Rick Hanson PhD
Oct 23, 2013
When our mammalian ancestors first appeared, about two hundred million years ago, their capacities for bonding, emotion, and generosity were extraordinary evolutionary breakthroughs. Unlike reptiles and fish, mammals and birds care for their young, pair bond (sometimes for life), and usually form complex social groups organized around various kinds of cooperation. This takes more smarts than, say, a fish laying a swarm of eggs and swimming away – so in proportion to body weight, mammals and birds have bigger brains than reptiles and fish do.
When primates came along about sixty million years ago, there …
Jun 24, 2013
Jack Kornfield, in his lovely Buddha’s Little Instruction Book, says “The trouble is, you think you have time.” He doesn’t say what we don’t have time for, but presumably he means that we put off important things because we assume that we can do them later. The trouble is, there may not be any “later.”
Recognizing that our time here is short can help us appreciate life more. I opened my book, Living as a River, by discussing how an awareness of impermanence can enhance our appreciation of our loved ones. When married people were asked to reflect on the death of their (still living) spouse, they …
Jun 19, 2013
At first glance, and maybe at the second or third glances as well, it might seem odd that in the mudita bhavana meditation, where we’re developing joyful appreciation, we’re asked to rejoice in the good qualities of a “neutral person,” who is usually someone we don’t really know. Mostly my neutral people are people who work in shops or post offices, so I have very limited contact with them and don’t know them personally. Yours may have similar roles in your life. So how can we rejoice in qualities when we don’t know the person and may not know what their good qualities are?
Well, one approach to this …
Jun 18, 2013
Appreciation of others’ good qualities improves our lives and makes us happier. But it’s great for them, too, and it can also save our intimate relationships.
I remember one time my wife saying, just after I’d made a critical comment, that I criticized her a lot, which surprised me, because I didn’t think I did. I asked her as gently as I could when the last time was that I’d said something critical, and she couldn’t remember. I asked if it was within the last two weeks. No, it was longer ago than that. The last month? She was pretty sure it was longer ago than that.
So this is indicative of the way …
Jun 17, 2013
In Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes, “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than there is wrong, no matter how ill or how hopeless you may feel.”
From the moment you are conceived, right up until the moment you take your last breath, there is more right with you than wrong with you.
It’s very easy to lose sight of this. When something good happens to us, we often don’t celebrate much and so don’t take it in. And when we do celebrate it’s often almost momentary. And yet we obsess about things that bother us.
Imagine a friend has said an …
Jun 15, 2013
“The greatest gift you can ever give another is to see what is best and unique about them.”
This morning I stumbled downstairs, bleary-eyed, having got home late after teaching a class the night before. My six-year-old daughter gave me a running hug and a huge smile. She’s naturally affectionate, but I suspect there was an ulterior motive, because a few seconds later she came running back to me with Mishan’s Garden in her hands, asking that I read it to her. And so, I did.
Mishan is the titular heroine, a young girl who lives in The Village Above the White Clouds, where her father is the innkeeper. Misha is a special girl, …
Jun 13, 2013
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He’s a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology, and the author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, and so he’s written a lot about the benefits of gratitude.
Gratitude is, of course, an important aspect of joyful appreciation, or mudita, which is the practice that we’re exploring at the moment as part of our 100 Days of Lovingkindness. So here are a few ways that Dr. Emmons has shown gratitude can enhance our lives.
- Gratitude enhances positive emotions.
Jun 06, 2013
This morning I was heading to work and I became aware that I wasn’t letting the world in.
Right now in New Hampshire, where I live, it’s late spring or early summer, and the trees, of which there are many on my route to work, are resplendent. Last night’s rains have left the greens and purples of the leaves rich and saturated, and the world is alive and vibrant. And yet for a few minutes it was as if I was seeing this through a filter that stripped out all the beauty. And in a way I was; the filter was my mind, clouded by preoccupations. With this filter …
Jun 04, 2013
The neuropsychologist (and Wildmind contributor) Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is very good at pointing out that our brains have a negativity bias. Our brains, as he puts it, are like velcro for painful experiences and teflon for pleasant experiences. And this bias has arisen because of our evolutionary history: hominins and early humans who ignored potential threats didn’t leave many ancestors, and so we’re descended from rather “twitchy” forebears who were good at thinking about things that might go wrong.
But now that, for most of us reading this article, our basic needs are largely covered, and so we find ourselves in the situation not of struggling to live, but …
Jun 03, 2013
In the Path of Freedom, a 1st century meditation manual that I’ve mentioned a few times because it’s the earliest source I know of for the cultivation of lovingkindness etc. in stages, we’re asked first of all to connect with mudita (appreciation) in the following way:
When one sees or hears that some person’s qualities are esteemed by others, and that he is at peace and is joyful, one thinks thus: “Sadhu! Sadhu! May he continue joyful for a long time!”
So this brings up the question of who we know (or know of) who is like that. And it also brings up the question of whether we actually want there to be people …