Unformatted text preview: Human suffering
where it cannot be found.
Kagyu Samye Ling Guidebook 1 Opening into Allness:
The Practical Neuroscience
Of Wholeness and Oneness Experiences
Spirit Rock Meditation Center
November 11, 2017
Rick Hanson, Ph.D.
Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom
2 Foundations We’ll be exploring experiences of
plausible mental/neural factors of
the sense of
4 Common - and Fertile - Ground
Neuroscience Psychology Contemplative Practice 5 6 We ask, “What is a thought?”
We don't know,
yet we are thinking continually.
Venerable Tenzin Palmo
7 A Three-Legged Stool
! In the context of wisdom and virtue (panna and sila), practice is like a stool with three legs:
! Metta – warmheartedness, kindness, compassion
! Sati – mindfulness, concentration, seeing clearly
! Bhavana – cultivation, learning, growth
8 Think not lightly of good, saying,
"It will not come to me."
Drop by drop is the water pot filled.
Likewise, the wise one,
gathering it little by little,
fills oneself with good.
9 10 Steadying the Mind Basics of Meditation
! Posture that is comfortable and alert
! Simple good will toward yourself
! Awareness of your body
! Focus on something to steady your attention
! Accepting whatever passes through awareness, not resisting it or chasing it
! Gently settling into peaceful well-being 12 Mindfulness Factors
! Setting an intention
! Relaxing the body
! Warming the heart
! Feeling safer
! Encouraging positive emotion
! Quieting the mind 13 Neural Basis of Mindfulness Factors
! Setting an intention - “top-down” frontal, “bottom-up” limbic
! Relaxing the body - parasympathetic nervous system
! Warming the heart - social engagement system, vagus nerve
! Feeling safer - inhibits amygdala/hippocampus alarms
! Encouraging positive emotion - dopamine, norepinephrine
! Quieting the mind - reducing activity of verbal centers
14 Reducing Craving A Telling of the Four Noble Truths
There is suffering.
When craving arises, so does suffering.
When craving passes away, so does suffering.
There is a path that embodies and leads to the
passing away of this craving and suffering.
16 What causes craving? What ends these causes? 17 The Evolving Brain Our Three Fundamental Needs safety satisfaction connection Needs Activated by. . . Safety
Threat Satisfaction Connection
Rejection Needs Met by Three Systems Safety
harms Satisfaction Connection
to others Needs Feel Met: Responsive Mode When we feel
basically safe –
not disturbed by
threat – the
with a sense of
peace. When we feel
– not disturbed
by loss – the
a sense of
contentment. When we feel
not disturbed by
rejection – the
with a sense
of love. Needs Don’t Feel Met: Reactive Mode When we feel
threat – the
with a sense
of fear. When we feel
disturbed by loss –
a sense of
frustration. When we feel
rejection – the
with a sense
of heartache. The Reactive Mode is Leaving Home
In the Reactive “red zone,” the body fires up into the
stress response: fight, flight, or freeze; outputs usually exceed
inputs; long-term building projects are deferred.
The mind fires up into: Avoiding Approaching Attaching Fear Frustration Heartache This is the brain in its allostatic Reactive, craving mode. Coming Home, Staying Home
Meeting your core needs brings you home to the
Responsive “green zone.”
Taking in the good Responsive states grows
Responsive traits. In a wonderful cycle, these traits
promote good states – which can strengthen your
Responsive states and traits help you stay
Responsive when the world is flashing red. Pet the Lizard Feed the Mouse Hug the Monkey In Buddhism,
we work to expand
the range of life experiences
in which we are free.
29 Can You Stay in the Green Zone When:
Things are unpleasant? Things are pleasant? Things are heartfelt?
30 Cultivation Undoes Craving
We rest the mind upon beneficial states
so that the brain may gradually take their shape.
This disentangles us from craving
as we increasingly rest
in a peace, contentment, and love
that is independent of external conditions.
With time, even the practice of cultivation falls away –
like a raft that is no longer needed
once we reach the farther shore. Coming Home
Love Resting at the
Front Edge of Now Two Sides of Practice
! One side of practice is to disentangle from the machinery of craving, purifying the mind, and
cultivating factors of awakening.
! The other side is to open directly to what is not craving and suffering.
! “Gradual cultivation, sudden awakening, cultivation, awakening, cultivation . . . Moments
of awakening, many times a day.”
! We’re focusing on abiding as what calls you. 34 This spiritual life does not have gain,
honor, and renown for its benefit, or the
attainment of moral discipline for its
benefit, or the attainment of
concentration for its benefit, or
knowledge and vision for its benefit.
But it is this unshakable liberation of
mind that is the goal of this spiritual
life, its heartwood, and its end.
35 The Buddha Let go of the past, let go of the future,
let go of the present,
and cross over
to the farther shore of existence.
With mind wholly liberated,
you shall come no more to birth and death.
Dhammapada 24.348 36 Enlightenment is
to forget this moment
and grow into the next.
Fade into emptiness as you exhale.
37 The Present Moment
! Now is the great mystery: infinitely thin temporally, yet containing everything, including the causes from the past
that condition the next moment of the future. ! Imagine super-slow motion mindfulness of the emergent edge of Now, coming into being as it passes away. ! In your brain, the alerting aspects of attention track the leading edge of the “windshield” of consciousness. ! These alerting networks entwine with allocentric networks that support the sense of oneness with all things. 38 Letting Go
! Rest in a sense of alrightness . . . of peace, contentment, and love ! Awareness of breathing (or something else changing)
! Letting go, especially when exhaling
! Mindful of endless endings, changing
! Sometimes recognizing what is also true as this moment passes away 39 Receiving This Moment
Things are happening . . .
No need to understand them,
know what they are,
control them . . .
Whoosh, they’re racing by.
Just sitting . . .
Or standing or walking . . .
No gaining idea . . .
Living on the edge of now. 40 Abiding Wholly The Parts and the Whole
! In the mind, suffering is parts tussling with parts.
! Meanwhile there is always mind as a whole, the totality of phenomenology, all one fabric,
including awareness. ! Mind as a whole simply is, never a problem.
! In any moment of being mind as a whole, suffering falls away. ! Being mind as a whole can bring a felt knowing of its nature. 42 What helps us experience
mind as a whole? 43 Self-Focused (blue) and Open Awareness (red) 44 Farb, et al. 2007. Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience, 2:313-322 Abiding as Mind as a Whole
! Sense the breath in one area. Be aware of multiple sensations as a single experience.
! Gradually expand to include more sensations of breathing as a whole, as a single percept . . .
Abiding as a whole body breathing.
! Include sounds: a single unified experience . . . Include sights . . . Thoughts and feelings . . .
Including awareness . . . All a single whole . . .
Abiding as mind as a whole. 45 Opening into Allness Allocentric Perspective
! Based on more ancient, lower processing streams in the brain that involve lower regions of the thalamus
! “What it is, independent of me”; upper visual field
! “Objective” - Things exist in a space in which their location is impersonal, not referring to an observer.
! Pervades kensho and non-dual awareness.
47 Egocentric Perspective
! Action-oriented – Focus on reacting to carrots and sticks
! Based on more recent, upper processing streams: upper portions of thalamus that confer “self” salience; rear of
the “default network” (e.g., precuneus, posterior
cingulate cortex); parietal regions that construct an
enduring and unified sense of “my body in space”
! Establishes “where it is related to me”; lower visual field
! “Subjective” – Things exist in relation to me.
! Pervades ordinary consciousness 48 The Egocentric/Allocentric Dance
! Normal egocentric/allocentric fluctuations occur ~ 3-4 times a minute.
! As one perspective increases, the other decreases.
! With “contact,” allocentric processing increases briefly as the new stimulus is considered in its own right
! Then egocentric processing surges forward as one figures out what to do about the “feeling tone” (pleasant,
unpleasant, neutral, relational) of the stimulus.
49 To study the Way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be
by all things.
Dogen 50 Strengthening Allocentric Processing – 1
! Taking in experiences of the allocentric mode – regarding reality impersonally, panoramic perspective, little sense
of “I,” feeling connected – will naturally strengthen its
! Open awareness practices in which there are many moments of new contact would strengthen the “alerting”
networks of attention and incline the brain toward
! Lower regions of the thalamus – with concentrations of GABA neurons – inhibit egocentric processing. GABA is
calming; training in tranquility could strengthen these
GABA-based nodes and reduce egocentrism. Strengthening Allocentric Processing – 2
! “Craving” causes egocentric processing (and suffering). Craving itself is caused by a sense of deficit or
disturbance in core needs: safety, satisfaction,
connection. So repeatedly internalizing the experience of
needs being met builds up a sense of fullness and
balance, reducing underlying causes of craving and thus
! We can relate to our mind from an egocentric or allocentric perspective. Suffering comes from parts
tussling with other parts within an egocentric frame. So
abide as mind as a whole.
52 Strengthening Allocentric Processing – 3
! Each moment of mind depends on a vast network of causes: the body, nature, human culture, and material
reality . . . stretching back through human history, the
evolution of life, and w-a-y back to the Big Bang.
This moment of experience is the local expression of this
allness – like a small ripple contains within itself something
of the whole ocean.
The felt recognition of mind depending upon this allness,
being an expression of it, is the epitome of allocentric mode.
53 When we try to pick out anything by itself,
we find it hitched
to everything else in the universe.
John Muir 54 Only Allness
! Much as mind is a whole, the material universe is a whole and can be taken as a whole.
! Going a step further, Allness is everything, including the material universe – from quantum foam to super-clusters
of galaxies – as well as life here and everywhere, and
one’s own mind and that of others.
! Each moment of experience is the local expression of this net of causes: each something embodies everything.
! Allness itself is perfect, never a problem.
55 Feeling at ease: peace, contentment, love
Tranquil and alert
Aware of the room as a whole, gazing to horizon
Sense of the objective, impersonal; relaxing “self”
Sense of stream of consciousness depending on
human culture, the body, life, matter and energy
Recognizing mind as a local rippling of a vast sea of
causes, opening into being the sea of allness Intimations of
Unconditionality Know the mind. Shape the mind. Free the mind.
58 What is it that is true? 59 O house-builder, you are seen!
You will not build this house again.
For your rafters are broken
and your ridgepole shattered.
My mind has reached the unconditioned;
I have attained the destruction of craving.
Dhammapada 11.154 60 The entire world is in flames,
the entire world is going up in smoke;
the entire world is burning,
the entire world is vibrating.
But that which does not vibrate or burn,
which is experienced by the noble ones,
where death has no entry –
in that my mind delights.
The Buddha 61 Itivuttaka 2.16
The born, come-to-be, produced,
The made, the conditioned, the transient,
Conjoined with decay and death,
A nest of disease, perishable,
Sprung from nutriment and craving’s cord –
That is not fit to take delight in.
The escape from that,
The peaceful, beyond reasoning, everlasting,
The not-born, the unproduced,
The sorrowless state that is void of stain,
The cessation of states linked to suffering,
The stilling of the conditioned – bliss. 62 Congealing into Actuality
! Studies in quantum entanglement suggest that consciousness is necessary for quantum possibility to
become particle actuality.
! Consider what is always just prior to this moment of actuality, in the universe as a whole: quantum foam, a
field of possibility.
! Perhaps some kind of consciousness is necessary for that field of possibility to congeal into actuality . . .
continuously, at the front edge of Now.
63 Fertile Neural Noise
! In the neural substrates of the stream of consciousness, fleeting patterns of neural activity are the physical basis of
fleeting contents of awareness – eddies in a stream that
form, stabilize, and disperse.
! These conditioned patterns – with less uncertainty and more “signal” – require a field of not yet patterned “noise.”
! In the classic Buddhist descriptions of the movement through the jhanas toward cessation and nibbana, all
signals drop out as the mind becomes profoundly quiet.
Then there is only fertile noise: effectively unconditioned,
like ultimately unconditionality . . . and liberating.
64 Reflections on Unconditionality
! As soon as we conceptualize or label unconditionality, it is no longer unconditioned.
! There is no presumption here that we are moving through the jhanas to cessation.
! Yet many teachers refer to the interpenetration of the relative and absolute, samsara and nirvana, conditioned
and unconditioned. It seems possible to grow in our
intuition of unconditionality in meditation and daily life.
Becoming more accessible to it, more permeable.
! “Moments of awakening . . . many times a day.” 65 Feeling at ease, tranquil and alert
Abiding as mind as a whole, local expression of allness
At the front edge of now
From time to time intuiting the field of unconditioned
possibility always just prior to conditioned
consciousness: that which is still and unchanging, a
kind of ground that allows change to occur.
As it is real for you, for moments or longer, intuiting
that your underlying true nature is That. 66 Be still
Listen to the stones of the wall
Be silent, they try
To speak your
Listen to the living walls.
Who are you?
Are you? Whose
Silence are you?
Thomas Merton 67 References Suggested Books
See RickHanson.net for other good books.
• Austin, J. 2009. Selfless Insight. MIT Press.
Begley. S. 2007. Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain. Ballantine.
Carter, C. 2010. Raising Happiness. Ballantine.
Hanson, R. (with R. Mendius). 2009. Buddha’s Brain: The Practical
Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom. New Harbinger.
Johnson, S. 2005. Mind Wide Open. Scribner.
Keltner, D. 2009. Born to Be Good. Norton.
Kornfield, J. 2009. The Wise Heart. Bantam.
LeDoux, J. 2003. Synaptic Self. Penguin.
Linden, D. 2008. The Accidental Mind. Belknap.
Sapolsky, R. 2004. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. Holt.
Siegel, D. 2007. The Mindful Brain. Norton.
Thompson, E. 2007. Mind in Life. Belknap. Selected References - 1
See for other suggested readings.
! Atmanspacher, H. & Graben, P. (2007). Contextual emergence of mental
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Bailey, C. H., Bartsch, D., & Kandel, E. R. (1996). Toward a molecular
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experience. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
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70 Selected References - 2
! Craik F.I.M. 2007. Encoding: A cognitive perspective. In (Eds. Roediger HL ! !
! I.I.I., Dudai Y. & Fitzpatrick S.M.), Science of Memory: Concepts (pp.
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biobehavioural correlates. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society,
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spirals of negativity: Insights from the broaden-and-build theory and affective
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psychopathology. Clinical psychology review, 30(7), 849-864.
71 Selected References - 3
! Hamann, S. B., Ely, T. D., Grafton, S. T., & Kilts, C. D. (1999). Amygdala !
! ! !
! activity related to enhanced memory for pleasant and aversive stimuli. Nature
neuroscience, 2(3), 289-293.
Hanson, R. 2011. Hardwiring happiness: The new brain science of
contentment, calm, and confidence. New York: Harmony.
Hölzel, B. K., Ott, U., Gard, T., Hempel, H., Weygandt, M., Morgen, K., & Vaitl,
D. (2008). Investigation of mindfulness meditation practitioners with voxelbased morphometry. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 3(1), 55-61.
Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Evans, K. C., Hoge, E. A., Dusek, J. A., Morgan,
L., ... & Lazar, S. W. (2009). Stress reduction correlates with structural
changes in the amygdala. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience,
Jamrozik, A., McQuire, M., Cardillo, E. R., & Chatterjee, A. (2016). Metaphor:
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! Koch, J. M., Hinze-Selch, D., Stingele, K., Huchzermeier, C., Goder, R., ! ! ! ! Seeck-Hirschner, M., et al. (2009). Changes in CREB phosphorylation and
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