Buddha’s Brain – The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom by Rick Hanson, Ph.D … A Book Review
There are many reasons why I like the book, Buddha’s Brain. I refer to it often. Author Rick Hanson hails from Northern California and gives a nice introduction to the basics of neuroscience while combining that with Buddhism and dharma principals. A key element to Hanson’s teaching is helping the reader understand the negativity bias that exists in the brain. Being aware of the negativity bias is the best way to shift to a more positive outlook on life and everyday experiences. It didn’t take much convincing for me to believe scientific evidence is out there to prove the negativity bias; one need only engage the world to find the anecdotal evidence to go along with it.
Hanson is a neuropsychologist who has practiced mindfulness for many years. I prefer Hanson’s style to that of Jon Kabit-Zinn, although I like Kabit-Zinn and his books as well. Hanson gives us evolutionary background of our brain and how the brain’s negativity bias was useful at one point in our development but not so much now. As he likes to say, “It was better to think there was a tiger in the bush one thousand times and be wrong each time than to think there was not a tiger in the bush and be wrong one time.”
What Hanson delights in teaching is that the brain can be reprogrammed by focusing on the good to create new, positive pathways in the brain which change the way we think. Why not? His simple task of “taking in the good” I found most beneficial. Because we do not register our positive experiences in the same way or with the same emphasis as we do our negative experiences – but we should and we can. For me it gets back to the footnote tag line in this blog, by Voltaire – appreciation. Appreciating the little, positive things that life offers every day helps reprogram the brain away from its negativity bias. I like that.
Hanson reminds us we will have painful events in our life. Those are unavoidable. But how we react to those events is more in our control than we realize. The book is actually a “how to” manual, which is another reason I like it. Hanson doesn’t just tell you why, he tells you what you need to do about it. What I like about his style is he doesn’t preach an hour a day of mediation – although he is not opposed to that – rather he lets us know we can and should be mindful anytime and grab moments of mediation when they are available. And that could even be while you are in your car, waiting for the light to turn green. Minutes add up at the end of the day.
It is the combination of research about the brain along with practical steps anyone can take to increase their sense of well being that I appreciate about Hanson’s writing style. The East vs West angle I always enjoy. Hanson helps explain, scientifically, why Buddha got it right. My kind of non-fiction book. I highly recommend Buddha’s Brain and another non-fiction book by Rick Hanson, Just One Thing. Hanson’s YouTube videos of his lectures are also very good. For a free newsletter and more information about author, Rick Hanson go to http://www.rickhanson.net or click his picture, above.
2 Responses to “Buddha’s Brain – The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom by Rick Hanson, Ph.D … A Book Review”
Mindfulness that branches out to living in the moment because the present is all we really have – the one that actually matters. Difficult for a daydreamer like me 🙂 though I do my best.
I’m fond of reading non-fiction books, too. In a similar vein, one of my favorites is Gordon Livingston’s “Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart” where he confirmed the belief that there are basically 3 components of happiness: something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. Very true.
Wonderful post, Kevin.
Thank-you for the book recommendation, Lady from Manila – I appreciate it.