Change Your Life with The Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hansen

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 mindfulnessUse 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


Using Guided Meditation for Sleep Can Improve Sleep Quality

meditation for sleepA good night’s sleep can be elusive for many of us. My quest for good quality sleep on a regular basis has always seemed a bit hit and miss. One night may be great and I will wake up feeling refreshed and energised. Then the next night I am awake several times during the night, and in the morning i feel exhausted and lethargic.


There are a variety of factors that can affect our sleep quality each night, from the types of food we eat and how late we eat them, to how much, if any, exercise we got during the day, and how much we are on our electronic devices before bed. Of the many techniques we can introduce into our daily routine to help improve our sleep, meditation may be one of the most helpful.


Why Sleep Matters?


Your body uses the time you are sleeping to perform a number of essential functions. It stores and catalogues events and memories from your day, eliminates toxins from your system and also performs the vast majority of healing and cell repair that your body needs. If your sleep time is reduced, or the quality of your sleep is poor, then you could be missing out on the deep, restorative sleep your body needs to function at its best.


Improving your sleep is one of the many benefits of a regular meditation practice. Let’s take a look at some basic sleep meditation techniques.


Meditation Techniques for Sleep


The best sleep meditation is one that is simple and will relax your body and allow you to fall asleep quickly. These three meditations are a great place to start. Do them just before you are ready to go to sleep.


Breath Meditation


  1. Lie down on your back and get comfortable.
  2. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  3. As you breathe out, relax your body and release any tension.
  4. Focus on your breath as it goes into and out of your body.
  5. Follow it all the way in and all the way out.
  6. When your mind wanders, simply notice and return to the breath.
  7. Do this for 5 or 10 minutes, or however long you need to.


Body Scan for Sleep


  1. Lie down on your back and get comfortable.
  2. Take a couple of deep relaxing breaths.
  3. Start at the top of your head and bring your attention to it, looking for any tension.
  4. Release and relax any tension you find before moving on to the next part of your body, your eyes, face, jaw, neck, etc. all the way down to your toes.
  5. You should now be completely relaxed and ready for sleep.


Mindfulness Sleep Meditation


  1. Lie down and get comfortable.
  2. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  3. Start by bringing attention to your breath as it goes in and out of your body.
  4. Open up your senses, what do you feel, smell, hear around you.
  5. Bring your attention to your thoughts, noticing what comes up.
  6. Name your thought, “thinking”, “planning”, “worrying”.
  7. Then let the thought go, release it, and return to your senses.
  8. Continue to do this for 5 or 10 minutes.


Guided Meditations for Sleep


Another good way to help is to use guided meditations for sleep. This will involve using your phone or music player to play a pre-recorded track that will guide you through your chosen meditation. You can use a guided meditation on audio cd or mp3, or find one on YouTube or one of the many free online websites that offer free guided meditations. Or you can use a meditation app on your phone or tablet. Just a tip if you are using a site like YouTube, make sure you turn off autoplay so that it doesn’t start playing a new track.


A sleep chakra meditation


YouTube has a large number of chakra meditations for sleep, ranging in length from about half an hour up to over 9 hours. Here is a good introductory one to start with.


Guided visualization for sleep


Guided imagery involves imagining a peaceful image, a place you know or can imagine that makes you feel relaxed. You use your imagination to explore this image or place.


Try this free guided meditation for sleep:


If you are looking for something quick and easy to relax you before sleep try these:

A 5 minute sleep meditation.

A 10 minute guided meditation for sleep.

Meditation Music for Sleep

If you just want some meditation music to help you sleep there are plenty of cds or mp3s you can buy. Here are a few you can try for yourself.

Guided audio meditations for sleep.

Guided meditation CDs for sleep.


Sleep Meditation Apps


The best sleep meditation app is one that will relax you in as little time as possible and then turn off when the meditation ends so you can go straight to sleep.


Insight Timer is a great free app that has a number of guided meditations for sleep.

Whil has an expansive library with several sleep meditations to choose from.

Buddhify also has a section on meditations for sleep.


Next Steps

There are a few other things you can do during the day to help you sleep better at night.

  1. Practice mindfulness throughout your day.
  2. Learn to  meditate daily.
  3. Practice breathing techniques to improve your heart rate variability.
  4. Eat a healthy diet, full of fruits and vegetables.
  5. Exercise daily.


Better sleep leads to better health, more energy and an improved mindset.


Resources for free audio meditations:


The Science of Meditation for Sleep

Meditation training as a treatment for insomnia:

Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances:


Further Reading

Meditate at Home

How to Practice Mindfulness

Easy Mindfulness Exercises

Mindful Eating


Tame the Voice in Your Head: A Review of 10% Happier by Dan Harris

10% Happier by Dan Harris is part memoir part practical guide to mindfulness and meditation. Dan, a TV news anchor, talks about his on air meltdown and drug abuse and how meditation helped him. It is a great primer for understanding mindfulness and meditation and how to use them in your daily life.


What I learned from this book:

  • We all have a voice in our head. Some of us don’t even realise it.
  • This voice is fixated on the past and the future. If we give in to it, it prevents us from living in the present moment.
  • We can all learn a skill that helps us to quiet this voice – meditation.
  • You can meditate anywhere. Anyone can do it. It is free.
  • With practice, we can better at it.
  • Meditation practice creates a space or gap in the voice which allows us to see our negative emotional response to situations, like annoyance, fear and anger, and allows us to choose how we respond to them, instead of simply reacting.
  • Science shows us that meditation actually rewires the brain.
  • The Buddhists analogy: “Picture the mind like a waterfall, they said: the water is the torrent of thoughts and emotions; mindfulness is the space behind the waterfall”.
  • Continuous stress is living each moment as if it is never quite good enough, that it will be better in the next one (some later moment in time). To be somewhere else, to have something else, to be someone else, to never have enough, to never be good enough. This all creates stress and worry and prevents us from being happy.
  • Meditation won’t solve all your problems, but it will help you handle them better, which will lead to less stress.
  • Happiness is a skill.
  • Practice non-attachment, if you are not attached to results or outcomes you won’t fall apart when things don’t turn out.
  • Practice self-compassion to improve resilience.
  • Everyone’s mind is out of control. You can never entirely ‘clear your mind’.
  • You can’t control what comes up, only how you respond to it.
  • We can all be 10% happier with a little effort.


I enjoyed reading about Dan’s journey and his discoveries when speaking to the self-help “gurus”. If you are skeptical in nature, like I am, then he will resonate with you.


Buy the book here:



More Book Reviews:

Change Your Life with The Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hansen

How to Let Go: A Review of The Untethered Soul by Michael A Singer

How to Meditate Daily

how to meditate dailyWhen starting any new habit, building momentum can be difficult. Cultivating a daily meditation practice is no different. You know it is good for you, the benefits of meditation are overwhelmingly positive. So why is it so hard to introduce meditation in daily life? Probably because life is busy. You are already trying to work out how to fit everything else into your life without adding to it. If you want to learn how to meditate daily, the trick to success is to keep it simple.


Starting a Daily Meditation Practice


Let’s try to make it easier to get started. If you can stack the deck in your favor you will find it easier to stick with it over time. Here are a few quick tips to help you enjoy meditation daily.


1. Start small

Just 5 minutes will be enough. Set a timer. If you think you don’t even have time for that then start with 1 minute. Even that small amount of time will make a difference. Then you can build on your successes and gradually increase the time. When you can see, and feel, the benefits you will want to keep going.


2. Do it early in the day

First thing if possible. This is not a hard and fast rule, but when you are just starting a new habit it is a good one to stick to. Getting a win early in the day and ticking it off your list is a positive mental boost. And you will benefit from the effects of your meditation throughout the day. We all have a finite amount of willpower that is used up with each decision we make as we go through our day. You are less likely to make good decisions later in the day.


3. Do it wherever you are now

Don’t be worried about having the perfect environment for your meditation. You don’t need a completely private, dedicated room decorated with the right rugs and cushions, with candles and incense burning and the perfect music playing while you are wearing Buddhist robes. All you need is to be comfortable in a reasonably quiet place. That could be in your bedroom, bathroom, lounge room or garden. Even at the park or beach is ok. If you are tied to a special place for your meditation, that will give you an excuse if you are not near that place, or someone else is occupying it. Learning to meditate at home is a simple way to start.


4. Be kind to yourself

Don’t expect too much and don’t judge yourself. You won’t be perfect. It won’t be always go smoothly and it won’t always work for you. Some days your thoughts will be more scattered and intrusive than others. Some days you won’t even get through 5 minutes. Some days you won’t do it at all. Don’t let this deter you. We all have bad days. What counts is continuing on after them. There is no perfect practice. Just practice. It all adds up over time.


5. Be patient

It’s not a magic pill. Don’t rush it. You won’t automatically become the most relaxed zen person on the planet who does everything right and is in perfect health. But you will see benefits and you will get better with time and practice.


A meditation here or there, while great for the present moment, just won’t cut it for long term benefits. Cultivating a daily meditation practice is a great foundation to building a better mindset, and will help introduce other beneficial habits into your life. 

All you need to do is start the habit NOW.


Try this quick daily guided meditation to get you started.


There are some great resources for daily meditations online:

Fragrant Heart have some great free daily guided meditations for relaxation and stress relief. They have a variety of topics and lengths to choose from.

Tara Brach has a great page of guided audio meditations that I use on a regular basis. Her featured basic meditations are ideal for beginners.


Further Reading:

How to Meditate at Home

Guided Meditation for Sleep

Tame the Voice in Your Head: A Review of 10% Happier by Dan Harris

Change Your Life with The Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hansen


How to Meditate at Home

how to meditate at home

Your home is the best place to start meditating. You are comfortable here and you hopefully have a nice quiet place where you can be alone. We can show you how to meditate at home and provide some tips for preparation and building a successful daily habit.

If you are new to meditation you might want to start with our beginner’s guide to meditation here where we cover everything from the benefits to how to do it.

This is a quick guide for those that have already decided that meditation is beneficial and want to start the habit. Learning meditation at home is easy and there is no better time to get started than right now.

This looks like it might be a lot of preparation work, but we’ll try to make it really simple for you. The fewer barriers you create for yourself, the easier it will be to keep up your new meditation habit.


This is a common question beginners ask and the short answer is whatever time is convenient for you. If you want to make starting this new habit easy on yourself, I would suggest trying to pick a specific time and sticking to it at first.

For me that’s first thing in the morning. This is because I am more likely to forget about it later in the day or come up with the “I’m too busy” excuse. You may think you are short on time first thing in the morning. If so, then set your alarm for just 5 or 10 minutes earlier than normal. If you are already lacking in sleep then go to bed 5 or 10 minutes earlier (I have an answer for every excuse you can throw at me).  If you absolutely don’t have 5 minutes in the morning, then find another time during the day. You need to find a time that is right for you.

It doesn’t really matter when you meditate, just that you do.


Some people go to a lot of trouble to set up and prepare for their meditation session. Decorating a special room with cushions, elaborate mats, images and candles. They add music or chimes and burn incense to create an atmosphere. You don’t need to worry about going to that much trouble. Unless you already have a space like that ready to go it will just slow you down. As you get into your meditation practice you can add any of these things that you feel comfortable with. They are not necessary to practice meditation. Remember, keep it simple.

Think about what you want to achieve by starting your meditation. What are your goals? Most of the time, mine are to simply relax my body and mind, and take a moment to be in the now. You can meditate on a particular question or problem in your life. Or just use it as a time out to yourself. 

Find a quiet area where you won’t be disturbed and turn off all distractions, TV, computer, and phone.

Find a comfortable cushion or chair or simply lay on the floor if you prefer.

Set a timer to start with for 5 or 10 minutes.

Don’t make this too hard or create too many barriers or otherwise you will not get started. The simplest way to do this is to go into a quiet room, close the door, sit or lie down, relax, and start meditating. The rest you can build on as you develop your habit.


There are many different ways to meditate at home but as I said earlier, you need to keep it simple when you are first starting.

  1. Set your timer (here is a handy online one
  2. Get comfortable relaxed but upright (if you are sitting) with a straight spine and hands relaxed in your lap or by your side.
  3. Closing your eyes will help you to focus you can also have your eyes open, relaxed with a soft gaze. Keeping your eyes open can help with focus. Try it and see what you prefer.
  4. Keep your mouth closed and breathe through your nose if you can.
  5. Bring your attention to your breath, wherever you feel it the most.
  6. Observe your breath but try not to control it, just let it be, just experience it.
  7. You can count your breath if you want, a count to four on inhale and four on exhale works for me, or sometimes I will just count each breath (inhale plus exhale is 1) ten times and start again.
  8. If you notice your attention has wandered then gently, and without judgement, bring your focus back to your breath and restart your count.

If you would prefer to use a guided meditation to start with try this one by Tara Brach.


  1. Start small
  2. Practice every day
  3. Don’t worry about whether you are doing it right, you are
  4. Don’t worry if some days it feels like it is not working, it is
  5. Come to it with an open mind

Learning to meditate at home is a great introduction to a rewarding practice that you can build on as you develop your meditation skills. There are very few things in life that can provide you with so many benefits with so little time and effort put in. Get into the meditation mindset now, and complement your practice by adding some mindfulness to your daily life.

Further Reading:

How to Meditate Daily

Guided Meditation for Sleep

How to Let Go: A Review of The Untethered Soul by Michael A Singer

How to Live a Long, Healthy and Happy Life