The Quiet Mind Book Summary - The Quiet Mind Book explained in key points
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The Quiet Mind summary

John E. Coleman

The firsthand account of a CIA agent who traveled the Eastern world in search of mindfulness

3.9 (161 ratings)
28 mins
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    The Quiet Mind
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    In Thailand, Coleman realized that hypnosis and meditation could induce unusual brain states.

    Throughout the West, Thailand is known for its dramatic natural beauty. Aside from its landscapes, Thailand is also home to over 16,000 temples and is celebrated for its status as a seat of Buddhist tradition. 

    In the late 1950s, John E. Coleman was stationed in Bangkok, serving a three-year term as a security advisor to the Thai government. One day, at the invitation of a Thai friend, he attended a meeting of a psychic research group. The experience was a revelation, giving Coleman a taste of the human mind’s potential.

    The key message here is: In Thailand, Coleman realized that hypnosis and meditation could induce unusual brain states.

    The psychic research meeting took place at a wat, or temple, and the attendees consisted of an obstetrician, an anesthetist, and a psychiatrist, among others. All were interested in the potential similarities between hypnotized brains and brains in meditation.

    At the meeting, Coleman witnessed some of the strange effects of hypnotism. In one instance, a young boy was hypnotized and had cotton pads taped over his eyes. He then stood behind a blackboard while someone else wrote random words on it. Incredibly, the boy was then able to redraw exactly the same symbols on his own side of the blackboard.

    This experience sparked Coleman’s desire to delve deeper into the subjects of both hypnotism and Buddhism; it seemed to him there was a link between hypnotism and the ancient Buddhist practice of meditation.

    One particularly hot and stressful day, Coleman made a social visit to a member of the psychic research group, Dr. Charoon. As many Thais do, Dr. Charoon had completed his professional studies and was now spending a few months as a monk. When Coleman entered the temple where Dr. Charoon was staying, Charoon told him he looked stressed and insisted on hypnotizing him to help him relax.

    While Coleman was lying down and in a trance, something strange happened. Unbeknownst to him, his right arm began to rise into the air and then lower itself back down repeatedly.

    Dr. Charoon was startled. There was only one other person in the room, a Thai naval officer who was sitting and meditating. Agitated, Dr. Charoon asked the man what was happening. The officer grinned and said that he was mentally suggesting that Coleman raise and lower his arm.

    In disbelief, Dr. Charoon asked the officer to perform the trick again. The officer obliged, telepathically commanding Coleman to move various combinations of all of his limbs up and down. Somehow, it worked!

    Finally, Dr. Charoon brought Coleman out of his hypnotic state and explained what had happened. Both wondered: What strange power was there in hypnotism and meditation?

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    What is The Quiet Mind about?

    The Quiet Mind (1971) is the firsthand account of an American intelligence agent who traveled the Eastern world in search of inner peace. Throughout his remarkable life, author John. E. Coleman explored a wide breadth of spiritual paths, from Thai Buddhism to Zen to Quakerism. Ultimately, he found the greatest success with vipassana, a type of meditation he later imparted to his own students.

    Best quote from The Quiet Mind

    QUOTE: Dont believe me – look to yourself for the truth. -Jiddu Krishnamurti

    —John E. Coleman
    example alt text

    Who should read The Quiet Mind?

    • The spiritually open-minded
    • Those looking to understand the differences among several Eastern philosophies
    • Admirers of D. T. Suzuki, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and U Ba Khin

    About the Author

    John E. Coleman was an officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), stationed in Thailand throughout the 1950s and ’60s. During a trip to nearby Burma (now Myanmar), he studied the vipassana meditation method of renowned Buddhist leader U Ba Khin, under whose tutelage he finally reached enlightenment. Eventually, Coleman began to conduct his own ten-day meditation courses all over the world. He died in 2012.

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