Book Review: Neurodharma
“What must be happening in your body so that you stay centered when things are falling apart around you?” This is the essential question asked by seekers for millennia, and by psychologist and expert in neuroplasticity Rick Hanson, Ph.D., in his new book Neurodharma. Hanson is a senior fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley and a best-selling author of books such as Buddha’s Brain and Hardwiring Happiness.
What is this term he’s using, neurodharma? As Hanson explains, it’s a perspective that taps into tools and ideas from the worlds of clinical psychology, secular personal development, and wisdom traditions such as Buddhism. The relatively new field of neuroscience, he points out, is providing an amazing opportunity to understand how practices such meditation can literally change our brains. For example, “Long-term practitioners of lovingkindness meditation … build neural tissues in key parts of the hippocampus that support feelings of empathy toward others.” Armed with these insights, we can leverage mental tools to tap into desired feelings of calm, contentment, peace, focus, and non-judgement, and move away from stress and anxiety.
The book has a nice structure, presenting both science and classical spiritual approaches to awakening. He’s set the book up to feel like a retreat, presenting concepts in chunks and following them up with guided meditations. He also provides reading lists with suggestions of related books and online resources, so if readers want to dive deeper into a chapter’s subject they can further their explorations.
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.