Archive for June, 2011

30 jun

We Don’t Need to “Keep Fear Alive”

RickHansonJon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had dueling rallies in DC in October, 2010. Stewart’s was “Rally to Restore Sanity” and Colbert’s was “March to Keep Fear Alive!

Obviously, Colbert is a great satirist who was poking fun, since we sure don’t need a rally to keep fear alive. Alarming messages are all around us, like the news about global warming or the “Threat Level Orange” announcements every few minutes in the airport.

Some of those messages are true and worth heeding. For example, dumping carbon into the atmosphere must inevitably make the planet hotter; it’s basic physics.

But others are wildly exaggerated: the actual odds of a bad event on your airplane flight are “Threat Level Chartreuse” — a bucket of green paint with a drop of yellow.

How do we tell the difference between real threats and bogus ones? Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on June 30th, 2011 in General, Relationships, Things We Love | 1 comment Read related posts in , , , ,

23 jun

Balancing Joining and Separating

There is a natural balance within us all between the desire for joining and the desire for separation, between the desire for closeness and the desire for distance. These two great themes – joining and separation – are central to human life. Almost everyone wants both of them, to varying degrees.

People tend to focus a lot on the joining theme, both because relationships are about – uh – joining, and because spiritual practice of any kind is fundamentally about coming into relationship with things.

Into relationship with our own suffering and that of others, and into relationship with the real causes of that suffering. Into relationship with the endlessly changing and thus impermanent nature of existence and experience. Into mindful relationship with the body, with the sense of experience being pleasant or unpleasant or neutral, with all the thoughts and feelings etc, in the mind, and with the qualities and aims of consciousness itself. And – it’s meaningful to you – into relationship with a transcendental Something: God, Buddhanature, the Infinite, unbounded Awareness . . . by whatever name.

But as important as relationship is, it is also important to bow to the other great theme, separation.

The Benefits of Separation

First, a healthy capacity for separation – or, using other words, for differentiation, individuation, autonomy, and self-expression – is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for healthy joining.

Second, autonomy is necessary for spiritual practice. Let’s consider these examples from Buddhism:

  • One is always to “see for yourself,” and make your own decisions about what makes sense to you in the teachings of the Buddha.
  • It is fundamentally up to oneself, and no one else, to engage the path of practice. No one can make us do it; we have to choose it ourselves. While Buddhism does not speak against God, it does not assert that God shapes our lives and that God’s grace is at work in our transformation.
  • We are each individually responsible for the effects of our actions – for our own karmas. Buddhism is a very gentle religion/philosophy/whatever-it-is, but it is also bluntly tough-minded.

Much as separation supports joining, experiences of healthy connection, particularly in childhood, are critical for the development of healthy self structures, ego functions, and sense of worth and confidence. By taking refuge in our feelings of connection – both present in our relationships of the moment as well as internalized from our history of relationships – we are able to move out, from a secure base, to explore and cope with the world as an individual.

For instance, in Buddhism, one of what are called the Three Jewels of practice is the Refuge of Sangha – which means the community of fellow practitioners.

Mutual Support

In other words: individuality and relationship, autonomy and intimacy, separation and joining support each other. They are often seen at odds with each other, but this is so not the case!

For example, by knowing that you are entitled to your own view of reality, that you can assert yourself appropriately, that you can disengage when you need to, that you can honor your temperament if you happen to be an introvert who is a little drained by contact and fed by solitude – then you can be more comfortable and willing to enter into the depths of joining and intimacy available in relationships, plus receive the supplies anyone needs for healthy individuation, including the attention and caring and esteem of others.

Similarly, by acknowledging, and normalizing, and respecting the need for separation and distance in others – even if it is sometimes not your preference – that helps create a zone of safety which often fosters a greater willingness to hang out for a while with closeness.

In fact, people often step back in relationships – like agreeing, perhaps tacitly, to just not talk about certain contentious topics – in order to stay close. In developmental psychology, the term is “distance in the service of attachment.”

Working out Different Desires for Closeness

Of course, in important relationships there is rarely a perfect symmetry of desires for joining and separation. That just means that it is important to be alert to the other person’s hot buttons: for many people, if they feel their autonomy is being challenged, then that pops to the top of the stack as the key issue on the table for them . . . while for many other people, the same is true regarding perceived threats to joining. By taking into account the “imperative” of the other person, you can skillfully prevent unnecessary conflicts; by explaining your own imperatives in relationships, you can help the other person understand you better.

Additionally, the natural differences between people in the priorities they give to joining compared to separation, and the differences in the ways in which they pursue those aims, are simply another thing – albeit an important one – to negotiate in relationships.

Being able to accept and own your personal joining/separation “thermostat setting” will help you to talk about it more straightforwardly and effectively with others. And you will be as able as possible to accept and work nimbly with that set point in others.

Natural Cautions about Closeness

Most psychological wounds or traumas occur in the context of relationships, including in early childhood. Further, in our evolutionary history, there were a lot of risks in encounters with people who were “not-my-tribe.” So it is natural to be a little leery of interacting at first, especially with relative strangers.

To enter into connections today with other flesh-and-blood people, and with your internal history and sense of relationships, it is skillful to be sensitive and caring toward your own alarm bells and nervousness and resistance.

It is natural to bump into those “defenses,” often subtly. It is inevitable if you are opening up, becoming more available for relationship, more accessible, more engaged, more heartfelt, more loving.

Even as you read those words, you might be aware of both the longing for those qualities in your relationships and a certain . . . squeamishness perhaps? reluctance? anxiety? repulsion??! . . . . coming up as well.

It is perfectly natural. The closer we get, often the more the impulse to distance arises – just like the more distance we get, often the more the impulse to move closer arises.

As you go through life, first and foremost, just try to bring mindfulness to these states of mind, both the longing for closeness and the desire for distance. They are a wonderful object of mindfulness and even investigation.

In accord with true mindfulness, try to maintain an accepting interest, even a kind of soft friendliness, toward the closeness and toward the distancing.

And really, if the instinct toward stepping back feels wise, or is simply too strong to push through, then please by all means follow it, and step back.

* * *

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. His work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Consumer Reports Health, U.S. News and World Report, and Huffington Post, and he is the author of the best-selling Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom.

He writes a weekly newsletter – Just One Thing – that suggests a simple practice each week that will bring you more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind and heart. If you wish, you can subscribe to Just One Thing here.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on June 23rd, 2011 in General, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

20 jun

Coming Out of Survival 19: Your Relationship with Money

WaniManley19. Your Relationship with Money

In November of last year, I had a reading done on me by a very gifted reader from the Dominican Republic whose name is Grace. This was my third reading but this particular reading was far apart and special from the previous two as it was primarily about my life’s work and the next chapter of my life concerning same. Of the many things I was told by Grace, I was advised by her of the following in her cutest Dominican accent as she waived her index finger in my face: “Do not accept nothing negative from nobody. If anyone tells you anything negative, you tell them, CANCELADO, CANCELADO, CANCELADO.” Cancelado means cancel in English. Of all the fabulous things Grace told me, and gosh, there were so many, this really stuck with me. I’ve followed Grace’s advice to the tee to the point that some of my friends get annoyed with my anything is possible rhetoric. I refuse to let anybody talk anything negative around me and yes, I do call them out on it when they do. I purposely stay away from “misery camps” and “pity parties,” two venues that we women love to relish in and when anyone asks how I’m doing, I say “Fantastic.” No matter what’s going in my life, this is my story and I’m sticking to it. What Grace didn’t tell me (perhaps because this was the obvious, or that she had noted that someone said something to me I have believed and has got me down and held me back) was that “I” should not accept “nothing negative from “me.” Quite frankly, I find that I don’t’ always march to the beat of my own drum when it comes to the likes of money.

I am self-employed; which, means that when it comes to money, it’s either feast or famine and my famine days usually far outweighs my times of feast. Consistent income? I have no idea what that is and haven’t had it since 2006 when I decided to throw out my own shingle and do my own thing with my own law firm. When I feast, all is ofcourse well, even splendid. But when its famine or drought time, it’s hell and you better believe, my “poor me” and all its negative relatives take center stage and “Ms. Positive” is nowhere to be found. I’ve been chasing money for what seems to be all my life. The quest to independently create my own fortune has been the driving force of my life. And during a recent hypnosis neo-natal regression, I learned I came into this life already with the belief the money was always going to be a struggle for me; a belief that was passed on to me from my mother during pregnancy. And so as it is our beliefs that create our own reality, money has always been Issue No.1 for me and the struggle has been that there is never quite enough. Up until this point, it has seemed to me to be that my life purpose is to undue my money karma rather than my own personal freedom.

In all of my inner and outer work in trying to undo my money karma and attain wealth to live the life that I have truly desired, I‘ve had two rude awakenings: 1) that it is not about the money at all; never was and never will be; 2) instead, that it is how I feel or what I believe about myself that creates my money karma in the manifestation of lack of money or the opposite. What is operative at the center of all the drama is the belief and energy of “I can’t.” This core belief of “I can’t” shows up as having little or no money, no clients, difficulty in attracting clients, clients that can’t afford your services, can’t pay, or that want to nickel and dime you, or that makes you stay in these dead-end jobs with the boss from hell while you live paycheck to paycheck robbing Peter to pay Paul. What’s more, this same belief or energy of “I can’t” is the same energy that makes you lose your home, keeps you overweight, keep you in unfulfilled and toxic relationships, have things break down, miss your flights, never having enough time, lack of creativity, etc. I could go on forever with countless examples, but in sum, the energy of “I can’t” is what keeps you returning to the same miserable movie over and over with the same repeating story line starring yours truly. The “I can’t” energy often also shows up as the energy or belief of “I’m a failure,” “I’m not successful,” or “I’m not good/smart enough.” Don’t be fooled. It’s all one in the same. It is this very energy that keeps you playing small and giving away your personal power away to others. It is the “I can’t” that leaves you broke and keeps you living on an allowance rather than living abundantly and feeling broken. It is also the same energy that keeps you in neutral stuck from taking meaningful action. It is this very energy that keeps you in perpetual lack, struggling, surviving, trying to maintain and suffering like a dog. Why? Because money is a function of your consciousness. Period. As one of my favorite authors Dr. Iyanla Vanzant states, the word “money” stands for “my own natural energy yields.” Truer words were never spoken. In other words, money is how you feel about yourself!

Being broke and being wealthy has nothing to do with your bank account, but has everything to do with your attitude. It is all about your attitude and how you feel about yourself that determines everything in your external life including your money life. If you want to fix your money life, then fix your attitude toward yourself followed by being grateful and appreciative for what you do have. Do this and watch your money life transform right before your very own eyes. When I actually realized this, I started to first and foremost, check my energy. I went after all the ways in which I disapproved of myself and the ways in which I was not so loving towards myself and was giving my power away. I prayed and asked for the capacity to look deep within myself…way deep. In other words, I asked to look at the stuff within me I’ve repressed for years or lifetimes that I’ve said, “Hell No” to and looked the other cheek. I’ve also stopped chasing and worrying about money and instead, I take care of my energy and keep it positive. I stopped telling the story of “what is” and tell the story of “what I want it to be.” Most importantly, I’ve gone from “what I want to have” to “what I want to become.”

And now, I just trust and allow money and abundance in. I see money as the same energy as the air that I breathe. I don’t ever go outside and be concerned with whether there is enough air for me to breathe. Why? Because my energy is different. I’ve radically said “CANCELADO” to my “I Can’t” voice and have turned up the volume, treble, and base on my voice of “I Can.” Not only is the money now starting to show up but the right people and resources are starting to show up in my life to help me do the work I came here and need to do. Opportunities are all around me so that I can’t keep track of all the creative ideas that are now flowing through me. I’m even coming up with brilliant ideas for others and their projects. It’s insane! I love it!!!

And so, if prosperity is your issue, I can’t impress upon you enough to remember that wealth is simply your attitude and money is just energy….that is, your energy. Learn to see that there is a direct correlation between how you feel about yourself and your bank account and whatever else is showing up in your life. Focus on what it is you’d like to become rather than what you’d like to have. Start hitting the “CANCEL” button on your own limiting voices of “I Can’t” or “I Don’t Have” or “I Can’t Afford It” and any other negative derivatives and always remember that God or the Universe, which is just your Higher Self, is the source; therefore, you can, be, do, or have anything you want.

Coming Out of Survival,

Wani Manly

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Wani Manly on June 20th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

16 jun

You Can Feel Safer

You Can Feel SaferFeeling safer is a tricky subject, with complications that can be both personal and political.

(This topic and others are explored in depth in my interview with New Dimensions.)

Yes, there are real threats out there, but evolution and other factors have left a lot of us walking around in a kind of paranoid trance. I’ve been there myself, and the results include feeling less peaceful and hopeful, and more worried and cranky, than is right.

So I hope you find this post helpful.

Is There Really a Tiger in Those Bushes?

Consider these two mistakes:

1. You think there’s a tiger in the bushes, but actually there isn’t one.

2. You think no tiger is in the bushes, but actually one is about to pounce.

Most of us make the first error much more often than the second one, because:

· Evolution has given us a paranoid brain. In order to survive and pass on genes, it’s better to make the first mistake a hundred times rather than make the second mistake even once; the cost of the first mistake is fear for no reason, but the cost of the second mistake is death. Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on June 16th, 2011 in General, Health, Personal Stories, Relationships | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

15 jun

Living a Life of Passion and Purpose

BarbaraWaxmanWe govern our lives with rules, lists, checks and balances; yet many of us don’t apply that same principle of discipline to laying out a path for our own personal journey, particularly when our definition of meaningful work may have changed along the span of midlife.

In a recent landmark U.S. study on the sense of happiness, the essential element was not wealth, losing those last ten pounds or the number of friends. Those that self-identified as happiest all had lives that they felt ‘had purpose’. Whether this is a calling, a faith or a mission, a life with purpose is attainable by everyone.

For this reason, I wanted to share with my friends here that I will be holding a small workshop, “Living a Life of Passion and Purpose,” this Friday, June 17 in Kentfield (Marin), California, from 9:00 – 3:30 p.m. One past participant called it “a spa day for the soul.”

Who will benefit? Anyone with a desire to recalibrate their life, within their means and capabilities, to be one enriched and guided by a sense of purpose. Anyone looking for a renewed enthusiasm they can bring to work or their home life.

Anyone who wants to be more conscious and deliberate in his or her life choices, and to align those goals with their true values.

What you’ll take away is a reference frame for selecting the aspects and elements necessary for you to feel you are living with passion and purpose. Get to know the stranger and best friend who is you. Leave with a roadmap for making choices aligned with your values.

The retreat cost is $295, and lunch and materials will be provided.

For more information, or to enroll, send me an email at

I hope you’ll be able to join me, as I would look forward to seeing you there.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Barbara Waxman on June 15th, 2011 in Speaking Events | No comments Read related posts in

09 jun

21 Ways to Turn Ill Will to Good Will

Ill Will to Good WillMy recent posts have highlighted two very powerful, yet opposing forces in the human heart: in a traditional metaphor, we each have a wolf of love and a wolf of hate inside us, and it all depends on which one we feed every day.

On the one hand, as the most social and loving species on the planet, we have the wonderful ability and inclination to connect with others, be empathic, cooperate, care, and love. On the other hand, we also have the capacity and inclination to be fearfully aggressive toward any individual or group we regard as “them.” (In my book – Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom – I develop this idea further, including how to stimulate and strengthen the neural circuits of self-control, empathy, and compassion.)

To tame the wolf of hate, it’s important to get a handle on “ill will” – irritated, resentful, and angry feelings and intentions toward others. While it may seem justified in the moment, ill will harms you probably more than it harms others. In another metaphor, having ill will toward others is like throwing hot coals with bare hands: both people get burned.

Avoiding ill will does not mean passivity, allowing yourself or others to be exploited, staying silent in the face of injustice, etc. Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on June 9th, 2011 in General, Global/Social Change, Health, New Directions, Relationships, Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

02 jun

How Did Humans Become Empathic?

EmpathyEmpathy is unusual in the animal kingdom. So empathy must have had some major survival benefits for it to have evolved. What might those benefits have been?

Empathy seems to have evolved in three major steps.

First, among vertebrates, birds and mammals developed ways of rearing their young, plus forms of pair bonding – sometimes for life. This is very different from the pattern among fish and reptile species, most of which make their way in life alone. Pair bonding and rearing of young organisms increased their survival and was consequently selected for, driving the development of new mental capacities.

As neuroscientists put it, the “computational requirements” of tuning into the signals of newborn little creatures, and of operating as a couple – a sparrow couple, a mountain lion couple, that is – helped drive the enlargement of the brain over millions of years. As we all know, when you are in a relationship with someone – and especially if you are raising a family together – there’s a lot you have to take into account, negotiate, arrange, anticipate, etc. No wonder brains got bigger.

It may be a source of satisfaction to some that monogamous species typically have the largest brains in proportion to bodyweight! Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on June 2nd, 2011 in General, Health, Relationships | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

01 jun

Embracing Change

MikeRobbinsNewWe recently went into escrow on our house, but don’t yet have a new house to move into. As excited as we are about our move (just across the San Francisco Bay from Concord to Marin County), it feels pretty scary to not yet know exactly where we’ll be living next month.

With this big change and a few others coming soon, I’ve been noticing how I deal with and relate to change. I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship to change. I love the excitement, growth opportunity, and newness of change. But, at the same time, I can easily fall into states of worry, fear, and overwhelm when facing change, especially big ones.

How do you feel about change? While it may depend on the specific change (i.e. one we want versus one we don’t want, or one that seems exciting versus one that seems hard or even “bad.”), most of us seek and fear change simultaneously. Even positive changes can be unsettling or even downright upsetting. And, while each of us has a unique personality and perspective, many of us tend to be creatures of habit.

Change is one of the main “constants” in life, ironically. However, we don’t usually spend all that much time thinking about our relationship to change or specifically expanding on our ability to adapt to change – we usually deal with it from a place of survival, reaction, or necessity.

What if we embraced change more consciously and learned how to not only “manage” it, but thrive through it. Whether you’re someone who enjoys change and handles it quite well, or you hate it and get totally stressed out by it, all of us can benefit from embracing change more deliberately and supporting those around us as we all go through the big and small changes of life – especially these days.

Here are some things you can do and think about as you deal with change in your own life – so as to more effectively and peacefully deal with it when it shows up.

1) Become consciously aware of your relationship to change. Knowing how you deal with change, what stresses you out about it, what allows you to navigate it most effectively, what kind of support you need as you move through the change process, and more, are all important elements of embracing change. It’s rarely the circumstances themselves that cause us stress or difficulty; it’s our relationship to them. By altering our relationship to change, we can become much more peaceful and successful in dealing with it.

2) Acknowledge and express your true feelings (especially your fear). When change occurs, there are usually a number of different emotions we experience. We tend to focus most of our attention on the details, specifics, and circumstances, not so much on our emotions. However, it is our emotional experience and reaction that dictates much of our effectiveness (or lack thereof) in dealing with change. Whether it’s something we consider “good” or “bad,” fear is almost always associated with change, because we’re moving into something unknown and often uncomfortable. By acknowledging and expressing our fear (and other emotions) in an authentic way, we can take back our power from the situation, get real about how we’re feeling, and move through it with more ease and grace. There’s nothing wrong with any of the emotions we experience during change, the problems begin to arise when we don’t express our emotions authentically.

3) Get support. As with most things in life, change is much easier to deal with when we get help. We don’t have to go through it all alone and there are probably many people in our lives who have gone through similar changes before and can support us in the process. Asking for and receiving help from other people can be challenging for many of us and can feel quite vulnerable. However, one of my favorite sayings is, “The answer’s always ‘no’ if you don’t ask.” Getting support not only makes dealing with change easier for us, it allows other people to be of service, which is something most people love to have the opportunity to do in life.

4) Look for the gold. There is “gold’ in the midst of every change – even the most painful and difficult ones. When change is more “positive,” it can seem easier to find the gold in it. However, positive change can also be tricky because we don’t understand why we still may experience fear or discontent and sometimes won’t acknowledge these and other feelings due to our own embarrassment. With change that is more “negative,” it can often be hard to find or see the gold. When dealing with difficult changes in our lives, being able to authentically get in touch with the gifts, blessings, and growth opportunities available to us can help as we navigate our way through the experience and also allow us to evolve in the process.

Have empathy and compassion for yourself and others in going through change. It’s not easy for most of us. By embracing change we become not only more effective in dealing with it, but more peaceful, present, and powerful in our lives.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info –

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Mike Robbins on June 1st, 2011 in Global/Social Change, New Directions | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , ,