I first encountered Buddhism in 1974, and it blew the doors wide open for me with its profound and practical insights into the mind, suffering, and true happiness. Over time I gravitated to the original teachings of the Buddha, embodied in the Theravadan tradition, for their down-to-earth clarity, and important sources for me have included the teachers of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and the Pali Canon itself. More recently, I've explored grounding the dharma in modern evolutionary neuropsychology - "neurodharma" - recognizing how mind arises dependently upon the body, especially the nervous system as it tries to meet ancient needs for raw survival. I am especially interested in using these approaches to heighten the learning - the cultivation (bhavana) - from beneficial experiences (otherwise often wasted on the brain) to reduce the underlying sense of deficit and disturbance that causes the craving that causes suffering and harm. Overall, I feel amazingly blessed to have the opportunity in this life to ride the dharma stream and share its gifts with others!
In his newest book, Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, Dr. Rick Hanson explains how the mind shapes the brain: neurons that fire together, wire together. Positive experiences are the main source of the neural structures underlying motivation, self-worth, the executive functions, good mood, kindness, resilience, and other inner strengths. Unfortunately, most positive experiences are wasted on the brain because it evolved a negativity bias to help our ancestors survive. It’s like Velcro for bad experiences but Teflon for good ones. To solve this problem, this talk will present the four simple HEAL steps of taking in the good, which turn passing experiences into lasting neural resources. We’ll explore how to use these methods to build confidence, focus attention, lower anxiety, and fundamentally, hardwire happiness into the brain.