James Hughs: Last year, at a conference at MIT on the contribution of Buddhism to brain sciences, molecular biologist Eric Lander suggested that in 20 years “the US surgeon general might recommend 60 minutes of mental exercise five times a week.” I hope not.

It would probably have as little effect on mental health as the recommendation to exercise regularly and eat five helpings of vegetables has had on obesity and health. It would also mean that progress in neurotechnology had ground to a halt before 2005. In 20 years we should have far easier alternatives.



Since I first started standing on my head and staring at candles back in the mid-1970s, meditation has never come easily. My legs fall asleep, my mind wanders and my resolve flew out the window when I had children. Now the occasional sit on a cushion is just a painful reminder of my slide into householder somnolence.



Instead I am consumed with the much more mundane spiritual challenges of the householder life: how to be more patient, vigorous, attentive and ethical, and how not to lose perspective when you are shuttling from the treadmill to work to Little League to dinner to bed.



In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition both the fully enlightened person and the person aspiring to discover their enlightened personality are called the bodhisattva. A whole disquisition could be given on how the supernatural aspects attributed to buddhas and bodhisattvas over the ages sound remarkably like the superpowers of the posthumans we transhumanists want everyone to become. Things like multiplying your personality into myriad forms, and then pulling it back together, or flying around on a moon-disk in a heavenly realm making fun of the narcotized lotus eaters by playing tricks with their space-time.



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