Mindrolling – Raghu Markus – Ep. 195 – Mirror Touch with Joel Salinas M.D.

Joel Salinas

Joel Salinas M.D. joins the Mindrolling podcast to talk about his book, “Mirror Touch,” and the phenomena of mirror-touch synesthesia.

Joel Salinas discusses this fascinating phenomenon which blurs the boundaries between the self and others. He and Raghu talk about the importance of inner work and how different spiritual practices affect our physiology.


Show Notes

Mirror Touch (Opening) – Joel helps break down the term synesthesia; explaining how people with synesthesia (synesthetes) experience the world and what science knows about what is happening in the brain of a synesthete. He explores a particular combination of vision and touch known as mirror-touch synesthesia, which Joel himself experiences.

“We all have areas in our brain that help us to tell the difference between our physical bodies and the physical bodies of others around us. But in people that have mirror-touch synesthesia, those brain areas are smaller and less active. So this mirroring network is extremely heightened, where the boundaries blur between yourself and other people.” –  Joel Salinas

Blurring Lines (6:30) – Mirror-touch synesthesia has the potential to lower the boundaries of perception between the self and others. Joel describes what it is like to have lines between his internal subjective reality and objective physical reality. He shares the challenges and blessings that mirror-touch can bestow present a person.

“I consider myself one of the lucky ones with mirror-touch synesthesia, it was only when I was able to harness this trait that I was able to become a better doctor.” –  Joel Salinas

Inner Work (13:30) – Joel talks about the inner work that was required to direct the symptoms of mirror-touch synesthesia in a positive way. He shares how he uses mindfulness to tune into his mirrored sensations and heal his patients.

“A lot of learning to work with synesthesia was learning about myself. As I was going through these really intense experiences in the hospital, it became clear that I had to really draw into the present moment.” –  Joel Salinas

Cognitive Flexibility (24:30) – Raghu and Joel discuss cognitive flexibility and regulating our behavior with executive function. They talk about the importance of mindfulness in this process.

“Like pruning, it is also possible that an above average executive function helps regulate the chatter of thoughts and emotions.”-  Joel Salinas

Disillusion of the Ego (37:20) –  Joel talks about meeting other mirror-touch synesthetes for the first time and learning that they all have the experience of being disillusioned of their ego. He speaks more in depth about the experience of blurring his experience with that of others.

Find Joel online by clicking here. For more on the science of consciousness check out this episode of Sharon Salzberg’s Metta Hour with Emma Seppälä Ph.D.

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