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Sit : Love : Give

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Blog

Jul 15, 2013

Get out of the war

Check out Meditations to Change Your Brain, and other titles by Rick Hanson.
Check out Meditations to Change Your Brain, and other titles by Rick Hanson.
What are you fighting? By “war” I mean here a mindset, not combat between nations with tanks and bombs. The “war” I’m referring to is an attitude of conflict and animosity toward a person, object, or condition. Parents can feel at war with a misbehaving teenager, and certainly vice versa. Neighbors quarreling over a fence. Spouses edging toward divorce; divorced parents continuing to battle over holidays. Someone stuck in traffic, at war with other drivers. Ideologues reviling the other side. Kicking the chair …

Jul 08, 2013

Drop the load

Are you doing too much?

You may have seen the old Mickey Mouse movie in which he is working at a conveyor belt in a factory. More and more widgets come at him that he has to handle, and he gets increasingly frazzled as he struggles to keep up.

Do you ever feel the same way? Think about all the dishes, emails, meetings, reports, drives, calls returned, laundry folded, children tucked into bed, friends comforted, errands run, etc. etc. Most of a person’s tasks, even all of them, could be individually rewarding and done for a good purpose, but taken as a whole they’re often too much. It’s certainly gotten this way for me.

Doing crowds out being, the urgent crowds out the …

Apr 29, 2013

Put no one out of your heart

Colourful Crayon HeartWe all know people who are, ah … challenging. It could be a critical parent, a bossy supervisor, a relative who has you walking on eggshells, a nice but flaky friend, a co-worker who just doesn’t like you, a partner who won’t keep his or her agreements, or a politician you dislike. Right now I’m thinking of a neighbor who refused to pay his share of a fence between us.

As Jean-Paul Sartre put it: “Hell is other people.”

Sure, that’s overstated. But still, most of a person’s hurts, disappointments, and irritations typically arise in reactions to other people.

Ironically, in order for good relationships to be so nurturing to us as human …

Apr 19, 2013

Love the world

Check out Meditations for Happiness (3 CDs), by Rick Hanson
Check out Meditations for Happiness (3 CDs), by Rick Hanson
Your brain evolved in three stages (to simplify a complex process):

Reptile – Brainstem, focused on AVOIDING harm
Mammal – Limbic system, focused on APPROACHING rewards
Primate – Cortex, focused on ATTACHING to “us”

With a fun use (to me, at least) of animal themes, the first JOT in this series – pet the lizard – was about how to soothe the most ancient structures of the brain, the ones that manage the first emotion of all: fear. The next one – …

Apr 10, 2013

Hug the monkey

Monkey and babyYour brain evolved in three stages (to simplify a complex process):

Reptile – Brainstem, focused on avoiding harm
Mammal – Limbic system, focused on approaching rewards
Primate – Cortex, focused on attaching to “us”

The first post in this series – pet the lizard – was about how to soothe the most ancient structures of the brain, the ones that manage the first emotion of all: fear. The next one – feed the mouse – addressed how to help early mammalian neural systems feel rewarded and fulfilled. This JOT is about weaving the sense of being included and loved into the primate …

Mar 20, 2013

What’s up with these people?

Check out Stress-Proof Your Brain and other titles by Rick Hanson.
Check out Stress-Proof Your Brain and other titles by Rick Hanson.
Research shows that relationships are built from interactions, and interactions are built from moments. A critical moment in an interaction is when one person wants something from the other one. (“Wants” include wishes, needs, desires, hopes, and longings.) The want could be simple and concrete, like “Please pass the salt.” Or it could be complex and intangible, such as “Please love me as a romantic partner.”

Wants can be communicated in many ways. Gaze, touch, tone, facial expression, posture, and action speak volumes. Whether verbally or nonverbally, some people …

Mar 16, 2013

Recognize suffering in others

Young woman cryingWhere does it hurt?

We’re usually aware of our own suffering, which – broadly defined – includes the whole range of physical and mental discomfort, from mild headache or anxiety to the agony of bone cancer or the anguish of losing a child. (Certainly, there is more to life than suffering, including great joy and fulfillment; that said, we’ll sustain a single focus here.)

But seeing the suffering in others: that’s not so common. All the news and pictures of disaster, murder, and grief that bombard us each day can ironically numb us to suffering in our own country and across the planet. Close to home, it’s easy to tune out …

Mar 14, 2013

Transform ill will

Fist of fireGoodwill and ill will are about intention: the will is for good or ill. These intentions are expressed through action and inaction, word and deed, and-especially-thoughts. How do you feel when you sense another person taking potshots at you in her mind? What does it feel like to take potshots of your own? Ill will plays a lot of mini-movies in the simulator, those little grumbling stories about other people. Remember: while the movie is running, your neurons are wiring together.

Ill will tries to justify itself. In the moment, the rationalizations sound plausible, like the whisperings of Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings. Only later do we realize how …

Mar 04, 2013

Cultivate goodwill

As the most social and loving species on the planet, we have the wonderful ability and inclination to connect with others, be empathic, cooperate, care, and love. On the other hand, we also have the capacity and inclination to be fearfully aggressive toward any individual or group we regard as “them.” (In my book – Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom – I develop this idea further, including how to stimulate and strengthen the neural circuits of self-control, empathy, and compassion.)

To tame the wolf of hate, it’s important to get a handle on “ill will” – irritated, resentful, and angry feelings and intentions toward others. While it may seem justified in the moment, ill will harms …

Feb 06, 2013

To feel blessed, bless others

iStock_000003971862XSmallLately, I’ve been wondering what would be on my personal list of top five practices (all tied for first place). You might ask yourself the same question, knowing that you can cluster related practices under a single umbrella, your list may differ from mine, and your practices may change over time.

In these posts, so far I’ve written about two of my top practices:

  • Meditate – Mindfulness, training attention, contemplation, concentration, absorption, non-ordinary consciousness, liberating insight
  • Take in the good (in three chapters excerpted from my book, Just One Thing) – Recognize the brain’s negativity bias (Velcro for the bad, Teflon for the good) see good facts in the world and in