of consciousness. Sense of self while awake, dreaming.
43:25 – Neuroscience of self and memory while dreaming.
45:30 – Neuroscience of self and memory while awake.
46:20 – Brain as active while asleep as awake, but in different local and network ways.
48:00 – Sleep needed for memory consolidation, learning and self regulation.
49:35 – Meditation not only limited to brain but an activity practiced in a social context.
53:05 – Meditation embodied in a wider context that may be missed in brain only fMRI scans.
55:40 – Wings needed for flight but flight is not in the wings, brain needed for meditation …
56:55 – Meditation reduced to neuroscience correlates may be too reductionist.
58:05 – Neuroscience being used to “prove” Buddhism. Fetishizing Buddhism.
1:00:35 – Buddhism is a religion despite claims to the contrary, a lot of Buddhist exceptionalism.
1:03:00 – Critique of Buddhist exceptionalism in new book. Cosmopolitan Buddhism preferred.
1:05:35 – Evan’s book in progress Why I am not a Buddhist.
1:07:05 – Hopeful signs in greater sensitivity to environment, equality.
1:10:05 – Unbalanced approach to psychedelics. Consciousness hacking as fear of death.
1:13:20 – Outro