The Physiology Of A Peak Experience with James Austin

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Wouldn't it be nice to increase the chance that today will be your lucky day? What if you could raise the likelihood of having a peak experience, or a flash of insight that illumines life's deepest truths? Is there a physical reason why we're often afraid to take the chances that might transform our lives? These are a few of the questions explored by Dr. James Austin in this unusual blending of spirituality and science. As both a neurologist and a Zen practitioner he brings a quiet logic to the mysteries of enlightenment, and explains how moments of spiritual awakening alter brain function and body chemistry to make us happier and more creative. He uses his scientific perspective to explain metaphysical events, and explains that "with meditative practice the brain quiets down. On a background of meditative practice, peak experiences tend to be more transformative, more influential, and the person becomes more actualized." (hosted by Michael Toms)


James Austin, M.D. is Professor Emeritus of Neurology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and Affiliate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Idaho.

He is the author of:

  • Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness (MIT Press 1998)
  • Chase, Chance, and Creativity: The Lucky Art of Novelty (MIT Press 2003)

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • Why "be happy" might be the best prescription your doctor can write for you
  • What you can do to facilitate a peak experience
  • Why peak experiences change the way your brain works and the way your life unfolds
  • How luck occurs, from a brain scientist's point of view
  • What you can do to change your brain chemistry to move beyond fear
  • How you can let go of the argumentative, suffering, clinging parts of your self
Host: Michael Toms      Interview Date: 4/30/2004      Program Number: 3044