A Complete Guide to the Practice o Meditation

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Rick Hanson, Ph.D. is a psychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and New York Times best-selling author. His books are available in 26 languages and include Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha’s Brain, Just One Thing, and Mother Nurture.  A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA and founder of the Wellspring Institute for N...euroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, he’s been an invited speaker at NASA, Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, and other major universities, and taught in meditation centers worldwide.In 2016 he gave a keynote address at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. His work has been featured on the BBC, CBS, NPR, and other major media. His free offerings include the Just One Thing newsletter (over 120,000 subscribers), Buddha’s Brain Facebook (over 650,000 likes), and Being Well podcast. His online Foundations of Well-Being program helps people use positive neuroplasticity to grow key inner strengths like resilience, self-worth, and compassion, and anyone with financial need can do it for free. Dr. Hanson has spent decades helping people turn everyday experiences into lasting happiness, love, and inner peace, hardwired into the brain. He enjoys wilderness, taking a break from emails, and time with his wife and two adult children.     More

Let Go of the Case

stressed-businesswoman-picture-id519039296 Let Go of the Case

Enjoy the good feelings and other rewards of dropping your case.

Who are you prosecuting?

The Practice:
Drop the case.

Why?

Lately I've been thinking about a kind of "case" that's been running in my mind about someone in my extended family. The case is a combination of feeling hurt and mistreated, critique of the other person, irritation with others who haven't supported me, views about what should happen that hasn't, and implicit taking-things-personally.

In other words, the usual mess.

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Common Ground

commonground Common Ground

Can finding common ground with others help us find peace?

Who's outside your circle?

The Practice: Common Ground

Why?

As we move into 2019, here are my top five inner practices for helping this year be a good one for you and others:


By “us” all “thems,” I mean finding common ground with every person—especially those you fear or are angry with or who are simply very different from you. These days this practice is more important than ever.

For most of the past 300,000 years, our human ancestors lived in small bands of about 50 people in which they survived by being good at caring about and cooperating with people inside the band —with “us”—while also being good at fearing and aggressing upon people outside their band: “them.” And for 2 million years before that, our hominid ancestors lived and evolved under similar pressures.

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Learn As You Go

Learn as You Go Learn As You Go

Are You Growing?

The Practice:
Learn As You Go

Why?

I was recently asked about my top five inner practices for 2019, and here they are:


You can click the links above to see the first two. By “learn as you go,” I mean that each day is an opportunity to take in the good: to help useful or enjoyable experiences sink in and become a part of you. Then when you go to sleep, you'll be a little stronger, a little more resilient, a little wiser, a little more loving, a little happier than you were when you woke up in the morning.

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Let It Flow

flow Let It Flow

Can you stay mindful and peaceful when your thoughts and life get bumpy?

Are you stuck?

The Practice: Let It Flow

Why?

I think there are five key things we can do inside ourselves to be happier, stronger, wiser, and more loving this year:

  • Drop the stone
  • Let it flow
  • Take in the good as you go
  • “Us” all “thems”
  • Open into awe
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Drop the Stone

dropthestone Drop the Stone

Are you lugging around a needless burden?

Is it heavy?

The Practice: 
Drop the stone.

Why?

As we begin a new year for many people, it’s natural to consider how to make it a good one. Besides taking action in the outer world—from fixing a dripping faucet to feeding every child—we can act inside our own minds... and take the benefits with us wherever we go. This year, what do you think are the top five things you can do inside yourself to be happier, stronger, wiser, and more loving?

In this JOT and those that follow, I’ll suggest my own top five:

  • Drop the stone
  • Let it flow
  • Take in the good as you go
  • “Us” all “thems”
  • Open into awe


So, what do I mean by “drop the stone?”

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Acquire Goodwill

Source: free photo/Pixabay Acquire Goodwill

Ill will creates negative qualities whereas good will creates positive qualities

Do people ever make you mad?

The Practice:
Acquire goodwill.

Why?

As the most social and loving species on the planet, we have the wonderful ability and inclination to connect with others, be empathic, cooperate, care, and love. On the other hand, we also have the capacity and inclination to be fearfully aggressive toward any individual or group we regard as "them." (In my book - Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom - I develop this idea further, including how to stimulate and strengthen the neural circuits of self-control, empathy, and compassion.)

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Having a Sense of Home

finindhome Having a Sense of Home

What’s your deepest nature?

The Practice:
Having a Sense of Home.

Why?

Throughout history, people have wondered about human nature. Deep down, are we basically good or bad?

Recently, science is beginning to offer a persuasive answer. When the body is not disturbed by hunger, thirst, pain, or illness, and when the mind is not disturbed by threat, frustration, or rejection, then most people settle into their resting state, a sustainable equilibrium in which the body refuels and repairs itself and the mind feels peaceful, happy, and loving. I call this our Responsive mode of living. It is our home base, which is wonderful news. We are still engaged with the world, still participating with pleasure and passion, but on the basis of a background sense of safety, sufficiency, and connection.

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Guided By Love

heartwitnter Guided By Love

Encourage love in all its forms to flow through you.

What's carrying you?

The Practice:
Guided by love.

Why?

Feeling both the world and myself these days, one phrase keeps calling: lived by love.

Explicitly, this means coming from love in a broad sense, from compassion, good intentions, self-control, warmth, finding what’s to like, caring, connecting, and kindness.

Implicitly, and more fundamentally, this practice means a relaxed opening into the love – in a very very broad sense – that is the actual nature of everything. Moment by moment, the world and the mind reliably carry you along. This isn’t airy-fairy, it’s real. Our physical selves are woven in the tapestry of materiality, whose particles and energies never fail. The supplies – the light and air, the furniture and flowers – that are present this instant are here, available, whatever the future may hold. So too is the caring and goodwill that others have for you, and the momentum of your own accomplishments, and the healthy workings of your body. Meanwhile, your mind goes on being, while dependably weaving this thought, this sound, this moment of consciousness.

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Be of Help to Others

helpingothers Be of Help to Others

Do not underestimate the impact of a small deed. 

What can I do?

The Practice:
Be of Help to Others.

Why?

I'm doing a series on my personal top five practices (all tied for first place), and have so far named three: meditate (including mindfulness, self-awareness, and, if you like, prayer), take in the good, and bless (including compassion, generosity, and love).

I saw one way to bless on a trip to Haiti, in the efforts of many dedicated people: be helpful. As you probably know, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with roughly 80 percent unemployment. The national government seemed like a tattered sheet in the wind. A public middle and high school I visited was missing half its schoolbooks as well as the funds for the last two grades. Imagine your own child in such a school . . . and that the $30 it takes to buy the books she needs is a month's wages, as out of reach as the moon.

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Make Good Agreements

satisfied-auto-service-customer-picture-id924919376 Make Good Agreements

Life is full of trade offs between benefits and costs.

Is it worth it?

The Practice:
Make good bargains.

Why?

Life is full of trade-offs between benefits and costs.

Sometimes, the benefits are worth the costs. For example, the rewards of going for a run—getting out in fresh air, improving health, etc.—are, for me at least, worth the costs of losing half an hour of work time while gaining a pair of achy legs. Similarly, it could well be that: getting a raise is worth the awkwardness of asking for one; teaching a child good lessons is worth the stress of correcting her; deepening intimacy is worth the vulnerability of saying "I love you."

But other times, the benefits are not worth the costs. For example, it might feel good to yell at someone who makes you mad—but at a big price, including making you look bad and triggering others to act even worse. There are indeed rewards in that third beer or third cookie—but also significant costs, including how you'll feel about yourself the next day.

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Welcome Faces

iStock-871180142 Welcome Faces

What do their faces say to you?

The Practice:
Welcome faces.

Why?

As our ancestors evolved over millions of years in small bands, continually interacting and working with each other, it was vitally important to communicate in hundreds of ways each day. They shared information about external "carrots" and "sticks," and about their internal experience (e.g., intentions, sexual interest, inclination toward aggression) through gestures, vocalizations - and facial expressions. Much as we developed uniquely complex language, we also evolved the most expressive face in the entire animal kingdom.

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Hold Desires Lightly

close-up-shot-of-hands-working-with-soil-picture-id622457762 Hold Desires Lightly

Be aware of wanting inside your own mind.

What do you want?

The Practice:
Hold desires lightly.

Why?

Getting caught up in wanting — wanting both to get what's pleasant and to avoid what's unpleasant — is a major source of suffering and harm for oneself and others.

First, a lot of what we want to get comes with a big price tag — such as that second cupcake, constant stimulation via TV and websites, lashing out in anger, intoxication, over-working, or manipulating others to get approval or love. On a larger scale, the consumer-based lifestyle widespread in Western nations leads them to eat up — often literally — a huge portion of the world's resources.

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Welcome Fragility

dandelion-clock-in-morning-sun-picture-id665037880 Welcome Fragility

Be mindful of both actual and potential fragility in yourself and others.

Could it crack?

The Practice:
Welcome fragility.

Why?

The truth of anything is like a mosaic with many tiles, many parts.

One part of the truth of things is that they are robust and enduring, whether it's El Capitan in Yosemite or the love of a child for her mother and father.

Another part of the truth is that things bruise, tear, erode, disperse, or end—fundamentally, they're fragile. Speaking of El Capitan, I knew of someone climbing it who had just placed anchors above a long horizontal crack when the sheet of granite he was standing on broke off to fall like a thousand-ton pancake to the valley floor below (he lived, clutching his anchors). Love and other feelings often change in a family. Bodies get ill, age, and die. Milk spills, glasses break, people mistreat you, good feelings fade. One's sense of calm or worth is easily disturbed. Wars start and then end badly. Planets heat up and hurricanes flood cities. Earthquakes cause tidal waves and damage nuclear reactors.

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Be Aware Of Progress

happy-couple-looking-at-sunset-from-convertible-picture-id842605642 Recognize what is improving in your own life.

Are some things getting better?

The Practice:
Be aware of progress.

Why?

There are always things that are getting worse. For example, over the past year, you probably know someone who has become unemployed or ill or both, and there's more carbon in the atmosphere inexorably heating up the planet.

But if you don't recognize what's improving in your own life, then you feel stagnant, or declining. This breeds what researchers call "learned helplessness" - a dangerously slippery slope. It typically takes only a few experiences of painful entrapment to create it but many times as many counter-experiences to undo it.

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Lighten Your Load

soap-bubbles-floating-on-green-garden-background-picture-id592035670 Lighten Your Load

On the path of life, most of us are hauling way too much weight.

What's weighing you down?

The Practice:
Lighten your load.

Why?

On the path of life, most of us are hauling way too much weight.

What's in your own backpack? If you're like most of us, you've got too many items on each day's To Do list and too much stuff in the closet. Too many entanglements with other people. And too many "shoulds," worries, guilts, and regrets.

Remember a time when you lightened your load. Maybe a backpacking trip when every needless pound stayed home. Or after you finally left a bad relationship. Or just stopped worrying about something. Or came clean with a friend about something that had been bothering you. How did this feel? Probably pretty great.

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Have Trust in Love

portrait-of-a-happy-couple-picture-id522330365 Have Trust in Love

Love is like air. It may be hard to see, but it's in you and all around you.

Do you believe in love?

The Practice:
Have trust in love.

Why?

Take a breath right now, and notice how abundant the air is, full of life-giving oxygen offered freely by trees and other green growing things. You can't see air, but it's always available for you.

Love is a lot like the air. It may be hard to see — but it's in you and all around you.

In the press of life — dealing with hassles in personal relationships and being bombarded with news of war and other conflicts — it's easy to lose sight of love, and feel you can't place your faith in it. But in fact, to summarize a comment from Gandhi, daily life is saturated with moments of cooperation and generosity — between complete strangers! Let alone with one's friends and family.

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Don't Rain On the Dreams of Others

rainbow-and-water-drops-on-glass-texture-picture-id153517484 Don't Rain On the Dreams of Others

Are you too quick with doubt, limitations, cost analyses, reasons why not?

Why do we have cheerleaders?

The Practice:
Don't rain on others dreams.

Why?

Let's say you've had an interesting idea or moment of inspiration, or thought of a new project, or felt some enthusiasm bubbling up inside you. Your notions are not fully formed and you're not really committed to them yet, but they have promise and you like them and are trying them on for size. Then what?

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Receive Generosity From Others

shopper-giving-a-gift-to-a-friend-in-winter-picture-id887389552 Receive Generosity From Others

Let it sink in that receiving generosity is good.

Do you accept the gift?

The Practice:
Receive generosity from others.

Why?

Life gives to each one of us in so many ways.

For starters, there’s the bounty of the senses – including chocolate chip cookies, jasmine, sunsets, wind singing through pine trees, and just getting your back scratched.

What does life give you?

Consider the kindness of friends and family, made more tangible during a holiday season, but of course continuing throughout the year.

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Speak Intelligently (6 guidelines from Buddha)

happy-couple-walking-and-talking-in-the-countryside-picture-id806165312

Words – and the tone that comes with them – can actually do damage.

What are you saying?

The Practice:
Speak Intelligently.

Why?

"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

Ah, not really.

Often it's words– and the tone that comes with them – that actually do the most damage. Just think back on some of the things that have been said to you over the years – especially those said with criticism, derision, shaming, anger, rejection, or scorn – and the impacts they've had on your feelings, hopes and ambitions, and sense of yourself.

Words can hurt, since the emotional pain networks in your brain overlap with physical pain networks. (The effects of this intertwining go both ways. For example, studies have shown that receiving social support reduces the perceived intensity of physical pain, and – remarkably – that giving people Tylenol reduced the unpleasantness of social rejection.)

Besides their momentary effects, these hurts can linger – even for a lifetime. The residues of hurtful words sift down into emotional memory to cast long shadows over the inner landscape of your mind.

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Try to Understand Others

fathers-mothers-and-babys-hand-picture-id672165776 Try to Understand Others

Painful experiences are more than passing discomforts.

What Are They Feeling?

The Practice: Try to understand others.

Why?

Imagine a world in which people interacted with each other like ants or fish. Imagine a day at work like this, or in your family, aware of the surface behavior of the people around you but oblivious to their inner life while they remain unmoved by your own.

That's a world without empathy.

Empathic breakdowns shake the foundation of a relationship; just recall a time you felt misunderstood – or even worse, a time when the other person couldn’t care less about understanding you. In particular, anyone who is vulnerable (e.g., children, the elderly) has a profound need for empathy, and when it’s a thin soup or missing altogether, that’s very disturbing. In my experience as a therapist, poor empathy is the core problem in most troubled couples or families; without it, nothing good is likely to happen. With it, even the toughest issues can be resolved.

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