Rick Hanson is a neuropsychologist and meditation teacher. He and Richard Mendius are the cofounders of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. With great clarity, enthusiasm, and clout they have written a pioneering work in the up-and-coming field of harnessing the mind to change the brain for the better. With confidence, the authors present a blend of psychology, neurology, and contemplative practice.
The book is divided into four parts: the causes of suffering, happiness, love, and wisdom. After examining the causes of suffering (keeping separate that which is connected, trying to stabilize what keeps changing, and seeking to hold on to fleeting pleasures and escape inevitable pains), Hanson gets down to the main theme of using your mind to transform your brain.
The brain has a built-in negativity bias so we must work extra hard to emphasize positive experiences, memories, and intentions on a day-by-day basis. Here are several practices to put into place in order to increase the brain's appreciation for the good.
Number one, nurture compassion for yourself and others in order to strengthen your neural circuits.
Number two, make sure to stay with good feelings as long as you can so that the memory will have a stronger impact on the brain.
Number three, focus on the rewarding aspects of a hug with a person or a magic moment with your dog or cat.
Remember that all three of these require you to be on your own side.
Hanson calls these practices "taking in the good" or, if you prefer, you can use a more traditional term like "brightening the mind." The author's mission is to give us ways to reach inside our own brains and create more happiness, love, and wisdom. He looks at intentions (a form of desire), equanimity ("not reacting to your reactions whatever they are"), kindness, empathy, and attention (the five factors of concentration). Rewiring the brain for the better is a worthy spiritual adventure.