“Break Through: Master Your Default Mode and Thrive” by Hosein Kouros-Mehr, MD, PhD

“Break Through” is a comprehensive pass through the emotional problems of humans,  gathering together the solutions of the world’s religions and philosophies, and tying them all together with practical advice on how to apply these principles to live a happier, healthier and more enlightened life.

The science sounds believable and the writer is creditable, but understanding the intricacies of the science is not what the reader wants. More important, the writer gives us a metaphor for the complex workings of the brain, and whether or not we understand it, we can act as if that representation were true, and guide our rehabilitation accordingly.

The scientific villain of this philosophy is the Default Mode Network, roughly parallel to Freud’s ego. This self-preservation mechanism kept humans alive in their climb from the jungle. Now, it has become superfluous in our society but keeps trying to perform its function. This focus on fears and selfishness keeps us from living a balanced psychological and physical existence.

The main thrust of the book is mindfulness: using our Default Mode to take charge of our thought processes so we don’t get sidetracked into emotional back alleys where negative thoughts belabour us. The main technique, which we see over and over again, is to take a step back and observe the negative thought objectively, without emotion. If we react with logic instead of emotion, we have a chance of putting negative thoughts to rest.

In order to approach this technique, the author has identified eleven “knots,” or impediments to living a full life. He covers such factors as stress, addiction, PTSD, negativity, dishonesty, dissatisfaction, and poor lifestyle, just to name a few. In response, we learn how to nurture forgiveness, healthy living, resilience and several other key lifestyle assets.

Be prepared for a slow, thoughtful experience. As you read, you can recognize each problem within yourself, often in ways you didn’t expect. This makes it hard to concentrate on the book, because your mind keeps wandering into the ideas the author stimulates.

The pattern of each chapter is first a general description of a symptom or set of symptoms (sometimes rather self-evident ones), and then moving to a scientific description of what happens in your brain, along with historical/mythological references. (There is a lot going on in this book.) It then describes a mindfulness exercise, akin to prayer or meditation, that will help strengthen your resistance to this difficulty. It shows how to deal with the Default Mode Network, not to remove it, but to develop a healthy balance with it.

A warning to readers. This is not “Meditation for Dummies.” There is no quick fix. Practice and commitment are continuing reminders in the text. The information is comprehensive: a gathering together of all the wisest advice for centuries, with application to the modern world. If anything, the book tries to do too much. Every chapter is worth a volume in itself.

This book will especially appeal to those with realistic approach to the modern world, but also to those with ties to historical humanistic movements. It is more in tune with those of a spiritual bent, but also recommended for those with a more scientific frame of reference.

Highly recommended for those seriously determined to improve their lives.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

About the Author: Gordon Long

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