I had the great privilege to attend a day-long with Rick Hanson, at IMC. Rich Hanson, a neuropsychologist and long time Vipassana meditator, is the author of the bestseller, 'Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom'. The title of his presentation was 'Taking in the Good'.
Taking in the good, we certainly did, as Rick explored with us the exciting area of confluence between neuroscience, neuropsychology, and Dharma practice. The good news is negative patterns in the brain can be reversed, through deliberate changes in the mind. This is called self-directed neuroplasticity. The bad news is the brain's negativity bias, a collateral damage from years of biological evolution. To counter this negativity bias, we need to reshape our implicit memory bank by consciously taking in good experiences over and over again. This is where right mindfulness and right effort come into play.
Often we may think we are taking in the good stuff in our life, but we are not really, or at least not completely. I found the following TIG (Taking in the Good) practice from Rick, especially useful. It goes like this:
- Look for a positive fact, and let it become a positive experience. (I picked 'breathing')
- Savor the positive experience, sustaining it for 10 to 30 seconds, feeling it in the body and emotions, and intensifying it. (Never before did breathing feel so 'sweet' . . .)
- Sense and intend that the positive experience is soaking into your brain and body, registering deeply in emotional memory. (Oh! such a blissful state, the sweetness of breathing)
I was reminded of Jack Kornfield's raisins exercise.
Too often I rush to gratitude, without taking the time to completely appreciate what I am grateful for. This is definitely a practice to add to my happiness toolbox!
Taking in the Good. All of the Good.
If you have the time, you may want to go through the complete deck of Rick Hanson's slides, available here in pdf file.