You are on page 1of 18



Buddha’s Brain (Unplugged)

A conversation between Rick Hanson & Moe Abdou
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

About Rick Hanson & Moe Abdou

Rick Hanson

Rick Hanson, Ph. D. , is a neuropsychologist and founder of the

Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. A
summa cum laude graduate of UCLA, Dr. Hanson have written and taught
about the essential inner skills of personal well-being, psychological
growth, and contemplative practice – as well as about relationships,
family life, and raising children.

Moe Abdou

Moe Abdou is the creator of 33voices — a global conversation about things

that matter in business and in life. 1
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

Rick, I am super delighted that we have this opportunity to reconnect and

pick up where left off last time. I know that our conversation the last time
not only got incredible attention from many people who listened but it also
got them thinking that this is the first step towards really trying to get
closer and understanding who we are as people.

Hopefully today, we can talk about some things that could help these
individuals who are very interested in this topic and really expand that
level of awareness. Thank you so much.

Fantastic. It’s my pleasure to be here Moe. It’s great.

I’d like to start Rick with just kind of getting current. What’s been keeping
your attention nowadays?

Good news and bad news. What I mean by that is that on the one hand I have
been very struck by the power of fear. In the world altogether, I think the last
10 years in many ways have been a big pitch in, to use that phrase from the 60s
about the power of fear.

Certainly, in America in the last 10 years, we have been all living in one long
seminar, a very experiential seminar about the way in which threat, actual and
imagined, can really grab attention and drive the agenda over and over again.
How that links more broadly which is the work I’ve been doing lately to the
ways in which we evolved to be quite anxious and very reactive to any
semblance of threat.

To bottom line it, basically, there are two mistakes you can make in life. One
is where you think that there is a tiger in the bushes about to pounce but there
really is no tiger. The other mistake is you think the coast is clear but there
really is a tiger there about to get you. Mother Nature wants us to make the
first mistake a thousand times over to avoid making the second mistake even

The problem is that the paper tiger “paranoia” which results makes us
routinely overestimate threats, underestimate opportunities and underestimate
resources for dealing with threats and also fulfilling opportunities. You see
these at all levels. You see it individually. You see it in couples, families,
organizations. Companies do this routinely. Many companies are threat fixated
rather than opportunity fixated. Definitely, you see at the national and
international level. 2
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

On the one hand, the bad news side is that we are very vulnerable to fear. I
put a lot of attention recently on what to do about that because I’m, as you
know, a methods guy, a practical clinician-teacher kind of guy. I consume
research voraciously but I don’t produce any basically. I thought a lot about
how to not be so driven by fear— how to not live life under a condition of
threat level orange, you know, at a personal level and also more globally.

Additionally, now the good news, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our
natural resting state in terms of the evolution of the brain is characterized in
terms of these three fundamental motivational systems that evolves to avoid
threats and harm, approach rewards and opportunities and attach to us —
bonding, love, fellowship, the ability it takes to raise a child and so forth. How
those three systems have a resting state that’s calm contented and caring.
Calm in terms of avoiding, contentment in terms of approaching, and caring in
terms of attaching.

But, we also evolved hair-trigger mechanisms that drive us from that home
base, that resting state, drive us into a reactive mode of fight or flight
reactivity. So to sum up the good news is that our home base is wonderful.

The bad news is that we evolved hair trigger mechanisms that are great for
short term crisis management that allows you for quality of life and allows you
for long term health and well being. That gives us a challenge.

The good news is that deep down, we got tons and tons of resources. The bad
news is we’ve got to deal with these challenges that are embedded in the
caveman brain which is now armed with nuclear weapons in the 21st century.

That’s a great intro. What I was starting to say is, we are surrounded by
fear. I guess my question to you is what is driving that?

Well that’s the crux. Think about our ancestors going all the way back. The
nervous system has been evolving for 600 million years, 200 million years in
mammals, 2.5 million years of tool making; hominid ancestors whose brains
were a third our size; much of the volume of the brain tripling over the last
several million years. It’s devoted to social function.

On that long run… on the one hand we have a kind of resting state that
summarized for me as calm, contented and caring, that’s the resting state of
the brain. That’s its home base. That’s good news. The bad news is that in
order to survive and deal with short term immediate crisis, threats that have
an urgency and an impact for survival. 3
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

We have evolved hair trigger mechanisms that drive us from home at the
crackle of a twig back in the Serengeti or these days, a frown across a dinner
table or an alarming headline on the evening news. That then tips us into this
very reactive fight or flight mode that’s very, very sensitive to threats.

If you think about it, that’s why I think that one of the most important things a
person can do is to help themselves not be gripped by a paper tiger paranoia
and not needlessly give other people cause to fear them and clock as many
minutes a day as they can in this resting state of the brain, the home base of
the brain because since “neurons that are fired together, wired together.”
When you do clock minutes in that resting state of the brain, you strengthen its
neural substrate.

So the home base of the brain becomes more and more where you hangout and
in effect you deepen your keel on the water. So you stay in this centered, calm,
contented caring place even when you’re dealing with stress at work; even
when things aren’t going well in the team you’re managing; even when you're
at home, you can keep your head together. For me that’s very good news.

It’s good news for everybody. You certainly are one of the most
enlightened people that I have come to know. I really appreciate that. How
does somebody like you make sense of all these madness that’s going on in
a place like Egypt?

My expertise is inside the brain and also inside the mind of individuals and
relationships. I’m a little careful about the political side.

My own impression is that factually, it’s a pretty classic situation of a

strongman dictator propped up in various ways by the U.S. over the years based
on short-term gains but with accumulating long term costs because it creates a
populace that, on the secular side, is hungry for the modern life, modern
media, a modern economy, modern freedoms, and modern equality between
men and women.

It also creates a more fundamentalist wing that longs for a return to traditional
ways in the Muslim brotherhood and so forth. We’re seeing that all played out
right now. That’s what I think.

To me it speaks to the ways in which — I think deep down people really do. I go
back to Rodney King and the LA riots back in the day. I’m old enough to
remember them. His plaintiff statement, “Why can’t we all just get along?” I
think deep down, people really do want to get along. 4
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

You get these distortions of what people really want based on heavy-handed
short-term authoritarian rule from the top down. Sooner or later, you’re going
to pay a price. It might work short term. You’re going to win a lot of battles
but ultimately, you’re going to lose the war. That’s my uninformed quick take
on a very complex subject.

I guess the direction that I wanted to go with something like that is really
to talk about the brain and the ability for a nation — it’s starting with
individuals to understand that they have the power to calm their minds.

I appreciate what you’re saying about that. These tendencies or capacities in

the brain to kick into high gear I think are necessary. I think there is a place for
speaking truth to power or there is a place for going out on the street. You
know there is a place for protesting and all the rest of that.

At a more immediate level, I think there is a place in everyday life for rising to
a challenge physically in your life or revving up to deal with some business
situation or coming through for your kids who really needs you late one night.
Okay, there is a place for that.

The problem is that we have created a kind of lifestyle of chronic low grade
fight or flight activation. The price of that in the business world is really
substantial because it lowers productivity, it increases turnover and it
increases healthcare costs. Not good.

The most important asset a company has is the capabilities of its workforce not
paying attention to the long term consequences, the long term price of the
short term benefits of kicking into the fight or flight reactive mode of the brain.
If companies don’t pay attention to that they’ll suffer ultimately the bottom
line in shareholder value and all the rest of that. To me that’s very important
to pay attention to.

The other thing is to appreciate just as you were saying that it’s actually easy
to tip into a calmer, clearer, more mindful, more fulfilled, more sense of a
belonging way of being. It’s not that hard to go there. Every time we go there
— because neurons fired together are wired together — every time we go there
we strengthen the neural substrate.

How that plays out in a practical way — maybe I’ll just talk about this for a
moment here — how that plays out in a practical way for me in terms of my
own practice is to just deliberately help myself feel good. Marinating in well
being is incredibly good for the brain and the body and for productivity long
term. 5
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

So when you have an opportunity to take in the good of everyday small things,
you know, little things to be grateful for, little things to recognize that are
wholesome and positive in your own nature, little things to appreciate in your
own accomplishments or how you’re treated over the course of the day, that’s
an opportunity to reset to the resting state of the brain; this positive home
base it has.

Another thing is to take a little moment everyday to just step out of the
madness, you know, find refuge. Every culture has sought sanctuary, has had
sanctuaries of one kind or another. If we don’t have some moment like a pit
stop everyday where we just chill for a minute or five minutes or even better
20 or 40 minutes, gradually over time, you get worn out.

The third and last thing I’ll say in passing is really beware the needle on the
stress meter moving into orange or red. We can handle a fair amount of
ongoing yellow stress but when you start feeling really pressed or upset. As you
know, when we get upset, it kicks into gear the same stress machinery that
activated to get away from charging a lion a million years ago.

Don’t let your needle, as best you can, don’t let your needle go into the orange
or red zone because that is like metal on metal break pads grinding. No more
break pads now, you’re metal on metal.

I have two teen-aged children. One that’s about to go to college and one
that’s going to be a sophomore. I work really hard with them. In fact, I
spent a lot of time reviewing your book with them. Specifically with this
whole notion of teaching them or letting them at least understand that
they have the power to take control of their brains. It’s a challenge for
most people.

What are some simple steps or techniques that you use maybe with your
family or yourself, certainly your clients, the ones who are really
committed that can really start to understand that that’s possible.

That’s a great question. I think that explanations help. To me that’s one of the
major benefits of the knowledge explosion about the brain because it’s
motivating probably defined. In other words, when people get that what
they’re doing for better or worse is changing their own brain, they get more
motivated to take practical action, to make positive changes. They get
motivated to be more careful about those sort of little murmurings on the back
of the mind that are angry or critical or self critical or resentful or anxious. 6
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

Those little murmurings in the back of the mind, neurons that are firing
together are wiring together, are wiring depression, anxiety, poor resilience,
low motivation etc. into the brain. So that’s number 1. A basic simple
understanding achieved through reading my book or things like it. That’s a good
one right there. I have found, as a generalization with many exceptions, that
two groups in particular benefit from that namely teenagers and men.

The second is to get a grip on the stress machinery of the body and really
appreciate that stress is your enemy long term. There is a place for short term
acute stress, being able to manage things and rise and deal and so forth. There
is a place for that. But the problem is long term grinding stress. That’s a
serious issue.

Being able to initiate a calming response when you start getting worked up or
upset, like 3 to 10 long exhalations, or relax the tongue, or call to mind the
felt sense of being with someone who cares about you. Those are immediately
powerful ways to lower stress-based reactivity. When people do them a few
times, they get much more confidence in that. Like, wow, I can actually do this.
This actually works.

The third thing I think is a good one including in particular for teenagers. I
alluded to a moment ago which is the sense of being included or belonging, you
know, cared about in a nutshell. We evolved to really need that fundamental
sense of being cared about in the Serengeti a million years ago, being
separated from the band, exile was a death sentence.

I read a review last night on the research on loneliness and its very serious
negative consequences. I think there are a lot of teenagers who are quite
lonely even though they are surrounded by many other people.

Looking for little moments over the course of a day and maybe at a particular
time each day like just before bed as a kind of review for a few minutes of the
day is a very good thing. Looking for these moments where you can legitimately
feel cared about is a very positive influence on the brain.

When people experience the benefits of that, just 20 seconds or even 2

minutes of kind of marinating in feeling seen and liked and appreciated and
cared about maybe even cherished and loved is a wonderful way to feel better.
As people do that, they get more and more confident that they can feel better
and they get more and more motivated to do so.

Rick, whether it’s adults or teenagers start to really think like that and
start to grasp the fact that it is possible, what does it do for their 7
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

confidence? What does that do for them moving and shifting a simple
behavior like I can’t do this, I can’t get great grades or build this business
to just simply, I can or I’ll try?

I think you said it. In other words, success breeds motivation in a nutshell. In
addition to that obvious platitude, the cliché, it’s really important to register
success. That’s the thing I would add to it. That’s the X factor that makes all
the difference in the world.

In other words, I’m sure you do, I have known many people who were quite
successful ranging from kids in school all the way up to business entrepreneurs
who didn’t feel it. It did not really register. They could report it conceptually
but it didn’t sink in. It did not stick to their ribs.

The brain is biased toward really remembering negative experiences. It tends

to ignore positive experiences. It’s very important to go out of one’s way to
really register positive experiences so they really sink in to implicit memory.
That would be the thing that I would add here.

When you are successful whether it’s in your quarterly bottom line or as a
teenager, in managing your reactions more skillfully, let’s say in some weird
social scene at lunch or what have you or when you are successful let’s say in
keeping your head in the game and getting your homework done on time and so
forth. When you are successful feel it. Really take the time to enjoy it.

There is a fear sometimes people have that if they feel good that will make
them a wuss in some way or that it’s selfish. But actually, much research shows
that when people let themselves feel good; a. It builds resilience and b. They
become much more inclined to be caring, patient, generous and so forth with
other people.

How much does our physical well-being have to do with our mind control?

I think a lot. There are extraordinary people who are experiencing chronic pain,
they are in a really bad place, but they can surmount it. I tip my hat to them.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are people who, the least thing really
sets them off in a tizzy. The people in the middle though where most of us are
definitely are affected by impairments in well being.

I remember reading a literature review of the research on chronic pain. It

compared the negative impact of chronic pain to other — including low grade
chronic pain like a nagging backache and compared it to other negative factors. 8
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

Chronic pain is the worst as a generalization for the average person. It’s the
worst negative factor for mental health, as one example.

Physical well-being I think is very important. The mind is woven into the brain
which is woven into the body which is woven into the world. When your body is
not right whether it’s chronic pain or some kind of funny GI issue or your
immune system is inflamed that feeds back into and harms the brain.

For example, recently, there is a body of literature that has to do with what’s
called the cytokine theory of depression. Cytokines are chemical messengers
released by the immune system when it activates and responds to a perceived
threat even if it’s not a real threat.

One of the major perceived threats that the immune system activates to are
foods, for example, that people are allergic to. Notably the gluten grain and
the milk products that were introduced only 10,000 years ago which is just
blink of the eye in terms of human evolution. I’m not saying it’s true for
everybody but there are people who don’t realize that their bodies are actually
mounting an immune response reaction that is inflammatory in the body
altogether. It’s releasing these chemical messengers.

They go into the brain. They cross the blood brain barrier and there they wreak
some kind of havoc including, for example, they make it harder for parts of the
brain like the hypothalamus to control the stress response. They make people
more vulnerable to stress which creates kind of a cascade of consequences. So
the larger point here — that’s just one illustration — is that you’re exactly right
that bodily wellbeing promotes mental health.

Exercise, for example, promotes neurogenesis, you know, neurogenesis being

the birth of the neurons on the brain. We have roughly 1 to 10,000 new neurons
born everyday in the brain mainly in the hippocampus, the part that’s involved
in visual-spatial memory and memory for context. Especially as you age, one of
the things that really helps keep that neurogenesis baby factory going there as
it were is regular exercise.

That’s certainly the fact for me. I feel it personally and that’s why I asked
that question. How about the power of intentions? Much has been said
about the power of intentions. In my opinion, there are sometimes too
many fantasies out there. I know that from a scientific perspective. What
can our brains teach us about the power of intentions?

The context here a little is the book and the movie The Secret. 9
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

Yeah, you’re exactly right.

Yeah, I’ve been exposed to that. I want to make a key distinction here which
frankly, I think was blurred to really a problematic degree in both the book and
the movie. The distinction is between the power of intention understood in—
let’s call them conventional ways. In other words, for example, if I intend to be
responsive to your questions rather than go off on some tangent, you know,
pitching my new book or whatever like that then I’m going to have a much
more effective interview with you.

So there are all kinds of obvious ways. If people intend to exercise and then if
they manifest that intention by creating a regular exercise buddy to get them
out and go for a long walk everyday or meet at the gym for Pilates three times
a week what have you, they are going to be more successful.

There are lots of ways in which in that conventional way, intention is

extremely powerful. I mean, I’m struck as me someone who has a lot of respect
for Buddhism and training there that in The Noble Eightfold Path where the
Buddha lays out eight things. There are only eight. It’s a short list. One of the
eight, number 2 on the list, in a common sequence is wise intention. Intention
is really important.

Then there is this other way maybe that intention may make a difference. I’ll
call this one the metaphysical mechanism of action. So the first way is the
conventional mechanism of action, the second is the metaphysical. With regard
to that, who knows, it could be true. Maybe it’s not true.

My personal opinion is that there are examples of where metaphysically that

intention does seem to have some kind of impact. I’m not going to argue that
point because the evidence for it is, you know, really difficult to pin down in
any kind of a scientific way. To me, it’s a truly scientific attitude to have a
fundamental open-mindedness and a willingness to be moved by the evidence
as it emerges.

That said, whatever might be true about the metaphysical impact of intention
point 1, we have plenty of opportunities only focusing on or using the
conventional power of intentions to radically improve our lives.

Like, for example, waking up in the morning and reestablishing our

fundamental purpose in life which I do routinely. Or, for example, writing
affirmations out for the day. Or, for example, writing out a to do list and
working your to do list and putting it in front of your face. Or, for example,
putting stickies around you, you know, in your car or on your computer that 10
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

have a single word or a phrase on them that you want to keep in front of your
mind like breath or be grateful or forgive or whatever it is or bottom line.
Those are all very powerful ways to organize intention.

Let’s say you’re in a conversation with a friend or a maid or a person at work

and it’s a difficult conversation. Keep regenerating what actually is the prize in
this conversation you’re going after rather than get distracted by all these side
issues. Those are all very powerful ways. Consider your life purpose.

I have this exercise in my book Buddha’s Brain. I call it the View from the Porch
where you just imagine you’re doing great but you’re nearing the end of your
life, you’re looking back, sitting on the rocker, out on a porch, let’s say. What
do you want to be really, really glad when you’re 90 years old that you did with
your life?

Those are all fantastic ways to use what I’m calling conventional power of
intention. Whatever might be available to us in terms of manifesting, you know,
parking places or green lights or pearl necklaces or the partner of our dreams,
you know, it’s your metaphysical mechanisms of action. We have plenty of
other opportunities right in front of our nose in terms of conventional forms of

The second, I am nervous. I’m quite uncomfortable about people using things
like The Secret to blame themselves or others frankly for misfortune. I don’t
people get cancer because they intend to get cancer. I don’t think children get
molested because at some level they intended to get molested. I don’t think
the Jews, gays, gypsies and others in World War II got sent to Auschwitz and
Dachau because they had at some level intended for that to happen.

It’s easy to misuse teachings that have wisdom in them about the metaphysical
power of intention to blame yourself or feel somehow it’s your fault if
misfortune befalls you.

I second that. I mean, absolutely the truth. I love the fact that some of the
intentions that you’re talking about are simply intentions for us as human
beings to remind ourselves to be good people, to tell the truth, to be kind,
to be compassionate. Those types of intentions, I know for me personally,
definitely impact my brain.

With regard to the brain, absolutely. Not to plug my book but just factually,
there is a whole chapter in there.

I want you to plug your book. 11
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

I guess I come up to a clinical background also a Buddhist and a scientific

background or academic and you don’t plug yourself. Like that’s a major no-no
in those three cultures that I have grown up in so I’ll leave it at that.

The truth is that when we make intentions we establish them at all levels of
the brain. Top down in terms of prefrontal cortex using language or kind of an
executive focus that says, stick with it. Don’t give up. Hang in there, strong,
whatever that is. Live strong. That’s more top down.

There are also intentions embedded in the brain bottom up where we mobilize
energy and activation that’s rooted in brainstem activation for good causes,
good purposes, and good intentions. We also mobilize emotionally oriented
rewards, a kind of wholeheartedness or warm heartedness toward our goals and
also mobilize rewards where we feel pleasure or other forms of rewards as we
pursue good intentions. Yeah, the power of intention manifests itself
throughout all levels of the brain.

I know you have some great rituals in your life. Is there a ritual that you
can’t live without?

Rituals, I would use that word really broadly. I’ll call it routine practice. It may
or may not per person have a theistic if you will component woven into it. I
think there are plenty of wonderful rituals that do have a theistic component
woven into it. But a person can engage practices routinely like, for example,
just being glad at every meal that they have a meal and they’re not one of the
one billion people worldwide, 1 in 6, who goes to bed hungry every night.

That said, whether it has a theistic component or not, I think that in a literal
sense I could live without my rituals. In the sense I think you really mean it.
They are very high priorities for me and they really keep me going.

There are several. One is that I’m committed to meditating a minute or more
everyday. Usually it’s many more minutes than one but that’s a personal
commitment, that’s a vow. I don’t go to bed without meditating. Sometimes
it’s 1:30 in the morning, I have ground through a huge inbox worth of emails
and I’m just exhausted but you know, I’m going to sit up in bed for two or
three minutes breathing and relaxing before I go to sleep because that’s my

The second commitment is that almost everyday, I very consciously reestablish

my purpose in life, my overarching most fundamental purpose which for me is
about awakening, my own and others, and take refuge. For me refuge is — in 12
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

Buddhism it’s the teacher, the teaching and the community as a thought or in
traditional language, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

There are other refuges that people can take and I take as well like I take
refuge in practice, just keep going or I take refuge in the divine myself. I take
refuge in awareness. I take refuge in interdependence. The fact that
everything is connected to everything else and nothing arises on its own. Those
are refuges for me.

In addition to that, people can take refuge in things like the memory of their
grandmother’s kitchen, you know, baking cookies or the felt sense of being
loved or take refuge in reason or take refuge in knowing that they are
fundamentally a good person. No halo required.

Whatever it is I think that in this very challenging life, at any time in history,
there always are challenges. Life does have difficulties. No doubt about it. We
need refuges. We need pit stops of one kind or another.

I think the last thing is I really do go through my day trying to vacuum up at

least some of the many little pearls strewn around me. Every one’s life has
dozens and dozens, hundreds maybe everyday of little pearls strewn around
them; little opportunities to legitimately feel good. Feeling good being fairly
mild in most cases on the 33:46 scale of feeling good it’s a plus 0.3 or a plus 1
or a plus 2, 3, or 4.

There are dozens and dozens of pearls in front of us everyday, you know,
recognition of accomplishments, recognition of things to be grateful for,
recognition of people to be nice to and so forth. I try not to leave money on
the table. I really want to suck up those pearls and weave those pearls — the
fabric of my brain and my being. I always say that that is something I don’t
think I can do without on any given day.

It doesn’t mean looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. It means

seeing the world clearly both the real tigers but also the dozens of pearls that
are right there in front of us each day.

You are an absolutely remarkable person.

I don’t know if that’s true but thank you.

I am really, really glad to have you in my life. My last question to you is

this. Obviously, your book had a tremendous impact on me and I’m sure on 13
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

you just going through the process. But other than your own work, what
other book or individual has had the greatest impact on you?

I’ve had a number of teachers along the way that have had a big impact. I’ve
also had a lot of really powerful wholesome influences in my life that did not
have the teacher nametag. Both people like my wife who’s had a wonderful
influence on me over the years as well as situations or people like my children
who themselves have had a wonderful influence on me. It led to wonderful
influences on me. I think that’s true for everyone. You and everyone, I think
that’s generally true.

I’m here to call out a couple of things that could be key resources to people
perhaps listening to this. In the world of the brain, let’s say, and ways of
feeling better in life — I’ll tell you the about this one, I’ll answer
the question this way. I’ll tell you the books I most often recommend to people.
Number 1, in no particular order, I would recommend Jon Kabat-Zinn’s
masterpiece Wherever You Go, There You Are. A fantastic, basic, highly
accessible book on mindfulness.

Second, I recommend, Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. It is a

wonderful book about very practical skills in communication with others and a
way of interacting with others that solves problems and puts out fires and
prevents wars - Nonviolent Communication.

The third book would be the classic book Focusing by Eugene Gendlin about self
awareness and using the power of self awareness to heal and release inner pain
of one kind or another. I would totally recommend those books.

And then, this is a book not for the faint of heart but for those who are really
into this sort of thing. I just think it’s a masterpiece. Evan Thompson’s book
called Mind in Life in which he — a world-class philosopher of science and
someone who is deeply knowledgeable as well as way brilliant about
neuropsychology and biology — has really written a tour de force that grounds
the mind in biology.

About the third of his book is a lot of phenomenological philosophy which is not
so much my cup of tea but the chapters that are — I’m not saying anything
against it. I tend to flip to those pages — but the pages that really spoke to me
were when he just goes through the latest neuroscience and how mind emerges
in life in a way that’s interdependently arising. I think that’s great.

I’ll do one last pitch for a book and then I’ll shut up. If people are at all
interested in what the Buddha actually taught, a marvelous book is called In 14
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

The Buddha’s Words which is kind of a greatest hits of the Buddha. The author
and translator of it is Bhikkhu Bodhi. You can get it on Amazon and elsewhere.
It’s a wonderful summary.

It’s an anthology — he is to me the gold standard translator of early Buddhist

teachings — of very, very practical, fundamentally down to Earth teachings of
the Buddha in plain English. I myself had always tried to read the saints and the
theologians. Bhikkhu Bodhi has done an incredible job, a unique job in
presenting the fundamental teachings of the Buddha in very accessible
language and in a very well organized way.

If I were stuck on a dessert island and could have only five Buddhist books with
me, it would definitely be in the top five.

Could you please wrap up and plug your own stuff because we’re going to
make sure that this type of conversation is in front of the right people who
really appreciate and embrace this. We have talked the last time about
the website, which takes you to your website. Tell
me how people can continually get more of your information?

I appreciate that a lot. Wrapping up, one thing that had struck me is how
mental training of one kind or another. I state two things. First, people
routinely understand that if they want to get a result in say business or their
golf game or landscaping their yard or getting fit, they understand they have to
work for it. Okay, good you do. You have to work for it you know.

On the other hand, when it comes to the mind, you know, thoughts and
feelings and how they are with their kids or their maid, their emotions, their
reactions, they sort of don’t get it. You actually have to work as well in that
domain to produce a result. What’s true with regard to building a muscle in a
gym or building a business from scratch is also true with regard to improving
your well being and functioning and interpersonal behavior. That’s point 1.

Point 2, with regard to that mental training, it has often struck me kind of
weird that people can think that various kinds of mental training whether it’s
in the Western traditions of psychology or in the Eastern traditions of
contemplative practice, they sort of think that that training is soft, mushy, I’m
going to use a loaded word here, ‘feminine,’ new age, bloody blah, navel-
gazing and so forth. Whereas, I think it’s tough as nails. I think the hardest
thing in the world is to really take your own mind off and gradually tame that
bucking bronco and learn how to ride it more skillfully. 15
Buddha's Brain (Unplugged) !Rick Hanson with Moe Abdou

I think that if people really appreciate that it’s tough minded and it’s about
real old fashioned values of resilience, grit, gumption, drive, delaying of
gratification, patience, and other virtues and things like that. It’s really useful
for entrepreneurs, business owners and everybody to appreciate that mental
training is actually tough as nails. So, on the basis of that. 16

We believe that the best version of yourself is when you don’t have to
choose between doing what you love and making a living. So if you’re
stuck or simply want an extra spark of inspiration, please tell us how
we can help.

What Are You Struggling With?


You might also like