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Buddha’s Brain

Buddha’s Brain is an interesting read. I really liked all of the practical applications and meditations provided by the author. I think these will be useful and interesting to try (I’ve attempted a few already in my daily life, but I have yet to sit down with the intentional goal of meditating). I also like that the authors paired all of their practical advice with the actual chemical processes that go on in the brain. It grounds what they say and makes it feel more legitimate. The argument of Buddha’s Brain is that you can actually change the way you think. It is very important to me that this statement is true because (as I told Anne in our last meeting) if it    isn’t then I am going to live a very unhappy life.

“Richard and I both believe that something transcendental is involved with the mind, consciousness, and the path of awakening-call it God, Spirit, Buddha-nature, the Ground, or by no name at all. Whatever it is, by definition it’s beyond the physical universe” (9).

Virtue, Mindfulness, and Wisdom
Virtue simply involves regulating your actions, words, and thoughts to create benefits rather than harms for yourself and others…Mindfulness involves the skillful use of attention to both your inner and outer worlds…Wisdom is applied common sense, which you acquire in two steps. First, you come to understand what hurts and what helps…Then, based on this understanding, you let go of those things that hurt and strengthen those that help” (13).

“Well, who is the one person in the world you have the greatest power over? It’s your future self. You hold that life in your hands, and what it will be depends on how you care for it” (16).

Everything changes. That’s the universal nature of outer reality and inner experience. Therefore, there’s no end to disturbed equilibria as long as you live” (33).

“Oxytocin-promotes nurturing behaviors toward children and bonding in couples; associated with blissful closeness and love; women have more oxytocin than men” (37).

“The brain is drawn to bad news” (41).

“In relationships, it typically takes about five positive interactions to overcome the effects of a single negative one” (41).

“Compassion for yourself helps reduce your suffering” (48).

The first and second dart: “inescapable physical and mental discomfort is the first dart…reactions are the second darts-the ones we throw ourselves. Most of our suffering comes from the second darts” (50).

“Suffering is not abstract or conceptual. It’s embodied” (51).

“If you’re feeling ambitious, do something additional: take small risks and do things that reason tells you are fine but worry wants you to avoid” (74).

“It takes an active effort to internalize positive experiences and heal negative ones” (75).

“When have you felt really strong yourself? What was that experience like-in your body, your emotions, and your thoughts? Strength is often quiet, receptive determination rather than chest thumping pushiness” (104).

“Equanimity is neither apathy nor indifference: you are warmly engaged with the world but not troubled by it” (110).

“Physical pain and social pain are based on overlapping neural systems” (128).

“We are social animals who need to feel felt…Empathy contains an inherent generosity: you give the willingness to be moved by another person” (138-139).

“Loving-kindness is not about being nice in some sentimental or superficial way: it is a fearless, passionate cherishing of everyone and everything, omitting none” (160-161).

“Life includes getting wounded. Accept as a fact that people will sometimes mistreat you, whether accidentally or deliberately” (167).

“Developing greater control over your attention is perhaps the single most powerful way to reshape your brain and thus your mind” (177).

The previous quotes are the things that I underlined or marked strongly in my copy of Buddha’s Brain. I don’t think I’m ready to go into the particulars yet, but I definitely intend to write about some of them soon. But who knows what “soon” means.

I’m currently reading Hector and the Search for Happiness. I’m really enjoying it. It’s very quaint and amusing. I found it last semester by doing one of my favorite things: wandering aimlessly around a book store.

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