Study The way to Launch Stress & Domesticate Calm with Finest-Promoting Writer Dr. Rick Hanson

Learn How to Release Stress & Cultivate Calm with Best-Selling Author Dr. Rick Hanson

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Rick Hanson, psychologist and NY Times bestselling author of Resilient & Buddha's Brain. He is an adorable person to be with. Rick is a genius in his own right, but also very down to earth and real. We immediately connected and I was excited to speak to him about the subject of meditation.

Here are 3 things I learned during our time together:

  1. You keep different parts of the brain busy when you practice different types of mindfulness practices. For example, your brain reacts differently when you focus on a single task than on a heart practice of unconditional love.
  2. The shape and matter of your brain reflect your internal state. It is possible to have a "stressed brain". Mindfulness helps create new pathways in the brain for pleasure and positive states of being.
  3. Rick has a first aid tool kit if you're scared. There are 4 easy steps. The first is to admit what you are feeling. Tell yourself, "I'm upset!" This is 50% of the practice. The rest of the toolkit is available in the interview.

And finally, Rick tells a beautiful parable about absorbing the good in life drop by drop. This relates to the title of this post and how to microdose the good in your life. Learn how to cultivate virtue and goodwill towards yourself and others. This increases your resilience.

Don't forget to read Rick's new book, Neurodharma, which will be out in spring 2020. Learn more about Rick's work at

"The means is not to suppress negative experiences; when they happen, they happen. Rather, it's about nurturing positive experiences – and especially absorbing them so that they become an integral part of you. "
– Rick Hanson

Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

For those of you who would rather read than watch or listen, here is the transcript:


Hello everybody. I'm so excited, Dr. To have Rick Hanson. Join us today. He's a psychologist. He is a Senior Fellow at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science. He is also a bestselling author for the New York Times. He has written Resilient, Hardwiring Happiness, and Buddha's Brain.


Hello. And I want to say a word about a book that I'm just finished with and that I'm in love with. It will be released in May 2020. It is called Neurodharma: New Science, Ancient Wisdom, and Seven Practices of Supreme Happiness. So I want to add Neurodharma to this list. It is currently my sixth book.


Perhaps we could start by talking about neurodharma.


Well the basic idea is to use all of the different practices to get to the Mount of Awakening, properly, and to lean on the Buddhist roadmap of the mind to find out what are the most effective things we do through modern science can. So this is not a book for Buddhists in itself. It really relies on the Buddhist model of the mind which is a very pervasive model and is not mystical or metaphysical and then informed by science by wondering what is going on in the brain.

When our minds are really calm, our hearts are really open. We feel balanced and a quantity with a sense of contentment. These are the first three of seven exercises, steadiness of mind, warmth of heart, balance, equanimity, and then what happens in the brain when we have a sense of non-dual holding that is right in the present moment and with everything connected is .

Those are the next three and even what could happen in the brain as we deal with what some call the unconditioned, the immortal, the eternal, even the transcendental. I call this timelessness. So these are the seven practices. And what the books are about is the new science of how to strengthen the circuits of these seven beings so that we may embody them increasingly. It's pretty cool.


And I'm curious about Rick, is there any way we can be in different parts of our brain? There are different practices that we can participate in, from mindfulness to meditation to prayer, and how do these different practices activate the parts of the brain or even the body? What is effective for you?


That's a good question. And first, science tells us that our experiences depend on what our body is doing. And that goes for us. For a cat, a cat or a squirrel's experiences depend on what that creature's body is doing, especially its nervous system and especially its brain. So when we speak of the brain, it is because it is the primary local source of hearing, seeing, remembering the intuitive, enjoying the suffering we are experiencing in the moment. But what happens in the brain is of course part of a larger network of factors throughout the body and then reaches into life, culture and nature and back into deep time.

It is all true. But that said, now I'm going to talk about what happens in the three pounds of tofu in the coconut. Different parts of the brain do different things, just as there are parts of your body that do different things. When people engage in, say, meditate, different types of meditative practice, a sense of mindful focus on the sensations of breathing, classical meditation. Compare this, for example, with practices of bhakti or with devotion or strong feelings of compassion and kindness radiating in all directions, or with the feeling of attuning to the love of Christ. For example, this is a form of prayer. Alright.

Acknowledge that whatever is going on outside of ordinary reality, whatever that part is within ordinary reality. For example, when a person does a targeted meditation on the breathing exercise, they tend to involve parts of the brain just behind the forehead, the executive regions of the brain that exercise some sort of top-down control, and part of the brain is called anterior denotes, which means for the frontal cingulate cortex only. They are two of them, but they are pronounced, usually the singular. They are located in the center of the brain and start behind the forehead. And it, the part of the brain, the singular cortex, keeps us focused.

So you can imagine right there that you know what you are doing if you focus on the sensations of breathing. They work, so to speak, the muscles in the brain that deal with things like foot focus, and by intentionally maintaining a task, as well as some parts of the brain that adjust to those breathing sensations, such as B. on the insula inside the temporal lobe, we adjust to the inside of our body. And if you repeatedly stimulate these parts of the brain, you will hit them like organs and muscles, making them literally get bigger. Research shows that when people practice these types of meditations repeatedly, MRIs and other types of findings build up, and they strengthen systems in parts of the brain that do so.

On the other hand, if someone does something very warm and devout, they will use a little of those executive regions behind the forehead to help maintain focus. But a lot of what they frankly tie into our brain pleasure systems associated with heartfelt feelings, natural opioids, oxytocin, and subcortical regions of the brain that sit under the modern neocortex, like it's the outer cap of the brain under this cap or older regions such as the amygdala and hippocampus, which formed about 200 million years ago. And these parts of the brain get more active when you do a devotional exercise, and they get stronger over time. So people developed the habit of unconditional love, universal compassion. As well as possibly the habit of being brave and from the heart, therefore brave on your own behalf.


Could you purposely be in different places in your brain while exercising? Because it seems that most of us are in this frontal part of the brain. But if I pull it back and maybe go back into the brain a bit, maybe I could change perspective. And to add something else. Yes, it seems that women and men have differences in their brains and that men tend to focus on certain types of mindfulness practices. And women love visualization, creativity, and prayer manifestation. There seems to be this tendency. And I'm just curious to hear your thoughts on this.


Well, you get a number of wonderful and so useful questions. I mean, they're trippy and intrigued, cool, just to be a little bit right. Think about it, but they are also very important in practice. So I'm going to do what you said. And I'll say it a little cautiously, that is, when we have different experiences, such as moving from some kind of steady attention to a neutral object, like the sensations of breathing, when we divert our experience from it, and maybe we have do this for the first five or ten minutes to stabilize a sense of presence.

Then from that point on we move on to a more expansive sense of things as a whole. We will work more backwards on parts of our brain to soften the boundaries between the self in the world. And let's also say that we have very warm feelings. Maybe we put a hand on our heart, maybe we remember people we love or the feeling of being loved. And then we begin to really practice a practice of devotion by sending loving-kindness and all directions. Suppose we do that. Well, if our sense of experience changes, we will change the activation patterns in the brain. In the larger context that the brain is constantly in, all parts of it work together.

The shifts are really of emphasis and degree of activation. But it is still important because when our sense of experience changes, when our state of consciousness changes, so must what goes on in the brain and therefore in the body as a whole. It's really, really true. And as we train, as we practice, as there is a traditional saying, your mind takes its form from what it rests on. Well, as you repeatedly rest on worry, regret, and resentment, your brain will take on some sort of stressed form and put form and air quotes here.

On the other hand, if you repeatedly focus your attention on a sense of peace and calm at heart, even in the midst of vacation madness or just plain everyday life, right? When you repeatedly rest your consciousness on a sense of resilient wellbeing, you are dealing with things on the edges, you may be baffled, but at the very core of your being I have called it the green zone. You are deep green and the core of your being is increasingly becoming your habit. It becomes increasingly your, your, your reason to be inside, and it is strengthened as you increasingly live there, now men and women. Well, that's a can of worms, for all sorts of reasons, gender itself, very fluid categories, you know. And then the question always arises, how much of these differences do we see in adult men and women, often on average, or how much of these differences is based only on socialization and culture, and on how much of it really is in biological inherent differences.

There's probably a lot of overlap between the women's bell curve and the men's bell curve in terms of one of those traits that said yes, I definitely saw, as you did, that using it is really difficult to talk about. But I definitely think men tend to be interested in practices that, as you know, are some kind of analytical and involved control. Women, my experience tends to attract practices that come from the heart. My feeling is, as all the great teachers have pointed out, that it is an integrated path no matter which path you take, and the past converges as we near the top of the mountain, and Lord, someone who is a mature, secular Buddhist Many of you know that there have been many retreats for 2030 years of practice, but in a very secular way this person will be very much like a Christian monk who has lived in silence for 20 years. if you look closely at what they are experiencing and how they are in the world. As you know, when you approach excellence in any field of gymnastics, or are a stockbroker, or, as you know, an advanced practitioner, you converge. People look more and more alike as you approach the ultimate. And that probably goes for their brains too.


Oh, very interesting. Rick, I wanted to ask you about the difference between stress and anxiety and why we're hardwired to negativity. Hmm And I think so many people experience this low level of stress and fear that it becomes their normal state. Maybe they don't even acknowledge that they have that. So how would a normal person know and make these distinctions and then empower himself to change?


Stress is a tricky word. It really matters because not all stressors are equal to stress. And a lot of what we try in life when we get involved in the world is overcoming challenges without getting stressed about them. And dealing with challenges like working a 60 hour workweek, raising young children, or dealing with aging parents with health problems, or dealing with current American politics, whatever it is, that is, you know, a business whatever challenges, we will deal with those challenges. The question is, can we maintain an even keel when dealing with them?

Just because there are stressors doesn't necessarily mean a person is stressed out, and the main difference is the type of emotions the person is having at the time. You are not stressed out when you are on touring and feeling happy and enthusiastic and passionate and clear and strong and intense. Your body is kind of cranked up, but you don't accumulate much wear and tear. On the other hand, you will get stressed out when you feel motivated and pulled together and under pressure and irritable and worried and upset and frustrated. So a really important difference. Stress itself is not good for us. People say that being stressed doesn't matter. I'm thinking about it. If the way you think about your challenges is helping you not to be stressed out, that's useful. Okay.

But when you're really stressed out in the way I'm describing it and just saying to yourself, "Oh, it's okay, then I'm moody and pressured and full of cortisol. My heart is beating faster than necessary. And my body is inflamed because stress is inflammatory. But that's all right. "No, that's terribly wrong. And you are gradually accumulating a health debt that you ultimately have to pay with, especially as you get older, with higher morbidity, more health problems and higher mortality, you know, shorter lifespan.

So stress itself isn't great. People should be aware of this. This doesn't mean that sometimes we shouldn't be stressed, sometimes we will be stressed, but try to keep it to a minimum. Stress, fear is stressful because it is a negative emotion. So there is a sense of uncomfortable anxiety and other ways of being stressed out that do not involve fear. Like in a moment someone is very angry and aggressive and combative, maybe he is not afraid in the moment, he is still stressed. So there are different forms of stress that may or may not involve anxiety.

But deep fear predisposes us to stress. Because if we're usually afraid of what might happen and if we're worried about it, then when it does, but we're more apt to have a big reaction to it. So what I would generally say is that regarding your type of tail question, what can we do about it? How do I feel about it, are we doing this at the moment? Then what do we do to prepare for the moment? What we do to prepare for the moment is the most important, and this is where regular practices like you or some other phase of meditation and contemplation, yoga, therapy, just reflection or you know, day after day determine the accumulation of keys. inner strength, such as resilience or esteem or self-compassion. You know the cultivation of those inner resources. Before the oatmeal hits the fan. It's good. Because when things happen, when your partner gives you something that looks like a devil to you, or when you are late and stuck in traffic late for a meeting, you know when events actually occur because you have been exercising, that you worked 10 to 20 minutes a day in a simple manner. So the level of training that most people actually do, really consistently. If you've prepared over time, and cultivated the inner strength of mindfulness and compassion, and resilience and happiness, then you won't end up as hard when things happen. When things happen, there are things you can do too. And I have some kind of quick first aid kit if you want to know.

Number one: notice that you are upset. That's 50% right there. And when you find yourself upset, try to put yourself back a little bit, be sure to step back instead of being completely drawn into the movie. Try to look back from 20 rows. Well, that's huge there. So notice strips that Neva might call irritated, stunned, so angry, really hurt, wondering what to do. You just name it, you don't get involved, you just notice it, you name it. Research actually shows that this simple practice of calming activity in the amygdala, the brain's alarm bell, and increasing activity in the prefrontal cortex, which, as I said, is a sort of seat of top-down regulation of executives , you know, that's how you sort of get things under control. Just write down her name, whatever you're feeling, and stick with it for a second. Self-compassion, in a feeling of support and warmth from yourself. Ouch, it hurts, doesn't it? Oh the feeling you would have for a friend. Oh, I wish you didn't feel that You know it's part of life and ouch it hurts. We don't know, we wouldn't want that. Yes. hurts. And there is a sense of caring for yourself. That is self-compassionate.

Third, I think it's really important for women to generalize about focusing on your own feeling of being for yourself, not against others, but that you are important and there is a kind of muscular hmm, you know, no . Hmm I will find out, right? This is not good. We will do something about it. If I'm just on my own head, you know, maybe I'll just let this go by because I know this person is an idiot and will never change. But in my head I am making some decisions here, or I am developing some deliberation, or I am remembering, maybe this person is not an idiot. You know, they only said this because they are ignorant or they didn't know any better or it's not a big deal and I don't have to get so upset about it next time, whatever.

However, you are taking action on your own behalf. Muscle feeling, and then make a plan. For me, these are the four things that realize that something is really bothering me. And mindful awareness of it. Second, warm support for yourself. Third, a kind of muscular way of getting on your own side and being for yourself. It is shocking how many people do not have easy access to this experience of this inner resource for themselves. So when you are on your own side and then move on, start making a plan. Action binds fear when you know what you are going to do. If this only happens the next time, you'll feel a lot better.


These are very amazing tools, aren't they? I mean, when you are talking about if you were going to see the great brain of the universe and the way we live today, and you are talking about some of these tools to get out of this standard old state, because I think a lot of people just feel in a state of constant stress. And it is something that they don't have or feel connected to leaving because people often live in this isolated way.

You know, now we have so much technology, we have a lot of people. And then, you know, the way we communicate is today, ghosting is normal, you don't have to deal with anyone. Now there are these new ways of communication, these different ways of communication, different ways of life and lifestyles. So how can we essentially develop this bigger brain within our community to create these positive pathways because I see that people really feel alone and isolated on their personal and spiritual path. And they don't know how to get out of it. Do you have any thoughts on that? Exactly how we are set up.


First of all, in relation to people doing things online, there are ways that they can use online activities to actually feel closer to others. For example, I have several online programs, all of which have the opportunity to chat with others about what is happening for you in the online program. And they're a different gamut. Some of them are very quick, bite-sized things that you can do all at once in less than two minutes. Others are more like a one-year personal transformation journey. And people can see more about them on my website or on the cancer network, but within that and we have scholarships for four people in these, there are many opportunities for people to connect with others. I guess that's a thing.

But beyond that, you're in, I think a lot about our true nature on many levels. And, biologically, our true nature is to live with 50 other people all our lives. You know the hunter-gatherer band, that's our true nature. And so our immediate human ancestors lived for nearly 300,000 years, and another 2 million years earlier our hominid ancestors also lived in the small groups in tool making. And you just think about what a little man's life is like. You and I are looking at each other on a screen now, but at least we are looking at each other. And in these bands we would look at each other and touch and interact with each other and take care of each other's children and be with each other's parents when they die. I mean we would do this all our lives. And that is our true nature. To live in close contact with other people, to rely on them and to share this journey and life with them. This is our true nature. So we cannot go back to the Stone Age.

But as much as we can, we could try to compensate for the tendencies of modern technical technological civilizations that are turning us away from our own true nature. For example, during the day you can make eye contact with people and strangers on the street and make sure your smile is a real smile. Many people smile wrongly these days. It's so strange It's like they think other people don't look like I'm making a fake smile. Ready? It's scary. You know the eyes don't change


There are many people who don't know how to smile. I have a feeling that there is a lot of seriousness and it is almost difficult for people to penetrate into this joyful, fun and playful state. And that seems to me to be the antidote to stress and anxiety.


In many ways, one of the fastest ways to get out of that exact stress bubble is to develop positive emotions, including connecting emotionally with others. Precisely. So, you know what I'm doing, I'm trying to take a few seconds longer to get a feel for the other person. You know the person, the hot dog seller, the person who makes your coffee, the person who drives the Uber, the person who stands next to you in your work as a desk to actually get a feel for them . And when we get a feel for them, they will feel felt, which is a gift to both of us. So I find it useful to look for many small opportunities, usually brief during the course of your day, to experience more contact with other people, even in small ways. I think this is really important. I think another thing is to regulate yourself

So you don't harm others and keep them in your heart. Like here, you know, we don't know each other well, we're just a kind of metal. Some time ago the relationship is what it is. But whatever you do, I'll keep you in my heart, I'll take you into account. And knowing that you can help morally doesn't help me that much, if at all, but it does, it's good for me. So if we can feel connected to others in other ways, in a self-nourishing way as well as in other benefits, it is to carry other people in our feelings with us. You know this is a great way to feel connected and no one can stop you.


Oh, that's beautiful. Thank you rick. I really appreciate your time!


Oh totally. You are welcome. And if I could add just one little thing, it would actually be a quote. It's a parable. Probably, actually, the saying goes, don't think lightly of good and say it won't come to me. The water pot is filled drop by drop. Likewise, the wise man who collects it piece by piece is filled with good. And this is our opportunity to look for the little things every day.

The little moments of calming down, the little moments of strong feeling, the little moments of letting go of unnecessary striving or worry, the little moments of insight into our own mind, the little moments of love for other people in order to search for these little ones Moments, those little drops, and slow down for a breath or two or three just to marinate in that experience that will help wire the emotional remnants of that experience into your own nervous system. shaggy over time. Raise your spirits, raise your inner strength and, over time, raise your own awareness.

This is a simple, science-based practice that people can do for a few minutes a day. breathe here, three breathe there half a dozen times a day, really take the good and that will help you right now. It will change your day as you seek out the good that you can ingest, including feeling your own natural goodness, your own core worth, and your worth as a being. You will look for times when you can absorb this and it will change your life as you will gradually grow a good in you, both for yourself and for other beings.


I mean, that's a nice rule, and the parable sounds like virtue. It is a quality that can be developed to develop resilience and compassion, and especially even resilience to stress and that quality of inner critics. 2


Precisely. And one of the things that we pick up is happiness, gratitude, reassurance, joy, amazement, sense of beauty, listening to music. Well. Well, and the happiness we experience with others as I am with you.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here