Explore Seven Practices of the Highest Happiness
Throughout history, people have sought the heights of human potential—to become as wise, strong, happy, and loving as any person can ever be. And now recent science is revealing how these remarkable ways of being are based on equally remarkable changes in our own nervous system, making them more attainable than ever before.
In Neurodharma, New York Times bestselling author Dr. Rick Hanson explores the new neuroscience of awakening and offers a bold yet plausible plan for reverse-engineering peak experiences, sense of oneness, and even enlightenment itself. And he does so with his trademark blend of solid science and warm encouragement, guiding you along this high-reaching path with good humor, accessible tools, and personal examples.
The breakthroughs of the great teachers are not reserved for the chosen few. Neurodharma shares seven practices for embodying them ourselves in daily life to handle stress, heal old pain, feel at ease with others, and rest in the sense of our natural goodness. By strengthening the neural circuitry of profound contentment and inner peace, you’ll cultivate unshakable presence of mind, a courageous heart, and serenity in a changing world.
With deep research, stories, guided meditations, examples, and applications, Dr. Hanson offers a fascinating, inspiring vision of who we can be – and an effective path for fulfilling this wonderful possibility.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What do you mean, “neurodharma?”
We’ve learned so much about the brain over the past twenty years. This gives us an historically unprecedented opportunity to combine this scientific knowledge with the deep understanding of the mind developed in the world’s wisdom traditions. As a psychologist, I’ve drawn on the original teachings of the Buddha, which are practical, not based on faith, penetrating, and effective.
Dharma is a word from India that essentially means “the truth of things.” Neurodharma means grounding the truth of our minds – our joys and sorrows, our suffering and happiness – in the truth of our own bodies. Which is very useful!
Why bring in brain science?
Knowing something about how your brain works helps you understand yourself better – and learn how to get less irritated by hassles or develop good habits that stick.
This grounding in science cuts through mystical mumbo-jumbo. Neuroscience is a young science, but we can still begin a kind of reverse-engineering of what could be happening in the brains of remarkable, perhaps even enlightened people. Then we can apply this to ourselves to gradually change our own brains in that direction . . . whether it is to heal old pain, foster everyday well-being, or explore the heights of human potential.
What will people get from your book that helps with daily life?
Step-by-step, this book is about becoming as wise and strong, happy and loving, as a person can every be. It’s inspired by the great sages and teachers, while also being very down-to-earth.
With friendly encouragement and lots of practical suggestions, I show readers how to experience real inner peace, contentment, and unconditional love amidst the challenges of life, and fulfill the deepest longings of their heart.
It is full of hope that there are simple things we can do each day, no matter how insane the world is around us, to establish lasting true happiness inside ourselves.
Grow an Unshakable Core of Resilient Well-Being
Learn how to develop key inner strengths – like grit, gratitude, and compassion – to stay calm, confident, and happy no matter what life throws at you.
Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.
The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.
She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.
Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.
In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.
Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.
Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.
He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.
Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.
Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.
Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.
Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.
Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.
Rick Hanson, PhD is a psychologist, Senior Fellow of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, and New York Times best-selling author. His books have been published in 29 languages and include Neurodharma, Resilient, Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha’s Brain, Just One Thing, and Mother Nurture – with 900,000 copies in English alone. His free newsletters have 215,000 subscribers and his online programs have scholarships available for those with financial need. He’s lectured at NASA, Google, Oxford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. An expert on positive neuroplasticity, his work has been featured on the BBC, CBS, NPR, and other major media. He began meditating in 1974 and is the founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. He and his wife live in northern California and have two adult children. He loves wilderness and taking a break from emails.
"Embedded in each chapter are wide-ranging, useful instructions related to meditative practices. This highly accessible primer on the neuroscience of Buddhist psychology and meditation will appeal to novice and expert meditators alike."
—Publisher's Weekly Review - read full review here.
"Rick Hanson has done a remarkable job weaving together the teachings of the Buddha, the insights of neuroscience, and the wisdom of his many years of practice. With great lucidity, this impressive work offers a wide range of teaching instructions that help us realize our highest aspirations ."
—Joseph Goldstein, author of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening
"Rick Hanson's seven steps of awakening are a remarkable presentation of how the brain, mindfulness, and meditation are interconnected. There is a surprise perhaps for some in his take on nirvana but you have to read the book to find out what it is!"
—Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Change
"Dr. Rick Hanson, one of the pioneering thought leaders of our time , has distilled essential practices into a simple, yet powerful roadmap to the highest happiness. "
—Shauna Shapiro, PhD, author of Good Morning, I Love You
"Filled with wise and beautiful ways to train the heart and mind."
—Jack Kornfield, PhD, author of A Path with Heart
"With brilliant clarity and skill, Rick Hanson weaves the warp of ancient contemplative practice and the weft of modern brain science into a seamless whole, based on his long experience as a practitioner and teacher. Accessible and gentle, there is deep wisdom here from which all may benefit."
—Mark Williams, D. Phil., Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Oxford; co-author of The Mindful Way Workbook
"Rick Hanson has spent the last several decades honing the art and studying the neuroscience of awakening to the heights of our human potential. The result — Neurodharma — is mindblowing. It is also a tremendous relief for this working mom of four. I now have a practical path for my spiritual growth and wellbeing that can I can pursue from the carpool lane or my office, bedroom, or kitchen. Hurrah!"
—Christine Carter, PhD, author of The Sweet Spot and The New Adolescence
"In Neurodharma, Rick Hanson displays his mastery as a teacher. He shares his personal journey, rich with personal challenges and transformative experiences, illustrating how these practices may unburden and free the reader from the seductive dangers of ego, competition, and acquisition that dominate contemporary culture."
—Stephen W. Porges, PhD, Founding Director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium and Distinguished University Scientist, Kinsey Institute, Indiana University and Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina.
"Simultaneously inspirational and practical, this book vividly brings the Buddha’s teachings to life, providing a step-by-step guide to awakening. Weaving together modern neuroscience, years of clinical experience, and deep personal practice, Dr. Hanson guides us through the whole journey, from beginning mindfulness techniques to transcending our conventional sense of self. It’s a must-read guide for beginners and experienced practitioners alike."
—Ronald D. Siegel, PsyD, Assistant Professor of Psychology, part-time, Harvard Medical School, author of The Mindfulness Solution
"Rick Hanson takes you on an inspiring tour of our very human capacities for contentment and kindness. This book sparkles with actionable practices, scientific delights, and deep, focused reflection upon what is truly the highest happiness. Reading Neurodharma will change your life in enduring ways."
—Dacher Keltner, PhD, Professor, UC Berkeley; founder Greater Good Science Center; author of Born to Be Good
"Reading Neurodharma, I felt a profound sense of relief and peace wash over me. The book masterfully explains how our brains function and how we can leverage this understanding to be more authentic, present, and emotionally balanced, even in the face of extreme adversity. Both fascinating and practical, Neurodharma breaks down complicated neurobiological processes and outlines a simple path to mental freedom."
—Lori Deschene, author of Tiny Buddha's Worry Journal
"In this fascinating, compelling, and eminently practical book, Rick Hanson uncovers the physics, psychology, and neuroscience of be here now, and reveals the things you can do right now to achieve this most sought-after and life-enhancing state of mind."
—Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience at McGill University, and author of This Is Your Brain On Music, The Organized Mind, and Successful Aging
"Neurodharma is a brilliant synthesis of the most helpful contemplative practices and the emerging science of the mind and brain. In these pages you hold a precious experiential education, a unique and accessible guide to living your best life."
—Elissa Epel, Ph.D., Professor, University of California, San Francisco, co-author of NYT bestseller, The Telomere Effect
"This eloquent and pioneering book is a gem. Wise, practical and brilliant, full of humor, guidance, and a warm heart, this is a book that will be a companion for life."
—Susan Pollak, MTS, EdD, Co-founder, Center For Mindfulness and Compassion, Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard Medical School
"With a light and steady hand, Dr. Hanson guides our steps on paths of ancient wisdom. In simple, clear, practical (and playful) language, he shows us the practices of an awakened, compassionate, joy-filled life. And if the going gets difficult, he assures us there is no rush, and that everything we need is already present. I am very grateful for this book."
—Andrew Dreitcer, PhD, Professor of Spirituality, Co-Director of the Center for Engaged Compassion, Claremont School of Theology at Willamette University
"A wise, practical, scientifically-grounded, and surpassingly friendly guide to becoming who we can be. Neurodharma is a terrific book, and Rick Hanson is who you want by your side, supporting you as you meet your challenges and celebrating you as you embrace your experience."
—James S. Gordon, MD, author of The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma and Founder/Executive Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine
"Integrating body, heart, and mind, his systematic approach is wise, compassionate, beautifully human, and accessible to all. This book is a guide to the freedom that is hiding in plain sight, waiting to be discovered."
—Frank Ostaseski, author of The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully
"Rick Hanson has done something you'd think would be impossible: lain out an entire and complete spiritual path from beginning to end in a single book. The fact that it’s brilliant, funny, profound, understandable, and effective is icing on the cake. And the “neurodharma” angle is amazing. I highly recommend this powerful book."
—Michael W. Taft, author and teacher
"Dr. Hanson has a rare and remarkable ability for synthesizing the deep wisdom of the great spiritual teachers with a clear understanding of modern neuroscience, to offer us practical tools for making our lives more peaceful, loving, and whole."
—Robert D. Truog, MD, Professor and Director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics
"Dr. Hanson shares seven practices that are a distillation of thousands of years of wisdom with such clarity and straight forwardness that awakening, we realize, is within the grasp of each of us."
—James R. Doty, MD, founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University and New York Times bestselling author of Into the Magic Shop
"Join Rick Hanson in this daring exploration of some of the most essential, yet elusive, questions of a human life. You can almost hear the wisdom of the ages whispering in your own ear."
—Christopher Germer, PhD; faculty, Harvard Medical School, and co-author of Teaching the Mindful Self-Compassion Program
"Combines ancient wisdom and modern science to lay out a clear and achievable path to awakening. "
—Kristin Neff, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin
"This intriguing integration of traditional Buddhism and contemporary neuroscience offers clear accessible insights and suggestions for cultivating both heart and mind in ways we all desire."
—Roger Walsh MD, PhD, University of California, author of Essential Spirituality: The Seven Central Practices
"Rick Hanson does it again! This time he turns his perceptive mind to the teachings of the Buddha, and offers deep, practical insight into how they can change our lives. Chock full of meditations, practical applications, and of course the science behind it all, this book is a gem!"
—Diana Winston, Director of Mindfulness Education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center and author of The Little Book of Being
"In this refreshing work, Hanson skillfully and uniquely articulates seven key practices that make accessible the deeper, often elusive dimensions of consciousness. This work is rich with resources, and I highly recommend it for anyone wishing to awaken."
—Mark Coleman, author of From Suffering to Peace
"In this engaging and accessible yet profound work, Rick Hanson has written a roadmap for liberating the mind from suffering and realizing the highest happiness. He shows that peace is possible not only for long-time practitioners, but for anyone who sincerely applies these principles and practices. Well done!"
—James Baraz, co-author of Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness; co-Founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center
"This book is an inspiring yet grounded description of self-transcendence, and an accessible guide to both profound experiences and the daily dynamics of living well."
—David Bryce Yaden, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
"This is a treasure and a milestone in the exploration of our highest potential. Dr. Hanson walks the reader on the path to true happiness, skillfully leading them gently deeper and higher to potentially ultimate spiritual attainments. I have not seen such a clear and uncluttered but comprehensive approach, so available to the Western trained mind, in any other single text I have read over many years. There is a taste of true experience here, and he has my deepest gratitude and admiration for this accomplishment."
—Richard Mendius, MD, neurologist
"Wonderfully written, this is a delightful, easy to read, and informative guide to training our minds and brains for the personal and common good. If you wanted one guide to happiness and wisdom, this would be it."
—Professor Paul Gilbert, PhD, OBE, author of The Compassionate Mind and Living like Crazy
"Rick introduces us to our minds as if we were strangers meeting for the first time. With astonishing clarity, he shows us where all the buttons and levers in the brain are. We learn how to focus our own mind, calm it, heal it, and re-route it away from negative road blocks and dead ends onto the open highway of happiness. He helps us to free ourselves."
—Ruby Wax, MA, OBE, author of the bestselling How to be Human: The Manual
"Further synthesizing contemporary neuroscience with ancient Buddhist wisdom teachings, Rick Hanson lays out his most insightful and inspired work yet. This cutting-edge investigation challenges us to take a deep experiential dive into wholeness, nowness, allness, and timelessness… and to wake up. Neurodharma is a profound resource for both beginning and advanced practitioners, Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike. Highly recommended!"
—John J. Prendergast, PhD, author of The Deep Heart and In Touch, retired adjunct professor of psychology, CIIS
"I love Neurodharma. This heartfelt, smart, and wise book illuminates the heart of Buddhist psychology with the latest in affective neuroscience in a very accessible and practical way. It also offers a number of user-friendly guided meditations that will support you to grow in wisdom and compassion."
—Bob Stahl, PhD, coauthor of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Living with Your Heart Wide Open, Calming the Rush of Panic, A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook for Anxiety, and MBSR Everyday
A simple practice each week that will bring you more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind and heart.
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