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

Remember the Important Things

reflecting Remember the Important Things

In every life, reminders arrive about what's really key.

What matters most to you?

The Practice:
Remember the important things.

Why?

In every life, reminders arrive about what's really important.

I’ve received some myself, as I’m sure you have, too. Perhaps it was news of a potentially serious health problem, the death of a loved one, or an accident that could have turned fatal. These are uncomfortably concrete messages that sooner or later something will catch up with each one of us.

When I’m pierced with one of these reminders, it’s like there are three layers in my mind. The top layer is focused on problem-solving. Beneath that is what seems like a furry little animal that’s upset and wants to curl up and be hugged. The bottom layer feels accepting, peaceful, and grateful.

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Be Accepting of Difficulty

surfing Be Accepting of Difficulty

Fighting with the hard things in life just makes them worse.

Is it hard?

The Practice:
Be Accepting of difficulty.

Why?

Sometimes things are difficult. Your legs are tired and you still have to stay on your feet another hour at work. You love a child who's finding her independence through emotional distance from you. A long-term relationship could be losing its spark. It's finals week in college. You're trying to start a business and it's struggling. You've got a chronic health problem or a disability. Sometimes people don't appreciate your work. You're being discriminated against or otherwise treated unjustly. The body ages, sags, and grows weary.

Plus there are all the little hassles of everyday life. You're in an airport and can't get wifi (the injustice!). You're at home looking for the ice cream and someone ate the last of it. You're talking to your partner and realize he or she isn't really paying attention.

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Notice Good Intentions

goodintensions Notice Good Intentions

By recognizing positive intentions we feel safer, supported, and happier.

What do others want?

The Practice:
Notice good intentions.

Why?

Hustling through an airport, I stopped to buy some water. At the shop’s refrigerator, a man was bent over, loading bottles into it. I reached past him and pulled out one he’d put in. He looked up, stopped working, got a bottle from another shelf, and held it out to me, saying “This one is cold.” I said thanks and took the one he offered.

He didn’t know me and would never see me again. His job was stocking, not customer service. He was busy and looked tired. But he took the time to register that I’d gotten a warm bottle, and he cared enough to shift gears and get me a cold one. He wished me well.

I can see his friendly eyes as I write now, a week later. It was just a bottle of water. But I feel warmed by his kindness and buoyed by his good intentions.

Recognizing the positive intentions in others, we feel safer, more supported, and happier. And when others feel that you get their good intentions, they feel seen, appreciated, and more inclined to treat you well.

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Forget The Shoulda's

Life's stream Forget The Shoulda's

When healthy inclinations become "shouldas," then there is a big problem.

Is it really true?

The Practice: Forget the "shoulda's."

Why?

One time I watched a three-year-old at her birthday party. Her friends were there from preschool, and she received lots of presents. The cake came out, she admired the pink frosting rose at its center, and everyone sang. One of the moms cut pieces and without thinking sliced right through the rose - a disaster for this little girl. "I shoulda had the rose!" she yelled. "I shoulda shoulda SHOULDA had the rose!" Nothing could calm her down, not even pushing the two pieces of cake together to look like a whole rose. Nothing else mattered, not the friends, not the presents, not the day as a whole: she was insistent, something MUST happen. She had, just HAD to get the whole rose.

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Be at Peace with the Pain of Others

sunrise-over-the-clouds-picture-id595343542 Be at Peace with the Pain of Others

Can you stay open to the pain of others?

The Practice:
Be at peace with the pain of others.

Why?

Humans are an empathic, compassionate, and loving species, so it is natural to feel sad, worried, or fiery about the troubles and pain of other people. (And about those of cats and dogs and other animals, but I’ll focus on human beings here.)

Long ago, the Buddha spoke of the “first dart” of unavoidable physical pain. Given our hardwired nature as social beings, when those we care about are threatened or suffer, there is another kind of first dart: unavoidable emotional pain.

For example, if you heard about people who go to bed hungry – as a billion of us do each night – of course your heart would be moved. I’m usually a pretty calm guy, but when I visited Haiti, I was in a cold rage at the appalling conditions in which most people there lived. On a lesser scale but still real, a friend’s son has just started college and is calling home to tell his mom how lonely and miserable he feels; of course she’s worried and upset.

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R.A.I.N. Let It Happen

rainbow R.A.I.N. Let It Happen

Can you be with the whole of your psyche?

The Practice:
Let it R.A.I.N.

Why?

When you're young, the territory of the psyche is like a vast estate, with rolling hills, forests and plains, swamps and meadows. So many things can be experienced, expressed, wanted, and loved.

But as life goes along, most people pull back from major parts of their psyche. Perhaps a swamp of sadness was painful, or fumes of toxic wishes were alarming, or jumping exuberantly in a meadow of joy irritated a parent into a scolding. Or maybe you saw someone else get in trouble for feeling, saying, or doing something and you resolved, consciously or unconsciously, to Stay Away From That Place Forever.

In whatever way it happens, most of us end up by mid-adulthood living in the gate house, venturing out a bit, but lacking much sense of the whole estate, the great endowment of the whole psyche. Emotions are shut down, energetic and erotic wellsprings of vitality are capped, deep longings are set aside, sub-personalities are shackled and silenced, old pain and troubles are buried, the roots of reactions - hurt, anger, feelings of inadequacy - are veiled so we can't get at them, and we live at odds with both Nature and our own nature.

Sure, the processes of the psyche need some regulation. Not all thoughts should be spoken, and not all desires should be acted upon! But if you suppress, disown, push away, recoil from, or deny major parts of yourself, then you feel cut off, alienated from yourself, lacking vital information about what is really going on inside, no longer at home in your own skin or your own mind - which feels bad, lowers effectiveness at home and work, fuels interpersonal issues, and contributes to health problems.

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Relax, You Are Already There

relax Relax, You Are Already There

We spend so much of our time trying to get somewhere.

Are we there yet?

The Practice:
Relax, you are already there..

Why?

We spend so much of our time trying to get somewhere.

Part of this comes from our biological nature. To survive, animals – including us – have to be goal-directed, leaning into the future.

It’s certainly healthy to pursue wholesome aims, like paying the rent on time, raising children well, healing old pain, or improving education.

But it’s also important to see how this focus on the future – on endless striving, on getting the next task done, on climbing the next mountain – can get confused and stressful.

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Own Your Part

Ownyourownpart Own Your Part

Claiming your part helps you step out of tangles with others and yourself.

What's your own role?

The Practice:
See your part.

Why?


In situations or relationships with any kind of difficulty—tension, feeling hurt, conflicts, mismatches of wants . . . the usual crud—it's natural to focus on what others have done that's problematic.

This could be useful for a while: it can energize you, bring insight into what the real priorities are for you, and help you see more clearly what you'd like others to change.

But there is also a cost: Fixating on the harms (actual or imagined) done by others revs up your case about them (see JOT "Drop the Case")  with all the stresses and other problems that brings, plus it makes it harder to see the good qualities in those you have issues with, the influence of additional factors, and your own part in the matter.

For example, let's say you work with someone who is unfairly critical of you. Sure, there are the ways this person is out of line, self-righteous, whatever. Additionally, there are the ways that this person is also doing good things, plus the ways that other factors—such as a distracted boss who hasn't stepped in or coworkers who like to gossip—are helping or hurting. And there is your own role as well: what you're doing—in thought, word, and deed—that's beneficial or harmful.

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Discover Stillness

stillness Discover Stillness

Wherever you discover stillness enjoy it and let it feed you.

What doesn't change?

The Practice:
Discover stillness.

Why?

Things keep changing. The clock ticks, the day unfolds, trees grow, leaves turn brown, hair turns gray, children grow up and leave home, attention skitters from this to that, the cookie is delicious but then it’s all gone, you’re mad about something for awhile and then get over it, consciousness streams on and on and on.

Many changes are certainly good. Most people are glad to put middle school behind them. I’m still happy about shifting thirty years ago from single to married. Painkillers, flush toilets, and the internet seem like pretty good ideas. It’s lovely to watch grass waving in the wind or a river passing. Fundamentally, if there were no change, nothing could happen, reality would be frozen forever. I once asked my friend Tom what he thought God was and he said “possibility.”

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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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Join Soulspring for conscious insights... ...on all things life, wellness, love, transformation and spirituality...  PLUS! Get your FREE Guide: 12 Mindfulness Practices to a Peaceful Mind