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Articles    H4'ed 6/10/10

The Self-Transforming Brain; Excerpt from Buddha's Brain; The practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom

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Message Rick Hanson PH.D.

These little actions really add up over time. Every day, ordinary activities--as well as any personal growth or spiritual practices-- contain dozens of opportunities to change your brain from the inside out. You really do have that power, which is a wonderful thing in a world full of forces beyond your control. A single raindrop doesn't have much effect, but if you have enough raindrops and enough time, you can carve a Grand Canyon.

But to take these steps, you have to be on your own side. That may not be so easy at first; most people bring less kindness to themselves than to others. To get on your own side, it can be helpful to make a convincing case for tending to the causes that will change your brain for the better. For example, please consider these facts:

You were once a young child, just as worthy of care as any other. Can you see yourself as a child? Wouldn't you wish the best for that little person? The same is true today: you are a human being like any other--and just as deserving of happiness, love, and wisdom.

Progressing along your path of awakening will make you more effective in your work and relationships. Think about the many ways that others will benefit from you being more good-humored, warm-hearted, and savvy. Nurturing your own development isn't selfish. It's actually a great gift to other people.

The World on the Edge of a Sword

Perhaps most important of all, consider the ripples spreading out from your own growth, imperceptibly but genuinely helping a world full of greed, confusion, fear, and anger. Our world is poised on the edge of a sword, and it could tip either way. Across the planet, slowly but surely, we're seeing increasing democratization, a growing number of grassroots organizations, and more understanding of our fragile interconnectedness. On the other hand, the world is getting hotter, military technologies are increasingly lethal, and a billion people go to sleep hungry every night.

The tragedy and the opportunity of this moment in history are exactly the same: the natural and technical resources needed to pull us back from the brink already exist. The issue is not a lack of resources. It is a lack of will and restraint, of attention to what's truly happening, and of enlightened self-interest--a shortage, in other words, of virtue, mindfulness, and wisdom. As you and other people become increasingly skillful with the mind--and thus the brain--that could help tip our world in a better direction.

chapter 1: Key Points

What happens in your mind changes your brain, both temporarily and in lasting ways; neurons that fire together wire together. And what happens in your brain changes your mind, since the brain and mind are a single, integrated system.

Therefore, you can use your mind to change your brain to benefit your mind--and everyone else whose life you touch.

People who have practiced deeply in the contemplative traditions are the "Olympic athletes" of the mind. Learning how they've trained their minds (and thus their brains) reveals powerful ways to have more happiness, love, and wisdom.

The brain evolved to help you survive, but its three primary survival strategies also make you suffer.

Virtue, mindfulness, and wisdom are the pillars of everyday well-being, personal growth, and spiritual practice; they draw on the three fundamental neural functions of regulation, learning, and selection.

The path of awakening involves both transforming the mind/brain and uncovering the wonderful true nature that was there all along.

Small positive actions every day will add up to large changes over time, as you gradually build new neural structures. To keep at it, you need to be on your own side.

Wholesome changes in the brains of many people could help tip the world in a better direction.

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Buddha's Brain has been among the top 100 non-fiction books on Amazon for more than half the time it's been published and is ranked as the number one book for some Amazon categories. There's a good reason. It's brilliant. Rick Hanson (more...)
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