Dr. Rick Hanson

Dr. Rick Hanson speaks with us about his new book, Just One Thing: Developing A Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time.

It’s a daunting task, changing our minds. Not the simple, “I wanted a mocha, but maybe a latte would be better” kind of changing our minds, that’s pretty easy. What I mean is the effort we need to put in to fundamentally change how our mind functions. As we’ve seen from several of the recent interviews with our friends in the scientific community who study the effects of contemplative practices, there are distinct and measurable changes in the brain itself. And if the underlying tools are changed, so is what they create.

This updating of our wetware doesn’t have to be quite so imposing a proposition. We can, in the same way we climb mountains one step at a time, do just one thing at a time.

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and author of Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s taught at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and in meditation centers in Europe, North America, and Australia. An authority on self-directed neuroplasticity, Dr. Hanson’s work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Consumer Reports Health, and U.S. News and World Report, and his articles have appeared in Tricycle Magazine, Insight Journal, and Inquiring Mind. A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA, Dr. Hanson is a trustee of Saybrook University. He also served on the board of Spirit Rock Meditation Center for nine years, began meditating in 1974, trained in several traditions, and leads a weekly meditation gathering in San Rafael, CA.

So, sit back, relax, and have a nice South Indian Iyerpadi.

:: Discuss this episode ::


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Music for This Episode

Shakuhachi Meditations



The music heard in the middle of the podcast is from Rodrigo Rodriguez’s CD, Shakuhachi Meditations. The tracks used in this episode are:

  • Kyuden No Kurayami

No Comments

  1. Dana Nourie on January 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    The way Rick talked about how habits seem to get passed along life to life spoke not of rebirth or reincarnation, but memes! I also have realized that our influences are passed along, again not by rebirth or reincarnation, but interdependence. It may sound like rebirth, but I really feel it’s about influences we leave behind with other people. Carl Sagan’s love of the universe comes through us not through magic or reincarnation but through his influence and words left behind that get passed around as memes.

    I have found that being mindful of interdependence teaches me much more in how I behave in the world, than my old belief in reincarnation did.

    Transcendental to me is meaningless until there is evidence that such a thing is possible, in the same way String theory and what it suggests is meaningless until we have evidence, which we don’t.

    Rick’s book Just One Thing looks good. Nice to see books with practices that people can follow rather than getting caught up in a lot of dogma. The reviews on Amazon are very positive.

    Another fascinating interview, Ted!

  2. Ron Stillman on January 21, 2012 at 11:14 am

    It’s interesting to note that Rick believes that Gotama taught the ending of suffering instead of the ending of craving. I believe this is an important distinction to make between traditional and secular Buddhism.

    As Batchelor has pointed out, the classical formulation of the Four Noble Truths leading to the ending of suffering implies a multi-life view of the world while the Four Noble Truths leading to the ending of craving involves just this life.

    The ending of craving is about engaging experientially in this life by fully knowing dukkha/life, letting craving fall away, experiencing cessation, and following the path, a bit by bit process leading to the ending of desire, hatred and confusion. It’s a way of life that promotes “full human flourishing”.

    That said, I appreciate Rick’s effort to help us understand the brain and how it functions as well as exercises that help us live a fuller life now.

  3. Mark Knickelbine on January 26, 2012 at 8:44 am

    “God is irrelevant”? If the supernatural is not relevant to dharma practice, then why bother with it at all? I think there’s a difference between a middle path and doublethink, and I’m afraid Hanson is indulging in the latter. As he mentions, if there is a supernatural realm, it has to be catagorically different than the natural realm. As soon as it interacts in any way with the natural realm (quantum effects NOT excepted), it ceases to be supernatural — unless we want to flush physics. “We must not reject the possibility” is, in both Hanson and Wallace’s case, ultimately a way of preserving an appeal to the metaphysical without having to present any convincing evidence. If the metaphysical is irrelevant, why preserve it? I think because in the end Hanson wants to make the supernatural appear compatible with scientific naturalism. If this is his project, it’s just a less fluffy version of what Deepak is doing. This matters, because, as Ted has often pointed out, once you posit a realm outside of empirical truth-testing, then anything whatever follows, and we are condemned to trust in the Religious Authorities — which is, I think, the ultimate goal here.

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