In this Feel Good Effect podcast episode, we are talking about how to create more happiness, calm, and confidence with Dr. Rick Hanson.
We dive into practices for embodying ourselves in daily lives so that we can better handle stress, heal old pain, feel at ease with others, and rest in the sense of natural goodness.
Creating More Happiness, Calm & Confidence with Dr. Rick Hanson (new episode)
Dr. Rick Hanson and his book, Neurodharma
Rick has a number of books, his newest one being Neurodharma: New Science, Ancient Wisdom, and 7 Practices of the Highest Happiness.
When you write a book for the first time, there’s uncertainty as to whether you’re ever going to write another one, but Neurodharma is his sixth.
It is the intersection of the newest science about our brains and being combined with the most profound wisdom from around the world (in particular, Buddhist psychology).
The book includes lots of tools that people can use for their wellbeing in everyday life as well as in the upper reaches of human potential.
At this time of great challenge, we need depth of practice more than ever for our own sake as well as for other people so that we can be a refuge for them, a pillar for them to lean against.
It’s so powerful to know that you really can develop greater steadiness of mind, greater warmth of heart, greater equanimity, greater emotional balance, a sense of feeling whole, right in the present moment, feeling supported by and connected with all things with intuition and timelessness.
The highest happiness
It’s seven steps, really seven practices, to the highest happiness, which Rick breaks down in his book.
Neurodharma is highly accessible for anyone who is just beginning a practice of mindfulness or compassion while at the same it’s really valuable for people who have an existing practice as a resource for what’s next as we move up the mountain of awakening.
Rick’s trajectory as a writer
Rick’s very first book was about taking care of mothers, which he wrote from the perspective of caring about children by caring for their mothers.
Often the best thing we can do for mothers is to support their relationship with their partners.
If we wanted to change the course of human history in a single generation, we would make the welfare of mothers the number one public policy priority.
Next, Rick wrote Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, which is about where Western science and Buddhist wisdom meet.
Most recently before Neurodharma, Rick and his son Forrest wrote Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness about developing 12 fundamental inner strengths.
Rick decided to go for it and teach the most profound things he knows, rooted in the most recent science he knows, and offer that into the world; Neurodharma: New Science, Ancient Wisdom, and 7 Practices of the Highest Happiness.
Accessing concepts of mindfulness
We can know ourselves and help ourselves in two ways:
We can know ourselves from the inside out, be self-aware, tune into our bodies, and be mindful of our own interior (formally called a first-person perspective).
This is a subjective experience that is really valuable.
As a practicing therapist, Rick works in that territory a lot and throughout history, that’s pretty much the only way that people had.
But in the last hundred years, and even more so in the last ten years, we can start to know ourselves better from the outside in as well, objectively, scientifically, neurologically, in what’s called the third-person perspective.
What starts to happen when you know just a little bit about what’s going on inside your own brain is that you can nudge neural activity, which is happening right now, in this very moment of hearing (or reading), thinking, and reflecting.
Whatever is happening in a person’s stream of consciousness right now is mostly, if not entirely, based on what is also happening right now between their ears
The brain as an enchanted loom
The brain has been described as the enchanted loom, continually weaving the tapestry of consciousness.
It’s useful to understand how the circuits work inside your own brain, in an intimate and personal way.
When you know a little bit about what’s going on inside of your brain, you can deliberately help yourself have certain kinds of experiences that will strengthen those neural circuits.
With repetition, you can build up the neural basis, the basis in your brain for stable, present moment awareness, or a stable sense of underlying contentment and happiness.
You can build up the physical basis of lovingness and kindness and compassion.
You can really grow these things, and if it’s of interest, you can also develop qualities that Rick dives into during the second half of the book that is involved with subtler and more profound states of consciousness, being a sense of wholeness, radical presence, and one with everything.
Neurodharma: the way it is
The word neurodharma for Rick is where these two ways of knowing ourselves, from the inside out and from the outside in, come together.
The word ‘neurodharma’ means ‘the way it is’.
There’s the way it is that we know ourselves subjectively and psychologically and the way we know ourselves objectively and neurologically.
Where they come together is neurodharma.
It’s not specific to Buddhism nor is it preachy.
The book talks about this wisdom tradition in a psychological model of our own minds; it’s not religious, it’s common sense.
It’s not either-or, but another way to look at our own brains and beings.
Breaking down Neurodharma
This book has four sections:
- Embodied practiced
- An unshakable core
- Opening into everything
- Always already home
The seven practices Rick outlines are the steps to the mountain of awakening, the same steps we take again and again.
The beginning of the book is about how to start a practice, how to develop yourself in this life and think about what’s going on in the brain when we do that.
An unshakable core
Then, we develop an unshakable core with the first three practices:
- Practice 1: steadying your mind
- Practice 2: warming your heart
- Practice 3: resting in fullness (a sense of balance)
Open into everything
Opening into everything is where we launch into “being wholeness”, which is accepting yourself, not fighting with parts of yourself, or being ashamed.
It’s a present moment of awareness.
We can build and have an underlying sense of beingness while living a busy life.
- Practice 5: receiving nowness (rest in the present moment consistently)
- Practice 6: opening into allness (the world connected with something transcendental)
It’s relaxing into the person we are, which is more of a symphony than a single person trying to run the whole show.
Be the symphony you are.
- Practice 7: finding timelessness
What does it mean to have a sense of spaciousness, stillness, possibility, timelessness, that can relate to something beyond ordinary reality?
Can we become more accessible inside ordinary reality to what may well lie beyond it?
Always already home
Always already home is a culmination chapter, touching on how these practices are not reserved for only the saints and ages; these are our endowments and human birth-right.
As we develop these practices, we can tap into this way of being.
The idea of ‘always already home’ counteracts the concept of ‘inner homelessness’, which Rick talked about a lot in his first time on the Feel Good Effect.
When we’re not rattled or disconnected, when our needs of safety, satisfaction, and connection are met and felt at the core of our being, that’s our home base.
It’s a matter of coming home and staying home, not becoming someone we’re not.
With practice, we can develop these practices inside ourselves and be a refuge for others.
Wherever we are upon this path, it makes sense to take the next step
We can take action in the practices in daily life, we can practice and grow in one thing, which can help us feel focused and grounded in something.
We have agency, we can make a choice inside our own minds, we can practice, and we can grow the good.
Whatever has happened in the past, whatever this moment is like, we can always learn a little bit, grow a little bit, heal a little bit.
What it really means to be healthy
Imagine buying a house that has been boarded up for 40-years.
It’s old, it’s musty, and there are a lot of cobwebs.
You turn on the faucet in the kitchen sink and for the first time in 40-years, water starts to flow, but what comes out is brown.
The tendency is to turn it off, but in fact, we know that we need to just let it run for a while.
In much the same way, in our own minds, there can be some dirt and maybe even some things that feel poisonous.
They arise, as it is in our human nature.
If we bottle it up, freeze it, or fight it, it just stagnates and gets worse over time.
We need to let it flow.
The water itself that contained all of these sediments was always pure.
It itself was never tainted by what it carried.
In much the same way, our being is like the water; it itself is never tainted or destroyed by what passes through it.
True health is to have a sense of grounding in that water, the water of our innate, fundamental health, which can include pain, disease, illness, sorrow, and ultimately the passing away of this particular body.
All of that can be contained in this fundamental water of our natural, radiant, transpersonal true health.
Make it happen
Pick one of those practices that Dr. Hanson talked about, and try to implement it into your daily life.
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, senior fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and New York Times bestselling author. His books have been published in 28 languages and include Neurodharma, Resilient, Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha’s Brain, Just One Thing, and Mother Nurture – with over 900,000 copies in English alone. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, he has been an invited speaker at Google, NASA, Oxford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. His work has been featured on the BBC, CBS, and NPR, and he offers the free Just One Thing newsletter with 150,000 subscribers, plus the online Foundations of Well-Being program in positive neuroplasticity.
Dr. Rick Hanson’s books:
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