Rick Hanson is author of the bestseller Buddha's Brain and affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. He believes that we can transform our lives by consciously using our minds to change our brains. By focusing on the positive, by putting others before ourselves, and by seeing ourselves capable and loving, we can shape the brain in the direction of these practices.
Hanson has come up with 52 practices to try and he sees them as the law of little things which add up as they bring changes in the brain. The ones he has chosen build the neural substrates — "the foundations of resilience, resourcefulness, well-being and inner peace." Hanson ends the introduction with a warning that there are three phases to psychological and spiritual growth:
1. being with difficult material (old wounds, anger, resentment),
2. releasing it (letting go), and
3. replacing it with something more beneficial.
Or keep this trinity in mind as you move through the practices in the book: "let be, let go, and let in."
Just One Thing by Rick Hanson is an incredibly handy and accessible compilation of humanizing practices that can be done by anyone to enrich, deepen, enhance, and polish one's life. Here is a list of some of the 52 practices: take in the good, slow down, find beauty, be grateful, be patient, enjoy humility, aspire without attachment, dream big dreams, relax anxiety about imperfection, and fill the hole in your heart. Here also is a sampler of the wisdom revealed in these practices:
• "Be mindful of what it feels like in your body to be on your own side. Open to and encourage that feeling as much as possible. Notice any resistance to it and try to let it go."
• "Bring to mind a favorite setting — . . . and imagine yourself there. Savor these pleasures. Sink into them, take your time with them, and let them fill your body and mind. Marinate in pleasure!"
• " 'Glad' means 'pleased with' or 'happy about.' So notice what it feels like — in your emotions, body, and thoughts — to be pleased with something or happy about it. When you create a clear sense-memory of a positive mental state, you can find your way back to it again."
• "Be careful about making assumptions about the intentions of others. Maybe they didn't do it 'on purpose.' Or maybe there was one not-so-good purpose aimed at you that was mixed up with a dozen other purposes."