The Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom by Rick Hanson with Richard Mendius.
If you change your brain, you can change your life. By combining breakthroughs in neuroscience with insights from thousands of years of mindfulness practice, you too can use your mind to shape your brain for greater happiness, love, and wisdom. This book presents an unprecedented intersection of psychology, neurology, and contemplative practice, and is filled with practical tools and skills that you can use every day to tap the unused potential of your brain and rewire it over time for greater well-being and peace of mind.
This book further supports for me, the overwhelmingly strong indication that regular meditation and mindfulness are essential if you want more joy and happiness in your life. Along with some great insights on equanimity, empathy and compassion, it gave me some practical actions to take to develop my daily practice.
It is often easy to let the mind talk me into quitting my daily practice because, “what’s it really doing anyway”. Great books like this not only help to reaffirm my intention to meditate and practice mindfulness daily, but also give me more tools to keep me learning and growing.
Here’s what I learned from Buddha’s Brain:
- The mind is what the brain does.
- Our suffering, which is the result of our unhappiness and dissatisfaction, is entirely made up by the brain.
- If the brain causes our suffering, we can also use the brain to cure it.
- Nurturing your own development is a great gift to the people around you.
- Small positive actions every day will add up to large changes over time. You can gradually build new neural pathways with these small steps.
- “Wholesome changes in the brains of many people could help tip the world in a better direction”.
- Equanimity means “even mind”. What passes through your mind is held with spaciousness so you stay even-keeled and aren’t thrown off balance. Equanimity is neither apathy nor indifference, you are warmly engaged with the world but not troubled by it. The spaciousness of equanimity is a great support for compassion, kindness and joy at the happiness of others.
- ACTION: Set aside some time in your day – even just a minute long – to consciously release preferences for or against anything. Then extend this practice to more and more of your day. You will find yourself being guided increasingly by your values and virtues, instead of simply reacting to positive or negative feeling tones.
- Empathy is the foundation of any meaningful relationship. Inadequate empathy erodes trust and makes it harder to solve interpersonal problems.
- ACTION: Bring conscious intention to being empathic. Take a few seconds to remind yourself to be empathic and that it feels good to be empathic. Next, relax your body and mind and open to the other person as much as feels right to you. Notice the other person’s movements, stance, gestures and actions. What would it feel like, in your own body, to do them? Watch the other person’s face and eyes closely for facial micro expressions. Actively imaging what the other person could be thinking and wanting.
- Cultivate compassion deliberately
- ACTION: Kindness is expressed mainly in small, every-day ways. Throughout the day, deliberately and actively bring kindness into your actions, your speech, and most of all, your thoughts.
- ACTION: Look for things to be happy about, and take in the good whenever possible. Positive feelings calm the body, quiet the mind, create a buffer against stress, and foster supportive relationships, all of which reduce ill will. See the video below for a practical way to hardwire happiness.
- Meditation strengthens intention.
- When your attention is steady, so is your mind. Attention is like a spotlight, and what it illuminates streams into your mind and shapes your brain. Consequently, developing a better control over your attention is perhaps the single most powerful way to reshape your brain and thus your mind.
- ACTION: Set your intentions. Establish a deliberate intention at the beginning of any activity that requires focus. “May my mind be steady”. Keep reestablishing your intentions. Make the intention to be attentive the default setting of your life by developing the habit of everyday mindfulness. Use routine events – phone ringing, going to the bathroom, drinking water – as ‘temple bells’ to return you to a sense of centeredness.
- When you relax the sense of self and flow with life, you feel happy and satisfied.
“All joy in this world comes from wanting others to be happy, and all suffering in this world comes from wanting only oneself to be happy” – Shantideva
Buy it now:
Watch Rick’s TED Talk on Hardwiring Happiness:
More Book Reviews:
Tame the Voice in Your Head: A Review of 10% Happier by Dan Harris
How to Let Go: A Review of The Untethered Soul by Michael A Singer