Posted in Zen Buddhism

“Buddha’s Brain” by Rick Hanson

Want to be happier? “Buddha’s Brain: the Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom” has practical advice on how to do so, based on both neuroscience and Buddhism. Which is one of two reasons why I love it.

The other reason is the cool brain science stuff explained in plain English.

First take-away point: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” You stimulate pathways in your brain often enough (the neurons firing), and after a time they decide to grow closer together (the wiring) so they can communicate more quickly. Result: You think happy thoughts, it gets easier to think happy thoughts.

Second take-away point: We create most of own suffering. “Only we humans worry about the future, regret the past, and blame ourselves for the present. We get frustrated when we can’t have what we want, and disappointed when what we like ends. We suffer that we suffer. We get upset about being in pain, angry about dying, sad about waking up sad yet another day. This kind of suffering – which encompasses most of our unhappiness and dissatisfaction – is constructed by the brain.”

Anyone else seeing the first two Noble Truths here?

Third take-away point: “Your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones – even though most of your experiences are probably neutral or positive.” And why is this? Because negative experiences may be dangerous, and you need to learn from them: the stove may be hot, don’t drive too fast, etc. Remembering last night’s sunset is not a survival imperative. No wonder we can be so unhappy so much of the time! It’s what we remember.

Fourth take-away point: Taking in the Good. “[C]onsciously look for and take in positive experiences. There are three simple steps: turn positive facts into positive experiences, savor these experiences, and sense them sinking in.” In other words, take time to smell the daisies.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the good stuff in this book. Hanson also has several guided meditation series, including “Meditations for Happiness: Rewire Your Brain for Lasting Contentment and Peace.”

I highly recommend anything with Hanson’s name on it. He melds the scientific and the spiritual in a way few others have dared, and with great clarity.

Have you read this book? Listened to these meditations? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

~ Rev. Jăbō



Ven. Dr. Myodo Jabo (Sandy Gougis) is a Zen Master and Priest in the Five Mountain Zen Order. She began studying Theravâdin Buddhism in 1998, adding Zen in 2003, and Vajrayana Buddhism in 2008. She currently practices in both the Zen and Tibetan traditions. Her Zen teacher is Most Ven. Wonji Dharma of the Five Mountain Zen Order, and her Tibetan guru is Lama Tsultrim Allione of Tara Mandala. In her free time, Myodo enjoys painting, jewelry making, and other creative endeavors.

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