New Science, Ancient Wisdom, and Seven Practices of the Highest Happiness



Audiobook Download

May 5, 2020 | ISBN 9780593164198

Apple BooksBarnes & NobleGoogle Play StoreKobo

About the Book

LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER • “An easy-to-follow road map for creating day-to-day inner peace in today’s increasingly complex world.”—Lori Gottlieb, MFT, New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

Throughout history, people have sought the heights of human potential—to become as wise and 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, the follow-up to his classic Buddha’s Brain, New York Times bestselling author Rick Hanson, PhD, not only explores the new neuroscience of awakening but also 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. 

A groundbreaking yet practical book, Neurodharma shares seven practices for strengthening the neural circuitry of profound contentment and inner peace—qualities that offer essential support in everyday life while also supporting the exploration of the most radical reaches of human consciousness. Step by step, this book explains how to apply these insights in order to cultivate unshakable presence of mind, a courageous heart, and serenity in a changing world. The breakthroughs of the great teachers are not reserved for the chosen few. Dr. Hanson shows how we can embody 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.

The Buddha didn’t use an MRI to become enlightened. Still, 2,500 years after he walked the dusty roads of northern India, neuroscientists are discovering the mechanisms of the brain that underpin the Buddha’s penetrating analysis of the mind. 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.
Read more

Listen to a sample from Neurodharma

Praise for Neurodharma

“Marrying science with spiritual practices, bestselling author Rick Hanson shares seven principles to awaken, enlighten, and discover true happiness . . . While meditation, mindfulness and other spiritual practices, including those in his Neurodharma, are truly transformational, the goal is to move from passing states of peace and calm into lasting change in our everyday, waking life.”Elevated Existence Magazine

“Rick Hanson has a rare ability to inspire us to our fullest potential while giving us practical, actionable tools for our everyday lives.”—Marie Forleo, author of Everything Is Figureoutable

“A brilliant and unprecedented offering, Neurodharma will guide you to the upper reaches of your potential as a human being.”—Deepak Chopra, MD, New York Times bestselling author of You Are the Universe and Metahuman

“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: Mindfulness to Heal Ourselves and the World

"The Dalai Lama once told me that he loves neuroscience, but that western psychology is still in kindergarten. With this brilliant synthesis, psychology just took a giant leap forward!”—Joan Z. Borysenko, PhD, author of Minding the Body, Mending the Mind

“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 brilliance is the capacity to offer practical, powerful, scientifically grounded practices that lead to true happiness and a loving heart. This is an illuminating and transformational book!”—Tara Brach, PhD, author of Radical Acceptance and Radical Compassion 

“Combining a deep understanding of both neuroscience and Buddhist practice and philosophy, Rick Hanson has beautifully created a fascinating synthesis that shows how to train the mind to transform the brain toward health and flourishing.”—Daniel J. Siegel, MD, New York Times bestselling author of Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence and Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human; executive director, Mindsight Institute

“The book has a nice structure, presenting both science and classical spiritual approaches to awakening. [Hanson]’s set the book up to feel like a retreat, presenting concepts in chunks and following them up with guided meditations . . . The more we learn about how our brains work, Hanson shares, the more assuredly we can travel up the path toward the mountain of enlightenment.”Spirituality & Health 
Read more


Mind in Life 

If, by giving up a lesser happiness,

one could experience a greater happiness,

a wise person would renounce the lesser,

to behold the greater.

Dhammapada 290


I’ve hiked a lot in the mountains, and sometimes a friend farther up the trail has turned and looked back and encouraged me onward. Such a friendly gesture: Come join me . . . watch out for the slippery ice . . . you can do it! I’ve often thought about those moments while writing this book, which is about the heights of human potential: about being as wise and strong, happy and loving, as any person can ever be. If those heights are like a great mountain, awakening is the magnificent journey that carries you along toward the top. Many real people have gone very far up—the great sages and teachers throughout history as well as others no one has heard about—and I imagine them turning with a sweet smile and beckoning us to join them.

Those who have climbed this mountain come from different cultures and have different personalities, but they all seem alike to me in seven ways. They are mindful; they are kind; they live with contentment and emotional balance through even the hardest times; they are whole and authentic; they are present here and now; they speak of feeling connected with everything; and a light shines through them that does not seem entirely their own. 

You might have your own examples of inspiring people you’ve heard about, or whose words you’ve read or listened to, or perhaps even met. These individuals are models to us of what is possible. I’ve known some of them myself. They are down-to-earth, humorous, realistic, and supportive—not the cartoonlike stereotype of exotic characters in caves making cryptic pronouncements. They have no interest in celebrity. Some have taken a spiritual approach, while others have been secular. Their realization is genuine, and it’s the result of the path they’ve traveled, not some unique transformation that’s unattainable for the rest of us. Through their own example, they demonstrate that wonderful ways of being lie ahead, that accessible paths lead onward, and that much as their own efforts were fruitful, ours can be, too.

And remarkably, you can see some of their qualities already deep down inside yourself, even if they’re sometimes covered over by stresses and distractions. These ways of being are not reserved for the few. They are opportunities for all of us—and we’ll be exploring how to develop them in these seven practices of awakening: 

•    steadying the mind

•    warming the heart

•    resting in fullness

•    being wholeness

•    receiving nowness

•    opening into allness

•    finding timelessness

There are many traditions, which are like many routes up the mountain of awakening. Nonetheless, on each of these routes, we find the same steps taken again and again: steps of steadiness, lovingness, fullness, wholeness, nowness, allness, and timelessness. This is some of the most profound and perhaps sacred territory there is. It is ultimately beyond science and logic, so words about it can be loose, metaphorical, and poetic. 

The complete development of these seven ways of being marks the pinnacle of human possibility, which could be called enlightenment or full awakening. Meanwhile, even the first simple sense of them is very useful in everyday life. For instance, while dealing with stressful challenges, it’s so good to rest in the fullness of feeling already peaceful, happy, and loved. And whether it is for the beginning of the path or its end, today we have an unprecedented opportunity to explore a kind of reverse engineering of awakening that is grounded in the living body.

Aiming High

Neuroscience is a young science. Still, we can study the examples of those who have gone far up the mountain and ask: How do you do that? What must be happening in your body so that you stay centered when things are falling apart around you? What changes in your brain help you be compassionate and strong when others are hurtful or threatening? What is the underlying neural basis for engaging life without any sense of craving, without any sense of greed, hatred, or delusion? 

There aren’t yet neurologically definitive answers to these questions. We don’t know everything. But we do know more than nothing, and emerging science can highlight and explain plausibly beneficial practices. And when the science is unclear, we can still use reasonable ideas and methods from modern psychology and the contemplative traditions.

One of the things I find most inspiring about the great teachers throughout history is their invitation for full awakening. The routes they’ve charted travel from the dusty plains into the foothills and mountains and then highest peaks of enlightenment. Even in the early stages, you can find real benefits for everyday well-being and effectiveness. I’m writing for people like me, “householders” (not monastics) who have limited time for formal practice and need tools they can use right now. While I’ve been meditating since 1974 and long for the heights, numerous people have gone farther up than I, and you’ll see some of them quoted here. My focus is more on the process of practice than on the eventual destination, with the hope that you will find this useful on your own path. Still, the ultimate possibility is the complete liberation of mind and heart, with the highest happiness and most sublime peace.

As we move up the trail, it steepens and the air gets thinner. So it helps to have a guidebook. For this, sometimes I’ll turn to the penetrating analysis of the mind offered by the Buddha. My own background is in the Theravadan tradition, which is practiced widely in Southeast Asia and increasingly in the West; it is sometimes called insight—or vipassana—oriented practice. This tradition is grounded in the earliest record of the Buddha’s teachings, the Pali Canon (Pali is an ancient language related to Sanskrit). I also have deep respect for and much interest in how Buddhism has evolved in its Tibetan, Chinese, Zen, and Pure Land streams.

I’m not trying to present Buddhism as a whole, which is a rich and complex tradition that’s evolved over many years. Rather, I’m adapting and applying key ideas and methods for our practical purposes here. For these and for everything else in this book, I think the Buddha himself had some lovely advice: Come and see for yourself what rings true and is useful over time.

About the Author

Rick Hanson, PhD
Rick Hanson, PhD, is a psychologist, senior fellow of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, and New York Times bestselling author. A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA and founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, he has been an invited speaker at NASA, Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, and other major universities, and he has taught in meditation centers worldwide. He and his wife live in San Rafael, California, and have two adult children. More by Rick Hanson, PhD
Decorative Carat